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The Garden Helper

This page got FAR to large, so I will no longer add anything to it. The page will remain, but to see any new additions please view them on one of the alternate pages. Thank you for coming.

Getting rid of ivy
April 1,1998

Fratus wrote:

Getting rid of your ivy won't be much of a problem, other than the labor involved to dig or pull it up. While you could use Roundup or a similar application to kill the plants off, you would still have the same task of removing the plants and roots. I resist the use of these poisons as much as possible, because of risks to the environment. Ivy is not likely to regrow from pieces of root which may be left in the soil after you have completed the task of removing the plants.
As far as transplanting clumps of ivy to different places on your property, you can read the article which I previously wrote on the subject in the garden helper, or CLICK HERE to view only that subject.

Cat repellant
March 22, 1998
Robin Morales wrote:
Any tips on keeping our neighbor's destructive and messy cat out of our garden and off our lawn? Some type of natural repellant, perhaps?
Thanks, Robin Morales
With nine cats and a 170 pound dog, neighbor cats aren't a real problem around here, so I have never felt the need to investigate the available repellants. I know that there are products available that claim to keep cats away, but I know nothing of their effectiveness. If you plant catnip along the property line, I am sure the cats will get distracted before they get any farther into your yard. Anyone have any suggestions???

Transplanting ivy
March 22, 1998
Steve Klett wrote:
Please tell me what I need to know about transplanting Ivy. The patch that I want to transplant from is a thick tangle. Do I need to get a root ball or will the plant survive if planted bare root? *** Ivy (Hedera species) is generally very durable, and can take a lot of abuse. It would be better for the plant to include as much of a root ball as possible, but ivy is easy to divide, layer, or propagate from softwood cuttings. If you are able to include even a few roots with each segment, the new plant will rapidly get over the shock and produce new growth. As with most perennials, you can divide the ivy clump by cutting through the mass using a sharp knife or your shovel or just pull the root ball apart with your hands. Remove any dead or sickly portions and then simply replant. If time is not a consideration you can take softwood cuttings about 6 to 8 inches in length, remove the lower 2-3 leaves and insert the cutting into some damp sand or vermiculite. Keep it in a warm spot, and the roots should develop fairly rapidly (anywhere from 10-20 days) giving you a new small plant. If you intend to keep the plant in the same general area, you might want to layer the stems by just pinning the stem to the soil. The new roots will develop soon, and you can clip the stem between the old and new plant, after which you can remove the parent plant.
Gourds March 22, 1998Anoniw wrote: I live in Pensacola, Fl. what's the best time to plant Gourds, and how should I care for them? *** Gourds (Cucurbita species) are very closely related to cucumbers, squash and melons. They have a growing season of anywhere from 120-180 days, so you will want to get them started as early as possible. Sow your seeds outdoors when all frost danger has passed. Plant the seeds in full sun, about 10 to 12 inches apart where you want them to grow (they do not transplant well). The seeds will germinate more quickly if you soak them in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting. Gourd vines will trail along the ground if no support such as a fence or trellis is supplied, but the fruit will often be misshapen and less perfect. It is strongly recommended therefore that the gourds be grown on a strong arbor consisting of posts and several overhead crosspieces. The fruit will then hang down below the lattice. Gourds and most other vining plants are heavy feeders, so add a considerable amount of manure and compost to the soil prior to planting. When your gourds are well established, additional fertilizer is probably not necessary, but you may want to occasionally feed with a water soluble low-nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-5. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers because they will encourage leafy growth and actually delay fruit maturity. When the vine has reached about 10 feet long, you might want to snip the end to promote lateral side growth, and consequently, more fruit. The male flowers appear on the main stem, while the fruit producing female flowers will emerge from the side stems...... .
Clematis cuttings March 19, 1998Kelli wrote: I have a cutting from a Clematis,I have it in water. The buds that were on it are going but I'm not getting any roots. Could you please help!Thank you,Kelli

In your letter you didn't mention how long that your cutting had been in the water. I haven't had much luck trying to root cuttings in water myself, but I am reasonably certain that you can expect the process to take at least 3-4 weeks, possibly longer. I prefer to do cuttings in vermiculite or damp sand myself, after dipping the cutting in a rooting hormone. Whether you are using sand, vermiculite or water, be sure to keep the medium at about 70-75 degrees, and be patient. If the buds are growing, I'm sure that the roots will follow. Good luck,
Calla lilies March 8, 1998Vallery Dietrich wrote:
I received a beautiful Cala Lily from a friend. Yellow blooms. I have only had it for about two weeks. It is still thriving with new leaves forming. However, it is twice as tall as the container and the stems near the soil are turning yellow. Do I repot and how? Do I cut the blooms back at any time? I have an African Violet that I am sure needs repotting. The roots are coming above the soil. I am reluctant to repot/divide because I have killed plants before. Help! Thanks,
Vallery Dietrich, Outer Banks, NC

If your lily has become root bound, it is easy enough to move it to the next larger size pot by simply removing it from its pot and potting it up. Unlike many plants it is not necessary to loosen or disturb the roots, just place it in the pot and add sufficient soil to fill it to within 3/4 of an inch from the rim. When they are grown in pots Calla lilies (Zantedeschia species) should be kept constantly wet and should be given a weak solution of liquid plant food every 3 weeks while they are showing signs of new growth. Grow them in a sunny window at a temperature of about 70 degrees F. Remove the flowers when they begin to fade. When the plant has finished blooming, allow the foliage to mature and gradually reduce watering until the leaves have all died back. Allow the tubers to rest for two or three months in the dry pot. The tubers of the yellow calla lily (Zantedeschia elliottiana) should be left exposed in a warm, dry room for 3-4 weeks. After the ripening period, the tubers can again be repotted in fresh soil, and the process begun again. Water sparingly until the new growth is well above the surface of the soil, then keep the soil wet again. Do not feed until the plant has again become root bound. The ripened tubers can also be planted outside once the temperatures and soil have warmed in the spring, but because they are frost tender, they will have to be dug up in the fall. When repotting houseplants such as your African violet (Saintpaulia species) it is best to only increase the pot size by an inch or so. Always use a good commercial potting soil rather than dirt out of the garden to prevent insects and disease. Remove the plant from its old pot and use your fingers to gently loosen the outer roots from the root ball. Place enough soil in the bottom of the pot to bring the plant up to its original soil line, and then add the remaining soil to fill the pot to within 3/4 of an inch from the rim of the pot. Water it thoroughly so that the soil fills in any air space around the plant, after which you may have to add a little more soil. Do not fertilize the plant until it shows signs of renewed growth. When you are working with African violets use care not to touch the stems more than necessary, because they are by far more succeptable to damage than either the leaves or roots. When feeding African violets, always use a fertilizer which is specifically formulated for them. If it is at all possible violets should be watered from the bottom, by soaking, because they are prone to crown rot.
Indoor palms March 8, 1998Fiona wrote:
Hi Bill,
Am back again with another cats & greens question. I just got an indoor palm but it didn't have an ID sticker so I don't know what kind it is. It's tall & frondy with dozens of skinny stalks - quite pretty. I have it on a tall box in a corner behind the stereo and didn't think the cats would go on the stereo 'cause they haven't yet. Plants at home are new for me since I haven't had windows before now, to grow them in. So as I can, I am getting greens for home. The hot/dry summers will, I suppose, have something to do with what can survive - but green is beautiful to look at. Although the ficus aren't doing really great. I appreciate your help. You do nice things for people. thanks!! fiona

Hi Fiona,
My guess is that you have a parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans). To the best of my knowledge it is not toxic to animals. Parlor palms should be grown in indirect light or a north window. It should be planted in a good commercial potting soil with some course builders sand added for drainage. The soil should be kept evenly moist. They prefer reasonably high humidity or the tips of the leaves will turn brown, so you might want to mist it daily if the air is very dry. Feed your palm monthly in the spring and summer with an all purpose 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer.

Daffodils March 8, 1998Rich Brooks wrote:
What can do to protect daffodils from freezing? Our winter has been mild here in Pittsburgh, Pa. The forcast for the next few days is for freezing weather. Many of the daffodils have formed heads. Do you have any advice?
While there are a few exceptions to the rule such as the Paper white narcissus, most daffodils are pretty durable and will tolerate a certain amount of freezing. If your buds are showing any color, you might want to pick them (daffodils should be snapped off, not cut) and bring them into the house where they will open up. If you expect snow with the freeze, you have little to worry about because the snow will act as an insulator. Adding a mulch of dry leaves will be helpful if the temperature is going to drop much below 20 degrees or the freeze is expected to continue for an extended period of time. My daffodils have been up and in bloom for 10 days now, and we've had freezing night temperatures for 5 of the 10 days with no ill affects. If you have one of the varieties that you know to be frost tender, you can create a little tent for them using stakes and sheet plastic during the freeze. Keep in mind that if it warms up and the sun shines, you will have created an oven so be sure to remove or open the plastic.
Geraniums March 8, 1998nancy hill wrote:
Its me again! I want to plant geraniums in Florida. How to, where to plant, fertilize, sunlight needs....etc...Thanks, Nancy

Geraniums (Pelargonium species) are among the most popular flowering plants. They should be planted outdoors where they will receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily, but only after all danger of frost is past and the soil has warmed. They should be planted at the same soil level that they were growing at in their pot. The soil should be light, loose and well draining; to which you have added compost, leaf mold or peat moss. The optimum ph is 6.5 (slightly acid). Mulching is recommended to conserve water in the soil and to reduce high soil temperatures during the summer. Water geraniums at least once per week if you have had no rain. Geraniums dislike having wet leaves and flowers so it is best to use a soaker hose but if that isn't possible, water early in the day to allow leaves and flowers to dry before nightfall. Geraniums like to be well fed, so you should fertilize them with an all purpose 10-10-10 liquid plant food every 2-3 weeks when they actively growing. Remove the flowers promptly as they fade, or the bloom production will decline. Most bedding plant geraniums are seed grown, and this is an excellent way to aquire different varieties. For the home gardener who wishes to keep a certain variety alive, geraniums will root easily from stem cuttings. Take cuttings in September from healthy plants which have been kept rather dry for a couple weeks. Use a clean, sharp knife and make a cutting 3 to 4 inches in length from the growing tips. Trim off the lower leaves from the cutting, and stick it into a coarse, sandy medium in a small pots or in flats, and water well. Place them in indirect light. Do not allow the cuttings to dry out. After roots are formed, move the new plants into full sun and water only enough to keep them from shriveling. Fertilize with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer every two weeks.
Kiwis March 8, 1998 Tachovazquez wrote to me and indicated that he would like some information about kiwis. It took me a while, but here it is!
Kiwi vines (Actinidia species) are native to southwestern China. These perennial plants are dioecious which means that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, so vines of both sexes must be grown to ensure pollination. Actinidia deliciosa is the variety of kiwi which is usually grown commercially. This is because of its large fruit size. The stems and leaves are covered with velvety red hairs. It has 1 1/2-inch cream-colored flowers that appear in midsummer. They turn orange-yellow as they age and are followed by 1 1/2- to 2-inch fuzzy green fruits. It is only winter hardy down to approximately 10 degrees F and consequently will not survive the mid west winters. Actinidia arguta and Actinidia kolomikta are cold hardy kiwi which can survive temperatures of -25 degrees F. The fruit size is considerably smaller than that of A. deliciosa and is about the size of a large cherry. The skin of A. arguta is smooth and consumed with the fruit. Fruit are greenish-yellow in color. When ripe they are very sweet and juicy. A. kolomikta has smaller fruit than A. arguta and has pink and white variegated leaves. Hardy kiwi are often used as a screen or shade vine because of their dense cover of 3 to 5 inch glossy dark green leaves on long red stalks Kiwis thrive in full sun or partial shade. They can be grown in any good garden soil but prefer rich humus soils. Plants do best when the soil pH is around 6.5. Plant them in an area that is moist but well drained, and be sure that the soil does not become dry in hot weather. The roots are very sensitive to fertilizer burn, so over fertilization should be avoided. Feed established plants sparingly in spring when the plants are dormant and then just after bloom in early June with a general-purpose (10-10-10) garden fertilizer. Prune the vines in late fall after fruiting or in early spring, cutting back to about one third of the previous year's growth to produce more numerous blooms. Flowers develop on growth of the previous year. Since male plants do not produce fruit, they can be pruned immediately after flowering and are cut back to vigorous new growth. Propagate actinidia plants from stem cuttings taken in midsummer, rooted in moist sand and set out the following spring.
Azaleas March 7, 1998nancy hill wrote:
I am definitely not a gardener!!...However, I would like to plant some azaleas and need to know the following: -In what form to purchase for planting outdoors
-lots of them out in front of the stores right now, so one would assume it is a good planting time in Florida???yes or no.
-how often to they bloom and for how long each year?
-they are in full bloom all over the place now.
-how large do I buy for planting now
-where around the outside of the house can I plant....sunlight exposure,etc.
-can they be right up against the house?
-when I see "annuals" does that mean all year....or once a year.
Thanks.....what else can I plant that would blossom year round in Florida. I have two tree areas that I would like to build up the soil, mulch and place nice flowering plants that blossom all year..You can tell I am very "green" at this.....not a green thumb...green as in NEW.Thanks for all the help you can give.

Azaleas can be planted at any time of the year, even if they are in bloom but it is best to plant them in the early fall so they have a chance to adjust to their new home before winter freezes. When you are shopping for an azalea, there are many factors to consider. Whether it is sold in a pot with it's rootball wrapped in burlap is of little consequence, nor is the size of the plant. Many nurseries provide tags on their plants which will tell you the name and blooming period, as well as the eventual size of the plant and how cold hardy it is. Some have fragrant flowers (mainly Exbury azaleas). Azaleas can be low growing, and never reach a height of more than two feet, but others can grow as tall twelve feet. You can use these facts to your advantage and purchase plants that will give you an extended blooming season by choosing a few of the very earliest blooming and a few late flowering varieties. Plantings can also be staggered by size. It is best to buy plants which have been grown out of doors locally, which pretty much insures that the plant is hardy in your area. Azaleas must be grown in an acid soil, with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. They will not tolerate lime. Many nurseries will test your soil pH for free,, and give you recomendations. Try to plant azaleas in an area which receives a few hours of morning sun, but receives at least partial shade during the very hottest part of the day. Dig your planting hole twice as wide and 1 1/2 times as deep as the rootball. Mix compost and peat moss into the soil, and if is necessary for drainage, add in course builders sand or grit. When you remove the plant from the pot, use your fingers to loosen up the roots a little to get them to grow into the new soil. Set the plant so that the soil level is the same as it was previously growing at. Sprinkle a small amount of rhododendron food into the hole at the dripline of the plant. Fill in the hole and water it very thoroughly. Azaleas resent drying out, so use some kind of mulch to conserve moisture in the soil. You can use leaves, bark, compost or whatever. The buds for next years blooms will be formed this year, so it important that the faded blooms are removed, otherwise you will not get a flower on that stem next year. Rhododendron food should be applied after the plant has finished blooming. Pruning consists mainly of removing the spent flowers, and cutting back longer branches which may spoil the symmetry of the plant. Year round bloom To have flowers in bloom all year long will take planning on your part, using a combination of shrubs, bulbs, annuals and perennials. Annuals Put out a large number of beautiful flowers all summer, but they complete their life cycle from seed to flower to seed again, all within one year. (zinnias, marigolds, petunias......) Perennials are plants which have a more limited blooming period, but they live and bloom year after year. (carnations, columbine, chrysanthemums....) Here again nursery tags can be very helpful. You can find plants which will flower during any month of the year, and combine them to create a year round flower show.
Pruning roses March 6, 1998Ethel Oliver wrote:
Bill, I live in the sandhills of North Carolina. Should I start pruning my roses now? Also how much should I take off? We have had an exceptionally mild winter. What do you suggest about the hydrangea? I did not prune ours in February as I normally would because of the odd weather. It is starting to bud out. Thanks! ESO
Hi Ethel,
Roses are very heavy feeders, so you should feed them as soon as the new growth appears, and then then again after the first heavy bloom using a 5-10-5 fertilizer or commercial rose food. The how and when of pruning roses is pretty much determined by the type of rose that you are dealing with, so I will try to cover them all. Sucker growth (stems which originate from below the budding union) should always be removed at their point of origin no matter which type of rose. Pruning cuts should always be made 1/4 to 1/2 inch above an outward facing bud. Make your cuts at a 45 degree angle to prevent moisture from collecting on the cut, which will cause rot or disease. Always use a clean, sharp pair of shears. Hybrid tea roses Prune hybrid tea roses in early spring when the new growth just begins to show. Start by removing old, winter damaged or diseased wood, cutting it back to a healthy point. You will want to create a somewhat cup shaped plant by removing center stems, and branches pointing inwards. This will admit more light and fresh air, and help to prevent mildew and disease. Cut the remaining stems to about 1/2 of their original length, leaving the stronger stems longer than the younger, thin ones. Hard pruning will result in fewer long stemmed blooms than light pruning, but if it necessary you can cut some of the older stems back to within 6 inches of the base. Floribundas and grandifloras Prune this type of rose in early spring. Remove all criss-crossed stems, and cut the remaining stems at various lengths leaving the center stems longer than the outer ones to form the desired shaped plant. Pruning the canes at different lengths will help to insure continuous blooming. Ramblers Ramblers grow a completely new set of blooming canes each year. The flowers are formed on year old canes, which should be cut back to within 2-3 inches of their base when they are finished blooming. This will allow the plant to devote its energy into producing the new shoots that will bear the next years flowers. Climbers Climbing roses resent hard pruning.In early spring, remove any dead or diseased canes, other than that you should only do light pruning. Climbers should be trained to grow in a more fan shaped pattern rather than upward growth. If it becomes necessary, the canes can be shortened at any time of the year. Miniature roses Miniature roses need very little pruning. Just prune them to the desired shape. Cut any new shoots which have emerged from below the soil line to about 1/2 its length. When the branches finish flowering, cut them back to a new outward facing bud.

Pruning Hydrangeas???? The French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) blooms from the previous years buds, and should be pruned in the summer when the blooms have faded. Most hydrangeas bloom on new wood so if you decide to cut your plant back now, I would think that it will send new buds again, but I can't promise you that. Since it isn't necessary to prune hydrangeas every year, I think that if it were my plant, I would snip any dead branches, and possibly do a little shaping, but otherwise let the plant go ahead on its own schedule.

Bird of Paradise March 5, 1998Atlas Antiques wrote:
Thank-you in advance! We just purchased a Bird of Paradise & need to know where to plant as well as feeding. It has a flower and is assumed to be an outdoor plant. (Outdoor pot) We live within four blocks of Monterey Bay in Ca.Sincerely, Al
The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) do best with at least four hours of direct sunlight a day, but should have bright light all day, with day temperatures of 68-72 and night temperatures of 50 to 55. Generally they are hardy to about 20. They flower more readily when they are somewhat rootbound, which is why they are more often grown in large pots or tubs. It should be potted in a mixture of sterile potting soil, peat moss, and sand with a liberal amount of bone meal added. Excellent drainage is essential. Keep the soil evenly moist except from November-February when the plant should be kept on the dry side. Feed every two weeks from March through September with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer. Plants are propagated by divisions and seed, neither of which is difficult. Divisions may take two years to reach blooming size, when grown from seed it will take from seven to ten years before you see your first flower.
BIG Boston fern March 4, 1998 Lorrie Johnsten wrote:
I am in dire need of some info. I recently purchased a boston fern at an estate sale. This thing is HUGE!! at least 4 feet in diameter and some of the spines (?) are 2 feet long. It is truly amazing only the pot has dead leaves and stems in it.. I am unable to feel any soil in the pot and I am concerned about the 12 inch pot it is in. Is it big enough to handle to plant within it? Is there a way to divide or seperate it without killing this beautiful plant? Also.. what are some of the things I need to do to help it thrive?? I am told that this plant was purchased 23 years ago as a birthday gift..and has been under a grow light which by the way I know nothing about... :-) . So , any help of course would be just great!! Thank you so much for your time... Hugs to you,
Lorrie Johnsten
Hi Lorrie,
From the sound of it you found a real treasure. I am sure that the plant is in need of some fresh soil, and to accomplish this you will either need to repot it in a larger pot, or divide it. Either of these options will create a certain amount of stress for the plant, but in the long run it will be beneficial. If you decide to repot, remove the plant from its current pot and carefully loosen up the root mass and remove as much of the old soil as possible. The roots will have become ingrown over time, and you will want them to be able to reach out into the new soil. You will undoubtedly do some damage to the roots, but don't worry about it, just do your best. You will want to use a 15 inch pot which will also be a bit deeper. Put enough good commercial potting soil into the bottom of the pot so that when you put the plant in, the original soil level will be about an inch below the rim of the pot. Clip off all of the dead fronds from the plant and put it into the new pot, then add more potting soil to the sides, watering liberally to move the soil down into the root structure. Keep adding soil until the pot is filled to within an inch of the pot rim. The important things to remember are that you want to use good, sterile soil, and to eliminate all of the air pockets around the roots. You will probably lose some more fronds before you are done because of shock and root damage, but just trim them off, and the plant will recover on its own. If you would prefer to divide the plant, you basically follow the same procedure. You can either cut the root ball vertically with a sharp butcher knife in half or quarters, or you can use your hands and seperate the roots. Cutting with the knife is easier and will do less root damage. Grow lights are special bulbs which are designed to imitate natural sun light. Plants need both red and blue light to thrive, which they get from natural light but it is not available in normal light bulbs. There are several companies which produce these grow lights in florescent tubes and standard bulbs. Using artificial light will enable you to regulate the amount of time that your plants receive the light, which should be between 12 and 16 hours a day. In some instances it is very convenient if the plant you are growing relies on seasonal changes to induce blooming, such as with Christmas or Easter cactus. If you are growing your fern in a room with a lot of indirect, bright light you don't necessarily need the grow lights, but they sure can't hurt since the plant obviously did well under them. Boston ferns like it cool, they would be very happy to have a 60 degree room, with bright light. Since it doubtful you have a place that cool, I recommend that you keep your fern as far away from heat sources as possible, even at the sacrifice of some light. Ferns thrive on humidity, so they appreciate a daily misting. If there are dead or dying fronds, cut them off, so that your plants energy can go to replacing them rather that supporting them. I've always had the best luck, when I would allow the pot to soak up water in a sink for a few hours, and then not water it again until the soil is dry again. Feed your fern once a month with a balanced (10-10-10) liquid houseplant fertilizer.

Sticky Jade plants March 4, 1998Bonnie Schaefer wrote:
Can you tell me what causes my jade plant to give off a sticky substance? It's on the leaves and all around it on the shelf where it is placed. Also, the leaves sometimes seem to be very fragile and fall off easily. I've heard that jade plants need lots of sun, but not much water, and that they're easy to propagate. But other than that I can't find any reference to sticky substances. Thanks.
Hi Bonnie,
I am not absolutely sure as to the cause of the sticky substance, especially since it is also on the shelf under the plant. My guess would be that it is sap which the plant is producing in an attempt to protect itself from drying out. While it is true that Jade plants (Crassula argentea) do not need as much water as a typical houseplant, it does require quite a bit more than most succulents and cacti. If the plant is to dry, the leaves will become thin and drop with the slightest touch. I would recommend that you increase the watering, both in frequency and quantity. When the plant is actively growing, it should get a thorough watering every 7-10 days, depending on the conditions such as room temperature and humidity and the size of the plant. Let the soil become completely dry before you water again. During the winter months when the plant growth slows, decrease the water quantity, and the plant can be left dry for a longer period of time (about once a month) After the first thorough watering I think that you will notice a very definate thickening of the leaves and stems. You should then be able to carefully wash the sticky sap from the leaves with a damp cloth. Jade plants can be propagated with either leaves or stem cuttings. Leaves which have fallen from the plant will often root by themselves, and produce a tiny plantlet. If you would like to start new plants, you can remove a couple healthy leaves and simply set them on top of a pot of fast draining potting soil, and after a week or so the leaf will begin to root itself. It may be a couple of months before you actually get a new plant. If you want to start with a stem cutting, use a clean knife or razor blade and make your cut just below a stem joint. You must allow the cut to callous over (3-4 days) before you insert the stem an inch or two into the moistened soil in which the plant will grow. This method will produce a larger plant much faster. Keeping the soil temperature at about 80 degrees F. will speed the rooting process along considerably.

More bananas March 2, 1998 lisa wrote:
I have a Banana Tree. I an unsure if it can/will grow bananas. Any way to find out. If so, is there anything special I do to get it to produce bananas. I have read the other article describing the care of banana trees and I feel that I am doing ok. Just need to fertilizer more. Any info would be great. I have had my tree for approx 5 years now. I belive its in a 7gal pot and extends 4+ ft from from the top of the pot. Thanks Lisa.
Hi Lisa, I am afraid that I won't be of much help to you this time. There are several hundred different varieties and hybrid types of bananas. Some are seed grown, which are strictly ornamental while others are grown from corms which develop from the parent plant. To actually identify the variety usually involves keying the different properties of the plant, including the flowers and fruit. If you visit Stokes Tropicals web site "http://www.stokestropicals.com/plantdisplay.cfm?Category=Bananas", you will find an extensive listing of different varieties which are available. Perhaps they will be able to give you a little better idea of which type of banana plant you have. The people at Stokes are certainly more knowlegeble about bananas than I am. Sorry!
Clematis March 1,1998 I received several requests for a variety of information about Clematis so I will attempt to cover all the bases at once. Clematis require about 6 hours of full sun per day to grow best although some light shading during the hottest part of the day is beneficial. It is essential for the roots to remain cool and moist, so protect them with a heavy mulch, the shade of low growing plants, or even a large flat rock. A few of the very large flowered varieties should be planted in a more easternly exposure, to prevent excessive flower fading caused by to much sun. You can plant your clematis in early spring, as soon as the soil is workable, but if the plant has already started budding it must be protected from frost. Dig a hole about a foot in diameter and 15 inches deep, large enough to allow for ample root growth.The soil should be well-draining and rich, with a pH close to neutral (6.6-7.0). Clematis likes peaty soil, but you must add enough lime to ensure the soil is not to acidic. Generous amounts of bone meal and compost should be added to the soil, coarse builder's sand should be added to soils which have a high clay content. Position the plant in the hole so that the roots are spread over a mound of soil in the bottom of the hole. The roots should be 2" below the soil line when you are finished. Set a stake next to the plant for support. Most clematis will require staking so the twining leaf petioles can cling and climb upward, although it is not a problem if you choose to let the plants sprawl over the ground, fences, or whatever. Fill in the hole, and water liberally to promote good root-to-soil contact. Provide the plant with a ground cover plant or a mulch such as shredded leaves, pine needles, straw, bark or even stones to help conserve moisture and to keep the roots cool. Clematis resent root disturbance, so extreme care must be exercised when working around the plant to prevent any root damage. Water well, keeping the soil always moist during the first year after planting. Fertilizer such as 5-10-10 should be applied twice during the growing season. Clematis flowers form either on the current season's growth or on that of the previous year. Clematis that form its buds on the new growth have a tendency to become bare at the bottom of the vine unless pruned annually in late winter or very early spring. Cut these plants back to about 12 inches above the ground, leaving at least one pair of healthy looking buds on the trunk. Plants which bloom in the spring from buds set the previous season should be pruned as needed, after they are finished blooming. Seeds need to be sown into prepared soil in late fall to germinate in the spring. If you plan to start your seeds indoors, the seeds must be placed in a moistened rooting medium and kept in the freezer for the three weeks prior to planting. Then they will need to be planted about 1/2 inch in a growing medium and kept at 80-85 degrees F. until they sprout. In either instance germination will be very slow, and may not happen for several months.
Spider Plants March 1, 1998Margie-Jo Miller wrote:
I have one spider plant left that is dying. The leaves turn a flimsy brown from the tips, that then moves back till it is dead. I have a water meter, and check it once a week to see if it needs watering. The others have died this way too. Please help! Thank you for any advice you can give!
Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) need bright natural light but will sunburn if grown in direct sunlight. They also do very well when grown under grow lights, but will be reluctant to produce the plantlets unless you decrease their light hours to simulate the naturally shorter days of fall, when they normally produce their 'babies'. Keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy. They also prefer to be in a cooler (55-65 degrees F.) room but will tolerate warmer temperatures. Feed the plant every 3 or 4 months with any houseplant fertilizer. Spider plants are generally easy to grow, and mature plants are quite beautiful until the tips brown out. Tip burn is usually caused chemicals in the water. If you are using city water for your plants it has been clorinated, and very likely has been treated with flouride, either of which will cause the burn. Using rainwater or distilled water will take care of this problem. Over fertilizing will also damage the plant, so when you feed it, use 1/2 of the recommended strength.
The big brown thumb February 28, 1998 Anne Miller wrote: Hi! I, in my determination to rid myself of a brown thumb and learn something new, have decided to try (again) to grow plants. I live in an apartment in Houston, with a north-facing roofed porch and south-facing windows. Given my lack of space and lack of knowledge, I decided to try mostly edible plants (I do enjoy cooking, when I have the time and energy), and a dwarf rose; all in pots. I also picked up a Norfolk pine from the grocery store flower shop (it spoke to me). I'm new to Houston (moved from Colorado), new to gardening (I once had a scraggly pot of shamrocks last 14 months, but even they died eventually), and largely baffled. However, I am also new to fish-keeping, and the tanks are doing fine, including the aquatic plants. We have 4 tanks, ranging from 10 - 55 gallons in size. And now to the point of my email: I started some of my potted plants from seeds (some are growing, some not yet visible) and some from seedlings. To guard against over-watering, I put a layer or two of small rocks (large gravel) in the bottoms of the pots to aid drainage, making sure there was enough room for the roots to grow sideways and down for a while. I place the plants in the southern window to get sunlight (at least half a day's worth). But I have gnats. My boyfriend's mom recommends putting sand on top of the soil of the established plants to discourage them, which sounds logical, and I have a good source of round, medium-grained sand. But for the seeds just sprouting or not yet there, what should I do? The sand seems rather heavy, and I'm worried it would smother the new seedlings. Also, sand won't get rid of the gnats I already have. Can you recommend a good natural, non-toxic insecticide for edible vegetables and herbs grown in pots? Can you think of any good books to recommend for apartment container gardening for the botanically illiterate? When we clean our fishtanks and change the water we come up with some wonderfully rich (in fish waste and uneaten food -- we still overfeed) water. To your knowledge, is there any reason why this water would or would not be good plant-watering water? It has few if any chemicals in it, since it is carefully filtered before being put in the tanks, and is often high in nitrates (the reason for regular water changes). Anne Miller
Hi, Anne I will do my best to help you out with as much information as I can as I read through your letter. Miniature roses need at least four hours of direct sunlight each day, as well as moderate humidity and fresh air during their active growing season. They also will do very well when grown under flourescent 'grow' lights. Temperature range should be between 60 and 70 degrees F. Do not use to large of a pot, a 4-5 inch pot is plenty big enough. The soil should be kept moist, but NEVER soggy. Feed with a diluted rose food in early spring, and every 2-3 weeks until the plant is finished blooming. The plants can be pruned to the shape you would like, pinching the tips prior to budding will make a much bushier plant. Give your plant a rest in November and December by moving it to a cool, well lighted room, and cut back on the watering. In the spring, cut the plant back by about 1/3, and move it back to warm temperatures and the bright light. When the new growth begins, start feeding again. Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla) would do best in your south or east facing windows. They like it cool (60-70 degrees F.) and quite humid. Keep the soil moist, and mist the branches regularly. Lack of humidity will cause the loss of the lower branches. They require a somewhat acid ph soil mix, and grow proportionate to the pot size. Most pot grown shamrocks (Oxalis) are grown from tubers or rhizomes. They need full sun and lots of moisture when they are actively growing. If they become to dry, the leaves will die back and the plant will become dormant. If you still have your old plant, it may only be in the dormant stage, and watering and warmth may bring it back to life. Be sure to feed it regularly when it is growing with either a liquid african violet food, or bulb food mixed into the soil when you repot. Having a layer of gravel in the bottom of your pots is an absolute must if there is no drainage hole. In your situation of growing food plants I think that you would be better off to use pots with drainage holes built in, and the pot itself sitting on a layer of gravel which is in a waterproof saucer or tray. Not only will this prevent the overwatering, but you will add humidity to the air around it. Use one larger piece of gravel, or a piece of broken pottery to cover the drain hole to keep the soil from coming out. As to your 'gnats'.....unless they are whiteflies which are sucking insects and sap the strength from the plant, most fruit flies, no-see-ems,etc. are harmlesss to the plant, and are only a nuisance. I found one website on the net which advertises their product as being 'all-natural', 'earth friendly' and 'non-toxic'. I know nothing about their product or the company so I can't endorse it. Check with a local garden center to find out what products may be available locally. Sand is a good medium for sprouting seeds, so it shouldn't be a problem to use it as a topdressing to the soil, provided you don't use to thick of a layer. Some seeds require light for germination, others should be barely covered, so it all depends on the seed. Once they have sprouted, the plantlets should be OK, as long as everything else is to their liking. There are so many good books on the market these days, but for the novice I think I would have to recommend the Sunset Gardening and Landscaping books or the Ortho book series. They both cover a wide variety of subjects, and you can choose from many different 'project specific' titles, such as container gardens, or vegetables. Another excellent but more expensive book is the Better Homes and Gardens 'Garden Book'. The fact that you have several aquariums in your home is a deffinate plus for your plants because of the humid atmosphere it creates. Using the water from your aquariums is an excellent idea, and essentially adds an organic food to your plant each time you water. Good luck with your plants.
Peanuts February 8, 1998 Steve and Tammy wrote: I live in Idaho and recently found a strain of peanuts advertised in a seed catalogue that should mature within our growing season. Unfortunately, I know nothing about peanuts or anyone who does. How are they planted and cared for? What makes them do well? What kind of soil do they do well in? I would appreciate any information you might be able to provide in raising peanuts. Thanks,Steve
Peanuts (arachis hypogaea) do best during a long, hot growing season. Plant them in early to mid April, or when the soil has warmed sufficiently. Remove the seeds from the shells and plant them about 1 to 1 12 inches deep. Plant about four or five seeds for each foot of row. The rows should be 30-36 inches apart. The soil should be light and sandy, with plenty of organic matter. The soil should be loose, not clayish and hard. Leaves, compost or well rotted manure should be added. Rocks and sticks should be removed. A soil test should be used to determine the lime and fertilizer needs for peanuts. A soil pH of about 6.0 would be optimum for peanuts, but the crop can produce well over a wide soil pH range. If lime is needed, broadcast the recommended amount and incorporate with the soil well in advance of planting. One-half cup 8-8-8 fertilizer for each 10 feet of row prior to planting, however if the area was heavily fertilized during the previous year, you can use considerably less. Peanuts need calcium in the top three to four inches of soil where pods develop. Without calcium, nuts will not fill out. Gypsum (calcium sulfate) can be applied when the peanuts flower to supply needed calcium at a rate of one cup for each ten feet of row. Cultivation to control weeds should be shallow. This prevents damage to peanuts because they develop near the soil surface. Don't let peanuts dry out during flowering. Water them weekly until the soil is soaked six to eight inches deep. If the plants are allowed to dry out at any time after flowering, the plants will make fewer peanuts. Mulching with well rotted compost will help to keep the soil moist and help to control the weeds, however over-watering can cause the nuts to sprout in the ground. Peanuts flower over a long period of time and therefore all pods do not mature at the same time. Consequently, judgment and experience is necessary when determining when to harvest the peanuts. Generally, peanuts are ready for harvest when older plants begin to yellow. They should be dug and left to dry upside down on the row for a day or two, much as you would with potatoes. If it's rainy, dry them in an airy place, out of rain. When the nuts are dry, pull them from the roots and store them. Happy munching!
Prayer plants February 8,1998 Derrick Thorne wrote: Browning tips on prayer plants leaves Could you tell me what is causing this and what could done to preventit. Thank you Derrick ("T:)
Prayer plants Maranta leucoreura need very high humidity to thrive. They do best in a warm greenhouse or a terrarium. Provide medium or bright filtered light, but never direct sun. Use a well drained soil with a little peat moss added, because they need a slightly acid soil. Keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy. When plants rest in winter keep the soil drier. Use an equal analysis acid fertilizer such as 'Miracid' every 2 weeks except when the plant is resting. Ideal temperatures are between 60 and 85 degrees. Dry air will be a problem in the winter, and this is probably the cause of the brown leaf tips. Putting the plant in among several other house plants will help to create a more humid atmosphere. Another aid would be to place a bowl of water in the immediate vicinity of the plant. Another possible cause of the problem could be chlorine or flouride in the water supply. This can be alleviated by using bottled water, or allowing the water to sit in an open container for 24 hours before using it. Repot in early spring if needed, at which time you can propagate new plants by division.
Calamondin orange February 7, 1998 Mary Maxwell wrote: I bought a medium size calamondin orange last November from a reputatable garden center in the Pittsburgh area. It was (and still is) covered with ripe oranges. I transplanted it to a 12" pot which gives it some room to grow but is not overly large. I first used a peat based soiless mix and noticed some leaf curl. I then unpotted it and an trying one of the cheaper mixes and added additional sand thinking the growing medium was too rich. I still have a pretty large amount of leaf curl. I am very careful not to over water. I also put the correct amount of osmocote fertilizer in the mix. Do you have any idea what is causing the leaf curl? Also the day temperature is approx 68 nite temp 64 and being winter the humidity is pretty low. This plant is in a west facing window (which is covered with a translucent cover) and light is supplemented by fluorescent lighting. I would appreciate any input as I have wanted a calamondin orange for a very long time and do not want to loose it. Incidentally, I picked one of the oranges and planted the seed and it has sprouted!! Thank you.
Mary Maxwell
It is not to say that your Calamondon orange (citrus mitis) doesn't have leaf curl, but leaf curl is typically a fungus which attacks peach, nectarines, and plums. My first impression is that rather than 'leaf curl' you have curling leaves, brought on by transplant shock. Leaf curl is usually evident in the first two weeks after the new leaf buds have opened up. If the curled leaves were mature leaves at the they curled, I don't think that you actually have leaf curl. Have the suspected leaves fallen from the plant, and has the plant deteriorated since you first noticed the problem? If the plant is maintaining its vigor, and hopefully has shown a little improvement, then keep up with a little TLC, and don't worry to much about it. Unless you were excessively rough with the roots when you transplanted it, I think your plant will recover beautifully. Citrus trees like four hours of full sunshine or VERY bright a day to grow and ripen their fruit. They have a shallow root system, so when you are growing them in a container, a wide diameter is far better than a deep one. They prefer light, well-drained soil which is rich in nitrogenous food, such as manure or leaf mold which they need for growth, especially from September to December. In Autumn, fruiting citrus will benefit from plant food rich in Phosphorus and Potassium, which promote flower development and fruit growth. The best growing temperature range would be 68 to 75 degrees F. During the summer months, be sure to provide ample water. Citrus respond to pruning. Keep all the dead branches pruned off, and thin the plant to the three strongest trunks. Since you are growing the plant indoors, be aware that you might need to act as a bee, and do the pollinating yourself with a small, soft bristled paint brush Citrus trees are succeptible to plant scale, mealy bugs, and spider mites, so watch out for them, and treat them appropriately. Having said all of this, I hope that you don't actually have leaf curl. You said that you purchased the plant from a 'reputable' nursery, if your plant does indeed have leaf curl, I would think, and hope that the nursery would do everything they could to fix the problem, like replacing the plant. I certainly would!....Good luck.
Mold!...YUK! February 1, 1998 Lorimyn@aol.com wrote: There is mold growing on top of the soil of some of my houseplants. I live in a very humid climate. What is the cause and how can I get rid of it? THANKS!! ******* Mold is of a type of fungus, mildew is also a type of fungus and is sometimes used interchangeably. I know very little about either, and I was unable to find much help in my reference books or on the internet. Because there are so many different types of fungi it is difficult to know how to fight an outbreak. Mold propagates by spreading a millions of spores, which travel through the air. Mold spores are everywhere, and can grow on almost any organic material. Mold likes high temperatures (mid 70F), high humidity, darkness, and stagnant air. When mold is discovered check to see if it is active (soft, fuzzy, smears easily) or dormant (powdery, easy to wipe). If it is active and it is in single plant, consider withdrawing it from the collection, and carefully remove and replace the top inch of soil from the pot. If it is in the dormant stage, allow the soil to become quite dry, then brush off the spores, working outdoors and (if possible) with a fan blowing the spores away. Some varieties of mold are toxic to humans, so please use great care. Wearing rubber gloves and a dust mask are not unreasonable precautions. How to combat mold There are fungicides on the market that will kill the mold, check with your local nursery or garden center for an appropriate one, and use only according to directions. To help prevent a repeat occurrence, move the plant to brighter light, keep the soil on the dry side, (during the winter months, this is a good idea, anyway) maintain moderate temperature and humidity, and provide good air circulation. I wish that I could be of more help, but I think you can easily defeat the mold.
Jade plants January 25,1998 mccull wrote:
Please reply with any info on jade care.Do all flower?and how can I do this?
thanks,kevin. The Jade Plant (Crassula argentea) originated in south Africa, but has been cultivated as a house plant in Europe and America for over a hundred years. Generally, it is a very easy and productive plant to grow, provided its needs are understood and met. Jades, and all other Crassulas are succulent plants, in that they have the ability to store water in it's leaves, stems, and roots. Jade plants are best grown in very bright sunlight with low humidity, however if the plant is accustomed to dimmer light, you must move it into the sun in stages. Jades will sunburn if they are not used to the full sun. Jades are best grown between 55F at night and 75-80F during the day, however they will tolerate temperatures down to 40F. They should be repotted every two to three years. Use a well drained commercial potting soil mixed equally with sharp builder sand, and a scoop of bone meal added. The optimum soil ph is 6.5. Jade plants have an active and a dormant growing cycle. Watering and feeding are determined by the cycle. During the spring and summer months keep the soil slightly moist . Water liberally, approximately once per week but allow for slight drying between watering. Remove any excess water from pot saucer. Fertilize with a 10-20-10 or 5-10-5 ratio soluble plant food every two weeks. African violet food works very well for most succulents. Keep plant dry during the winter months as plant has a slight dormancy. Do not fertilize from November through March. Typically, all healthy Jades will bloom, usually around Christmas, in the northern hemisphere. Blooming is triggered by the natural shortening of the days. If your plant is in a room which usually has lights turned on at night, it will more than likely fail to bloom for you. Try to find a suitable, naturally lighted place for the Jade sometime in early October, along with your Christmas cactus. Your plant will do the rest for you!
Peach leaf curl January 24,1998 Caroline wrote: I'm new at this computer stuff...so I hope you get my e.mail question..... The peach trees fruit always drops off....it also has curl...some ants.....thanks....we live in San Jose, California. thanks....Caroline Peach leaf curl is a fungus disease called Taphrina deformans. It can cause defoliation and crop loss on nearly all varieties of peach and nectarine trees. The most common characteristic is the curling and crinkling of the leaves as they unfold in spring. Usually, the entire leaf is affected, but sometimes only small areas are involved. In addition to the curling, diseased leaves often turn red or purple. This disease also may occur on the fruit, blossoms, and young twigs. Diseased fruits will usually fall off of the tree prior to harvest. A diseased tree does not usually yield well do to blossom loss in the spring. Luckily, peach leaf curl is one of the easiest fruit diseases to control. Leaf curl can normally be prevented with a single, well-timed fungicide application of an appropriate fungicide, either in the autumn after 90% of the leaves have fallen, or in the spring before bud swell. Remember, for effective disease control the fungicide must be applied at the proper time, and the tree must be thoroughly covered with the fungicide spray. When applying a fungicide, or any chemical for that matter, be sure to read the label and follow instructions to the letter. Be certain that you are using the correct product for the type of plant, as well as for the disease or pest you are using it to control. If leaf curl is severe, it is important to maintain tree vigor by thinning more fruit than usual, irrigation, and applying extra nitrogen fertilizer. As far as the ants go, I doubt that they are causing to much of a problem to your tree, unless you also have a problem with aphids. Ants supposedly herd and protect aphids like cattle. Aphids tend to congregate on new plant growth. Salivary secretions cause a stunting of leaf and stem growth. If aphids appear to be a problem, there are many insecticides on the market, which will effectively control them, as well as the ants. A preferred and safer method would be to purchase a quantity of lady bugs next spring, and allow them to cure the aphid problem for you. The ants will just go about their own business, doing ant things. Good luck!!
Cats and Calla lilies January 23,1998 selket wrote:

Hi, Are Calla Lillies bad for cats or boston ferns. You have some great gifs and letting us have them for free is extraordinarily nice. . Will use the fairy/roses bar in my homework. Am building a home page for computer class. Just what I was looking for. thanks!! All parts of the Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) are toxic to animals. That doesn't mean you should get rid of all of your Calla though, unless there is a problem with your cat being interested in it. Normally a cat would only be interested if he discovered how much fun it was batting the leaves about. If that's the case, try staking the plant, and tying it up to keep the leaves out of kitties reach. If in fact your cat does seem inclined to chew on the plant, and you are unable to isolate the plant from the cat, it might be necessary to get rid of the plant. Perhaps you could give the plant to a catless friend. Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exalta) On the other hand, are an entirely different story. Your cat will do far more damage to the plant, than the poor little fern does to your cat. Boston ferns are not toxic. However your cat could possibly get a stomach ache if he decided to munch a little to much.

Clematis Jackmanii January 1,1998 Hi, I have a question regarding a Clematis Jackmanii vine. I have read that the pruning methods for this plants varies according to variety. Some will only flower on old growth and some will only flower on new growth. Some varieties will flower on both. I can't seem to locate anything specific for the variety I have. I was wondering if you could give me some guidance on this particular variety. In addition, I live in the San Francisco Bay area, which has a very Mediterranean-like climate. The Clematis vine has already begun to sprout and the Fairy Lilies ( Zephyranthes) that I planted last year have not died back at all. As I have only seen both of these plants grown in more temperate climates, I am concerned that the mild winters and extended growing season will have an adverse affect on these plants. Is this something I should be concerned about? Thanks for you help and guidance. Sincerely, Jamie Collins Happy New Year! Jamie, Clematis Jackmanii, like any other plant, will thrive if you are able to meet its growing requirements, and give it reasonable care. Clematis require about 6 hours of full sun per day to grow best although some light shading during the hottest part of the day is beneficial.It is essential for the roots to remain cool and moist, so protect them with a heavy mulch, the shade of low growing plants, or even a large flat rock. A few of the very large flowered varieties should be planted in a more easternly exposure, to prevent excessive flower fading caused by to much sun. Soil should be well-draining and rich, with a pH close to neutral (7.0). Clematis likes peaty soil, but you must add enough lime to ensure the soil is not to acidic. Generous amounts of bone meal and compost should be added to the soil, but only cultivated in shallowly. Clematis flowers form either on the current season's growth or on that of the previous year.Jackman clematis forms its buds on the new growth.This type of Clematis have a tendency to become bare at the bottom of the vine unless pruned annually in late winter or very early spring. Cut these plants back nearly to the ground, leaving at least one pair of healthy looking buds on the trunk. Most clematis will require staking so the twining leaf petioles can cling and climb upward, although it is not a problem if you choose to let the plants sprawl over the ground, fences, or whatever. El Nino??? About the weather,,,Hmmmmmmm. At my home, at this time of year, I would normally have a foot of snow on the ground, and be looking forward to the temperature getting back above freezing. That hasn't been the case here, this year. I have new growth on many of my plants as well. The unknown denominator is what will happen between now and spring. A sudden drop in the temperature to freezing can be fatal. Should the weather remain mild, there will be no problem, your plants will have a healthy headstart.It will pay off to pay attention to the upcoming weather forecasts,though, and if frost or a hard freeze is imminent, you must take measures to protect your plants. The roots of bulbs, ground covers, and other low growing plants should be mulched with a heavy cover of preferably dry leaves and clippings. Larger plants can be protected by covering them with a blanket, burlap, or a tent made from plastic sheeting. If you create a plastic greenhouse, be sure that the film is removed before any bright sunny days, otherwise you will 'bake' your plants. I guess the keyword in this instance would be vigilance, but we are all at the mercy of mother nature. I hope that I have been a little help to you,,,,good luck!!
Carolina Jessamine December26,1997 Melinda M. Hipp wrote:
Hi - thanks for your service. I have four Carolina Jessamine plants that have been doing well for over 4 years. One on the end suddenly started getting sick and died. Now the one next to is is starting the same process. The leaves start turning a reddish color and the plant gets really thin. HELP- I really want to save them. Hi again, Melinda Your situation is one of those where I would really like to be able to examine the plants in person.I'll do the best I can with what I have. As I was researching, I found Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) in toxic plant lists far more than culture and care lists. Most of them had a warning such as : All parts of the plant usually contain toxic alkaloids[200]. Eating just one flower has reportedly been lethal to children[207, 222]. The plant can also cause skin allergies in some people and it is possible that the plant toxins can be absorbed through the skin, especially if there are cuts. (Apparently children think the flowers are honeysuckle, and suck on the blossoms.) I am not suggesting that you shouldn't have the plant, but I want to pass on any pertinent warnings that I come across. Carolina jasmine grows best when its roots are shaded and cool, but the vine tolerates either full sun or partial shade. Plant it in rich, somewhat acid, well-drained soil with organic matter worked into it. Keep soil moist and feed monthly with a balanced 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer except when plants are resting in the fall.Although a moist soil is ideal, the vine is able to withstand short periods of drought. Prune immediately after flowering, removing dead or broken branches and shaping the plant. Plants may be propagated easily by air layering, from stem cuttings taken in spring from established new growth, or from seeds in spring. Pests rarely attack Carolina Jessamine. Plants growing in a particular habitat generally do not transplant well since they will need all of their soil, water and light conditions replicated in order to grow. Having said all of that, I have done nothing to solve your problem. There has to be a clue in the fact that it is apparently spreading up the line, rather than all the plants ailing at once. My first instinct was root knot nematode, but my books say that Gelsemium is practically immune to them. Jessamine has thick rhizomous roots as well as stems which often run underground for a considerable distance.... Has there been any digging or other changes within 20 feet or so? Is there any possibility that the roots might have reached a source of toxin, itself? The only other thing that I could suggest would be to do a complete soil test for PH, iron, etc. I wish I could be more help to you, maybe with what I've told you you can figure it out. Please let me know if you do. Good luck! Bill
Jerusalem Cherry December 21,1997 Sharlene Floam wrote: Hi there! Received a Jerusalem Cherry - know it is poisonous - no animals or little ones near by - would like to know the care it takes? Light - water- indoor/out temps. Thanks a million. Good morning Sharlene, I didn't know much about Jerusalem cherry(Solanum pseudocapsicum) before you wrote. Most of what I found out didn't surprise me a bit. I knew that it was in the same family as Nightshade, and like Nightshade is very toxic. It did come as a bit of a shock to find eggplant and potatoes in the same family though. Jerusalem Cherry is a tender perennial. As a houseplant, it requires full sun to thrive, but it will survive with moderate to bright light. Mist the plant often. Temperatures above 70 degrees or lack of humidity will cause the plant to lose its leaves and blooms. The plant should be potted in a rich, well drained potting soil, and kept moist during the growing cycle. Feed with a liquid 5-10-5 'blooming houseplant' fertilizer every two weeks while the plant is growing vigorously, but discontinue feeding when the plant has finished blooming. After the fruits have dropped, cut the plant back drastically, and in the spring, when ALL danger of frost has passed, plant it outside, in a semi- sunny place. If you live in a frost free zone, the plant will develop into a nice 2-3 foot, woody shrub. If you want to keep the plant going in frost zones, you will need to dig the plant up, repot, and begin the cycle all over again.
Poinsettias 12-17-97 Ranee Williams wrote: Where did the Poinsettia come from, it's original place and how do you care for one? Hi Ranee, Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherima) were first brought into the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett,while he was serving as the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He found the plants growing on a hillside near Taxco, Mexico. When he returned to the United States, he sent the plants to different botanical gardens around the world. The first Poinsettias were sold in the US about 1850. Today there are over 50 million sold each year. Poinsettias require medium to bright light, but never full sun. They prefer to be kept on the cool side, 65-70 degrees during the day and 55-60 at night. They will lose leaves if they are exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees or above 80. Keep the plant as far as possible from heat sources, or cold drafts. Poinsettias prefer moderately moist soil, so when the soil begins to feel dry to the touch, add enough water so the excess drips out the drain holes, but never allow the plant to sit in water. Feed every 2 weeks with an all purpose liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer when the plant is growing. Poinsettias are perennials, so it's possible to keep them growing from year to year. In order to get them to produce their flower bracts again next December, they must be kept at 50 degrees and kept in total darkness for 14 hours per day beginning in mid September. ANY light,,,,even turning on a light bulb for a few seconds will delay the bloom, so it takes a little effort, but it is very satisfying to see your results when you succeed. Merry Christmas
Banana Plants 12-17-97 Dan Lang wrote:

I have a banana tree that was grown from a shoot off of another plant. My brother gave it to me, but I am not sure how to properly care for it. I have it in a window with afternoon sun and have been keeping it well watered. Please let me know if I am doing things right and if I need to be doing anything else for its success. Thanks! Hi Dan, Banana plants (Musa sp.) are fun to grow, but don't do 30 like I did, unless you have a machette,,,,,talk about taking up a lot of space... It sounds like you are doing fine with your plant. Give it a lot of root space, and the plant will grow proportionately. Banana plants need a rich, humus soil, and heavy feeding when they are actively growing. I would use soluable 20-20-20 fertilizer monthly. Banana plants like it hot and humid so it is helpful to mist the leaves often, and sponge them off when they get dusty. Since you are growing the plant indoors, protect it from the very hottest sun in the afternoon, otherwise it needs full sun. Some varieties of banana plants produce edible fruit, others are inedible, and others even make little tiny miniature bananas. Which ever you have, it's cool!(as long as you have enough space!)

Allamanda cathartica 12-17-97 Nanceaned@aol.com wrote:

We would like some info on fertilizing allamanda-the flowering vine. Thank you, Ed Bond - Allamanda cathartica

Hi Ed,
  The Golden trumpet vine, Allamanda cathartica, is another plant that I will have to add to my 
TOXIC plant list, but I can also add it to my Hummingbird flower list,,,if I ever get busy and make 
  You didn't mention if you were growing your plant as a house plant , or if it was in the garden, 
so you get a little information for each.
  Allamanda  grows best in full sun or very bright light. If this is a house plant, give it a little 
protection from the sun, during the hottest days in the summer. It originated in the jungles of 
Brazil, but is now cultivated worldwide. Allamanda prefers a rich humus soil.
  Because Allamanda is such a prolific bloomer, give it a rest during the winter months, 
watering less, and no fertilizer. Around the first of April you can start feeding your plant with a 
5-10-5 liquid fertilizer, mixed HALF STRENGTH. Fertilize with this mixture every 2-3 weeks 
throughout the spring and summer, but start cutting back on the feeding frequency  in late 
August, with the last feeding at the end of September. Continue watering as long as the plant is 
still blooming, but when it is done, keep the plant on the dry side till spring.

Crown of thorns

David Comstock wrote: My fifty + year old crown of thorns is dying. The branches are rotting. I've had it for 8 years and I've never killed it before. I moved it to my new (temporary ) office and put it in a corner where it didn't get enough light. I have since rearranged my office and moved it over by the window. A few branches seem still to be alive, but for how long? Is it possible to take a cutting and start over? How is that done? any help would be appreciated. Thanks

Hi David,

Sorry to hear about your plant. A crown of thorns (Euphorbia splendens) that old is quite awesome. Cuttings from a Crown of Thorns are possible, but it'll take a little effort, and time. With a very sharp, clean knife(I like single edge razor blades) cut a branch off at the point where it meets the main trunk..... CAUTION!::::::The white milky sap is VERY poisonous, use care, wash your hands afterwards::::::CAUTION! Set the cutting aside, and allow the cut to callous over, this will take 2-3 days. When the callous has formed, dip about 1-2 inches of the cut end into a rooting hormone, such as 'Roottone', and insert it into a clean pot of sterile potting soil. The pot should then put in a warm place with bright light. Do not water at all for the first 2 weeks, and then water very sparingly until you see signs of new growth, usually in about a month. For fastest rooting, the soil should be kept at a constant 75 degrees, but do the best you can. I would take several cuttings, to be sure that you succeed with at least one of them. Because of the leaves, most people don't consider a Crown of thorns to be a succulent, but in reality it is. They should be watered once a week when they are in a growth cycle, but only once a month when dormant. Whether dormant or active, don't water until the soil is dry. Cut any of the rotted branches back to a point where you find clean healthy growth. If the rot started in the roots, you may only be able to salvage a lot of cuttings, however if the rot is at the tips, you can cut it back to healthy wood, and your plant will come back from the rootstock. I hope that makes sense to you.. I wish you a lot of luck. If you have any more questions, feel free to write. Hoping you have a very happy holiday season! Bill
PH requirements for vegetables ***

Shelton Droke wrote: Great web page! I enjoyed reading others problems. Mine is basic, but I can't find much about it. I would like to have the soil pH for all garden vegetable plants. Can you help? Thanks Shelton Droke

OK! Let me know if I missed any.

Soil PH requirements
Vegetable Best PH
Artichoke(globe) 5.6-6.6
Asparagus 6.0-7.0
Beans 6.0-7.0
Beet 5.6-6.6
Broccoli 6.0-7.0
Brussels sprouts 6.0-7.0
Cabbage 5.6-6.6
Cantaloupe 6.0-7.0
Carrot 5.0-6.0
Catnip 5.0-6.0
Cauliflower 6.0-7.0
Celery 6.0-7.0
Chard 6.0-7.0
Chili pepper 5.0-6.0
Chives 5.0-6.0
Cucumber 5.0-6.0
Dill 5.0-6.0
Eggplant 5.0-6.0
Garlic 5.0-6.0
Kiwi 5.0-7.0
Leek 5.0-6.0
Lettuce 6.0-7.0
Mint 6.0-7.0
Mushroom 7.0-8.0
Okra 6.0-8.0
Onions 5.0-7.0
Parsley 6.0-8.0
Parsnip 5.0-7.0
Peas 5.6-6.6
Peanuts 5.0-6.0
Peppers 6.0-8.0
Potatoe 4.0-5.0
Pumpkins 5.0-7.0
Radish 6.0-7.0
Raspberry 5.0-7.0
Rhubarb 5.0-7.0
Rutabaga 5.0-7.0
Shallots 5.0-7.0
Spinach 5.0-7.0
Squash 6.0-7.0
Strawberries 6.0-7.0
Sunflowers 6.0-7.0
Sweet corn 6.0-7.0
Sweet potatoes 5.0-7.0
Swiss chard 6.0-7.0
Tobacco 5.0-7.0
Tomatoe 5.0-7.0
Turnip 5.0-7.0
Yam 6.0-8.0
Zucchini 6.0-7.0

Hard water?Soft water? Greg wrote:

hello my name is greg and i would like to know the effects of growing plants (violets). with hard and soft water. i need to know with works better, and so forth. Thanx Greg

Hi Greg,

Distilled water!!! That would be the very best. Violets do need many of the minerals found in hard water, but the mineral content in water can vary considerably. The chlorine used in public water systems can be deadly to houseplants.

I strongly recommend that you fill your watering container, and let it sit for a minimum of 24 hours. The chlorine will have dissipated by then, making it somewhat more safe for your plants.

I keep several gallon milk bottles filled for watering, and use them as needed. The water will be room temperature, which is much less of a shock to the plant.

It is wise to bottom water all house plants, but particularly african violets. Watering from the top can cause crown rot in violets, which is fatal.

African violets like a great deal of humidity, but not wet leaves and stems.

There are many commercial fertilizers especially for violets. For the best plants, you must use these products, since violets have very definite requirements for Ph and trace elements.

If you have a chance, try growing violets under fluorescent GRO lights. The colors of both the flowers and foliage will become more intense and bright.

Good luck.... Bill

Spotted ivy Al Zahursky wrote:

I'm not much of a gardener, so I hope I'm able to give you enough info. to help me out...

I have an ivy plant - I'm not sure what kind it is, but it's leaves are a solid green. It was once a healthy plant, and I'm not sure what I did to it. Some of the leaves have started to get small dark spots of dried out area, then they turn yellowish and drop off. The spots don't come on the edge, more toward the center. Not very many leaves have the spots either. But, all the leaves are kind of puckering on the corners. I used to have the plant in a west window, but I live in the mountains so it doesn't get all that much sunlight. I've moved it further from the window and have been really keeping track of it's progress. Now, it only has 3 leaves with spots (one or two spots per leaf). I really loved this plant and it used to be so healthy. Please help me!

Hi Al,

It would be my best guess that your ivy plant has red spider mites. Use a magnifying glass and examine the underside of the leaves. Spider mites are extremely small, so look closely for any mites(they look like a miniature spider), or any webbing.

Should you find any evidence, isolate the plant from all of your other plants. Check your other houseplants too, mites are small enough that a breeze can transport them to the next plant.

There are commercial insecticides available to control mites, but read the label, some types can not be used on ivy. Before you resort to poison,,,,try dipping the foliage in room temperature, mildly soapy water. Dip it again in a week or so, and then recheck for mites. With any luck,,,you'll have 'em beat.

Ivy, as with most glossy leafed houseplants, need their leaves wiped with a damp cloth, occasionally. A periodic misting is helpful also.

As far as lighting goes, ivy likes bright light, but not necessarily full sun. The amount of light does have a direct bearing on the size of the leaves.

If you check your plant, and find no evidence of insects, write back, and I'll try again. Bill

Bird of paradise Robert Smout wrote: I have a large bird of paradise which needs to be transplanted. I need info on how to do it, so I don't kill it. It seems to be splitting into two but I need to know if I separate when transplanting or leave as one. This is the first time it has bloomed since I got it ten years ago, and I would like to keep it this way. Considering I live at 9600 ft. in the rockies I thought this was a good sign. Hi Robert,

To someone living in L.A., the fact that your Bird of paradise bloomed, is just another ho-hum. However, since I live in the mountains of Washington, I assure you that you deserve an 'atta boy'. My Strelitzia regenia took 7 years to bloom, and it was in a hothouse!

Now you can be twice as proud.......Dividing the two plants is easy, once you have removed it from the pot. The roots are very thick and fleshy, so be careful, but don't be nervous, the plant is pretty tough. Try to seperate the roots coming from each division, and carefully cut between the two sections, with a CLEAN, sharp knife. It is advisable to then dust the cuts with a rooting hormone, such as 'Roottone'. Cut off any of the roots that may have been badly damaged during the operation. Repot each section in a sterile pot, using a good commercial potting soil. Keep in mind that Bird of paradise blooms best when it is rootbound, so keep the pots as small as is feasible. Do not water the plants for 2-3 days to give the cuts a chance to 'callous' over, and then only water moderately.

Give 'em a shot of all purpose fertilizer next spring, and watch them go. With luck, they will be blooming again in a year.

Sedum'autumn joy' Connie James wrote:

I have about 10 Autumn Joy Sedum plants in my garden. One by one they have dropped stems and turned yellow.Are they dead and do they need to be replaced? How soon should I replace them?

Hi Connie,

Since I live in Washington, the Everwet state, the first thing I would suspect would be overwatering. Sedum telephium 'Autumn Joy', being a succulent, stores an abundant supply of water to get itself through a drought. If the plant does not have sufficient drainage, it will drown, plain and simple.

My suggestion would be to lift the root ball on a couple of them and look for anything obvious, i.e. rot. If you dont see anything, and the plants haven't been over watered, cut them back to the ground, and see what the spring brings forth. If you were to replace them , spring is the time to plant sedums, after all frost danger has passed.

Potted Chrysanthemums *** bmorton@erols.com wrote:
I'm in a situation where we had invested in a large number of potted mums this fall, and am now not quite sure as to the best method of preparing them for winter. I have been told that one may store the plants after they dry out for the entire winter and should be able to re-establish them in the garden in the spring. Please advise as to the method of storage that would allow for the best possible outcome next year. BM in NJ Hi B,
You didn't mention what type of facilities you have for storage,so I'll go for the best case scenario.
Once the flowers fade,Move the plants to a cool but well-lighted location. Remove any foil or other covering from the pot at this time. Be sure to keep your plants watered, but don't over water them. When the potting soil dries to a depth of two to three inches, water them well so that water runs out the hole in the bottom of the pot.
By keeping the plant in a cool, brightly lighted location, you can keep the plants alive until the worst of the winter is past and you can plant it outdoors. If there is no new growth, it can be planted while the freezing temperatures are expected at night.
If new growth is present, wait until frost is past to plant outside. Gradually acclimatize the plants as you bring them to life in the spring. Place them in a protected part of the garden, with partial shade, during the day, and in your coolest room at night. As the temperatures moderate, so there is less variance between day and night temperatures, you can leave them out.
When frost danger has passed, give em a shot of a 'bloom' fertilizer, for the earliest flowers. Happy Holidays, Bill

Hydrangeas *** Subject: Nonblooming hydrangea Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 19:17:03 -0600 From: "Rose Meadows" To: I have 2 hydrangeas (the kind that has blue blooms in acid soil). I started them about 4 years ago from sprouts given to me by a friend. My friend and I are both having trouble getting them to bloom. My friend says that she brought her plants from her former home where they bloomed beautifully. I am considering digging them up and replacing them with another shrub. although the blue hydrangea is one of my favorites.. Please advise *** Hi Rose, I am sorry that it took so long to reply to your letter, seems like I never get caught up.
The 'blue' flowering Hydrangea you refer to is Hydrangea macrophylla.(Natures little PH test OH! OH! ALL GONE BEYOND HERE! ****************