Posts tagged houseplants

Waking the garden

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, who wrote this on a more pleasant day than today:

 

Yes, Mr. Rogers, it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  And presentations by Master Gardeners Deb Walser on New Perennials and Becki Lynch on Grasses at the Lawn and Garden Show last weekend got me really, really motivated to work in the yard.  As I moaned about achy muscles, my favorite Granddaughter Catie, chided me for not stretching before grabbing the rake and nippers.  Now is a great time to commence waking your flower and vegetable beds.   If you have heavy concentrations of leaves and debris in the beds packed down by snow and ice, rake them out and fire up the lawn mower or shredder.  Fluff the mulch and add the shredded leaves to the top of it. Air, water and nutrients need to reach dormant roots and bulbs. Encourage drainage.  Poorly drained soil or standing water will cause roots and bulbs to rot.  Think soil amendments.  Add compost to your beds.  If you’re thinking of having the soil tested, now is a good time and you can pick up the test from the Extension Office.    I got about half my beds trimmed and raked out today before I ran out of energy.  During a break I enjoyed cold tea instead of hot coffee, and planned further for the new bed I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  I know where the old seeder wagon and garden gate can stand.  I know approximately how much mulch and grass cloth to purchase.  And, I know about how many Hostas to buy at the Master Gardeners’ Spring Plant Sale.  I’ll broach the subject of the stone erosion control area to my favorite son at a later date.  

                 Draw a diagram of your deck and create an interesting focal point using your houseplants grouped with potted annuals.   Several years ago another Master Gardener suggested moving house plants outside for the summer.  It’s amazing how they thrive.  Just remember to keep them out of the direct, hot sunlight.  Get them ready now by repotting, if necessary.  Begin watering and fertilizing lightly and gradually increase exposure to sunlight. 

                Achy muscles aside, the fresh air and sunshine were so welcome. I’m anxious to get back out and clean up the remainder of the gardens.

                P.S. Many of you will be receiving or purchasing Hardy Oriental, Asiatic or traditional white lilies soon.  Keep them healthy by placing them in a cool, bright location in your home.  Keep the soil moist but not wet.  Perforate or remove the decorative foil so the water doesn’t collect in the decorative pot or basket.  Remember to place the pot on a saucer to prevent spills.  Continue to care for the lily after the flowers fade because they can be planted outdoors.  The planting site should be in full sun with well drained soil.  Lilies create beautiful backdrops or vertical accents.

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Shower time!

 

 

Aloe vera gets a shower

Aloe vera gets a shower

 Those dear, neglected houseplants, alternately baking and freezing in windows that vacillate between oven and freezer in the winter. Once spring arrives, mine spend Iowa’s warmer months outside, where they grow lush and green. But first they must survive the less than ideal conditions indoors.

 

   Kept out of reach of predatory cats, I don’t pay as much attention to my houseplants as I should in the winter. But just recently I brought them back into better health with a good shower. I’ve tried the bathtub and basement sink methods, but finally found that the best spot to spray the plants is right under their window, in the kitchen sink. Each plant gets a good spray and soaking. I let the water drain from the bottom of the planters before putting them back in place. Usually, I try to give them a shower once a month during the winter months, though I’ve been slacking this year. The process can leave a bit of a mess in the sink and although I’m not usually a bleach person, it comes in handy when thoroughly cleaning the sink afterwards.

 

   Because some of the plants are almost out of sight in their window, had it not been for their shower this month, I would have missed a nice surprise. A  geranium, which my mother entrusted to my care when her home was flooded this summer, had actually bloomed! Perhaps this was the plant’s cry for help, since some flowers bloom when they are stressed, but it was nice to see a bright spot of color on a cold winter’s day. 

Mom's geranium

Mom's geranium

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Home and Garden Show and much, much more

The following is from Claire Smith, Linn County Master Gardener:

 

The 2009 Winter Gardening Fair – what an event!  The new Kirkwood Center for Continuing Education is a phenomenal building—one floor, great traffic patterns and lots of light.  A two-track program offered something of interest to everyone with the slightest interest in all things flora.  High energy keynote speaker Janet Macunovich used her photographer husband, Steve Nikkila’s talents to the max to delight all with “Continuous Color in the Landscape”.  

Bummed that you didn’t attend?  Let us share with you multiple other educational opportunities.  Linn County Master Gardeners will be presenting several FREE educational opportunities at the Hiawatha Public Library.  Classes include Pruning Trees and Shrubs, February 18th; Houseplants, February 25th; Starting Garden Transplants, April 1st; Garden Lighting, April 8th; Revitalizing Your Garden, April 15th; Container Gardens, April 22nd; and Lawns Green with Envy April 29.  All classes commence at 6:00 p.m. 

The WMT Garden and Home Show is March 14th & 15th at Hawkeye Downs.  Master Gardeners will be available throughout the show to answer questions and offer suggestions. 

Another highlight is the Creative Gardening Series.  The evening programs are FREE sponsored by the Master Gardeners.  Dates are March 31st, April 7th and 14th.    A hands-on program on April 18th, with different options available is offered, also.  The hands on classes will have a fee.   Additional information will be available on this blog soon.

  Several hundred plants will be for sale at our annual Plant Sale on May 16th at the Linn County Extension Office, 3279 7th Ave. in Marion.  These are plants from Master Gardeners’ personal gardens.

Master Gardeners will be available to offer information about growing conditions and locations.

Mark your calendar for the Master Gardener’s Garden Walk on June 13th.  This is a wonderful opportunity to visit five gardens, each unique in its own right. You’re encouraged to ask lots and lots of questions and glean ideas from each flower bed, pond, and landscape.

Linn County Master Gardeners provide a cooperative venture with the Linn County Fair from July 8th-13th.  On August 22nd, Master Gardeners will participate in the Garden and Art Show at Brucemore.  

Feel free to call the Horticulture Hort Line at 319-447-0647 for additional information on any of these opportunities.  And call the Horticulture Hort Line to hear research based answers to any plant questions you have.

 

 

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Flood plants

    During the Depression, Julie Gladfelder’s father always found something beautiful for his wife to look at, whether it was something he traded for, or found in the timbers. “It was so there would be something encouraging,” Gladfelder said. “It was such a bleak time.”

    Gladfelder, of Cedar Rapids, knows that Iowa flood victims are going through their own bleak times.

    She and Sheri Mealhouse of Cedar Rapids decided to offer something encouraging for those flood victims. The two started a program called Neighbor to Neighbor Sharing Plants.

    So far, they have given away nearly 180 houseplants to flood victims. The two will expand to offer free perennials to flood victims in the spring.

    Gladfelder said about 20 people have contributed houseplants, including jade, spider plants, African violets and more.  The two welcome donations, especially when outdoor plants will be needed next spring.

   More on their efforts will be published in The Gazette.

   If you’d like to donate or know a flood victim who would like a plant, leave a message below or send an email to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com

 

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Grandma’s plants

     The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

     Did you get Grandma’s Christmas list?  I’ll bet she says she doesn’t want anything:  she has too much stuff already.  What do you do?  How about a winter blooming window sill plant!

     There are some really neat little fellows out there.

·         African Violet:    has soft thick leaves and beautiful petite blooms.  Enjoys temperatures around 70’ with good air circulation.  Likes about 16 hrs. of daylight and 8 hrs. of darkness each day to produce blooms.  Hmmmmm sounds just like my Mom, warmer temps. and a good night’s sleep!

·         Shamrock:  resembles a large clover. Can have green leaves but can also be tricolored or deep purple.  Desires cooler temperatures, around 65’ and lots of bright light.  Grandma will be lucky to receive this one.

·         Spider Plant:  enjoys bright light and temperatures around 65’.  Mine profusely  grows long slender leaves with tiny white flowers in a sunny Northwest window.   Pebbles and water in a saucer under the plant offers humidity, keep the roots away from the water though.

·         Cyclamen:  heart shaped leaves and papery soft petals blooming in winter.  Wants well drained soil, really cool temperatures, i.e. 55’ and indirect light.  Great for an area without a lot of windows.  

    If Grandma would prefer a larger plant try:

·         Peace Lily:  not for the faint of heart, this plant has the capacity to become huge. Use it to fill an empty corner.  One of the first plants I ever had, I can attest that the Peace Lily will survive well in almost any condition.  Prefers bright, filtered, or natural light.  Has abundance of glossy, green foliage and regularly produces dramatic white blossoms.  Enjoys any comfortable room temperature.  Soil should be kept evenly moist.

·         Norfolk Island Pine:   Grandma gets a small live Holiday tree with this one.  Let the grandkids have fun decorating with lightweight ornaments.  Thrives with consistent care.  Needs brightly lit window.  Rotate weekly as it will grow toward the light.  Water thoroughly when soil becomes dry to touch. Discard excess water from saucer.  Likes humidity:  place on a pebble tray.  Likes temperatures 55-70’. 

    Complete your choice with a colorful bow and a handmade card and Grandma’s gift will be indeed special! 

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Ladybugs, Lady Beetles

   They are red, orange or shades in between and tend to invade homes in late fall.

   Ladybugs and lady beetles are different names for the same bug that some people see as a pest, but I see as a benefit. I don’t have the large-scale home invasion that some people do, so that could be why I see ladybugs through rose-colored glasses. When they do come indoors, I have a spot for them on my houseplants.

   My houseplants spend the summer outdoors and are given a good shower before I bring them inside in the fall. I don’t use any type of chemical insecticide, and that’s where the ladybugs come in: put them on the plants and they spend their days looking for tiny bugs to eat. They’re amazing to watch in action.

 I know my solution isn’t for everyone, so following are tips from Iowa State University about indoor control and other helpful information:

Ladybug in action

Ladybug in action

 

  The Asian lady beetle is present all summer but is most noticeable in the fall when second generation adults migrate from trees, gardens and fields to reflective, vertical surfaces (such as the south side of the house) in preparation for winter hibernation. 

 

   Asian lady beetles are a beneficial biological control in trees during the summer, and in fields and gardens during the fall, but can be a severe household nuisance during late fall and winter. Wooded residential and industrial areas are especially prone to problems.

   The origins of the Asian lady beetles are not clear, although it appears the current pest species was not purposefully released in the United States or in Iowa. Beetles that arrived by accident in ports such as New Orleans in the late 1980s have crawled and flown all by themselves to all corners of the country.

   The multicolored Asian lady beetle is 1/3 inch in length; dome-shaped; yellowish-orange to red with variable black spots on the back. Deep orange is the most common color. The 19 black spots may be faint or missing. There is a black “W” shaped mark on the thorax.

   Asian lady beetles, like other accidental invaders, are “outdoor” insects that create a nuisance by wandering indoors during a limited portion of their life cycle. They do not feed or reproduce indoors; they cannot attack the house structure, furniture, or fabrics. They cannot sting or carry diseases. Lady beetles do not feed on people though they infrequently pinch exposed skin. Lady beetles may leave a slimy smear and they have a distinct odor when squashed.

   Asian lady beetles follow their instinctive behavior and fly to sunny, exposed surfaces when preparing to hibernate through the winter. The time of beetle flight varies but is usually from mid-September through October (depending on weather.) Light colored buildings and walls in full sun appear to attract the most beetles.

   Sealing exterior gaps and cracks around windows, doors, eaves, roofs, siding and other points of access before the beetles appear can prevent unwanted entry. Experience suggests, however, that comprehensive pest proofing is time-consuming, often impractical and usually not 100% effective.  For large infestations with intolerable numbers of beetles, spraying pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin or esfenvalerate to the outside of buildings when the beetles appear may help prevent pest entry. Homeowner insecticides other than pyrethroids usually do not provide satisfactory prevention.

   Long-term relief may come from planting trees that will grow up to shade the south and west sides of the house. The most practical control for beetles already inside is to vacuum or sweep them up and discard. Indoor sprays are of very limited benefit. Interior light traps are available.

Donald Lewis, of Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology, adds the following about ladybug myths and facts:   

Myth: Ladybugs are different from lady beetles

Fact: Ladybugs and lady beetles and ladybird beetles are all different names for the same thing.

Myth: Asian lady beetles come from soybean fields.

Fact: There are Asian lady beetles in soybean fields, but also many other places including trees and, gardens.

Myth: Soybean harvest causes multicolored Asian lady beetles to migrate to town and to houses.

Fact: Day length and temperatures trigger migration – expect swarms of beetles on first warm days after frost. Soybean plants lose their leaves, and therefore any aphids the lady beetles might be eating long before harvest. The beetles leave soybean fields as the plant leaves begin to turn yellow and not when the combines arrive.

Myth: Farmers released the lady beetles to eat the soybean aphid

Fact: No releases were ever made in Iowa. Multicolored Asian lady beetles arrived in Iowa by wandering from adjoining states several years before the soybean aphid appeared.

Myth: Lady beetles breed in the walls of the house during the winter.

Fact: They do not reproduce during the winter.

Myth: Finding a ladybug brings good luck.

Fact: This myth might not be all wrong. Since ladybugs eat aphids, other small insects, mites and the eggs of insects and mites, you could argue that ladybugs do bring good luck to farmers and gardeners. However, there is no evidence to prove that the good luck extends beyond the benefit of fewer aphids feeding on your plants.

Myth: You can tell the age of a ladybug by counting its spots.

Fact: There are over 5000 different species of lady beetles (ladybugs) in the world and approximately 475 species in North America. There may be as many as 100 different kinds in Iowa. The numbers and arrangements of spots on the backs of ladybugs are distinctive for the different species, and once a lady beetle emerges as an adult it never changes its spots.

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Living with plants

                The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

                Many thanks to my son for power washing my deck Sunday.  Oh! What a mess it was!  The spring and summer rains left a thick cover of green gunk on the old pressure treated boards.   I’m on my way today to purchase weather seal.  The cleaning process was as a result of bringing house plants back indoors.  Each spring I set house plants on the deck to enjoy them in combination with potted annuals. 

                Bringing plants indoors prior to turning on the furnace acclimates them from the cooler nights.  If there is any possibility of pests residing in the plants, they get gentle warm water bath. 

Live greenery in the house in the winter creates such a soothing ambiance.  Plants add color to compliment the décor.  Bright colors such as scarlet and yellow are focal points. Blue and pink combine easily with other colors.  Silver is a striking addition anytime.  Add height by setting the plant on top of a larger overturned pot. Use a pedestal.  Turn a floor lamp base into a plant stand for vines.  Invest in a wheeled platform to easily move your huge “statement” plant.  Any texture enhances your rooms:  large leaves make a room feel larger; smaller leaves will make a space more intimate.      

Remember, any house plant is one that has been moved from its natural environment.  You control and are responsible for its livelihood with the amount of light, moisture and warmth you provide.  Select a healthy plant.  Check it for pests.  Check its general (healthy) appearance.  Check the label to be certain you can provide its optimum living conditions.  Just as with outdoor plants, some prefer sun, some shade.   Some prefer a constantly moist soil, some a dry soil.  Push your finger an inch or two into the soil.  If the plant prefers moist, the soil should be damp, but not soggy.  If it should be dryer, the soil should be dry to an inch or two below the surface.  Turn the plant about a quarter turn each time you water it to provide evenly distributed light.  Buy your houseplants now rather than transporting them in and out of cold temperatures. 

Are you in a quandary about which houseplant(s) will suit you?  Call the Linn County Extension Office Horticulture Line @ 319-447-0647 and ask for suggestions.  Then visit your favorite local garden center to visualize and take home your prize purchase! 

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