Questions on: Lilies

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: I just received a spathiphyllum lily that came with a beta fish. I would like to keep the plant alive, so my fish will have a home. However, the leaves on the plant seem weak and some are turning a dark brown. Is this plant supposed to be in soil? I hope you can help me regenerate my poor plant back to life. My poor fish doesn't have a home right now! (Manitoba, Canada)

A: Get the plant out of the water and into some potting soil. This is a marketing gimmick to get people to purchase something unique, with both the plant and the fish dying!


Q: I have a peace lily plant that concerns me. The leaves get areas that are black and seem dead. I have many new shoots of leaves coming that also have these dead spots. It is a houseplant that is kept in the kitchen with fluorescent lightning and an average temperature around 72 degrees. Any suggestions? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: This could be due to overfertilization or too much salt content in the water. Allow the soil to dry down to the point that wilting almost takes place. Then completely water the media with distilled water. Pour off any excess water that collects in the dish under the pot within 15 minutes. If it is the high salt content as I suspect, future leaves should grow without any marks on them. From your description, I'm fairly certain that there isn’t a pathogen at work, so no fungicides need be applied.

Q: I live in Missouri, where we just had a bad ice storm and no electricity for a week. All my peace lilies leaves died. What can I do to save them? (e-mail reference)
A: Assuming you had the lilies indoors and the temperatures got close to freezing, I don't think there is anything that can be done. If the foliage has turned brown or blackened, you should cut it back and allow the crown to dry out. As spring comes on, set the containers in a well-lit or high-light area where indirect sunlight is available. Begin watering again and see if any new growth emerges during the next two to three weeks. If new growth does not take place, then the plants are dead and should be discarded.

Q: I’ve been reading your column trying to find out what I should be doing and expecting from my calla lily that I received. It is in my office. I water it about three times every two weeks. The plant receives little light. It seems to be doing well, except that the five white flowers on it seem to be turning green. Is this normal for a calla lily? Should I be doing something different? What will happen to it next? I also see that two of the leaves have broken and are now bent over. I do not move the plant except to water it and neither do any of my co-workers. (e-mail reference)

A: The calla lily is beginning to go into dormancy even though it isn't spring. Allow it to go dormant and let it completely dry down for about two months. Then shake off the old soil around the roots, repot in a pasteurized media and set it in a bright light source. The lower leaves are probably breaking off because of the low light situation. Most houseplants do not get enough light, which causes weakness in the lower leaf tissue because that area is the greatest distance from the light source. This weakness is manifested in different ways. In some cases, it causes leaf drop. In other cases, the leaves will break as you described. In essence, you have nothing to worry about because everything your calla is doing is normal.


Q: I have some Asiatic lily seeds that I collected from pods last summer. If I sowed them now, would they would germinate and grow? (Fargo, N.D.)

A: Asiatic lilies include species of L. tigrinum, L. cernuum, L. davidii, L. maximowiczii, L. macultum, L. hollandicum, L amabile, L. pumilum, L. concolor and L. bulbiferum. Epigeal trumpet lily species are L. luecanthum, L. regale, L. sargentiae, L sulphureum, L. osthornii and L. henryi. Many interdivisional hybrids also fall into the epigeal category. Epigeal lilies germinate under moist, warm conditions (approximately 70 degrees) in one stage, which takes about 14 days. One stage means that the plant sends up a leaf right away. The term epigeal (or epigeous) means that during germination, the hypocotyl elongates and raises the cotyledons above the ground to participate in photosynthesis. In other words, sow the seeds in a moist, sterile media at room temperature and wait for results. The seeds that are viable will germinate.


Q: I planted some lovely Asiatic lilies, day lilies and various other bulbs. However, several of my plants did not bloom. On several mornings, I saw squirrels digging in my flower beds. I shooed them away, put down mothballs, Critter Ridder and the less expensive red cayenne pepper. Is there any season-long remedy that will repel these furry bulb snatchers? I thought they were digging for nuts, but I found some bulbs half-eaten and the smaller bulbs on top of the soil. I heard of drowning the critters by pouring water down their holes, but then I would have to get rid of the carcasses. Any good, humane suggestions? If not, I'll take any advice to save my flowers! (e-mail reference)

A: There are a number of suggestions I can make, but none are permanent or include using mothballs. Mothballs are ineffective and illegal to use to control squirrels. Squirrels can’t resist peanut butter. My wife makes a suet bar with peanut butter in it. It causes a near feeding frenzy, so they leave our bulb plantings alone. This may or may not work for you. If it doesn't, then I would suggest capturing them live using Havaheart Live Traps. The traps usually are available at hunting stores. Place some cheap peanut butter in the trap. The critter enters the trap and gets caught. You now have a live squirrel to dispose of. Take the critter to the country near a place with lots of trees. After release, the squirrel should be out of your life permanently. Do this before spring arrives because female squirrels generally give birth in late winter. Repellents, such as Liquid Fence, work well, but need to be reapplied. Sprinklers, that have water coming from an owl's face or something similar and have a motion detector, work quite well. The water comes on suddenly, sweeps back and forth for about 10 seconds and then shuts off. It scared me the first time! There are high-frequency units that supposedly keep critters out of an area. I can't testify to their effectiveness, but the literature claims they work. If they are not expensive, you might look into buying one. Generally, gardens and squirrels can coexist if the right combinations of environmental factors are present. They become pests when their environment has limited food or shelter sources. Give my suggestions a try and let me know if anything works.


Q: I know you have had frequent questions about peace lilies. Now I need advice on first aid for a sick plant. I received two plants in a basket. We didn't realize there were two pots in the basket. One plant was overwatered, while the other dried out. I have been told that peace lilies are easy to grow, but I have no experience. Are the roots rotting? Should the plants be repotted? What type of soil should I use? The plants are several feet from a south window and get sunlight part of the day. Can I put them in a room without sunlight? (McHenry, N.D.)

A: This is one of my favorite plants to talk about because they are so resilient and beautiful, whether they flower or not. Peace lilies prefer an evenly moist soil. Most people find that they can water their plants once a week, depending on light and temperature conditions. At lower light levels or cooler temperatures, any plant will use less water than when it is more actively growing. Always use room temperature water, especially in the winter. Keep in mind that these are plants that thrive in the tropics under large canopies. Before watering the plants, allow the water to stand overnight to dissipate any chlorine because peace lilies are sensitive to chlorine. The soil never should be soggy and the plants never should stand in a saucer filled with water. Peace lilies also never should be allowed to completely dry out. Fertilizing is another important factor in caring for these plants. The soil will become depleted of nutrients as the plant grows. It's a good idea to help replenish it by feeding the plant once a month or so during the growing season. Use any standard houseplant fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, at a quarter the recommended dilution rate. The delicate root hairs, as well as the edges of a peace lily's leaves, can burn if the fertilizer is too strong. Repot the plant every year or two in a rich soil consisting of equal parts of loam, peat moss and sand. Peace lilies are somewhat resistant to most insect pests. An occasional infestation of mealy bugs may show up, but easily can be treated using an insecticidal soap. Because these plants have broad, evergreen leaves, they benefit from having their foliage regularly wiped with a damp sponge to remove dust. You also can put the plants in the shower about every other week to keep the foliage clean. It's interesting to note that peace lily plants are taking care of us! Spathiphyllums were among the top 10 plants in a clean air study conducted by NASA. Peace lilies were shown to be highly effective at removing formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from the air, thus fighting sick building syndrome. If you have an interest in this subject, get ahold of the book "How to Grow Fresh Air" by Wolverton.


Q: I just received a peace lily from the company I work for as condolences for a loss in my family. I have never had a peace lily before. This particular plant is huge, so I am concerned that it may need to be split and replanted. However, I am not sure how the plant will take to the replanting process. I would appreciate any tips you could send my way. Thank you in advance. (e-mail reference)

A: This is an easy plant to care for. The fact that it is flowering is an indication that it will begin to wane in vigor and move into a dormant or rest period. When this starts to become evident, don't attempt to push it by overwatering or fertilizing. Back off on the watering and allow the soil to dry between each watering cycle. Sometime in early March, divide it, repot and start watering as normal. It should flower for you during late spring or early summer.


Q: I have a lily bed that has become infested with grass and perennial weeds. Can I cut down the lily stems and spray with Round Up or do I need to dig up the bulbs before the application? Maybe you have some other method to complete the process. (e-mail reference)

A: Look for Hi-Yield Grass Killer with sethoxydin as the active ingredient. Be sure to follow label directions. If lilies are listed on the label, then you can use it as a selective herbicide. It should be available in local garden stores.


Q: I had a lady call this morning with a peace lily problem. She has a brown ring on the leaf stems about an inch long and 1 to 1 1/2 inches away from the base of the leaf. (e-mail reference)

A: The lily is attempting to shut down after a winter of flowering and looking beautiful with the big, floppy leaves. Have her remove the affected leaves and back off on the watering until all the leaves are gone. Then barely keep the media moist for the next six to eight weeks or until new growth is observed. Resume the original watering cycle after new growth begins.


Q: I'm interested in getting a peace lily. I have a dog, so I’m wondering if peace lilies are poisonous to dogs. The dog tends to chew on everything, so I wanted to make sure before I bought the plant. (e-mail reference)

A: While not specifically listed in my poisonous plant references, the plant's family (Araceae) is listed as containing high levels of calcium oxalate, which can cause irritation of the mouth and tongue tissue. I would advise against getting this plant if the dog cannot be stopped from nibbling, so you don't have a panic veterinarian bill to pay!


Q: I love flowers, but I am not very knowledgeable about them. Last summer I bought a calla lily plant that had some flowers growing. It continued to grow quite nicely! At the end of June, I left for a week. When I got back, the plant was seriously lacking water. I tried and tried to help it, but I thought for sure it was a lost cause. About two weeks ago, I purchased a clematis to plant in that same pot I used last year for the lily plant. While digging the hole to plant it, I hit a bulb. It was moist and had many roots coming out of it. As I continued to poke around, I found three more and one really tiny bulb. They all had roots growing out of them and they were fairly moist. I had thought that spring was the time for lilies to be growing out of the dirt, so I am not sure if these bulbs are healthy. I repotted all of the bulbs in two pots. What do you think my chances are of these bulbs producing plants and flowering? If you think it is a strong possibility, when do you think I can expect to see something? (e-mail reference)

A: For lilies to die down is normal. You actually pushed the lily into a dormant period. The bulbs should be ready to come out. Increase the watering to keep the soil moist and place the containers in a sunny window. I don't gamble and don't try to predict plant behavior when I am not directly involved in caring for it. I would say that success depends on how patient you are. If nothing has started growing after 30 days, I would dump the bulbs.


Q: I received a calla lily during Easter. How do I take care of it? Does it last all year? Does it have a rest period? How much water and fertilizer should I use? (e-mail reference)

A: I'll do better than just give you an answer. I'll provide a Web site, www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/flowers/lily.htm, for you to go to that will answer your questions on the care of this plant.


Q: My daughter works for a florist and gave me a large plastic bag filled with peace lilies in pots. We were in the process of getting ready to move, so I left them in the plastic bag for about three months before I got to them. The tops are brown, but most of the bulbs are still green. I want to set them out at our new house, but we haven't finished building it. How should I store the bulbs until I am ready to plant? (e-mail reference)

A: Store the lilies in a cool, dark and dry place. I would suggest dusting them with powdered sulfur until you can get them planted.


Q: I received a peace lily for my father’s funeral in February. Last month it seemed to be too large for the pot it came in. I transplanted it to a larger pot and added potting soil. I never have had a house plant before because I just don't have a green thumb. The plant has produced two flowers, but the leaves are turning brown. Should I trim the leaves and cut off the flowers? Please help, this flower really means a lot to me and I'm afraid it may be dying. (e-mail reference)

A: The plant may be attempting to go into a delayed rest period. I would let it die down naturally and remove the faded foliage. Keep it barely moist (to mimic tropical shifts in its native environment) for about six weeks, then start watering as before and you should get regrowth quickly. Keep the plant in a bright, but not a direct sun location.


Q: I have a peace lily that I need to transplant. What kind of soil do they need? (e-mail reference)

A: Peace lilies are tropical plants and need soil that is rich in organic matter. Any houseplant soil that is high in organic matter would be ideal. Anything that says on the package that it is good for flowering plants, such as African violets or gloxinias, would be suitable for peace lilies as well.


Q: I have a group of stella dora lilies that I need to thin, but I am unsure how to go about doing it. The plants are part of a memorial garden, so I don't want to do anything that will kill the plants. (e-mail reference)

A: In my experience with daylilies, I’ve found that the only thing tougher than they are is a crowbar! You would have to work to kill them. Dig up the daylilies and move the plants to a new location as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Don't replant too deeply and make sure the new site is in full sun. After that, water in the plants.


Q: I received a large peace lily at my grandfather's funeral. After reading through most of the questions on the Web site, I think the plant wants to have a rest period, but I'm not positive. It produced two flowers. One flower has been cut off, but the other hasn't opened. The leaves are the same color as they were the day we brought it home, but they're very droopy. The stalks are strong, but at the point where the leaf opens up from the stalk, it falls over and the bends in the stalk are light green. A few of the stalks are almost white. I've been watering it about twice a week and fertilizing once a week. I usually mist it once a day. What am I doing wrong? Do I need to let the plant rest? (e-mail reference)

A: Most likely the plant is a little weak from insufficient light. After the second bloom opens and fades, dry the plant down and keep the plant dry for about eight weeks to two months. Then repot the plant and start watering again.


Q: I allowed my calla lily to go dormant. It is sprouting new leaves, but no flowers. Should the flowers have come up and bloomed first? (e-mail reference)

A: Not necessarily. Flowers will be produced when conditions are right within the plant and its environment. Have patience.


Q: I bought a potted calla lily a few weeks ago. When I purchased it, it had two blooms and two more coming. Since getting it home, all four blooms have died. I understand that those in full bloom were bound to die at some point, but I’m concerned that the two that were about to go into full bloom died. Also, the leaves are turning brown at the tips. What are your thoughts on what's happening? (e-mail reference)

A: Something is wrong with your water source is my best guess. The brown tips are from excess salts of some kind, such as sodium, fluoride or chlorine, that are causing this decline. If you can, switch to distilled water for a while or at least use 50 percent distilled water. This will not cure the foliage that is already damaged, but it should stop the damage from continuing. Given enough energy accumulation, the plant should rebloom within a year.


Q: I have had a peace lily in my office for almost a year. It has a lot of clear, sappy stuff on the leaves and stems. It doesn't wipe off easily with just water. Do you know what this substance is? There also is a lot of browning on the tips. How can I get rid of this as well? (e-mail reference)

A: This is an indication of insect or mite feeding activity somewhere on the plant. It could be coming from the underside of the leaves or at the point where the stem expands into a leaf. You need to get some insecticidal soap, which is usually available from the Safer or Schultz Co. Soak a rag in the soap and wipe the leaves on both sides. While you are at it, examine the entire plant to see if there is any evidence of insects, such as scale (little bumps), that are not easily wiped off. If there is evidence, you will have to come back with a cotton-tipped swab soaked in the soap. If the infestation is too heavy, you might be better off getting rid of the plant. Concerning the brown tips, this is usually evidence of excessive fertilizer salts or fluoride in the water.


Q: My peace lily is growing rapidly. I repotted it and found it very difficult to break apart to give to others here at work. Can I cut the roots with a knife? I didn't want to hurt it. It grows great under the florescent lights and I get flowers often. I have been reading from your other inquirers about giving it a rest period. If it is growing so well, why let it rest? (e-mail reference)

A: You can cut it apart with a knife. You will know when the plant wants a rest period. It will stop flowering and the foliage will be discolored or pale and limp. Allow it to die down by withholding water (as happens in its native setting) almost completely. Allow it to rest for eight to 12 weeks, barely watering lightly during that time. Often, a bud will appear after the rest period. When that happens, start watering again. Enjoy!


Q: Four years ago, I bought my daughter a "bulb in a box" at Christmas time. It turned out to be a calla lily. The plant came up, but didn't get very large and never bloomed. Since then, I've planted it in my garden. Each summer the calla lily grows larger, but never produces blooms. Why doesn't it bloom and how should I be storing it during the winter? I've been digging it up, repotting it, and moving it to a sunny window in the house until it’s time to plant it outdoors in the spring. (e-mail reference)

A: Based on what you have told me, I don't know. I suggest that you go to my Web site, www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/flowers/lily.htm, where I have a question-and-answer page on calla lilies.


Q: Could you please tell me if my lilies should be cut back for the winter? (e-mail reference)

A: Cutting back the lilies is not necessary unless you want to do it for aesthetic reasons.


Q: Can you tell me the names of the longest blooming perennials? I’m in zone 3. I love roses and tall plants. (e-mail reference)

A: Look for Echinacea, lilies and daylilies. They are my favorites because of their long show of flowers.


Q: I have a peace lily. I replanted it to a bigger pot and ever since then it looks like it is dying. It has yellow leaves and looks like it is in distress. What should I do? I try not to water it every day, but I spray the leaves every day with water. (e-mail reference)

A: I would guess the plant is attempting to go into dormancy because of the transplanting. Back off on the watering and allow the foliage to dry down gradually. What you are doing right now is not helping one bit. Allow the soil to become dry, but keep it from drying completely with an occasional light watering. If it is going to recover, it should start to show new growth in six to eight weeks or so. When it does, resume the regular daily watering and misting as the leaves continue to unfold. Generally, repot during the winter months when dormancy can be a more natural occurrence.


Q: I received a very large, full peace lily in April. I repotted it because it looked potbound. Since that time the leaves have been wilting and turning brown. I used Miracle-Gro potting soil and a slightly larger pot. I have two cats. I thought they were hurting the plant by rubbing against the leaves. I put it on a stand, but it hasn’t helped. I have it in a south patio window, but also have a large tree outside this window, so the light is not harsh. This plant has a lot of meaning to me and I have never had this problem with houseplants before. Could you please help me? (Hillsboro, N.D.)

A: About the only thing I can advise you to do is try misting the plant on a regular basis and setting the pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water. They thrive in high humidity and moisture. I’m assuming the plant is in a free-draining container and that you dump off excessive water within 30 minutes of watering.


Q: I love plants and am taking care of several at my workplace. Some are peace lilies and ivy. I honestly don’t know what some are called. There is no color to the plants. They just are green plants. A few are rather large. I recently repotted some peace lilies and have them in a window so they get plenty of sun, but they look droopy. I water them once a week. I will water them with Miracle-Gro in the future. Would it be OK to use Miracle-Gro along with Epsom salt or would that be too much fertilizer? I just want to help the plants grow and look their best. (e-mail reference)

A: The most important suggestion is to find the right balance of water for each plant. Droopy leaves mean that there is not enough water being supplied, which is a characteristic of peace lilies. Most other plants will get along fine with a weekly watering and removing the excess water from the tray. Don’t be too zealous with fertilizing. The plants will respond best to fertilizer applications when they are actively growing. You can try Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to see if the plants respond better. Chances are the level of these two elements is adequate and will not result in any visible response. If fertilizing with any material on houseplants, be sure to use a diluted amount. Use about half of what is recommended on the label because the requirements are varied with each plant species and the pot size (volume of soil) also varies.


Q: I have a peace lily that I got at my father-in-law’s funeral. All the leaves are relatively small compared with the ones I’ve seen at other places. The leaves also are wrinkled. We transplanted the plant about six months after we got it because it was too big for the pot. It seems to droop a lot even though I water it after the top is dry. (e-mail reference)

A: Allow it to go dormant once a year for two to three months. Withhold enough water to dry the plant down. After that, dig out and repot (divide if necessary) the plant in fresh potting soil and give it a good dose of water. When new growth emerges, keep the soil evenly moist and fertilize it about every other week. Place the plant in strong, indirect light and everything should be fine.


Q: How do I remove the spent flowers from a tiger lily plant? I know how to deadhead azaleas, and more specifically, where to remove the spent flower. I do know that I must remove the spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Where should the flowers be separated from the host and by what method? Tiger lilies are beautiful, but a new plant to me. (e-mail reference)

A: It makes little difference where you remove the spent flowers, just as long as they are removed as they begin to fade. You want to keep the plant from expending the energy to make seed. If you can do that, there often is a repeat bloom cycle to enjoy.


Q: Any suggestions on fertilizing daylilies that grow outdoors? (e-mail reference)

A: Just a word - “barely!” These plants are excellent at getting nourishment from the soil, so they need little help unless your soil is inert and sterile. You can fertilize with something like Miracle-Gro a couple of times during the growing season. The daylilies don’t need the fertilizer, but it should make you feel better!


Q: I received a calla lily as a gift. I have noticed little gnats flying around it. How do I treat the problem? Where do the gnats come from and how do I keep them from coming back? Except for the gnats, the plant is healthy. (e-mail reference)

A: Gnats or whatever pest you have can be “knocked down” with Insecticidal Soap. You will have to repeat the application several times to eliminate the population. Be sure to move the plant outdoors for the summer and repot it with fresh, pasteurized potting soil before bringing inside for the winter.


Q: I would like to know if I can save seeds from an Easter lily plant and have new plants. (e-mail reference)

A: You can, but the new bulblets the plant produces are easier to raise and will grow into a flowering plant faster. Plant the lily outdoors after the danger of frost is past. Unless you live in the coldest place on the planet, it should survive, grow and bloom.


Q: I have several peace lily plants. My sister brought me her peace lily, which was very root-bound. It took three pots to replant. Now the leaves are turning brown and drooping in all the pots. My peace lily leaves also are turning brown on the tips. I cut the brown part off. Was this the wrong thing to do? (e-mail reference)

A: The plant probably needs a rest period. Let it dry for six to eight weeks. This is a natural cycle in its native tropical habitat. Apply enough water to barely keep the soil moist. After that, resume normal watering later in the summer. If the brown tips persist, change to distilled water. It may be the salts in your water supply, especially fluoride, that are causing the tip burn. It doesn’t hurt the plant, but it does look unsightly.


Q: I read your material about lillies. Most of the questions I had were answered. Thank you so much! However, I do have a few more questions. I bought what seems to be a mini calla lilly with purple and white blossoms, so I’m guessing it’s a hybrid of some sort. I am wondering if having this “mini” lilly will affect how I care for it. I live in an apartment with north-facing windows. It is quite bright because there are three large windows. I read that east- and west- facing windows are recommended. Will this be a problem? (e-mail reference)

A: Glad the column has helped you! The miniature calla will not require any different care from the standard varieties. The north windows should not be a problem.


Q: I have a peace lily. Is it harmful to humans if you inhale the pollen or eat it? (e-mail reference)

A: It is not listed as such in any of my poisonous plant references, but why take a chance if you are worried? Simply remove the pollen-bearing part of the plant. An added benefit, the flower will last longer.


Q: Could you please direct me to a book about caring for calla lilies? I have 48 of them of different sizes, but I’m not sure if I am caring for them properly. (e-mail reference)

A: I don’t know of a specialty book on the care of calla lilies. There are several good houseplant books on the market that include calla lily care. I would suggest browsing through a bookstore to see which book has the most complete information for your purposes. One of the most useful books that I frequently refer to is “Indoor Plants” by Halina Heitz. If I could have just one houseplant book on my shelves, this would be it.


Q: I am potting some flowers for my garden wedding in July. I am carrying arranged callas and would love to have some potted lilies for an accent, but I never have been able to keep them very well. I water often, using water from my fish tank (the rest of my flowers love the bacteria-filled water). I wonder if callas don’t last very long before they go dormant. If not, what would you suggest? The garden is full of lilies and I am using 12-inch terra cotta pots that I would love to have overflowing with flowers. (e-mail reference)

A: You have my daughter’s name and she also is of marrying age! I would stay with the lilies and daylilies. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Calla lilies may or may not make a good show for you, but that can be solved at the last minute by purchasing some already in flower from a local florist. For “overflowing flower pots,” try wave petunias. Nothing I’ve seen comes close to their ability to flower heavily and flow over pots. I have a photo of my Amanda standing next to a container 7 feet off the ground with a wave petunia trailing all the way to the ground! Additionally, we grow them on the NDSU campus as hanging baskets. They look beautiful!


Q: While looking for symptoms of overwatering, I came across your Web site and thought I’d get your advice. I bought my first potted houseplant, a calla lily, several weeks ago. I’ve been watering it regularly and fertilizing it once a week. As the leaves began to form, I noticed some clear spots. In addition, the edges of the leaves are starting to wilt. I assumed this meant I was overwatering. I’ve cut back, but there is no change. I’d appreciate your advice because I don’t want my little flower to die. (e-mail reference)

A: I also don’t want it to die! From your description, it sounds like the plant is just starting to grow, so back off on the watering and fertilizing. Allow the top two-thirds of the potting mix to dry before watering again. As growth develops, increase the watering until the plant is in full leaf. After that, soak it on a regular basis to keep the plant moist. Once the plant is in full leaf, apply a diluted solution of houseplant fertilizer every two weeks. When the plant stops flowering, reduce the watering and eliminate the fertilizer. Stop the watering when the leaves become discolored and withered. Allow the plant to stay in a rest period for 60 or so days and then start watering again as described above. Be sure to provide the plant with plenty of bright light when in leaf.


Q: When do lilies bloom, where do they grow and what type of climate do they need? (e-mail reference)

A: This is like asking when people named Sue get up in the morning, where they live and what their favorite temperature is! The lily family (Liliaceae) is huge, with far too many to begin mentioning. Lilium, the generic name for the lily, has more than 100 species that are native to the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, North America and the tropical regions of the Philippines. Botanically, lilies vary in growth habit, method of reproduction and the shape, size and color of their flowers. Most will flower in summer and most on the market today are hybrids. This is the best answer I can give you based on what you asked. If you need anything more specific, get back to me. I also would appreciate knowing who is making the inquiry. Thank you!


Q: Last summer I set my Easter lily outdoors, but didn’t get it planted. Last fall, I brought it in and set it by a south window. It got tall and lanky, but looked rather pretty with the other plants. Now it is getting scraggly, but it has several bulbils at the roots. Would they grow if I planted them? In addition, last year I bought a miniature rose. I knew they didn’t last long, but thought I’d try to save it. It shed its leaves after blooming. I cut it down, but it grew again. That happened several times. In the spring, I repotted the rose and set it outdoors. It bloomed through the summer, with delicate pink flowers. In the fall, I brought the pot in and set it in the window next to the lily plant. It bloomed all winter and it’s ready to bloom again. Now the flowers are white. I’m not going to worry about it, but if it survives until summer, I’ll put it out again. (McHenry, N.D.)

A: Yes, the bulbils will grow into plants that eventually will flower for you, so plant them and enjoy! Thanks for the uplifting story about your miniature rose. I am sure some of our readers will follow your procedure.


Q: I was hoping you could help me with my calla lily. I’ve successfully grown many other flowers, but this plant has thrown me for a loop! It was in bloom when I received it on Valentine’s Day. Now both blooms have turned brown and shriveled up. Is it safe or advisable to cut off the bloom stalks? In addition, a few of the leaves are turning yellow and wilting, while there are four new leaves shooting up. How do I know when it is time to repot? What is the best type of soil? (e-mail reference)

A: Many calla lily owners try to keep their plants growing all year, with little luck. In order to get it to flower, allow the plant to dry down and stay that way for about two months after flowering. After the two months, take it out of the container, shake off the soil, repot and slowly increase watering. Before new flowers fully develop, decrease the amount of water, but return to freely watering the plant as the flowers open up.


Q: I have a large section of lily of the valley that I planted 12 to 15 years ago. The plants are healthy and spreading. Last year, they turned brown and looked dead. Any idea why? Also, I have hosta of all sorts growing around my yard. I’ve had quite a problem with tiny holes in the plants. I was told slugs caused the holes. By the time the lilies were withering last year, the plants were full of holes and looked extremely frail and lifeless. (e-mail reference)

A: I have no idea why your lily of the valley turned brown. Overwatering is a possibility. Your guess is as good as mine is. You may want to contact your local Extension agent to find out if a horticulturist or plant pathologist is on staff who can diagnosis the problem. Slugs and hosta go together like peanut butter and jelly. Remove the foliage before new growth begins this fall. At the same time, place several dishes or traps of slug bait that is available at most garden centers. This should at least partially control them. As best you can, avoid any excess moisture on the plants. Also, try to remove all slug hiding places, such as boards, rocks, rotting foliage, etc.


Q: I received a peace lily from my husband for Valentine’s Day, but I don’t have a clue how to care for it. I love the plant and would like to keep it for many years. The plant has five blooming flowers and is healthy. How many times do I water it? How often do I repot it? What do I do from season to season? How do I tell when it’s too big for the pot? (e-mail reference)

A: Some varieties can flower over a long period and may have flowers coming and going at the same time. Others may come into bloom with a flower or two and slowly wither away. Generally, you will notice that the flowers expire in a couple of ways. After pushing up their pure white hoods above the foliage, the flowers can be enjoyed for weeks, even months. When they have reached the end of their cycle, the flowers begin to die. The white hoods may begin to discolor and get brown spots, about the same as cut flowers. The flowers also can begin to turn green slowly. You may experience both of these conditions on the same plant. It is not unusual to find the flowers turning green when they have been pollinated and seed has been set. You can extend the blooming time by keeping water off the blooms. Flowers consume energy. When the bloom starts fading, it’s time to remove it. You’ll notice that the flower stalk comes up next to the leaf petiole. Don’t remove the flower and leave the flower stalk. Remove the flower stalk as far down as possible without cutting off the leaf. Be sure to cut the stalk and not rip or twist it out. Leaving the flowers on for an extended period can cause the new leaves to come out smaller. This is from the energy used in flower production. Spathiphyllums are excellent foliage plants, even without flowers. Enjoy your plant while it is in bloom and then enjoy this tough indoor plant for its foliage. For more information on general houseplant care, go to my Web site at www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1260w.htm. Enjoy!


Q: Last year one of my peace lily flowers turned white. This year it has three flowers. They started out white, but after three weeks, they turned green. Why would this be? (e-mail reference)

A: What you are calling a “flower” (the spathe) is really a bract or modified leaf. It can turn green if given sufficient light. When the spathe is white, the chloroplasts are actually masked, but sometimes “come through” in sufficient light. The true flower is the spike in the center of this modified leaf. A poinsettia does the same thing. The “flowers” everyone refers to are the red or yellow modified leaves, which are bracts. The true flower of the poinsettia is rather insignificant. It is yellow and located in the center of the colorful foliage.


Q: I have a peace lily that I obtained at my brother’s funeral. I have the lily in a pot that is deep and designed to self-water. It also has a huge drain built into the bottom of it. I repotted it in November. It is in a very low-light area, but it is growing well. My problem is that the leaves are turning brown and crumbly. Even the new leaves are brown. Some turn brown prior to opening. I have lost more than half of this enormous plant. I am devastated as I am a plant lover and have many plants over 30 years old that I grew from clippings. I did not split the plant when repotting and used peat moss. I want to repot it again, but I think it might be root rotted. I know that if the roots are rotted, the plant will die. Should I remove the plant and check the roots if there is a possibility that not all the roots are rotted? Please help, as this is seriously affecting my happiness. If there is no hope, I am going to buy another one and grow it from a baby. (e-mail reference)

A: Examine the root system. If there is rot, you can try cutting it out and repotting the remaining root system. You might be better off getting another plant and starting from scratch, applying everything you now know. If you haven’t done so, check out my publication at
www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1260w.htm. The publication explains the general care and selection of houseplants and should help to cheer you up!


Q: Some of my calla lilies are producing seed pods and I would like to know how I can harvest them to make them grow next year. (Velva, N.D.)

A: All of my references state that using seed to produce calla lilies is impracticable for most home gardeners because the lilies require special treatment and carefully controlled conditions. Propagation by off-shoots and division is the best way to go.


Q: My fiancé and I are planning on getting married. The bouquet that I would like to carry is Easter lilies. We would like to plant them so they come back every year. How do I plant the lilies after they were in a bouquet? Is there another type of white flower that could be put into a bouquet and then planted hours later? (e-mail reference)

A: Bouquet flowers will not grow in to plants in your garden. However, if you can get someone to give you Easter lilies as plants for a wedding gift, they grow nicely in any garden and will remind you of your continually growing love for each other. You could carry the bouquet of lilies in your hand, with the potted lily plants surrounding your wedding ceremony. Nice idea and congratulations!


Q: I need to transplant some lilies (oriental and tiger). When is the best time of the year? Any tips would be greatly appreciated. (Arlington, S.D.)

A: The best time is early spring or fall after a hard frost.


Q: Our yellow daylilies are no longer a bright yellow. They are taking on an orange tint. This is the fourth growing year that we have had them. The first year we had them in planters around the deck rail and they were a beautiful bright yellow. At the end of the growing season, we planted them in one of our beds in the yard. The second year they were once again yellow. Last year we noticed the flowers had a slight orange tint. This year they look very healthy, but they are now more orange than yellow. Is there something we can do to maintain the yellow color? The daylilies are planted in front of our azaleas. Could the azalea plant food be causing the color change? (e-mail reference)

A: Although I am unaware of a fertilizer causing color change in daylilies, it has to have some kind of connection, especially since the azaleas require such an acid soil.


Q: Last year I planted 12 different colors of daylilies. This year they are all yellow or orange. What happened? If you have the answer to this mystery, I would appreciate it very much. (e-mail reference)

A: I don't have the faintest idea! Perhaps one of our readers will know and pass the information on to me so I can give everyone an answer.


Q: I just bought two good-sized calla lilies. The fuchsia colored lily has several beautiful blooms, but the leaves are turning yellow at a rapid pace. The lighter pink lily doesn't have nearly as many blooms and the leaves are slowly turning yellow. They are in a good spot for sunlight and I give them a good amount of water every week. Is there something else that I should be doing? (e-mail reference)

A: Are they in a drafty location? Are you using water from a softener? Is the pot free-draining? These are the only possibilities that I can think of.


Q: I received 12 calla lily bulbs for my birthday three years ago. The instructions told me to plant the bulbs (outdoors) after the new moon in June. I did that and by the end of July I had 12 flowers that stayed beautiful and healthy until November. The bulbs had multiplied and I had 22 bulbs after the first year which I dug up and stored until the following June. They were planted in the same location as the first year. The second year the flowers did not bloom, but the foliage grew strong and tall. Do you have any advice? (e-mail reference)

A: Last year's growth was to hopefully build up carbohydrate storage for blooming this year. I suggest planting them again as you have in the past. If they do not bloom, it may take another growing season. Be patient because Mother Nature takes her time in doing what she does, which is often not to our liking.


Q: Why would oriental lily bulbs planted a month ago not be emerging by now? I dug one out and it still looks exactly like when I planted it. (Grace City, N.D.)

A: We need warmer temperatures! They are probably dead if there is no growth by Father's Day.


Q: The leaves of my peace lily plant turned brown around the edges. What is wrong with it? How do you take care of a peace lily and a Chinese evergreen? (e-mail reference)

A: It might be signaling you that the salts in the water are too high or that they have accumulated as a result of frequent fertilization. It could also be a sign that it needs to be divided and repotted. Both plant species do well in indirect light and should never be exposed to direct sunlight for any length of time. Both should be kept in temperatures above 60 degrees and fertilized only when active growth is evident. With the Chinese evergreen, you can allow the soil to dry a little before watering again. Never allow the soil of your peace lily to dry completely, but reduce it somewhat in winter.


Q: The leaves of tulips and lilies are spotted with a rust colored, small, circular dot which extends to the flower petals. Last year I planted 100 tulips and only six returned. The leaves of the tulips are not only spotted, but also deformed and twisted. Nothing appears to be wrong with the bulbs. Could this be a late frost problem? (E-mail reference)

A: I doubt it is a frost problem. Tulips are one of the coldest tolerant bulbs on the market. They can grow and bloom even if there is still snow on the ground. My guess is you had some kind of herbicide residue in the soil when you planted them or had some herbicide drift. The fact that the bulbs themselves appear sound is an indication that the problem isn't likely biological.


Q: My daylilies are up about three inches. Are the cold night temperatures affecting them? Should they be covered? (E-mail reference)

A: Daylilies are as tough as an Alaskan grizzly. The cold temperatures we have remaining this spring should not hurt them.


Q: I have some questions about calla lily bulbs. I received two that were pre potted. The one at work is sprouting and growing very well. The other bulb is not sprouting at all. How long do they take to sprout and how much should I be watering them? How much sun do they need? How often should I fertilize? (E-mail reference)

A: Calla should be breaking dormancy within a week or two. It is likely a dead tuber if it doesn’t. Water sparingly at first, just enough to moisten the potting soil. Increase the watering as they develop but allow the top half to two-thirds of the potting mix to dry before watering again. Once in full leaf, soak the soil and keep it moist. Don’t worry about overwatering at that point. Give the plants some direct sunlight and bright indirect light while they are in leaf. They can bask in full sunlight while they are dormant, as long as there is no danger of frost or getting soaked with rain. The temperature while they are starting to grow is important. Keep the temperature below 70 degrees or cooler if possible. Fertilize at half strength once every two weeks during active growth.


Q: I combined two of my small peace lilies into a large pot. They looked wonderful but last week one side of the plants became extremely droopy and some of the leaves turned completely yellow. I’m not sure if they are going into a rest period. What should I do? I also have a gorgeous elephant ear. The middle stalks are standing straight but the stalks around the outside have drooped. (E-mail reference)

A: Your peace lilies are probably going into or attempting to go into a rest period. I would let them do so for about six to eight weeks. Start watering again after that. Your elephant ear is probably not getting enough light. If you can, place it where there is strong indirect light or filtered direct sunlight for part of the day. It should help the plant straighten up or at least keep any more stalks from drooping.


Q: When my husband died in June of 2002, I was given a big beautiful peace lily. It has done really well. I have noticed that when I water it once a week, the water runs through into the container the plant sits in. I just leave it and by the next time I water, the plant has absorbed it all. Is it time to separate and repot the plant, just repot it, or do you have some other suggestion? (Arlington, S.D.)

A: The water flowing through is normal. It is recommended that you dump any excess in the saucer 20 to 30 minutes after watering. It will make little difference with your peace lily because they thrive in moisture. If the plant begins to decline, back off on the watering and allow it to go dormant and dry out. It should stay that way for six to eight weeks. At that time, repot and begin watering again.


Q: Can a peace lily tolerate the outdoors during the summer months? When should I put it outside? If I do put it out, is there anything special that needs to be done prior to bringing it back in? (E-mail reference)

A: Most houseplants will benefit from being summered outdoors. Just be sure to place your peace lily in a north location or under the shade of a densely canopied tree. The ambient light in the shade will still be about 10 times brighter than the interior environment, unless you had it under intense light. Allow the plant to "dry down" toward the end of summer so it enters a dormant phase. Bring the plant in before night temperatures go below 50 degrees. Repot with fresh, pasteurized potting soil and resume watering. When the plant is showing active growth, apply dilute solutions of fertilizer about once a month.


Q: I received a peace lily two months ago. The leaves still look shiny and healthy, but some of the stems and white flowers are drying up. The soil is light weight and I wonder if additional potting soil should be added. Will it flower again? (Brookings, S.D.)

A: Peace lilies, like other houseplants, go through cycles of flowering followed by a rest period. If you wanted to treat the plant like it is in its native location, Costa Rican rain forests, you would let it dry down for the winter and start watering again in the spring. Flowering requires a lot of energy that can only be derived from light. Since these plants are a sub canopy species, they have evolved to flower with the filtered light in a rain forest. It would be great if you could put the plant in a draft free setting that is at or very near an east or west window. Be sure the light is filtered through a sheer curtain in summer because direct sunlight can damage the plant. You can keep the plant through winter by keeping it moist and sitting on a tray of pebbles that you keep water in or you could let it dry down to mimic the plant's natural habitat. I would not add any potting soil to the mix because you want good drainage, which is apparently what the original grower provided.


Q: Last spring my husband and I landscaped our new yard using potentellas, a pink spirea, a rose bush, barberrys, salvia, Stella d' Ora daylilies, irises and day lilies. In the fall my mom cut everything down to the ground except for the potentellas. This spring the only plants that came back were the potentellas and the Stella d' Ora daylilies. The local nursery said barberrys and irises, daylilies, etc. are very hardy and don't usually die like that. I told them how my mom cut them down and they thought that might've been the problem. This year we re planted and used another pink spirea, more barberrys, irises, daylilies, salvia, a rose bush and a wiegela. Should I leave them alone this fall and winter? I'm scared to trim them. (E-mail reference)

A: Leave them alone and take the pruners away from your mom. Save the trimming for next spring.


Q: Our backyard slopes down to the river and is difficult to mow. We're thinking about putting in some plantings. The area gets approximately six hours of sunlight, can be slightly wet in early spring and sometimes flooded for a short time. A beaver helps himself to trees along the bank so we don’t want them to entice him. (Valley City, N.D.)

A: I suggest lily of the valley for your situation. It is one of the toughest plants in the temperate zone. Once established, it will need very little, if any, maintenance.


Q: We recently bought a home that has many daylilies. They look very crowded but I am not sure when or how to divide them. Is the best time in the fall or spring? Is there any other special care they need? (Ashley, N.D.)

A: The best time is in the fall, but you are cutting it fairly close. I'd suggest getting to it before the first of the month or else wait until next spring. Daylilies are so tough that they can literally be divided at any time the ground isn't frozen.


Q: My mother bought me a calla lily for Mother's Day. It was beautiful but the leaves started turning yellow so I repotted it. The leaves have curled up and turned yellow. I thought maybe I was watering too much but not watering as much made it worse. I have also noticed the leaves no longer drip water. (E-mail reference)

A: The plant is trying hard to go into a dormant or rest state. You need to help it by withholding water. Allow it to dry down for about six weeks by barely watering it. After that period, begin watering as you normally would and it should perk up nicely and start to flower.


Q: I have two large peace lily plants. They get the same type of water, Schultz fertilizer once a month and are near windows with bright to indirect light. One is doing just fine but the other has brown spots and holes in the center of the leaves. The leaves droop if I under-water but perk up when I water, so I doubt over-watering is the problem. It has flowered and there are new shoots so, other than the strange brown holes, it is doing okay. It appears to be bug free. (E-mail reference)

A: It must be some kind of fungus that has infected the plant. Purchase some Schultz's Fungicide 3 from a local garden center. This is a natural product that controls fungus diseases and some insects.


Q: What fertilizer should I use or what is the trigger to get cala lilies to bloom? I have 7-year-old plants that I have maintained and keep a good, strong set of bulbs each year. They have not bloomed since the first year. They are in 14-inch clay pots and the foliage always looks great. (E-mail reference)

A: The trigger for most plants to bloom is to give them enough light. In this case, some direct sunlight. Also, allow them to go into a dormancy period every summer by withholding water. Fertilizing with any good houseplant fertilizer every two weeks during active growth will usually get them to flower. Once they have entered dormancy, keep them in some direct sunlight, even outside for the summer, as long as there are no rainy periods. Bring them inside for the winter, assuming you live where winters go below 40 degrees, then start watering again.


Q: I recently purchased a cala lilly but I don't know too much about it. It thrived after I fertilized it and it grew several white flowers before I had to re-plant it. Lately, although new flowers are still growing, the older flowers are turning green. It seems healthy but is there something wrong with it or are the green flowers normal? I know it goes through a dormant period but I’m not sure when that happens. (E-mail reference)

A: Everything sounds normal from your description. Following normal ecological cycles, the dormancy period occurs in summer. Allow it to dry down for a few months after this cycle of bloom.


Q: I have a peace lily at my workplace. I’m wondering if there is any way to take a part of the plant to start one at my home without damaging or harming the original plant. Also, what is the best way to tell when the plant needs to be replanted (i.e., when the pot too small, changing soil, etc.) (E-mail reference)

A: Peace lilies can be propagated by dividing the clumps. Repot when the plant becomes pot-bound, which should be about every other year.


Q: I reside in south central North Dakota and will be relocating this summer to the north-central part of the state. I have invested a lot of time and energy in some plants so I would like to relocate them. Specifically, stone crop, columbine and a lily. Would it be okay to relocate them now? I won't be able to return in the fall to retrieve them. Any special tips on handling them? (Wishek, N.D.)

A: Carefully dig them up with as much root and soil mass as possible and move them to their new site as soon as possible. Water in well and fertilize. Enjoy!


Q: My mother has a fairly large peace lily that she has had for 11 years. This last weekend she decided to divide and repot it. She divided it into three and gave me one of the smaller two divisions. After bringing it home and observing it the past several days, I'm worried about whether or not it will make it. Virtually all of the leaves are droopy and many have a dark-reddish/blackish veining on part or all of the leaf. The soil is still moist, but I haven't watered it since we repotted it four days ago. I'm wondering if it is experiencing transplant shock or perhaps shock from being moved in a cold environment from her house to mine (5-10 minute drive). It's not directly in front of any windows but receives light from south-facing windows with somewhat obstructed light. (E-mail reference)

A: Give it a chance. It has likely suffered cold shock and is going to lose all its leaves. It should eventually recover. Just be patient. The combination of division and movement through the cold temperatures would cause the symptoms you are describing.


Q: I have a beautiful calla lily but I have noticed that it has some clear water-like liquid coming out of the leaves. Is it crying or something else? The plant itself looks perfect in every way, it's blooming and the leaves are perfectly green. I am very worried as I love my plants and no plant has ever died on me. (E-mail reference)

A: Your calla lily is not suffering. Plant leaves contain stomatal and hydathode openings. The stomates are located on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves while the hydathodes are located along the leaf margins. Calla lilies are kept moist during the growing/flowering stage of their life cycle. The moisture makes its way up through the vascular tissue to these openings and bleeds out as droplets. It’s commonly observed in the morning on turfgrass or anytime there is positive water pressure within the plant.


Q: I have a large peace lily that has developed dried yellowing, eventually blacking tips and edges on the mature leaves. It is in a small pot. Am I over watering and should I repot? (E-mail reference)

A: Divide and repot. It sounds like you have it in a container that is not freely draining. When repotting, be sure that the container drains, and yes, you are possibly overwatering it.


Q: I picked up some rhizomes at a discount department store late this fall only to have it snow before I got them in the ground. How do I store them over the winter so they have the best chance of making it in the spring? How about daylilies? I thought the price was right. Maybe the bargain was too good to be true. (E-mail reference)

A: Store them in a cool, dry, dark location until you can get them into the ground. The same for daylilies. You probably will not get 100 percent survival but at least some will make it through. Discard any that are mushy or showing other signs of deterioration.


Q: My father recently passed away and I received a peace lily from his funeral. I do not have a green thumb and know nothing about these plants. I need to know when it will need to be transplanted, how often to water it, how much sunlight it should have, and other general care guidelines. This is very important to me and I really appreciate your help! (E-mail reference)

A: You can probably keep the plant in the same container for quite some time. They are very easy to care for, tolerating low light levels and typical household temperatures. Keep it constantly moist and as the flowers and leaves become spent, remove them with a sharp knife or scissors. When it becomes potbound, you can divide the clump and repot in separate containers.


Q: I have calla lillies that I have a question about. I recently repotted them in a mixture of cow manure and fertilizer-enriched potting soil. Forgive me for doing what I thought was a good thing without checking first. The leaves are turning yellow and it is slowly but surely dying. Help! (E-mail reference)

A: I can forgive you easily, but I don't think your plant can! It is probably burning up from excessive salts from the cow manure. If you can, get it out of the container, wash off the roots, and repot in fresh potting soil. If you’re lucky, it might recover.


Q: I have a peace lily that seems to have some sort of root rot. The leaves stay green, but just start falling over. When I try to pick them up, they come out and the end of it is rotted and has a odor almost like a cigar. What could be causing it? I water once a week and have recently repotted because it seemed to be outgrowing the florist pot it was in. Thank you in advance for any advice. (E-mail reference)

A: The prognosis isn't good - from what you have told me, it sounds like the plant has picked up some kind of root rot. Where or how, I don't know. Did you ever let the plant go into a rest period? If not, that may be what it is trying to do.


Q: I have lots of questions, in fact 37 cents worth! I read and enjoy, save and use much of your column. First, my delphiniums seem to rot from the bottom up. I've treated with Gardengard which is for bugs, snails and slugs. Could it be silver fish? Two new plants did the same in a new spot. Could this have come from the greenhouse? Should I reset them in an entirely new place? Second, I have lilies but something is boring into the stems so they get dry and brown and break off. I've treated with Gardengard which may have helped some. I remove and burn the affected stems. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Third, how can I start old fashioned roses from cuttings? I'd hoped not to have to dig up starts. I tried rooting compound and potting soil, but the twigs just dried up. Fourth, is there any hope for baby evergreens once they lose their needles? Might they come back in the spring if I continue to water and care for them? (Bristol, S.D.)

A: Here are your answers - thanks for writing and the nice comments about the column.

  1. Definitely relocate the delphiniums. I don't know what the problem is, but whatever it is, don't go back. Make sure they get direct sun.
  2. Try a systemic like Orthene.
  3. I’ve enclosed a "Home Propagation Techniques" publication available from our office.
  4. No hope - they're history.

Q: I have some calla lilies that are going to seed, and I would like to attempt to grow some more from seeds. What is the best method to accomplish this? (E-mail reference)

A: Unless you are a very competent grower, with a cool greenhouse at your disposal, this is not an undertaking to take lightly. It requires a lengthy process that is complicated and must be carried out under carefully controlled conditions. You are far better off propagating them via division of the rhizomes, or detachment of the offsets that develop under the main rhizome. The best time to carry this out is in the fall, dividing the rhizome into several pieces, making sure that each one has a healthy growing point. Then carefully place each rhizome just under the dampened potting soil mixture into a 6-inch pot, taking care that it is placed in a horizontal position and to not damage the growing point.


Q: I bought a peace lily at a grocery store. It was in a very small pot so I transplanted it. This was about a month or so ago. Now the leaves are turning brown at the ends, some just the tips but some more. The flowers aren't white anymore and have turned green. I had it in a south window but moved it away from the window and it isn't getting any direct sunlight. What is the plant missing? What am I doing wrong? We live in a trailer house, does that affect plants differently? (Bismarck, N.D.)

A: The Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum, is among easier plants to grow, so you have picked a good one. It does well in low light situations, making it ideal for homes and offices. It requires a lot of water, but good drainage. I suspect that you either have it in a container that is not free-draining or in soil that holds the water too long. They will sunburn, so your moving it from a south window was a good move. Unless your trailer is a new one with a lot of chemical smells from the solvents and glues used in construction (my wife and I used to live in one, and for about the first week, we kept the windows open as much as possible to let everything air out!), it should have no problem there.


Q: I have a question regarding my two new peace lilies. They have been flowering and look just great. However, I was wondering if I should clip the dead flowers after they turn brown. If so, should only the dead flower itself be clipped, or should the whole shoot be clipped? (E-mail reference)

A: Cut the entire stalk back when the flower fades.


Q: I have two peace lilies. I would like to take them out of dirt and put them in a vase with water and marbles. If I do this will it cause damage to the plant and if not what is the best way to take care of the plant when it's in water? Also, I use mayonnaise on the leaves of the plant to give them a nice shine. Is this OK? My last question, when the tips of the leaf turn brown I pick it off. Is this to okay or am I harming the plant? (E-mail reference)

A: The plant should be all right. Just keep the water fresh, never allowing it to go stagnant. It is OK to use mayo, but don't overdo it. Distilled water does a good job without the oil buildup. And finally, no, you are not harming the plant by picking off the brown tips.


Q: I am planning a late November wedding and would like to grow pots of calla lilies to place throughout the reception hall. I am not sure of the best way to begin growing the callas indoors, or if the timing of my wedding is correct for the plant's cycle. Could you instruct me as to the best way to go about this task? Also, is it possible to guarantee that my callas will bloom in time for my wedding? If so, when should I plant my bulbs? (E-mail reference)

A: If you want a guarantee on bloom timing, find a florist and place an order. As homeowners, we lack the facilities to control the factors of growth well enough to precisely time the blooming cycle.


Q: I am trying to get rid of daylilies in my yard. I have used Roundup two or three times and yesterday spent three hours digging up bulbs. I cannot seem to get all of them. Do you know of some other treatment I can put on these daylilies to kill them? I will soon be planting two spirea and some ornamental grass in this area. How long after using a killing treatment should I wait to plant these? (Moorhead, M.N.)

A: Daylilies can become a lovable weed when you want to get rid of them. I can offer no suggestions other than what you are presently doing. If you are referring to Roundup as the killing treatment, you can plant any time after you have seen the effects starting to take place.


Q: We are planning an outdoor wedding June 21. Can I start cala lilies indoors, and transplant them outdoors and expect flowers by June 21? Could I keep them in containers when I bring them outdoors? (Minot, N.D.)

A: That is too loaded a question for me to answer. I don't know how many calla lilies you are planning on, but if you want them to be in flower for sure, I would order them from a local florist, stating your desires. I would certainly recommend keeping them in containers for the wedding, and after as well. They make excellent houseplants from that point on.


Q: You have had several items concerning peace lilies lately, but I still am not sure what is causing the edges of the leaves to turn yellow, then brown. I have trimmed the brown edges off (does this hurt the plant?) I really want to know how to keep this lily alive. It is from my dad’s funeral last summer. I read somewhere that it should be immersed in water until it is totally soaked, then let it drain thoroughly twice a week. I tried this, but it still seems to get brown. What am I doing wrong? (LaMoure, N.D.)

A: The water you are using is likely high in salts, especially this time of year. I suggest using distilled water for a couple of waterings, then cut your normal water half and half with distilled to see if that improves things. What has turned brown will stay that way, but the new emerging growth should be free of that problem. Don't worry. These plants can look bad, but it’s really hard to kill them!


Q: I recently purchased my first Cala lily plant. I've read through other postings on how to care for the plant, and have one question left: What would cause the lily stems to bend? This is a fairly young plant potted in an 8.5-inch pot. The buds are new and beginning to open. New leaf foliage is sprouting. But two of the lily stems keelled over today. They are not broken, but do not appear to have the strength to hold themselves up; however, their buds look fine. The soil is moist and the plant lives directly under my cubicle lamp. The temperature exerted by the lamp is minimal and the tallest buds appear to love it. I'm just real worried about the two stems keelling over. What has caused this? And what should I do to fix it? (E-mail reference)

A: Probably insufficient light at some point in the plant's development or, it has been over-fertilized. You can tie the stalks up with a stake and cloth gently tied around them. I hope the light you are talking about is a grow-lamp and not an incandescent light.


Q: I just received a Calla lily as a gift. I've never done any sort of plant care. What kind of pot am I supposed to put it in? How often do I water it? What else do I have to know? (E-mail reference)

A: The gift giver was smart to give a novice such a durable plant! Give the plant plenty of water.

Give it bright light like an east or west facing window. Avoid direct summer sun. Fertilize with a houseplant material such as Schultz's. Divide the plant once a year during a period of inactive growth, and place in separate pots, preferably clay, with free drainage, placing the pot on a saucer.


Q: I have a peace lily that was given to me after my aunt passed away. I read all the questions and answers about peace lilies, so I have a few ideas of why my leaves are turning yellow and then brown. My question is, should they be trimmed off? If so, when and where do I trim them? Also I have a lot of brown dead stems at the bottom of the plant. Should they be pulled out or left alone? I really don't want to lose the plant. To me it is a symbol of the life my Aunt shared with us. (E-mail reference)

A: Trim the leaves off as far back as possible. Keep in mind that the peace lily needs to go through a rest period, which it may be trying to enter into at this time. You might want to back off a little on the watering, move it to a warmer spot, and possibly move it to a spot where the light situation is better. They can tolerate low light beautifully but will respond even better in bright indirect light.


Q: I purchased a peace lily about three years ago. It had one flower at that time. Shortly after bringing my lily home, the flower died. My lily never bloomed again. I have tried putting it in several different locations and tried different amounts of water. Nothing seems to help. What am I doing wrong? (E-mail reference)

A: The peace lily will tolerate low levels of light, making it an ideal plant for office corners, etc. But to get it to flower on a regular basis, you need to get it to a bright but indirect light location, like a north or east window with curtains filtering the light. You also need a little more patience. It will take about six to12 months under those conditions for it to produce a flower. Even in its foliate state, the plant is an excellent absorber of acetone, benzene, and formaldehyde. So keep it around, flowers or not.


Q: I have a peace lily and a miniature Arboricola plant that someone has poisoned on purpose with finger nail polish remover. How can I keep them alive, or will I be able to? Is there any thing I can buy to help them? My husband is a landscaping foreman, but he says nothing can be done except to just flush with water and hope for the best. Is he right? (E-mail reference)

A: Your husband is right--partially. Repotting will take the toxin out completely. I would suggest doing that immediately with a commercially prepared, pasteurized potting soil. I would also keep the perpetrator of this crime out of my house.


Q: I have had my peace lily plant for about a year and have repotted it once. It was in flower when I purchased it, but has not flowered since. The plant appears happy enough, but doesn't seem to grow very rapidly (E-mail reference)

A: I would say that you are probably a little impatient. If it hasn't flowered by the end of this spring, get back to me. They are a low-energy input plant, so it takes about a year for them to produce a flower, generally in the spring but sometimes in the fall, depending on their vigor.


Q: What am I doing wrong? We received a peace lily as a gift and it was doing lovely until I transplanted it. The pot I used didn't have the best drainage and I noticed that the leaves were starting to turn brown, not just on the tips, but the entire leaf as soon as it was fully opened. About a month ago I transplanted it to a better pot that has drainage, but the leaves continue to turn brown. I only use the water from our aquarium to water it and don't water until the soil is starting to dry out. We do keep our house rather cool, 62 to 65 degrees most of the time. (Aberdeen, S.D.)

A: I suspect that your problems began in the old container where the drainage was poor. Your plant might have picked up a root rot fungus. I suggest knocking it out of the container and examining the crown and rhizomes to see if they are mushy or beginning to rot. If so, you have no choice but to dump the plant and start over again. White flags or spaths are good plants for moist but well-drained conditions. In fact, they need to have their containers placed on a tray of pebbles in water to keep the humidity high around the plant. These plants also tolerate cool conditions quite well, generally down to 65 degrees F., with no problem. But when the temperature gets below that, the plant begins to struggle a little, especially when the temp dips to the mid-50s. At temperatures that low, watering should be reduced; at temperatures above 65 F (70-75 F, "normal" room temperature) the plant should be kept continuously moist. One last suggestion: I know a lot of people who use aquarium water for irrigating houseplants and have success. I also know some who have problems like you seem to be having. I would try watering with tap water for awhile if the crown and rhizomes show no signs of decay.


Q: I have cosmos that look beautiful, then suddenly wilt and die. Out of four plants I only have one left. Any ideas why? I am also wondering when and how to divide switch grass. Finally, can you tell me what the difference is between lilies and daylilies? (Hoven, S.D.)

A: The cosmos are probably infected with Verticillium wilt. It's a pathogen in the soil and very hard to control.

You can divide the switch grass best in the early spring when it is dormant.

Lilies grow from bulbs whereas daylilies grow from tubers. The flowers are somewhat similar in appearance (though lily petals are more slender), but the plants are definitely not! Daylily plants look similar to clumps of overgrown large-leaf grasses while lilies look like your typical Easter lily plant, with a central stalk and slender leaves spiraling from it. The different types of lilies are named so because of their various plant characteristics--plant height, flower color, hardiness etc.

You can order lilies and daylilies from most any mail order flower/bulb catalogs, or maybe put in a request to a gardening friend with extra plants. Lily bulbs should be planted in the fall. Daylily tubers can be planted then or in the spring, and the plants can be divided and replanted almost anytime during the growing season.


Q: My mother would like me to move her perennial flower garden. Could you tell me when is the best time to move hostas and day lilies? (E-mail reference)

A: After a good, hard, killing frost.


Q: Enclosed are pods that have formed on my miniature day lilies and stopped the blooming process we enjoy so much. What is the cause? Should I remove them? (Litchville, N.D.)

A: Flowers eventually form seed, and that’s what these pods are. You can remove or allow them to remain. No harm will come to the plants either way.


Q: What kind of fertilizer do I give my Calla Lily and how often? When I dig it up for the winter months, do I water it like normal? Keep it in the light? (E-mail reference)

A: We need to consider where the Calla is found in it's native habitat, which happens to be a swampland. In the late summer months, the swamp dries up and the foliage dies down, which you should allow it to do late each summer. Water it only to keep it alive, allowing the top half of the potting mix to dry completely. When new growth begins again, increase watering and fertilize once a month with a flowering house plant type fertilizer. Give the plant bright indirect light, along with some sunlight when it is in full foliage. When dormant, you can place it outdoors in full sun, as long as there is no danger of frost or rainy weather.


Q: I have a peace lily that needs to be divided. How do I do that without harming my lily? It means a lot to me. Thank you. (Moorhead, Minn.)

A: Now, the spring, is the best time for division. Gently pull the rhizomes apart, making sure that each piece has at least two or three leaves attached. Plant individual pieces in 3-inch pots in a peat-based potting mixture, burying each piece the same depth as the entire rhizome was planted. Do not fertilize for three months.


Q: I was wondering what I am doing wrong with my cala lily. About two months ago I brought two cala lilies out of dormancy. They have been thriving until recently when the leaves on one cala lily started getting yellow tips and now some of the leaves are all yellow, but the other one is doing just fine. They get treated the same and get the same amount of light. Neither one has bloomed yet. Could I be overwatering?

A: I doubt the problem is overwatering with these plants, as their media needs to be kept constantly moist. If they are both in free-draining containers, then I suspect that the problem could be that one is salt sensitive, and is showing it, while the other is not as sensitive to the salts. You might try watering the one showing the symptoms with some distilled water to see if it begins producing growth that is not burnt or yellow on the ends. If that doesn't change things, then I suspect root rot, and you might as well dump it.


Q: We have a peace lily about 2 feet high and 2 feet wide. It is in the original container, diameter about 8 inches. It has one very tall flower and another one coming. The leaves are turning brown on the ends and along the edges. We have been giving it two or three glasses of water three times a week or it starts to droop. Any information on the proper care of this plant will be appreciated. (Rogers, N.D.)

A: You are essentially doing the right thing. Peace lilies need to be kept continually moist. The browning along the edges is due to salts either in the water or from fertilization. Try using distilled water for a while to see if any subsequent leaves lack the foliar burning.


Q: I haven't watered my calla lily for some time, and it still sends up new shoots. Do I put it in the closet? When I repot, what size pots should I use? Shall I set the pots in the ground when the weather is right? Full sun? (E-mail reference, Britton, S.D.)

A: Putting the plant in a closet is not recommended, until it dies down. Repot in a size that is suitable to you and the size of the division you are working with. Basically, the container should be half again as large as the spread of the division to give it room to grow for a season. Yes, you can set the plants outdoors when the danger of frost is past. Monitor continuously for watering as long as the plants are in leaf. Some direct sunlight will benefit the plant, even when it goes dormant during the summer. Be aware that any extended rainy period early in the season could pull it out of dormancy prematurely, resulting in a plant with poor flowering ability.


Q: I have a calla lily that is growing in a south window, in a tub because of all the new shoots (plants) that continue to grow. But I've only seen it bloom once. How do I get it to bloom again? Does it need a rest? (E-mail reference, Brookings, S.D.)

A: Yes, the calla lily needs a resting period to mimic that found in nature in the tropical ecosystem where it originated. When the plant stops flowering completely, reduce the watering gradually to allow it to dry up and go dormant. When the leaves finally whither and turn yellow or brown, stop watering altogether. This should go on for about two to three months, then begin watering again, gradually increasing it as the leaves develop. By the way, the dormancy period is a good time to do some repotting. Sounds like yours needs it!


Q: I have a purple calla lily and was wondering what is the best way to care for it. The tag on it said to give it plenty of sunlight or else the flower will turn white, which some of them have and then turned back to purple. My plant is already really tall. When is a good time or sign to repot the plant? Or will they grow back if I cut some of the flowers off? And are they a good flower that will last long in a vase? (E-mail reference)

A: You most likely have one of the hybrid calla lilies - Zantedeschia rehmannii mixed with something else. The flower color is really immaterial and is not an indication of improper care. As yours continues to flower, keep the soil continuously moist. When the flower finally withers, allow the foliage to die down naturally, keeping it completely dry for about six to eight weeks. This pretty much follows the natural cycle where the plant is native. When regrowing, gradually increase the watering to the point to when, in full leaf, the pot can sit in a saucer of water. Fertilize it every two weeks. Give it as much bright light as is reasonable.Repotting and propagation can be done during the dormant period, which is generally the early summer. Lilies in general make good cut flowers, and although I have no experience with the calla types, I see no reason why they shouldn't be good keepers as well.


Q: I was reading one of your columns and you said to replant a peace lily in a high-humus planting soil. I have one that needs to be replanted, but when I went to get some planting soil I could not find one that said it had a high percentage of humus soil. What do I look for on the label?

When I repot the peace lily do I need a deep pot, or will a more shallow one be better? Also, do the brown trunk-like things that the leaves come out of need to be put deeper, or should I leave them sticking out as high as they are? (Forman, N.D., e-mail)

A: I know it is tough to sometimes find the high-organic potting soil. If you cannot find one labeled so, then use African violet potting soil, which has sufficient organic matter in it. You could also purchase what is on the local market and cut it with about 50 percent by volume with peat moss.

I would get a large, deep pot to provide more stability. Peace lilies can get fairly large. Plant them up to that point on the corm where the leaves originate. Keep the media moist but not saturated, and provide the plant with bright, diffused light for flowering. Do not set in full sunlight. Fertilize about every two months.


Q: I have had a large peace lily for two years which I repotted six months ago. I didn't disturb the roots very much, but since then it has sent up so many new shoots so thick they can't get up through the older leaves. This plant means so much to me I don't want to lose it. What should I do with it? (Howard, S.D.)

A: The peace lily needs dividing and repotting. Use a pure humus, or at least a very high humus potting medium for the task. It has been my experience these plants are tough to kill. Direct sunlight and cold drafts are damaging; otherwise, just keep it watered and fertilized.


Q: Can a person put crabgrass preventer on in the spring over a piece of ground that has been sown with grass? Also, can I spray Roundup over tulips and lilies that are not up so I can kill quackgrass? (e-mail)

A: There is only one pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide that can be used that way -- Tupersan (Siduron). All others will take out the desired turfgrass seed as well. Roundup is deactivated as soon as it hits the soil. As long as there is not green showing above ground, the tulips will be safe.


Q: Can I prune my pink potentilla bush round? If so, when is the best time to do that? Also, when should I separate my daylilies? (Ayr, N.D.)

A: Best time to prune potentillas is early spring before they leaf out. I don't recommend pruning them to a "round" form. Simply cut out the oldest canes at the base of the plant. A natural shape, which the plant will try to maintain anyway, is more attractive and healthier for the plant.

Daylilies can be separated either this fall or early next spring. Plant them at the same depth they were originally.


Q: I have cosmos that look beautiful, then suddenly wilt and die. Out of four plants I only have one left. Any ideas why? I am also wondering when and how to divide switch grass. Finally, can you tell me what the difference is between lilies and daylilies? (Hoven, S.D.)

A: The cosmos are probably infected with Verticillium wilt. It's a pathogen in the soil and very hard to control.

You can divide the switch grass best in the early spring when it is dormant.

Lilies grow from bulbs whereas daylilies grow from tubers. The flowers are somewhat similar in appearance (though lily petals are more slender), but the plants are definitely not! Daylily plants look similar to clumps of overgrown large-leaf grasses while lilies look like your typical Easter lily plant, with a central stalk and slender leaves spiraling from it. The different types of lilies are named so because of their various plant characteristics--plant height, flower color, hardiness etc.

You can order lilies and daylilies from most any mail order flower/bulb catalogs, or maybe put in a request to a gardening friend with extra plants. Lily bulbs should be planted in the fall. Daylily tubers can be planted then or in the spring, and the plants can be divided and replanted almost anytime during the growing season.


Q. Can you tell me what is wrong with my peace lily? The leaves turn black and then yellow. (Fargo, N.D.)

A. I suspect it may be spider mite damage, although from the description in your letter, the symptoms don't fit. Check the leaf undersides by taking a piece of facial tissue and rubbing it along the undersides of the leaves. If you get smeared streaks, then it is likely mites. Mist the undersides for control.

You may also have the plant in a container that is not free-draining. If you do, go back and dump or pump out excessive water 30 minutes after watering.


Q. Should I put my pygmy water lilies into a new pot of dirt after blooming all winter in water, or should I wait until fall and repot them? (Valley City, N.D.)

A. If you purchased the water lilies within the last year, you do not need to repot them for three to four years. Be sure to keep dying leaves removed so they do not rot and pollute the water.

Congratulations on your success! I'd bet your plants are a beautiful sight to see!


Q. I need help saving my Cala Lily! When I received the plant eight months ago, it was beautiful, blooming with many leaves. Now only three small leaves remain, and they are yellowing and starting to shrivel. There are two new leaves starting to emerge, so I think that with the proper care, the plant will survive. (Woodworth, N.D.)

A. You are fighting a losing battle with Mother Nature! Cala Lilies go through dormant, or drying out, periods. In native habitats these plants thrive in swampy marshlands, which tend to dry during the summer.

Simply allow your plant to go dormant for about 90 days, keeping it dry and at room temperature. Begin watering again around the first of April, keeping the plant well hydrated for about three to four months, making sure it gets some direct sunlight during the day. Allow it to dry down again after flowering, and then in late September or October repot in a compost-rich media and begin the cycle again. Good luck!


Q. Could you please tell me how to care for a petite lily and a gloxinia? (Ryder, N.D.)

A. I am not familiar with the petite lily that you mention, but I notice in my reference that there is one that grows to only 1 foot in height—lilium pumilum. That may be the one you are making reference to. They basically need cool temperatures, bright light—but not direct sunlight—high soil moisture and humidity. As the leaves turn yellow, reduce watering. Keep the soil barely moist. Summer outdoors. I simply leave my lilies outdoors year around and get plenty of blooms on the north side of my house.

With the florist gloxinia (Sinningia) the soil needs to be kept moist, but not soggy. Fertilize with a flowering houseplant material every two weeks, and keep in bright, but indirect light, in a warm location (70 F+) free of drafts.

After flowering, the plant will go into a dormancy—so back off on the watering and allow the plant to dry down. Store at about 50 F and repot in fresh humus/compost potting soil next spring.


Q. I am enclosing a sample of my peace lily plant. I received the huge plant about 4 years ago, and slowly, leaf by leaf, it is turning black and drying up. I give it Miracle-Gro, keep it moist, but not too wet. Can you help me? (Minot, N.D.)

A. The leaf samples you sent me are the smallest I have ever seen from a Spathiphyllum! Basically, these plants need to kept out of sunlight, kept warm and moist, and have an annual repotting in a high-humus soil. The blackening of the leaves indicates a possible disease—like anthracnose, leaf spots or blight fungi. These result from being kept too wet or from a poorly drained container. If there is anything left of the plant, repot in a well-drained container with plenty of humus.


Q. I have a water lily question for you. Last summer we had a small tub that had two water lilies in it. My question of course is how to take care of them this winter? I read somewhere that they can be kept in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. Is this true? (Valley City, N.D.)

A. Water lilies can be kept moist and in their containers in any above freezing—but cool—environment. I am afraid of the plastic bag in the refrigerator—too little air movement may cause pathogens to develop.

The hardy lily you can leave in the pool as long as the water will not freeze to the crown —lots of luck on that not happening!


Q. My lily patch is being taken over by grass, and I am wondering what I can do to stop it. (Wyndmere, N.D.)

A. A product known as Poast will eliminate the grass from the lily planting. Don't till! That will only lead to more weed problems.


Q. I have a calla lily and the leaves are turning yellow. I have tried to repot it, but the leaves are still the same. (Carrington, N.D.)

A. It sounds like your calla lily needs a rest. Allow it to dry out for about a month, keeping it in a cool, dark location. Then repot and commence watering, placing it in a sunny location.


Q. This is a leaf from a peace lily. I have tried to keep it watered properly in a corner of the living room out of direct sunlight, and very little draft. First the very tips turn brown, and then gradually the whole leaf.

Also, can you tell me why my cyclamens tend to let all their stems droop down? There again, I try to keep it moist, out of the direct sun. Why is it doing this? (Fargo, N.D.)

A. It sounds as if you are doing everything right, except pouring off the excess water from your container's saucer. While this plant needs ample moisture to thrive, it should not have the roots standing in it.

Cyclamens need rest periods and yours may be trying to tell you just that.


Q. We enjoy and learn a lot from your column.

I have a beautiful Peace Lily. It no longer blooms. I think it is pot-bound, as it is so thick. How might one start a new plant? (Tripp, S.D.)

A. Your Peace Lily would definitely benefit from an annual repotting and/or division at this time of year. Once knocked out of the pot, the lines for natural division would be obvious.

Thank you for the kind words about the column.


Q. This is a leaf from my peace lily. I love it, but I have a problem. The leaves get blotchy and dry up. I have tried not watering it, then watering it once a week. I am not having any luck. Could you please come to my rescue. Thank you. Enjoy your answers very much. (Jamestown, N.D.)

A. It is difficult to give you an accurate diagnosis, but my best guess is that the plant is responding to cold air drafts hitting it.

Peace lilies need warm, draft-free rooms, and peaty or compost soil to grow in which is kept almost constantly moist.


Q. The enclosed egg cases with hatched insects were collected from a day lily leaf this summer. Within hours the insects emerged from their cases. How glad I was to find them when I did! Could you identify them and let me know what to do when spotted in future years.

Also, I have been interested in trying a process for developing triploid day lilies from seed. I have lost my instructions for the process and chemical to be gotten from a drug/chemical source (I understand it is poisonous). My day lily cross finally yielded seeds to maturity so I am eager to give it a try or two.

I am in the process of transplanting white oak and black walnuts grown from seed, and look forward to spring. My redbuds (planted last fall as seeds) grew knee high this year and am hopeful just one at least will make it through the winter even though I know they are out of their range. The seeds came from southern Minnesota.

Thank you for your information in the paper. It feeds my love for working with plants and caring for them. (Dickey, N.D.)

A. I have requested help from our entomologists in identifying your egg mass. When they get back to me, I will give you the information.

Concerning your question on developing triploid day lilies: triploids, to my knowledge are nonfertile. What I think you want are tetraploids. As you can see from the enclosed information, the chemical used to increase ploidy in plants was colchicine—derived from the autumn crocus—and it is indeed poisonous and no longer available to gardeners.

I hope you will enjoy reading the hybridizing information I have enclosed.

Thank you for writing.


Q. Enclosed is a leaf from my peace lily I received about a year ago. It was beautiful and bloomed for a long time, but recently it gets brown on the tip of the leaves and then they die one by one. I take care of it as well as I know how. Can you tell me what I can do to keep it alive? In my apartment, the plants get very little sunshine. Could that be the reason? I love the plant and hate to lose it. I will appreciate any help you can give me. Thank you. (Wishek, N.D.)

A. Your peace lily is showing classic symptoms of overwatering. Back off a little on this and allow the upper third of the container soil to become dry to the touch before watering.


Q. Thank you for your help before. If I get to Fargo, I hope my  son can help me find you and show you a couple of plants. It seems like there are little spiders, but my vision is slipping (at 91 that happens, they say) so I can't quite know. Red spots occur and then the leaf turns yellow and dries up on the calla and several amaryllis plants. I don't water and feed the plants as well as I should. Actually, I should dispose of most of them. The Christmas cactus is 67 years old and a gift from my Mother and most plants are gifts.

Have you suggestions for what to do with tuberous begonias? It's too windy here to hang them out.

Thank you. We read all your comments and learn from them. (Rolette, N.D.)

A. Wow, 91 and still going strong--nice to have you around and asking questions.

Calla and amaryllis need an annual rest period. Allow the foliage to dry down and the plants to stay dormant for about  six weeks. Then repot, place in a sunny location and water. It appears you are fighting a natural tendency of the plant to shut down.

Christmas cactus is a jungle species as well and needs to go through a wet/dry cycle with growth and need for abundant water from spring to fall. When flowering is over, allow the top part of the soil to dry before watering again. During active growth, they need a tomato-type fertilization on a regular basis.

Try tuberous begonias as pot or bedding plants.

Thanks for writing.


Q.I look forward each week to your column in the Aberdeen American News and enjoy it very much.

I plan to move quite a number of my lilies this fall and am wondering just when to do this. Can I do it when the stems are still evident so as to be able to locate them?

I would appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks. (McLaughlin, S.D.)

A.Thanks! I am pleased you enjoy the column. I enjoy hearing from people like you who help to make the column interesting.

Your answer is yes. You can move lilies this fall after a couple of good frosts with the foliage attached.


Q. Years ago I tried to transplant some of the wild lilies (Lilium philadelphicum) into the garden. They did not grow very well that first year, but I had one blossom. The second year after transplanting they were completely gone. Does that lily, as some orchids do, require certain organisms in the sod, which must be moved with the bulb? With the passing of years, have horticulturists and gardeners found the solution to the problem?

Thank you again for your help. (Cando)

A. There are a couple possible reasons why your Lilium philadelphicum (wood lily) did not survive and one may be insufficient hardiness.

My references tell me this is a Zone 4 plant and that it should be mulched with pine needles and oak leaves each fall. The text also refers to a very well-drained media for growing that is one-third peat moss. Division should take place in late summer.

I suspect that your idea may be correct--that the plant needs a "woods earth" environment to grow in, hence the text's frequent reference to the use of the specific mulching materials--pine needles and oak leaves.


Q. Read your Hortiscope and find lots of helpful answers. I have a beautiful Easter lily. Can you save them for next year? Thanks for any help you can give me. (Lehr, N.D.)

A. Thanks for writing. Easter lilies are pretty tough customers and will grow nicely outdoors in North Dakota. I would suggest setting it out after the last frost, in the same container, in a sunny location. Then, as fall approaches, you can allow the plant to go through vernalization or low-temperature bud initiation. You will need to cover the plant with straw or boughs to prevent freezing at night and reheating during the day. If you can keep it outdoors for 4 to 6 weeks after the first frost, it will flower in about 109 to 123 days. If you want to shorten the flowering time, then move the bulb to a place (e.g. cold frame) where you can keep it from freezing for 10 weeks and it will flower in about 100 days.

It will be difficult to time the blooming to occur at Easter.


Q: I have a beautiful bed of lily of the valley on the north side of my house, but it never blooms. Why? (Medina, N.D.)

A: The only reason I can think of why your lily of the valley won’t bloom is because you’re being too good to the plants. It’s likely they are getting too much nitrogen, which results in keeping the plants in a vegetative state. Nitrogen could be reaching the lilies when you are fertilizing the lawn. Try to keep the spreader away from the lily bed by at least 2 feet.


Q: What is a good fertilizer for calla lilies, growing outside in a pot, with eastern exposure? They are in the sun from sunrise till noon. Secondly, now that they have flowered, and leaves are turning yellow shall I stop watering them totally till late September? (E-mail reference)

A: Now that your calla lilies are beginning to yellow, you do not fertilize or water any longer, as they are entering their rest period. Once they start coming out of this rest period of six to nine weeks, begin a watering and fertilizing regime once again, using any standard liquid fertilizer intended for houseplants (Schultz's is a good example) applying it every two weeks, increasing it to weekly as the flowers begin to appear. Continue until the flowers begin to fade. You can leave the dormant calla in the original container during the dormancy/rebloom period.


Q: I repotted a peace lily about a month ago using Miracle gro potting soil. At the time, it had five beautiful white flowers but had outgrown its home. Since then, four of the five turned green, then brown. The fifth is still in the "green" stage. It has continued to produce new foliage although some of the lower leaves have some brown tips. It lives on my covered balcony which receives bright but indirect light. Here in northern Florida, the temperature reaches the mid-90s most days with mid to high humidity. Can you help me to regain the blooms and keep my plant healthy? It was a gift from my mother and grandmother in Tennessee and I really want it to thrive. (E-mail reference, Pensacola, Fla.)

A: It sounds like your peace lily could be suffering from a couple of troublesome environmental conditions. First, the fact that the spathe emerges green indicates that there is too much light, causing chloroplasts to form. Second tip browning is an indication of either over-watering, watering a plant in a non-free-draining container, or nutrient ion salt burn, such as chlorine or fluoride. I'd suggest moving it to a shadier location, making sure it is in a free-draining container and not over-watering, and try about two weeks of watering with distilled water to see if that improves anything. I suspect that your normal drinking water may be high in salts, or that your household has artificially softened water.


Q: Please let me know how to take care of my peace lily. The one I have has rusty looking ends on its leaves, and I have been fertilizing it once a month keeping the soil moist all the time. (Hosmer, S.D.)

A: This is usually an indication of excessive salts in either the soil or water. I suggest backing off on the fertilization for the next month, and watering with either 100 percent distilled water or cutting your current water source by 50 percent with distilled water. This will not correct the leaves with the fried tips but should result in new growth that is free of it.


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