NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
December 7, 2000
Ronald C. Smith, Horticulturist
North Dakota State University
Q: I had a call from a patron who repotted her plants using a Miracle Grow potting soil. She said the top soil on the plants is very moldy. She said she waters them every other week, so felt the problem was not overwatering. Any suggestions what she can do? (E-mail reference, Valley City, N.D.)
A: This is just a saprophyte that has found a nice home and will do no harm to the plant. She can rough up the surface and move some air across the top with a small fan if she desires. It will eventually go away, or she can scoop up the surface and dispose of it. I use the same potting soil and have no problems with it.
Q: Your Garrison reader is not the only one whose glads lost their color. The first time it happened to me, an elderly lady told me, "That 's a sign to get new bulbs." I've never kept track of how many years it takes for the color loss to happen, but it does happen. It would be interesting to see what would happen if one would take them to another garden (or area) to see if they would still all bloom yellow. It's too late for me to try it, because I refused to dig mine at all this fall. Because of the discoloration, I decided to run another test to see if they can withstand a North Dakota winter in the ground. Spring will tell. (E-mail reference, Gardner, N.D.)
A: It would be nice to know what causes this to occur with glads. I think it might be genetic flare-up known as a chimera, specifically a periclinal (parallel to the surface) of the original flower tissue. Unfortunately, I cannot nail down any reference that will say that glads are affected this way. There is also a chance this could be a virus that is causing this, but my skeptical mind has a hard time accepting that happening on such a wholesale basis. I'll be interested in learning of your "research" results.
Q: Do you know of a fertilizer product (supposedly applied to lawns) that you can sprinkle on your sidewalk to get rid of ice? We don't want to use salt. (E-mail reference)
A: Any dark-colored fertilizer will do the trick -- somewhat. No deicer works when the temperatures reach the sub-zero level. Mixing it with coarse sand will help as well.
Q: I enjoyed a beautiful potted tuberous begonia all summer on a semi-shaded patio--now what do I do with it this winter so I can enjoy it again next summer? (E-mail reference, Forestburg, S.D.)
A: You might have a couple of options: allow it to dry down by watering sparingly, and when the stems wither, overwinter in a dry peat medium keeping the temperature at about 45 degrees F. (basement would be o.k.). Then in April, repot and move to a warmer location where it can get some natural, but indirect light, watering gradually. When shoots begin to appear, water more liberally, and when the plant is in full leaf, fertilize on a biweekly basis right through the blooming period. If your plant was the type that was still in flower when you brought it in, keep it in strong indirect light, allowing to have an extended rest (flowerless) period, watering enough to avoid wilting. Next spring as the days get longer, you should see some new growth and buds forming. Increase watering and fertilize.
Q: I know we don't grow chestnut trees in our state...at least I don't think so. A client is asking if its still possible to purchase chestnuts. He claims you can't get them any more. Where would they be grown? (E-mail reference, Cando, N.D.)
A: The chestnut your client is referring to is either the Chinese chestnut or the American chestnut- - Castanea mollissima and C. dentata. The American native was wiped out by a fungal blight which started at the beginning of the last century and is now, unfortunately, only a memory. The nuts were delicious and sweet tasting. The Chinese chestnut fruit is used commercially and is certainly acceptable in flavor and quality, and fortunately is resistant to the blight. Both are hardy to zone 4.
Q: Do you have information in one an Extension publication on how, when and with what to fertilize fruit trees? (E-mail reference, Forman, N.D.)
A: No, we do not. Fruit trees (like most other trees) need little if any fertilizer. If some is needed based on a diagnosed deficiency symptom, then I suggest that the missing nutrient(s) be added at the recommended rates. This is usually done for farms that are in the apple orchard business. For the backyard fruit lover, I suggest an early spring application of 10-10-10 or something similar under the drip line of the canopy. Do this just before the leaves unfold. The deficiency I have seen in our high pH region of the country is possibly of micronutrients. iron, zinc, or copper, determined by a soil and tissue analysis.
Q: I planted my amaryllis in a pot without any drainage. (I bought it as a kit--the bulb and the pot). The bulb has just started growing. What shall I do now? Shall I let it grow or shall I replant it? (E-mail reference)
A: If you bought it as a "kit" and it is now growing, let it be. Water sparingly to keep from wilting, and when the flower fades, allow the foliage to remain and plant the bulb outdoors for the summer. Then allow the foliage to die down in the early fall, give it about a six-week rest period with no water, then begin watering sparingly until new growth is evident, then repot in a free-draining container.
Q: Can you tell me what conditions are necessary for my indoor Swedish ivy to bloom? It was blooming when I bought it a year ago and it was beautiful. (I just read your 'Questions on Ivy' and saw the question from the person who has one blooming indoors, but I cannot find information on what conditions prompt this blooming.) (E-mail reference)
A: The Swedish ivy is one of the more perfect houseplants for our long winter months in the North, as it has colorful foliage and tolerates the usual dry air that goes along with central heating systems. To get it (or any other plant for that matter) to flower, place it where it can get bright but indirect light. They are generally placed near or on windowsills with a veiled curtain protecting them from direct light. It will take patience on your part and a little willingness to slightly neglect the plant, in order to get it into bloom. The flowering of such plants is an occasional experience, not something that can be programmed into care, such as limiting daylength. In the meantime, enjoy the attractive foliage!
Q: We have a ficus tree that we've had since July. It has four stems that are braided to form the one tree. We have beautiful healthy growth on the front and one side of the tree. On the other side, however, the leaves are simply drying, curling, and falling off. In fact I tried to cut some of the stems back and several branches are completely dead. It loses about 10 to 20 leaves per day. It has always tended to shed leaves but now it is really starting to look bare. Any suggestions on how often I should water it or what I should do to bring it back to a healthy life? (E-mail reference)
A: Your ficus is the weeping fig type, from your description. It could have a root rot disease, or it could be due to one of the following:
- A recent move to a new location, where the light conditions, temperature, drafts, etc. are just slightly different. This is known to cause defoliation.
- An excess of chlorine or fluoride in your water source. This could cause the leaf curling.
- Water too cold or watering schedule inconsistent; both can cause leaf curl and leaf drop. Failure to mist the leaves during periods of high central heating use can cause leaf curl, browning or "firing" of the leaf edges, and leaf drop. Do so with pure (distilled) water to avoid spotting. Make sure water is at room temperature.
Q: Enclosed is a picture of a Bougainvillea that I brought back from Mexico three summers ago. It goes dormant in the winter but gets lots of bushy leaves in the summer. My problem is it has never bloomed and I am wondering if it ever will! (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Bougainvillea need all the direct sunlight our northern climate can give them. Yours is certainly healthy and beautiful, and should eventually bloom if it can get enough light. Poinsettias originated from Mexico also, and it was discovered that they need short days in order to flower. Perhaps the Bougainvillea is the same way -- flowering influenced by day length -- either long or short - I honestly donít know. Perhaps on your next visit to Mexico you can talk to a horticulturist and see if they can give you an answer. They bloomed for us when we were living in Saudi Arabia, but Iíve never studied or seen studies on what it takes to get them blooming. For now, Iíll still suggest "as much direct sun as we get."
Do you have a gardening or houseplant question? Write to Hortiscope, Box 5051, NDSU Extension Service, Fargo, ND 58105 or e-mail to Ron Smith at email@example.com.
Source: Ron Smith, (701) 231-8161, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Gary Moran, (701) 231-7865, email@example.com