Ronald C. Smith, Horticulturist
NDSU Extension Service
Q: I am wondering what you can tell me about these pesky little flies. I
have heard them referred to as brown flies, brown spotted and just spotted.
It seems they are indigenous to old houses, but this year they have not gone
away as they usually do. I am not from this part of the country so they are
new to me. Are they just a nuisance or are they carriers of yucky things as
are the regular flies. (E-mail reference)
A: These are just harmless pests. They are particularly pesky this year
because of the early and long mild winter we've had. You can do battle
with them via sticky tapes, insecticidal soap sprays, and any sprays for
interiors that contain pyrethrins. Their life cycle is short, but their
reproductive capacity is high, so persistence is necessary.
Q: I received a miniature rose bush for Valentine's Day. It came in a
ceramic container. I was wondering if I could keep it the container and how
to take care of it. (E-mail reference)
A: The track record for miniature roses is generally not too hot. I
have no clue as to where you live from your e-mail, but if you live in a
relatively warm part of the world where frosts are light and infrequent
during winter, then get it outdoors ASAP. If you live in the north where
winter weather is severe, you are better off bringing the plant indoors to
overwinter, placing it in a sunny window with supplemental lighting. My
experience with miniature roses has been that they are subject to powdery
mildew and black spot and host to a variety of insects beyond what normal
garden roses are. They need plenty of light -- direct sun if possible. If
the ceramic container is not free-draining, then move it to another one
that is; prune spent blossoms; fertilize with a rose fertilizer every two
to three weeks during active growth. Enjoy the gift for as long as you
can. You might want to select a flower that is partially open and press it
between the pages of a book with a note memorializing who it came from.
That will likely last longer than your plant will if history is any guide.
Q: We have a spider plant that my daughter almost killed. I brought it
home and repotted it. It is growing slow and when it gets so far the ends of
the leaves turn brown, I have never had flowers on it or babies. What is
wrong? I have it in a sun room facing north. Please give me some ideas.
A: The brown tips are the result of the salts either in your water
supply or from the media it is growing in. These plants are sensitive to
both fluoride and chlorine in water. It is not lethal to the plant. Your
plant will develop babies when it has stored enough energy, which it
derives from the sun. I suggest moving the plant to an east or west
exposure in your sun room. In time, it will produce the offspring that
Q: I am wondering if the berrys on the flowering crab are harmful to
humans, birds or animals. (E-mail reference)
A: No! Some are tastier than others, but none are harmful unless a
pesticide residue remains, and that depends on the pesticide used.
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: In a recent Hortiscope column you named varieties of raspberries that
would grow in a cold climate and also named sources where they could be
obtained. I have lost that information and wonder if you could give it
again. You suggested Thunderchild, Spring Snow and Red Jewel for crabapples.
Are they resistant to rust? Also, can you suggest a place to buy ornamental
grasses. I've found very limited resources. (Wessington, S.D.)
A: The hardy raspberries for your area would include Boyne, Latham,
Swensen, Nordic, and Royality. The crabapples I listed are resistant to
rust. Some sources for ornamental grasses are:
Ambergate Gardens, 8015 Krey Ave., Waconia, MN 55387 (phone:
Bluebird Nursery, Inc., P.O. Box 460, 521 Linden Street, Clarkson, NE
68629 (phone: 402-892-3457)
Prairie Moon Nursery Route 3, Box 163, Winona, MN 55987 (phone:
That should get you started. If you get nowhere with these three let me
know. There are plenty more.
Q: Do you have a formula and procedure for using chlorine bleach or Lysol
to sanitize planting trays? (Cando, N.D.)
A: Use either a 10 percent bleach or Lysol concentration. That would be
nine parts water to one part of the chemical. Simply dipping them into the
solution for a few seconds and allowing them to air dry does the trick.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note to e-mail correspondents: please identify your location (city
and state) for most accurate recommendations.
Source: Ron Smith, (701) 231-8161, email@example.com
Editor: Gary Moran, (701) 231-7865, firstname.lastname@example.org