NDSU Extension Service
Q: I just love the
questions and answers you provide regarding spider plants. I haven’t
had to ask anything because of your thoroughness in answering the questions.
I just wanted to thank you. I have three spider plants that I grew from
spiderettes. One is in its own planter and two are in a pot together,
apparently a male and a female. The female is flowering (she’s been
flowering steadily for the past two months or more!) and producing seeds
as well as more than a dozen spiderettes. (e-mail reference)
A: This has to be
a first for me, a compliment without questions. Thank you! I’m
glad the column has been helpful. Spider plants are fun to plant because
of the unique way they grow. They are literally bulletproof, and don’t
require a lot of care. Enjoy!
Q: After searching
the Internet for fungus on jade plants, only your Web site had useful
information. (e-mail reference)
A: Thank you for
the compliment! Glad the Web site was helpful.
Q: I got a cyclamen
plant about a week ago. It started losing flowers and the leaves are turning
yellow. I wrote to a place that has experts on cyclamen. They told me
I was overwatering, so I stopped watering it as often. They also sent
an article that says that if it gets too wet, the roots will rot. I read
on another Web site that my problem is not watering enough, so I began
giving it a little more water. So far, there hasn’t been any improvement.
Does the plant need more or less water? Have the roots rotted? I’d
really appreciate any information about cyclamen care you could give me.
I got the plant for a special occasion and it means a lot to me. (e-mail
A: The wilting can
be caused by too little or too much water. In the latter case, it is
caused by anaerobic conditions existing from saturated soil and possibly
rotting or rotted roots unable to take up water. Cyclamen are very fussy
plants. They never should be watered from above. Water by immersing
the pot in tepid water and then allowing the excess to drain. On the
other hand, the plant never should be allowed to dry completely. Keep
the plant in bright, indirect light and try to keep it in a location
where the temperature stays around 60 degrees.
Q: My spider plant
was doing great, but now it is losing a few leaves and the tips of some
leaves are turning brown. I was thinking of repotting, but every time
I’ve repotted a spider plant it died. Now I am afraid to do it.
I love my spider plants, but they are driving me to drink. How do I know
when my plant has outgrown its pot? (e-mail reference)
A: Spider plants
do not need a lot of close care. The brown tips are the result of fluoride
in the water or some component of the soil mix. It is nothing to worry
about. From a practical point, nothing can be done about it. Spider
plants are not supersensitive to being pot-bound. You might allow the
plant to become pot-bound and then repot it in the same pot after cutting
some of the roots back to make room for the fresh soil you will be adding.
Strong, indirect light, moderate watering and cool temperatures seem
to do a world of good for spider plants. Summering them outdoors is
also good for spider plants. Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/
houseplnts/spider.htm for more information on spider plants. Thanks
for your interest!
Q: I saw your question-and-answer
Web site about schefflera. I was hoping for some help concerning mine.
I’ve had it for about three months. My concern is that it hasn’t
grown at all since I’ve had it. It doesn’t appear to be dead.
Any advice on what might be going on? (e-mail reference)
A: You are being
too impatient. The plant is in a rest period for the winter. When you
see new growth beginning to emerge, you can encourage it to grow by
using diluted fertilizer solutions. Doing so now will not help the plant.
It’s sort of like someone offering you a pizza after eating a
big spaghetti dinner! You can’t eat the pizza right now, but bring
it on hours later when you are hungry! As long as the plant is otherwise
healthy, you don’t have anything to worry about. Make sure you
don’t overwater the plant.
Q: Have you had a
Hortiscope column since Jan. 6, 2005? When I bring up the Web site (provided
by you) on my favorites list, I get a Jan. 6 column. I assume there must
be a different site, but I am no Internet whiz and cannot find it. (e-mail
A: I have been publishing
the column since fall 1985. Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/bydate.htm
and open up the year you’re interested in looking at. Thanks for
Q: Last year I had
a gorgeous shamrock flower. It became so large that I decided to transplant
it into a larger pot. I used good garden soil that had peat moss added
to it and used Miracle-Gro as a fertilizer. I squeezed the roots before
I put the shamrock into the larger pot. After all that, the plant died.
What did I do wrong? I plan to get another shamrock during the St. Patrick’s
holiday season. (Valley City, N.D.)
A: You “squeezed
the roots.” This species, in fact most species of houseplants,
does not do well if its roots are squeezed or damaged in any way. Buy
another plant for the St. Patrick’s holiday, but if transplanting
is necessary, do so carefully. Keep the plant watered well in a free-draining
container and give it plenty of light.
Q: I’ve had
problems with blight in my tomato plants the last few years. I moved my
garden to a different location, but the problem was worse. Are there blight-resistant
plants or is there some treatment to control the blight? My plants are
almost dead by the time the fruit starts to ripen.
A: Go through the
garden catalogs and look for variety names with the initials VFNT and
A behind them. This means that the variety is resistant or at least
tolerant to the most common tomato problems, such as verticillium wilt
(V), fusarium wilt (F), nematodes (N), tobacco mosaic virus (T) and
alternaria (A). Avoid water splash when watering, working the soil around
the plants when the foliage still has morning dew present and overfertilizing.
Be sure the plants are located where they get full sunlight and good
Q: I have a lipstick
plant. A few of the leaves are turning yellow at the middle. What could
be causing this? (e-mail reference)
A: It could be that
the water that is applied is too cold or the plant is getting too much
light. Lipstick plants should be located in bright, but not direct sunlight.
Also, check the plant carefully for possible insect activity.
Q: I’ve read
many of your readers’ questions about gloxinia and overwatering,
but there is no mention of what is the right watering frequency. Should
I water the plant daily or once or twice a week? (e-mail reference)
A: Water often enough
to keep the media moist, but never allow it to dry out. Water every
other day or twice a week, depending on the light exposure and temperature
in your home. It’s a schedule everyone has to determine for themselves.
Just make sure the water is at room or skin temperature and that you
keep it off the foliage.
Q: Last spring I went
to a garden auction and bought several trays of hollyhock. I planted them,
but all they did was produce several green leaves. Will they come back
this year? Will they bloom? Should I dig them up and buy something that
I am familiar with? (e-mail reference)
A: You purchased
biennial hollyhocks. They grow vegetatively the first year, then flower
the next. Unless you are having a brutal, open winter, they should come
back with a flourish of blooms this growing season.
Q: I’m landscaping
my front yard. I have a large arborvitae as a foundation plant that my
husband loves, so I want to make it work with the new plan. The plant
is in good health, but I think it’s ugly and can’t see any
way that it’s going to work with other perennials in any kind of
landscaping plan. Can I trim the lower branches to give it a different
shape, or would that leave me with an ugly mess? How close to the foundation
can I plant an amur maple? I’m concerned that the roots and branches
have enough room for proper growth, but want it as close as possible to
the house. (e-mail reference)
A: Arborvitae easily
can be pruned. Whether it will be an ugly mess is something only you
and your husband can decide. Amur maple does not have an aggressive
root system, so you can plant it fairly close to the house. Keep in
mind that the tree will form a nice canopy at around 20 feet, so you
want to give it room to do so without you having to do a lot of lopsided
pruning to keep it from affecting the side of your house or dropping
a lot of leaves into the rain gutter. Mine is planted about 12 feet
from the house. We have had to do occasional pruning to keep the branches
from damaging the shingles.
Q: How do you tell
a female box elder tree from a male? (e-mail reference)
A: If the tree bears
seed, then you know it is a female. Otherwise, you have no way of knowing
unless the plant is asexually propagated from a male parent, then all
the offspring will be male.
Q: When is a good
time to transplant a Christmas cactus? Should it be pruned when transplanting?
How much light does it need? Is a southeast window too bright? (Lake Park,
A: Visit my Web
site about Christmas cactus at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/
houseplnts/xmascctus.htm. There are dozens of questions that have
been answered that can help educate you about your plant. In answer
to your questions, Christmas cactus can be repotted shortly after it
has completed flowering, but don’t do it every year, as flowering
actually is encouraged by the plant being pot-bound. You don’t
need to prune it unless your intention is to propagate more plants from
the cuttings. Having the plant in a southeast window should not be a
problem. If it appears to be getting sunburned, move it away from the
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.
Smith, (701) 231-8161, email@example.com
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, firstname.lastname@example.org