NDSU Extension Service
Q: What causes a clear
gel substance to form on the leaves of some houseplants? How do I get
rid of it? (e-mail reference)
A: What you are
seeing is the excrement from aphids or spider mites on the plant stems
or leaves. Wash the plant in a spray of tepid water or wipe off the
surfaces with a wet cloth dipped in insecticidal soap.
Q: I saw an article
in Trader’s Dispatch regarding Plantskydd Deer Repellant and have
contacted our Extension Service office, but they never have heard of this
product. Can you tell me where it can be purchased and the specifics of
it? (e-mail reference)
A: Go to www.plantskydd.com
for more information, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lacking satisfaction from either source, try calling (800) 252-6051.
Good luck in your attempt to control our very destructive, but beautiful,
wildlife friends - deer and rabbits!
Q: I recently bought
a gloxinia to brighten up my new apartment. It came with two flowers and
had several buds growing. The buds are doing well, but several days after
I brought it home, the flowers fell off, leaving the stem and pistil.
Is that normal? If not, what do I do to help my plant? What do I do with
the stem? Will the bulb produce seeds? I’m lost and confused, so
any help would be appreciated. (e-mail reference)
A: You might want
to brace yourself for this news. Typically, gloxinias do not last very
long as a houseplant. They make good “housewarming gifts,”
but don’t expect to see them there a year after giving them! Most
likely, your flowers dropped off because the plant came from a bright,
high-humidity environment into a typical home or apartment environment
that is lower in light intensity and humidity. Remove the spent flower
petioles and enjoy the rest of the blooms. When the plant finally begins
to decline, let it do so and back off on the watering. Remove the dry
leaves, let the tuber dry out and store it in the same pot and soil.
If you can, store it in a cool location (below 60 degrees). Next spring,
repot in fresh potting soil that is high in organic matter and commence
watering again. Place the plant in a bright location, but with no direct
sunlight. To keep the present flowers around as long as possible, give
it indirect humidity using a humidifier, but don’t mist the leaves!
Q: I have a large
deck and have planted marigolds in planters. They are blooming very well,
but the leaves are drying up like cornflakes. This part of the house receives
full sun all day and gets very hot. I have them planted in drought-tolerant
soil. What am I doing wrong? (e-mail reference)
A: I’m willing
to bet the plants are being cooked on the patio. If you can, place the
planter in another planter to provide some insulation for the root system.
Even though marigolds can tolerate a fair amount of heat, sometimes
the direct sun coming in and reflecting off the sides and windows of
the house can be too much.
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 want flowering
bushes that bloom from May or June until fall. What would you suggest?
A: I assume you
don’t mean one species, as there is no such thing. Here is a shopping
list for your consideration. You could plant white flowering lilacs,
spirea, mock orange, viburnum or white hydrangea. The hydrangea would
be a good “bridge” between the mock orange flowering and
fall. Your Extension Service horticulturist should be able to help you
make more selections for your area, but this is at least a start.
Q: Can mealybugs live
in the soil? I’m wondering if they are surviving because I’m
not treating the soil. Also, you had previously mentioned a systemic treatment.
Is that still an option? (e-mail reference)
A: Mealybugs have
been known to lay eggs on containers, benches and other nonplant surfaces,
so you may be right in that these little bounders are coming from the
container or the soil. Repot with fresh soil and probably a new, free-draining
pot. Systemics should be the last resort. They are usually very toxic,
so I don’t like getting them into the plant, let alone having
them handled by anyone.
Q: My mother gave
me a beautiful cyclamen in April as a sentimental gift of appreciation
for some hard work I’ve done for her. I am desperate to keep it
alive, but seem to be failing. Some Web sites say give it lots of water,
but some sites say back off on watering. Everyone seems to be so knowledgeable,
yet every site offers different advice. It all seems a little advanced
for my limited plant knowledge. Could you please help me out with some
“baby steps” for nursing this thing back to health and keeping
it alive? (e-mail reference)
A: I will do my
best to provide you with some “baby steps.” Cyclamen need
bright, but indirect light. These plants prefer a cool environment at
all times (between 55 and 65 degrees), which feels chilly to most of
us indoors. Along with a low temperature, these plants need high humidity.
This can be accomplished by placing the plant on a tray of pebbles that
you keep water in or by using a humidifier in the room. Don’t
mist the foliage. Some people say they have grown cyclamen by watering
over the tubers. I will stick to what I have seen that works. Place
the pot in a bath of water that covers half the pot. Allow it to stay
that way until the top of the media is glistening with moisture. Then
lift it out and allow the water to drain. Use a diluted solution of
typical houseplant fertilizer every two weeks. Some people say that
they have been growing cyclamen for years. Typically, once the flowers
fade, remove the stalk and everything else. Once the flowering ceases,
most plants are dumped because they begin to go downhill. If you can,
back off on the watering and allow the tuber to dry completely. Keep
the plants in their pots somewhere cool through the summer. New growth
should begin emerging sometime in late summer or early fall. If or when
that happens, knock the plant out of the pot, repot with fresh soil
and relocate it in the same bright, cool location. The cyclamen’s
beautiful flowers seduce most people when they give them as gifts. They
don’t realize that these are difficult plants for most people
to care for successfully. I usually advise enjoying the plant as long
as possible. You shouldn’t worry about failing to keep it alive
indefinitely because professional growers face the same challenge! I
am sure your mom will not take offense if your plant should go the usual
way of just fading away.
Q: The blooms are
falling off the fuchsia my husband bought me. It is located in the shade
on our front porch. The porch is enclosed, but has four big windows. The
blooms that are falling off haven’t opened up. Can you please tell
me what to do about this problem? (e-mail reference)
A: Fuchsia needs
at least three things to look good. Fuchsia needs bright light with
some direct sunlight for two to four hours a day. It also needs a cool
environment and almost continuous fertilizing with a liquid flowering
houseplant fertilizer. Lacking any one of these conditions can cause
the flower petals to drop. My guess is that your front porch may be
too warm or it fails to get direct sunlight that can reach the plant.
Q: I have a creeping
phlox that I planted last year. It was blooming last year, but this year
everyone else’s phlox is in bloom except mine. Do rabbits eat phlox?
I read that phlox is not a rabbit’s favorite food. (e-mail reference)
A: Rabbits like
creeping phlox like teens enjoy pizza! Spray the plants with a rabbit
repellent, such as Hinder, Liquid Fence, Plantskydd or pepper spray
(capsaicin). Reapply on new growth as it emerges or after a heavy rain.
Q: I recently was
given some rhubarb plants. I planted them in a raised bed. Can I plant
herbs in the same area? I’m not sure if the rhubarb would taste
like the herbs. I also wanted to plant some leaf lettuce on the other
side. (e-mail reference)
A: You can plant
anything you want around the rhubarb plants this year. However, as the
years pass, rhubarb has a tendency to take over the area and crowd everything
out, so enjoy the space while you have it!
Q: We had two arborvitae
and juniper bushes on each side of our front door. Now, just the stumps
are left. How can we get rid of the stumps without using a grinder? (e-mail
A: Use the time-honored
method that I still depend on - digging them out with backbreaking labor!
If this is too much for you, get a high school football player to come
over and give him a few bucks to do the work. Have him wield a mattock,
a sharpshooter spade and possibly a pruning saw to chop, dig and prune
the remains out. You also can use saltpeter that is available at most
garden supply stores. It is sold as “Stump Remover.” It
slowly works on the stump, getting it out over a period of several years.
I prefer the first method, then it is over and done.
Q: We recently removed
a Canadian red cherry that was badly infected with black knot disease.
We had the stump ground out, leaving a good-sized hole. Can we plant another
tree in that location? We would like to plant a linden tree. What type
of linden would be best? (Verona, N.D.)
A: If you have no
limitations as far as space goes, then plant any linden you want! Otherwise,
select one of the many more upright and tight cultivars that are available
on the market.
Q: Last year we planted
three rhubarb plants in a sunny garden area of what may have been a cow
pasture more than 10 years ago. When the plants came up, the opened leaves
grew fine, but had yellow patches on them. The rhubarb has come up again
and the opened leaves have thinned areas that are reddish brown. One stalk
has withered completely at the point it was attached to a leaf. What do
you suggest? (e-mail reference)
A: I don’t
know. It could be caused by pesticide residue, salts or a combination
Q: I have a big problem.
The trees at the end of my block are cottonwoods. They are shedding cotton,
which seems to fall mostly on my lawn. It looks like it has snowed for
several days. Unfortunately, it rained hard each evening and washed the
seeds into my lawn and bark dust. How do I get rid of the sprouts that
are coming up in my bark dust without killing my ornamental plants? I
have thousands of little shoots starting to grow. Any suggestions? (e-mail
A: The easiest way
I control such minor annoyances is to rake or hoe them lightly. They
are seedlings and easily can be controlled at this stage of life. As
to the lawn, normal mowing will take any out that may germinate.
Q: I’ve been
told that when seeding a new lawn, it’s a good idea to include some
wheat rather than mulching with straw. Supposedly, the wheat will protect
the grass until it’s tall enough to mow. Do you know anything about
this? (e-mail reference)
A: Oats or wheat
can be used if straw is not available because it does not become a permanent
part of the turfgrass ecosystem. The oats or wheat will die with continuous
mowing and competition from the emerging Kentucky blue and other turf-type
grasses. The winter cold also will kill it.
Q: My mother, Joan
Beach, would be glad to share her winter onion sets. You can write her
at P.O. Box 1161, Baker, Mont. 59313, or phone (406) 778-2148. (e-mail
A: Thank you. Let’s
see if we get a response for you.
Q: I enjoy your column.
I’ve had winter onions for as long as I can remember. We do not
have e-mail, but would share a start and any other information at your
expense. My address is Dolly Jorgensen, 47211 228th St., Flandreau, SD
57028. I also can be reached at (605) 997-3493. (Flandreau, S.D.)
A: Thank you for
the nice comments and offer, which I will keep in mind.
Smith, (701) 231-8161, email@example.com
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, firstname.lastname@example.org