Archives

House Plant Advice

I am a little bit shocked, I must say, by the fact that house plants are “in” again.

Of course, for me, they never went “out.” I’ve been growing house plants since I was a teenager–which means at least 4 decades. That’s okay. I’m glad that something that I like is suddenly “cool” again.

But of course now everyone is online giving “expert” advice about everything to do with house plants. One of the most amusing ones–to me anyway–is how to bring house plants–or tropicals if we’re being exotic–in for the winter.

First of all, if you’re in the northeastern united states and you haven’t done this yet, be prepared for a major mess on your hands. It’s surely not too late to try to save some of your plants–but the later you wait, the more they have trouble with the transition. I generally bring mine in around Labor Day just to avoid that.

On the other hand, you could take some of the so-called expert advice and slowly transition them inside over a period of two weeks, spraying them no less than three times with some sort of organic insecticide.

I’ve never heard of such nonsense in my life. Clearly these folks don’t realize that the insects are going to go dormant in the winter (for the most part) and won’t wake up again (if at all) until spring.

They also don’t realize that some of these insects have eggs that can live up to 2 years in the soil–so you can spray your durned fool heads off as many times as you like and you’re not going to solve that little problem!

So rather than weakening your plants by thrusting them into the dark and spraying them with insecticide (even organic insecticide!), why not just hose the plants down with a good hard spray of water to try to dislodge anything that you can and then bring the plants in?

I am also no fan of the advice I have seen that suggests that you take the entire plant and submerge it wholesale in a bucket of soapy water. Again, why? This is like killing a flea–or an imagined flea–with a sledgehammer. You are weakening the entire plant and damaging its natural leaf coatings and you don’t even know if there’s a problem. Just. Dont’. Do. It.

Once the plants are inside, do watch them carefully to assure that you didn’t bring in any insects. You have another good month or so before really cold weather sets in. If you need to take a plant or two outside to spot treat with an organic insecticide, that’s certainly do-able. But no need to treat everything willy-nilly if you see no problems.

And continue to monitor. That’s what a good house plant owner does. The sooner you catch any problems, the sooner you can solve them. Both you and your plants will be happier that way!

Advertisements

What Garden Clean-up?

This time of year,  I start lecturing on “Putting the Garden to Bed.” There’s only one problem with this: I don’t practice what I talk about,  something that I freely admit in my lectures.

Or, to put it another way, I discuss the two different methods of garden clean up,  the traditional way and the sustainable way. There’s no “correct ” way for everyone–in other words,  what I am calling “sustainable ” won’t work in lots of neighborhoods. I am just fortunate that it works for me and in my neighborhood.

And then of course there is the ” oh, you have cancer and we’re doing the biopsy today” way, which is what happened to me last year. It wasn’t quite that blatant, but that sure as heck is what happened,  and then after the surgery to remove the rest of the cancer, the whole dang thing got infected so there was NO cleanup at all.

And then this spring, sure enough,  more cancerous cells, so again,  no cleanup. You will be surprised at how well the garden survives without you.

So for those who insist that every leaf must be mown, blown or shredded, I assure you that you are completely wrong. Leave the leaves. They make a wonderful mulch.

More on Monday.

 

 

Don’t Ignore the House Plants

It’s summer.  Even when there isn’t a drought,  there’s enough to do outside  (weeding, deadheading, trying to figure out how to outsmart the pesky chipmunks so that I finally get a tomato from them [or not, after the poisoning incident]–you get the idea) that generally all I do with the few house plants that have stayed indoors is water.

So this year, even though more house plants than usual remained indoors (meaning that I have more watering than usual), I am still not thinking much about the indoor plants.

When a couple of my big philodendron started to get yellow leaves, I shrugged and figured that I was keeping the light in the room too dark.

When I adjusted that and then they started to sunburn,  now I looked closer.

20170806_111507

Ick! So this is not a light problem at all! This is why I always say in my house plant lectures “be ever vigitant, I  beseech you!” (It’s a malapropism from Shakespeare).

Luckily,  I caught this before they became worse although they are pretty bad as it is. These are aphid nymphs. In a few more days, they probably would have begun sprouting wings and moving among my other plants. Ugh.

I took the two affected plants outdoors,  removed the most badly infested leaves and hosed the plants down. I also washed the trays the plants had under them.

I will continue to hose the plants down for the next couple of weeks.  And once they come in,  I will watch them closely for repeat infestations.

And I guess I have learned not to presume that insect infestations only strike in spring and fall (generally, in my house, anyway). I will need to follow my own advice.

Is There Something Wrong With My Hosta?

 

20170806_131212Hostas are wonderful shade and even occasionally sun plants–bone hardy in the cold, increasing in size every year so that you can divide them and either spread them around your garden, share them with friends, or have plants to sell at your garden club’s plant sale (but do be aware of those patented varieties!)

But what happens if you notice a hosta that’s not behaving like that?

 

20170806_130724

Well, first thing first, take a closer look. Might you have a pesky underground rodent like a vole nibbling on the roots?

Are deer or rabbits nibbling at it from above? Is a woodchuck eating it from both sides?

20170806_130552

If none of those things seems to be occurring, take an even closer look at the leaves. Do they exhibit anything out of the ordinary? If so, you may have a hosta infected with hosta mosaic virus, otherwise known as hosta virus X (HSX).

How does this  virus manifest itself? It can appear any number of ways. The leaves can appear puckered or stippled or stunted. The color can appear broken–in fact, when the virus first appeared, many breeders thought they had new unique variations among hostas on their hands before the virus was recognized.

This fact sheet from the University of Wisconsin not only has some great information about the virus, but has some great photos of infected leaves.

HSX has been around since 1996 but I know when I was working in retail gardening (from 2001-2008) it was only beginning to be recognized as an issue so that tells you how long it took to catch on, even in the trade.

Thee is no cure for HSX. Infected plants need to be removed–carefully–from your garden and destroyed. Do not compost them! And now, after re-acquainting myself with these photos for this post, I need to go out to take a hard look at a couple of my own hostas!

 

 

 

 

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

20170730_110033

Lovely leaf, not so lovely result, right?

When I first saw this, I thought I knew immediately what was happening.  Several years ago, when I was in North Carolina, I heard about a beetle that was ravaging canna lilies there. I thought that this beetle had somehow made its way north (as all noxious things somehow eventually do) and gotten to Connecticut.

20170730_110030

It turns out that there is a simpler explanation for all of this.

Yes, it still has to do with a noxious invader. But this time the “invader” is quite well known to us here in Connecticut and has been for some time.

What’s turning these Canna leaves into lace (and it really is pretty, unless these are your plants, in which case, you probably want to scream! I think I might do a little judicious trimming if they were mine) is the all too common Japanese beetle.

As a doctor once told me, sometimes even if you have an unusual presentation, we still look for a common explanation, and not for something rare.  That’s probably good advice in gardening too.

Space Invaders

20161014_115446

No, this is not some weird, pixilated version of fall foliage. It’s actually a great shot of a window screen with, of all things, one of those pesky fall invaders that are just looking to make a nice home inside your home.

This is the Western Conifer Seed Bug, a leaf footed bug (see how its back two feet have what look to be sort of protuberances on them? They are designed to mimic leaves).

This bug is an invasive species in my part of the world but other than finding its way into homes, it doesn’t seem to do a lot of damage where I live–it’s not like the Emerald Ash Borer or the Asian Longhorned Beetle both of which actually kill trees.

And once they’re inside, they seem to be fairly dumb and slow for a bug. This is one of the ones I always catch and throw outside for the birds. Then again, I’ve never stopped to ask what bugs think of us?