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Posts Tagged ‘Potted Plants’

I have a friend who is against forcing bulbs because, she says, “it isn’t natural.” Forcing simply means that you are exposing bulbs to warmth sooner than if they were growing outside, so I’m not sure it could be considered unnatural either. Most spring flowering bulbs, except paper white narcissus which don’t need a cold period, can be forced, including the smaller grape hyacinth, crocus, and scilla.

Forcing bulbs is easy; simply pot up your favorite bulbs in soilless potting mix, water them well and then put them in a cold, but not freezing, place for at least 15 weeks.  Cool soil stimulates root growth, which continues until it gets quite cold. Warmth after the cool period stimulates top growth and flowers.

Using the correct soil is probably the most important part of forcing bulbs because they will not stand soggy soil. A soilless potting mix like pro mix is an excellent choice, or you can make your own with 2 parts compost, 2 parts sphagnum peat moss, 1 part vermiculite and 1 part perlite. Personally I find using pre mixed easier.

Fill the pot half full of mix, place the bulbs in it and finish filling around them.  Do not compact the potting mix. Give them a good soaking to settle the mix and then add more if necessary.  When finished the tip of the bulb should be just peeking out of the potting mix. Tulip bulbs should have their flat side toward the pot, because this is where the first leave will form. Label the bulbs clearly!

After potting I dig a trench just deep enough to sink the pots to the top of their rims and then pack leaves or straw loosely around the pots. Then I cover the pots and trench with a foot deep mulch of leaves or straw. Finally I cover everything with plastic or a tarp so it doesn’t get wet and become a big frozen together mass. After 15 weeks I pull back the plastic and mulch, grab a pot of bulbs, bring them inside and water them, set them in a cool spot until I see top growth, and then set them in a bright window. 

You can also use an unheated shed, garage, crawlspace, or even a refrigerator. Many people put them in cold frames but the temperature can rise quickly on sunny winter days, so the top will have to be opened occasionally to keep the temperature at or below 45º F (7.2º C). Bulbs need cold but they shouldn’t freeze, so temperatures shouldn’t fall below 35 º F (1.6º C). Bulbs cooled in a trench should go in no later than November 15th for late February blooming. 

When bulbs have finished blooming put them in the coolest, sunniest spot available and continue watering until they can be planted outside. It may take up to 2 years for the bulbs to produce large blooms again after they have been forced.

 Tulip Potting Photo by Iowa State University Extension service

 

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Spiders on your plants aren’t a bad thing. In fact, spiders eat many of the insects that damage house plants, so they really should be left alone. Seeing a spider in the house might be just a bit too much to bear for some, but a house with spiders is more likely to be insect free. (Spiders are not insects.) Though there are dangerous spiders known in the U.S., here in the northeast most spiders living in our homes will be the common house spider, which is relatively harmless.

Spider mites, on the other hand, are critters you definitely don’t want on your plants. Spider mites build webs like spiders and are in the same arachnid family. Some mites cannibalize their own kind, but most prefer plant juices and will pierce a leaf or stem and then suck the plant juices and nutrients from it. This weakens the plant, and large infestations might even kill it.

Plants with spider mites will show small yellowish-brown spots on their leaves. These spots might be quite far apart at first, but as the colony grows leaves will have so many spots that they will appear off color and have a metallic bronze appearance. Small webs on the undersides of leaves and where the leaf meets the stem are where eggs will hatch. To check a plant for these tiny creatures, hold a piece of white paper under a leaf or branch and give the plant stem a couple of good taps. Spider mites will fall off if they are present and appear as small, rust red, moving dots on the paper. (You might need a magnifier.) Mites can travel from plant to plant on a slight breeze, so infected plants should be quarantined or thrown away if inexpensive.

Spider mites like it hot and dry, so keep humidity high by frequent misting and grouping plants together. Keep plants shaded from hot afternoon sun or consider keeping your plants in a sunny room in which the heat has been turned down. Most houseplants will do better at 65° F (18° C) than they will at 75° F (24° C) and you’ll save fuel.

Once spider mites appear on a plant control can be difficult unless spraying is done regularly. Eggs hatch in 4-5 days and mites will reach egg laying adulthood in a week or less. A strong isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and water solution of 2 parts alcohol to 3 parts water should be sprayed twice weekly for at least 3 weeks.  It is very important to spray the undersides of leaves thoroughly along with the rest of the plant. Houseplants should be inspected regularly, even after spraying, so infestations don’t get out of hand.

Before spraying any plant with alcohol always test a leaf first to see if the plant will be harmed by it. Furry leaved plants should not be sprayed. Always protect surfaces and fabrics from alcohol sprays.

Photo magnification of Two Spotted Spider Mite by USDA-ARS-SEL & EMU, using Low Temperature -SEM

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Back in June (it seems like it was just last week!) I wrote about taking a trip to Northfield, Massachusetts and coming home with several plants. One of those plants was Curly Wurly ( Juncus effuses) which is a contorted, screwy looking perennial in the rush family. Curly is actually a corkscrew rush, which accounts for the screwball growing habit and, as many plants in the rush family do, Curly likes waterlogged, boggy places to grow in. Since I don’t have a bog on my property I mixed up some compost and peat moss to a ratio of about 2/3 peat to 1/3 compost and put Curly in a pot. Peat moss absorbs huge amounts of water but still, Curly wasn’t satisfied so I had to water the pot daily. But, other than needing full sun and lots of water, Curly is a surprisingly easy plant to grow.

My favorite part of growing Curly Wurly has to be the comments that visitors have made. In the original June blog post, which can be found at https://nhgardensolutions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/south-of-the-border/, I told about how a lady at the checkout counter with me asked “Is that plant plastic?” I thought that was pretty funny, but that was nothing compared to what was to come over the following months.  I heard “What on earth is that!?” and “Is that thing real?” and “Why does it grow all screwy like that?” and even “Boy! What an ugly plant!”

If you like unusual plants like I do and would like one that will literally cause people’s jaws to drop, get yourself a Curly Wurly next spring.  Put it out on your deck, by the pool, patio, or wherever people congregate and the conversations will go non stop. Curly really knows how to get folks talking!

If you’d like a stone head like this one to display your Curly Wurly in, just visit the people who make them at Petal Pushers Garden Place in Litchfield, Maine or read their blog here: http://petalpushersgardenplace.blogspot.com/2009/06/curly-wurly-plant.html

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