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16 Apr 2018

African Milk Tree Exotic and Sometimes Dangerous


African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona) is a tall, rugged, easy-care plant with thorns. It should come as no surprise that many people think of it as a cactus.

The fact is, this thorny succulent hails from West Africa where it grows wild in dense, thorny thickets. In its natural habitat, African Milk Tree (aka: Abyssinian Euphorbia) has a variety of landscaping and gardening uses.

Euphorbia trigona – African Milk Tree – potted in rustic containers – image via The Borrowed Nursery

In the United States and other areas, it is grown as an indoor plant and used as an attractive addition to cactus and succulent gardens in warmer areas. In this article, we will discuss the characteristics, care, and uses of this interesting plant. Read on to learn more.

Why Isn’t Euphorbia trigona A Cactus?

African Milk Tree is considered a succulent even though it’s called the “candelabra cactus” because it has leaves. Cacti (with the exception of Christmas and Easter Cactus) do not grow leaves.

The leaves of the African Milk plant are small and short-lived. They grow along the ridges that make up the corners of the plant’s rectangular stems. Thorns also emerge from these ridges.

The thorns grow in sets of two, and single leaves emerge from between them. When grown outdoors, the plant may produce small white or yellow flowers. Indoors, it is unlikely to bloom.

Why Is The Euphorbia trigona Called A “Milk Tree”?

The African Milk Tree is a member of the Euphorbaceae family. All of these plants exude a poisonous white sap when cut or broken.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep them out of the reach of kids and pets and to keep your skin and eyes well-protected when pruning, repotting or otherwise handling the plant.

The sap can cause serious skin and eye irritation on contact, as well as severe gastric distress if ingested. [source]

Is Euphorbia trigona Really A Tree?

These big succulents outdoors are tree-like. They can grow as high as nine feet, and grow in a characteristic “candelabra” shape giving them the appearance of a tree. It may also explain some of the plant‘s common names – Candelabra Euphorbia or Cathedral Cactus.

You can control the plant’s growth somewhat by cutting or breaking off stems, which you can plant in their own pots, using a light, sandy soil to grow more “trees” to share with friends.

Propagating Abyssinian Euphorbia

Propagation of this hardy succulent couldn’t be easier. Visually survey your plant before you begin and decide which new stems or sections you want to reduce.

Be sure to put on rubber gloves and protect your eyes with goggles, then just break or cut sections of the parent plant. Sections used for rooting should be about three or four inches in length.

Don’t Try This At Home!

In this video, an intrepid gardener shows a very daring way to take cuttings!

Although he experiences no mishaps, you can see that he puts himself in great danger of having sap drip from a very tall and vigorous plant onto his bare skin and into his eyes!

Making Candelabra Euphorbia Cuttings

Luckily, this operation turned out alright, but it’s easy to see that these plants produce copious amounts of potentially dangerous sap.

When you take cuttings, be sure to have a damp cloth on hand to wipe up weeping sap. Wear gloves, goggles and long sleeves, and be careful not to let the sap come in contact with your skin or eyes.

Once you’ve taken cuttings, lay them on paper towels, newspaper or some other disposable, absorbent material.

Allow the sections to dry out and harden off for a week in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. After your cuttings have hardened off, plant them in an airy, sandy, well-draining soil mixture that is not too fertile.

You needn’t worry much about pH level as Euphorbia trigona grow in acidic, neutral or alkaline soil.

Water when you plant the cuttings, keep the soil lightly moist until signs of rooting and growth appear. At this point, you can reduce watering and begin treating the cutting as an adult plant.

How To Care For An Established African Milk Tree

Once established Euphorbia trigona is an easy-care plant. It’s best to provide lots of sunlight and/or artificial light. If you’ve grown Euphorbia milli (Crown of Thorns) you’ll do fine.

These plants can do very well (like Euphorbia milli Crown of Thorns) as houseplants year-round in medium light settings and normal household temperatures.

By gradually transitioning the plant to more sun you can enjoy the African milk tree in the great outdoors during the spring and summer.

Transition the plant gradually, so it acclimates to more sun, air movement and temperature fluctuations. Choose a sheltered area that gets filtered sunlight or part sunlight for potted and container plants.

If you live in a semi-tropical or desert area where temperatures will unlikely to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and never freeze, plant Euphorbia trigona directly in the ground.

In this case, choose a fairly sheltered location that receives full sun or part shade.

If you need to move your Euphorbia trigona outdoors or repot as a container plant, it’s best to do so in the springtime. You can groom the parent plant and take cuttings while making the transfer. Remember to wear protective gear to prevent accidental stabbings and sap contact.

Grooming is easy with these plants. Just break or cut off stems that don’t seem to fit in. Remove any branch that protrudes and might break off accidentally as people walk past.

If accidental contact with sap does occur, be sure to wash well immediately to avoid irritation. If sap gets in eyes, it should be flushed out with running water, and a visit to the emergency room would not be overly dramatic. [source]

Water: Because these plants are succulents (not cacti) they do not tolerate complete drought. Keep the soil very lightly moist during the growing season (spring and summer).

If the top couple of inches of soil feel dry, a deep watering is in order. Just be sure the plant does not stand in water as this can lead to root rot.

Fertilizer: Provide a light feeding of balanced water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer. Reduce watering and do not fertilize at all during the cooler months (fall and winter).

How To Deal With Common Pests and Disease

African Milk Tree is relatively hardy and resistant to disease and pest, as long as it is well-cared-for. Avoid waterlogging the soil and providing the plant with good sunlight and air circulation. This will go a long way toward preventing problems. Weakened plants may be susceptible to:

Mealybugs

If you see cotton-like threads forming on the plant, wipe them off with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol. If you have a massive infestation, wipe the mealybugs off and spray the plant with a natural insecticide, such as a Neem oil spray solution.

Plant Scale

Scale insects: These tiny insects are covered by a nearly impenetrable brown shield. This makes it difficult to remove them.

Like the mealybug wipe them off firmly with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol. If this doesn’t work, scrape them off gently with a knife blade. A Neem oil solution can be used to assure they are gone and prevent their return.

Fungal Infection Cork Disease

Cork disease is a fungal infection. If you see patches of cork-like material on the stem, it is an indication of overwatering and/or soil that is too rich.

If you’ve kept cuttings and have replacement plants, you are best to dispose off of the diseased plant.

If you are dead-set on saving it, prune the plant with a very sharp, sterilized knife or shears to completely remove the damaged areas and dispose of them in the trash (not the compost heap).

Paint the cut areas with a plant fungicide. Repot the plant into a cactus soil and keep it in a consistently warm and airy location.

Reduce watering. You may not be able to save the plant, but keeping it dry, warm and well-ventilated will give it the best chance of survival.

Rot or Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium wilt and rot is another fungal infection that comes from the soil. If your plant displays soft, reddish patches around the base of the stem, suspect fusarium rot.

Most of the time, it is fatal and disposing of the plant, pot and all is the best solution. If you keep the container, be sure to sterilize it before using it again.

If you must save the plant, follow the steps outlined for cork disease. [source]

Hardy Euphorbia trigona is Virtually Problem-Free

All-in-all, caring for African Milk Plant is amazingly easy. Begin by choosing a healthy plant (or cutting) with no soft spots or signs of pests.

If you acquire a potted plant, check to be sure the root system holds the plant into the pot firmly. Make sure the plant has not been sitting in water.

If you begin with a well-cared-for plant and continue to provide it with well-draining soil that’s not too rich, lots of sunlight and an airy setting, it should grow well and provide you with lots of healthy cuttings for many years.





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10 Apr 2018

Smokey’s Garden Gift Certificate Giveaway


Daylilies are one of the most popular perennials in any flower garden, and it’s easy to see why.   They are beautiful, low maintenance and high reward.  This week (April 9 – April 11, 2018), enter to win a Smokey’s Gardens gift certificate and fill your flower garden with daylilies!  Two winners will score a $100 gift certificate and five winners will be awarded a $25 gift certificate!   Smokey’s Gardens is one of the largest daylily growers in the country and they ship nationwide! They grow over 3,000 varieties and five million plants on 70 acres in Coldwater, Michigan. A family-run company, they are dedicated to high quality, excellent customer service and great prices.

To enter, please do the following anytime from Monday April 9 through midnight Wednesday April 11:

  1. Go to the Gardening Know How Facebook page. Find the Smokey’s Gardens giveaway post pinned at the top of the page. Make a comment underneath this post with your answer to the following question: “Visit the Smokey’s Gardens website. Which Smokey’s Garden Daylily is your favorite?
  2. Share the Smokey’s Gardens giveaway Facebook post on your timeline.

The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified through Facebook. (See rules for more information.)

Receive 15% off your order at checkout with coupon code “Gardening”.  Promotion expires on 4/30/18.






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04 Apr 2018

How To Care, Grow And Use Tomatillos


The Tomatillo plant, an odd-looking distant tomato cousin and one of the essential ingredients in Mexican cuisine, especially recipes of green tomatillo salsa.

These wild growing central American natives and member of the nightshade family are commonly found in local markets. Fresh tomatillos boast a sweet citrusy flavor.

Growing tomatillos and tomatoes sound close in name and both have similar growing needs, but that is all.

Ripe tomatoes come with bright fleshy colors, the tomatillo (pronounced to-ma-TEE-yo) looks much different with a dry, papery husk surrounding the fruit. Hence the name – husk tomato.

Tomatillo Plant Quick Growing Guide:

Scientific Name: Physalis ixocarpa and Physalis philadelphica
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Origin: Mexico

Common Names: Large-flowered tomatillo, Mexican groundcherry, Mexican husk tomato, Mexican green tomato, Strawberry tomato, Tomato verde, Jamberberries, Miltomate

Uses: Slightly tart green or yellow fruits are staples in Central American and Mexican cooking. Used in green sauces, salsas, stews, and moles (mo-lehs). Very popular for use in preserves and jams. Very high pectin content that makes them perfect for this use.

Height: 2-4 feet
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-11

Flowers: Tomatillos bloom in a number of colors including Pale green, Yellow, Purple, White. Some flowers have purple splotches in the center. Anthers may range in color from pale blue to deep purple. The plants are not self-pollinating, so two plants for good blossom and fruit production.

Fruit: Each fruit is encased in a papery husk which is not edible. The maturing fruit gradually fills the husk and may split it open just before harvest time. When the fruit is ready, the husk becomes brown. Ripe fruit may be green, yellow or purple depending upon the cultivar.

Foliage: The thick, dark green leaves have irregular indentations along the margins. Some leaves are smooth, and some are slightly furred.

Tomatillo Plant Care Requirements: Tomatillo plants do well with average, well-drained soil. These hardy, tropical natives like full sun. Before planting, amend the soil with a balanced, organic fertilizer. Space plants 2-3 feet all around to provide ample room for growth and spread. Sow seeds indoors late in the spring. Set seedlings out after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. Planting two seedlings per hole ensure good pollination.

Miscellaneous: Harvest tomatillos when the husks turn tan, and the ripe fruits begin to fall. Fresh fruits can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks. To keep them longer, remove the husks and freeze them whole. Wash them well before using as the husks tend to leave a sticky residue on the fruit.

Tomatillos may not produce much fruit until late in the season. If your fruits are not yet ripe before predicted cold weather, go ahead and harvest them anyway. Green fruits have a very tart, citrus flavor which many people prefer.

Tomatillos do well when planted alongside corn and sunflower plants.

In warm climates, they maybe self-seeding. [source]

Growing Mexican Green Tomatoes

These unusual plants can grow in a separate bed, a mixed garden or as container plants. As noted, it’s important to keep at least two of them close together since they are not self-pollinating and will not produce much (if any) fruit as individual specimen plants.

In the garden or a container, you need to give Mexican husk tomato plants plenty of room. Healthy plants can have a height and spread of three or four feet. This makes a pretty display with their interesting, fruits. A husk tomato border around your garden or a patio or deck can provide privacy, interest and good eating!

In warm areas (like Mexico) these plants grow year-round with an indeterminate growth habit. In colder climates, grow tomatillos as annuals and care for in the same way you would take care of tomatoes.

In very warm climates, they are self-seeding and/or you can sow the seed directly in the ground. In cooler climates, it’s best to start seeds indoors six or eight weeks before you plan to plant them outdoors. Be sure to harden seedlings off carefully to prevent shock and plant loss.

Begin by putting the young plants in a protected, shady area. Gradually move them into areas with more sun for longer time periods. Be careful to provide them protection or bring them back indoors if frost is predicted.

Fertilizing Tomatillos

These are not really hungry plants, especially when compared with their cousins, traditional tomato plants. Till a good, balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer into the soil before planting. This should be applied evenly at a depth of four-to-six inches and a rate of one or two pounds per hundred square feet of soil.

Water Deeply Occasionally

For the best crop, it is important to provide the right amount of water and to keep weeds under control. Deep water once a week during dry weather. The plants should receive 1-1 ½ inches of water weekly applied slowly at the soil level.

Don’t allow weeds to compete with your tomatillos for sun and water. Hoe around the plants regularly and/or provide a good, thick layer of straw, leaves or dry clippings to retain moisture, control weeds and conserve the soil.

Tomatillo Plant! Grow a staple of Mexican cooking in YOUR garden!

Tomatillo Varieties And Cultivars

These plants are available in several cultivars, so it is possible to create a very interesting and tasty collection!

  • Pineapple Tomatillo produces copious amounts of round fruits that are almost an inch in diameter. The plants tend to be short and to spread. True to its name, the fruit has a distinctive pineapple flavor.
  • Zuni hails from the northern part of New Mexico. Developed by the Zuni tribe of Native Americans it produces very tasty, cherry-tomato-like fruits.
  • Purple De Milpa produces large fruit with a very strong and pleasing flavor. The purple striped husks provide visual interest in the garden.
  • Verde Puebla continuously produces sweet/tart, green fruits weighing between one and two ounces each.
  • Toma Verde produces lots of large, sweet/tart, green fruit on vines. This plant is very easy to grow.
  • Purple Tomatillo is an enthusiastic producer of small, sweet/tart, purple fruit.

Tomatillo Pests and Problems

Mexican ground cherry is subject to foliar diseases and blights if the weather is very rainy and humid. This is why it is important to give plants plenty of space for good air circulation. If plants tend to topple or lean, stake them up. Prune crowded branches to promote air movement.

Always water at ground level and avoid spraying or foliar watering. Don’t allow water to splash up from the ground onto the leaves as this can promote fungal infections and disease.

Examine your plants regularly. If you notice any signs of fungal infection developing, use a good fungicide right away to prevent spread.

These plants are not typically susceptible to insects, but they are subject to infestation by slugs and snails. Be sure to stake the plants up as needed and don’t allow the fruits to touch the ground as this will attract these pests.

Cutworms may also be problematic. These are moth caterpillars that come up onto the plants from the soil. You can prevent them by setting up physical barriers around plant stems made of sections of paper-towel rolls.

Picking these large caterpillars off by hand is also effective. If you have a heavy infestation, use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is a natural pesticide that only affects caterpillars.

Follow packaging instructions carefully, and don’t overdo it as you want to target the pest caterpillars and avoid killing butterfly caterpillars.

Harvesting and Storing Tomatillos

Growing tomatillo seeds is like growing tomato seeds. It takes between seventy-five and one hundred days from the time you plant your seedlings until your fruit is ready to pick. Watch for the husks to change colors from green to tan.

When this change happens, it is time to harvest. Of course, there is some variation in coloration depending upon the cultivar.

The best fruits are firm with tightly-fitting husks. If you prefer a tangier flavor, you may wish to pick your fruits a bit early while they are still green. If you like a sweeter, milder flavor, wait until the fruit has turned yellow or purple.

If you leave your tomatillos in the husk, you can store them in the refrigerator for as long as two weeks. If you remove the husks, they will keep in the fridge for up to three months. You can also freeze them whole or slice them and freeze them. [source]

How To Use Tomatillos

When preparing your tomatillos, be sure to remove the husk and wash the fruit completely to remove any dirt and the sticky residue left on the skin by the husk. Once the fruits are clean, prepare them for use by cutting off the stems with a sharp knife and slicing or chopping them as desired.

There are lots of wonderful Mexican recipes using tomatillos, and you can also simply add them to your usual, everyday cooking. You can eat tomatillos raw if you like. They taste tart and zesty, so they make a nice addition to a sweet fruit salad. When cooked, the flavor mellows to an herby, lemony taste.

For a simple dish, you can cut them into quarters and sauté them with onion, garlic and sea salt. They also add zip and interest to veggie dishes, soups and stews, or you can simply boil them and then puree them for use in sauces.





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29 Mar 2018
sunscapes landscaping columbus

Learn The Pros/Cons Of Planting Seeds Or Transplants In The Garden


By Bonnie Grant and Mary Ellen Ellis

The benefits of starting plants from seed are numerous, including the sense of accomplishment and joy you get from growing an entire plant from just a little seed. Starting from seed may take a little more time and effort, but is definitely worth the rewards. Winter doldrums can bring on fantasies of lush, verdant gardens and the itch to get going on the veggie patch becomes almost uncontrollable. This is where the benefits of starting seeds vs. buying plants must be considered.

Then again, there are always two sides to this debate. For example, starting with seeds is more economical but not all zones have a long growing season and many will get leggy and fail to produce if they aren’t mature enough by plant out time. Transplants are more developed, ready to go outdoors when soil warms up and can add time to a short growing season. Continue reading to learn the ups and downs to both.

 

Why Start Seeds

Mary Ellen’s viewpoint: Why start seeds instead of taking the easy road and using transplants? Planting seeds or transplants is an important decision, so we’ll make it easy for you. Let us list all the reasons you might want to consider buying seed packets instead of transplants:

Seeds cost less. If you have ever been to the nursery in the spring to get your baby vegetable plants, you know how quickly the costs can add up. Packets of seeds cost much less, but seeds can even be free if you save them from one year to the next or exchange with fellow gardeners.

Get more variety. Check out a seed catalogue and you’ll see just how many options you have for plant and vegetable varieties. Transplants are much more limited. With seeds, you can even get heirloom varieties to try.

Some vegetables don’t transplant well. With some plants, like carrots or beans, seeding right in the garden is not only the easiest option, it’s also the best way to grow them successfully. Not all plants do well when transplanted, so starting from seed makes more sense.

Seeds can be started indoors. Timing is important in gardening, and with seeds you get to choose when you start. With transplants you have to guess the last frost. With seedlings started indoors, you have more control over climate and environment, ensuring your plants grow strong and healthy.

Watch the fruits of your labor. There is something so rewarding about watching your little seeds turn into big plants growing vegetables and fruits. You just can’t get that same feeling from using transplants.

 

Why Use Transplants

Bonnie’s viewpoint: Seed is relatively inexpensive and easy to grow, so why use transplants?

Quick growth. One of the benefits of nursery grown plants is that they are garden ready more quickly, take no effort to start and mature more quickly. In the case of plants like melons, tomatoes, peppers and other long season varieties, using transplants can help ensure a bumper crop because they will fruit more quickly than seed.

Get what you need. Some other benefits of nursery grown plants are that you can get just a few of a variety that you wish and there are often very interesting hybrids available that may not be found in seed form such as heirlooms.

Less maintenance. As noted, some varieties of plants do not transplant well. Even if they do, quite a bit of babying is necessary to get them off to a good start. They must be hardened off so they can adapt to outdoor conditions such as temperature changes, soil difference, wind, and bright light.

Fewer environmental/cultural issues. Most nursery grown plants are started in a controlled environment, rather than in the home, leading to less pest and disease issues. Seedlings started at home are more prone to damping off and other fungal issues since they are in a confined medium that may retain too much moisture and where air circulation is not optimum in many cases. A huge disadvantage of seeds vs. transplants is lack of sunlight during early growth. Veggies need 8 hours of sunlight daily to fuel themselves. Indoor growing situations often lack enough light and result in leggy or scraggly plants. Using plant lights can help but creates a cumbersome, expensive growing area.

 

Do Seed Planting Downsides Win Out Over Transplants?

Gardening is one big experiment, even if you are an expert. There are so many conditions that can’t be controlled outdoors or in the home. There are few seed planting downsides, such as taking more time or having some seeds fail, but the benefits far outweigh these and, best of all, you’ll get the reward of watching your plants grow from little seeds.

Using transplants that are professionally grown can increase your chances of success. But you don’t have to buy your transplants if you don’t wish. Starting seeds vs. buying plants can be more cost effective. You can save your own seed or start your own indoor transplants with purchased seed. Again, varieties that need a long season to fruit are ideal as self-started transplants.

One way to decide if seeding or transplanting is right for you and your zone is to do both and chart their rates of growth. Different plants will react differently to each method and this should be noted, so the next year you can do things in the most successful manner.



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29 Mar 2018

Dracaena Janet Craig


Summary: Dracaena Janet Craig is an interior workhorse, popular for decades, used frequently as a floor plant in interior situations or mass planted in beds. Survive low light levels, grows best in filtered light.

Janet Craig has been an interior workhouse and one of the most popular plants used indoors for decades.

dracaena-janet-craig-033114

Although this Dracaena can reach heights of 15 feet in its native Africa, plants grown for indoor use are much smaller in size.

Usually propagated as tip cuttings, 3 to 4 stalks or tips per pot. Janet Craig plant has shiny, solid, wide, dark green leaves, with wavy margins, measuring 3 inches wide and approximately 2 feet long.

Their long, tapered leaves, pleated like foliage, and rich green colors help make them attractive plants for interiors. Used frequently as floor plants in interior situations or for mass planting in beds.

dracaena-janet-craig-tips-cal

Most plants grown for interior use are 10 inch pots with 3 plants per pot, ranging in height of 24-32 inches. Some 14 inch pots are grown as well with 4 plants per pot and reach a height of 30-42 inches.

When purchasing a bush form of “Janet Craig” Dracaena look for a plant whose width is 50-75% the plants height.

Over the last few years we have seen the introduction of Janet Craig cane-type plants enter the market from some Hawaiian growers. We see some taller plant sizes produced reaching heights of 6 – 8 feet in very small pots compared to their height.

It should be noted, the correct botanical name for “Dracaena Janet Craig” is Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig” and known throughout the plant industry simply as “Janet Craig”.

The history or “beginnings” of Janet Craig goes back to the 1930’s or so. “Janet Craig” is actually a ‘sport’ or a variant of Dracaena Warneckii and was named after the daughter of nurseryman Robert Craig, who lived in the Philadelphia area.

Light Requirements Indoors

As understory plants, Janet Craig Dracaena is an excellent low-light interior plant. Add her ability handling low humidity, air conditioning, plus infrequent care – you have the making of a very durable indoor plant. It survives low light levels, but grows best however in filtered sunlight.

Janet Craig Hates Heat – Temperatures

dracaena-janet-craig-cane

Dracaena deremensis cultivars do not like heat. This is very important to remember especially during summer months when plants have a tendency to discolor.

Recommended maximum temperature is 90 degrees. As temperatures increase above 95 degrees, problems with leaf discoloring and leaf notching may develop.

In the nursery Janet Craig grown in deep shade, not because the plants want low light. Growers shade Janet Craig more for temperature control than reducing actual light levels.

Below 70 degrees, Janet Craig shows little growth. Cold damage will occur around 35 degrees or if plants are exposed to 55 degrees or lower for a week.

Watering Requirements

Janet Craig needs a well drained potting medium. A mixture of peat and pine bark with perhaps 10% sand – stay away from perlite on Dracaenas because of fluoride problems. Fluoride is great for teeth but not for Dracaenas.

It is best to avoid wet or dry extremes. You will do much better keeping Janet Craig on the dry side. Janet Craig is an excellent candidate for sub-irrigation.

Allow the soil to dry between 1/3 to 1/2 down before watering. Do not let your plant sit in water.

Water thoroughly and remove the excess water from the saucer or bottom of the decorative container. If not excessively fertilized, the plant will tolerate considerable dryness.

While talking about watering, let’s look at the roots.

Janet Craig and Dracaena Warneckii have almost two root systems. The main root and the finer secondary roots.

If you want to maintain a good strong plant make sure the fine secondary roots are healthy. If the secondary roots experience problems, the plant quality will go down hill quickly.

Pruning and Grooming Janet Craig

The leaves over time will collect dust, using a feather duster regularly will help keep foliage clean. Trim brown tips and edge of leaves to a natural contour with scissors.

Fertilizing

Most Dracaenas grown commercially are fluoride sensitive, Janet Craig is are no exception.

The use of fertilizers indoors generally increase the possibility of damage from salts. Fertilizers leave salts behind in the soil.

Roots pick up the salts moving them to the leaves. These “salts” accumulate in the leaf tips, and over time the salt levels become too high, burning the leaf tissues and leaf tips turn brown.

Growers use special fertilizers to grow Dracaenas. I would recommend you DO NOT fertilize your Dracaenas unless you use the correct fertilizer and understand the plant completely.

Pests – Mealybugs, Spider Mites, Thrips

dracaena-janet-craig-mealy-bug-809

Janet Craig has relatively few insect pests. Scales, and mealybugs are occasional problems. Mealybugs are identified by their white, cottony masses, which may move slowly.

If you’re having trouble with insects or pests on Dracaenas and other house plants spend some time to learn some check out there pest control basics.

Varieties and Sports

There are several “new” varieties of Janet Craig which have been introduced over the past few years. Primarily these have come from the Hawaiian growers who discovered these new “sports” in the production process.

dracaena-lisa-cane-809

Dracaena Lisa

Also an excellent low-light plant, Dracaena Lisa at first look, appears like Janet Craig. After a closer look, you will see, the leaves of Dracaena Lisa are much narrower.

The lush dark green foliage of Dracaena Lisa are attached to its notable green trunk, which also distinguishes it from Janet Craig.

Lisa is an upright columnar plant usually reaches a height of not more than 8ft high. It has been grown exclusively in Hawaii and supply can be very limited.

The green trunks of Dracaena Lisa and the upright growth of the plant made them perfect cane plants.

“Exotic” Dracaena Lisa canes make a nice focal point in easily seen areas at home. A combination of Dracaena Lisa in staggered canes or various heights make them very attractive even in narrow spots in offices or buildings.

Dracaena Michiko

dracaena-michiko-hawaii

Dracaena michiko is one of the world’s most sought-after dracaena hybrids. This fabulous plant is imported from Hawaii and commonly known as Michiko cane because of its cane-like structure caused by its upright growth habit.

The leaves of this plant are held tighter to its trunks. This makes the plant a perfect plant to be put in narrow or tight areas or rooms with limited available space.

Dracaena Michiko plants grown in Hawaii seem to have greater life expectancy because of their extensive, well-developed root system. The large size, full-grown look in smaller pot sizes mean lower expenses spent on pots or decorative containers.

Michiko’s tall and upright or columnar growth make them excellent choices for areas with limited space. Expect to pay more for Hawaiian-grown Dracaena Michiko.

Janet Craig ‘Compacta’

dracaena-janet-craig-compacta-809
Janet Craig ‘Compacta’ is a very small bird nest-like plant about one foot tall with small leaves.

Compacta is similar to Janet Craig but much smaller. This variety is slow growing and very durable. It has been around for about 25 years. We see it grown more as a low table top plant in 6-inch pots and also in multiples of three’s in larger pots.





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29 Mar 2018

How To Grow Succulent Plants Outdoors In The Garden


Dramatic, bizarre garden succulents lend themselves perfectly to the enhancing of contemporary architecture. Once banished to the rock garden, these plants are becoming more and more popular in and around modern homes.

As houseplants (jade plant for example) they almost take care of themselves, as ground covers they are the lazy gardener’s pride, and as specimens for accenting and emphasizing the landscape, they have no equal.

colorful succulent containers

Assorted colorful succulents in containers

Using Succulents outdoors in flower borders, give a succession of bloom and provide a constant source of interest and pleasure. Some particularly unusual ones like the “Desert Rose” Adenium obesum are prized as oddities and many succulent collections rival those of the Orchids in beauty.

Certainly, in this wide world, no other plants have such weird forms, such beautiful flowers, or are so curiously adapted to a hostile environment.

Succulent Care In Containers and The Landscape

Succulents can be grown successfully outdoors, in containers or in the landscape itself, by adhering to a few simple rules. The essential water, light and fertilizing requirements of these plants are discussed below, as well as the proper Winter care in colder areas.

How To Water Succulents

When choosing a site for growing Succulents, select a sloping area with a well-drained soil. Cactus and succulent soil should be light and clay soil that compacts should be conditioned by adding loads of sand or by working in an abundance of sponge rock or coarse gravel. A top dressing of fine rock, such as gravel or marble chips, helps keep the surface dry and prevents rot.

In periods of extreme drought, outdoor-growing Succulents will need a supply of water – one good drenching being better than several light sprinklings.

However, if they are growing as a potted plant, they usually require more frequent watering because of their restricted root system and the fact that the potting soil in containers dries out much quicker.

When Succulents are actively growing in the Spring and Summer, they need the most water, with much less water required as the cool Fall weather approaches. In Winter, the plants should be watered enough to keep them from shriveling.

Although watering too much or too little can both be harmful (both extremes may lead to the death of the plant), it is best to err on the side of too little water rather than too much water. Therefore, if you are in doubt, do not water.

How Much Light Do Succulents Need?

As a rule most Cacti and other Succulents require a sunny location, but Epiphyllums and Sempervivums demand part shade. Most also need to be screened from the cold wind. Usually, a Southern exposure against the house or a fence is ideal.

Because of their limited root system, some plants grown in pots cannot withstand the direct rays of the sun without protection. Also, less hardy Succulents that have overwintered indoors are often in a tender condition and damage easily by the full sun.

On the other hand, desert Cacti, usually covered with long spines, (e.g., Prickly Pear), are better able to resist strong sun, even though they have spent the Winter indoors.

When these “limited sun” plants are over-exposed, they may develop sunburn (a yellow or white spotting). This condition, in which the affected area appears to be scalded or scorched, always occurs on the upper or South side of the plant.

How Much Succulent Fertilizer Do They Need?

Desert soils are usually quite rich. This is shown by the fact that, when they are reclaimed, usually only water is needed to make them productive.

Since desert soil (the native soil of Succulents) often contains a considerable amount of coarse and porous organic matter, you should incorporate some such matter when preparing your Cactus or Succulent bed.

The best fertilizer for Succulents is cottonseed meal or hoof and horn meal. Do not use high nitrogen fertilizers when growing Succulents. Nitrogen forces growth and induces over-development of soft tissues, which is disastrous.

In the days when manure, guano and other fertilizers were available in large quantities, it was strongly advised not to apply these to Succulents. Similarly, most soluble plant fertilizers that garden plants desire contain too much nitrogen for Succulents.

bright flowers of the Desert Rose - Adenium obesum

Colorful flowers of the Desert Rose – Adenium obesum

How To Care For Succulents In Winter

Any Succulent may be grown in any part of the country when grown in a pot and moved indoors when Winter arrives. Cacti and other Succulents, as a general rule, do very well in containers because they have a limited root system.

Growing Succulents outdoors in the cold climates is also possible, however, and, if certain precautions are taken, many kinds can live in the ground permanently.

These precautions extend not only to the cold itself, but to other factors encountered in Eastern or Midwestern gardens, e.g., standing for long periods in wet soil. These other factors are often the real cause of the plant’s death for which freezing is erroneously blamed.

Some hardy Succulents capable of withstanding temperatures of zero, and slightly below, are Prickly Pear, the Sedums, and the Sempervivums.

Unless a Succulent is one of these hardy types, however, it should be taken indoors when the temperature gets much below 32°. Some of these tender Succulents which need indoor overwintering are Echeveria, Epiphyllum, and Kalanchoe.

The first, and most important rule, in raising Succulents is to initially grow the Succulents in a sloping area with good drainage, as previously discussed.

Secondly, Succulents should be “hardened” in the Fall by reduced watering. In their native habitat, many Succulents are covered by Winter snow without damage because they become so hardened in the long, dry, resting period that precedes Winter.

Fluctuating temperatures are harmful because the warm weather may start growth processes and the tender tissues formed in growth may be damaged severely by the subsequent cold.

Protect outdoor Succulents from a hard freeze by covering them with paper sacks large enough to go over the plant without touching it. Since the air space provides the insulation, several layers of newspaper or straw wrapped around the larger plants will also prevent damage.

There was a time that large outdoor plantings were kept frost-free with orchard burners which heated and circulated the air over the entire area; similar effects are achieved with giant fans.

When overwintering tender Succulents (or hardy Succulents if the temperature falls much below zero), it is best to place them in a dry, well-lighted room such as a heated sun porch. The temperature should be kept around 40° to 50°.

How To Propagate Succulents

Perhaps the greatest joy in growing Succulents comes from the ease with which these plants are propagated. You can easily root your own cuttings and use the excess plants as trading material, hereby increasing your collection.

You can also share your enthusiasm for a rare species by giving your friends cuttings for them to root. Buying specimens from a reputable garden dealer is another way to assure yourself of a fine and varied collection.

sedum plants with babies or offsets ready for propagation!

Most Succulents regenerate new plants with no assistance from their owner. A collector of Bryophyllum, for instance, is very soon overwhelmed with new plants.

Succulent plantlets are produced on the margins of the leaves while still attached and growing on the mother plant, and take root and grow when they drop to the moist soil.

Falling Succulent leaves will similarly take root and grow whether they are planted or not, providing the soil is moist.

When the stems or leaves are cut up into pieces, the cuttings should not be planted immediately. Keep them in the shade in a dry place until the wound is healed and the roots have formed.

Plants other than the Succulents would soon wilt and die, but Succulents will rot if the uncured cut comes in contact with soil. Sometimes the stems will shrivel slightly, but this does no harm.

After 1 to 3 weeks the cuttings may be planted in dry sand in the shade. Take care not to bury them and water them sparingly.

Certain milky-juiced plants that do not root readily may be tied to a stake and suspended with the stem end not quite touching the sand to prevent rotting.

After the plants have become established, transplant them to a sunny area- except for those shade-loving varieties previously noted.

Plants that produce offsets are, of course, most readily divided and there are many of these among the Succulents.

Small plantlets are formed around the base of the mother plant and can be separated and rooted easily if they have not already developed a separate root system.

Propagation of Succulents from seed is much slower and somewhat more difficult since Succulent seeds, for the most part, behave just like seeds of other plants which must have moisture for germination.

Young Succulent seed plants must be protected from the sun and given some nourishment. Generally speaking, a good porous planter mix, thoroughly moistened, is the best medium for successful germination.

Using Succulents As Ground Covers

One of the most popular uses of Succulents in the landscape is for ground covers. They are especially valuable on fills and cuts where they prevent erosion in addition to the beautifying.

Finer-leaved Succulent species are used more commonly as ground covers for home yards and gardens while the coarse Mesembryanthemum, Carpobrotus chilensis, is favored for highway landscaping. (Species of trailing Mesembryanthemum, popularly called Ice Plant, add orange, yellow, white, red, rose, copper, pink, purple and lavender color to the landscape adjoining hundreds of miles of Southern California freeways.)

The best of the hardy ground cover Succulents are found in the Crassulaceae group, of which the best known are the Sedums and Sempervivums. Many species of the former are popularly used in front lawns in the East and Midwest.

Sedum acre, generally known as Wall Pepper, with small green leaves and yellow flowers on creeping branches, is the most common.

Many other kinds of Sedum – all low-trailing species – are used, including Sedum americanum, Sedum confusum, Sedum spathulifolium and Sedum spurium.

Some are gray, some have a reddish tinge and all will grow in poor soil with but little water. They should not be planted in large areas, however, but are ideal for pattern planting.

Echeverias, such as Echeveria glauca and Echeveria imbricata, excel for use as Summer bedding plants and are used in parks all over the world. Echeveria glauca is widely known as Hens and Chicks because of the circle of rosettes formed around the mother plant.

red ting on leaves of the ice plant

Ice Plants are great favorites for the succulent garden in the mild Winter areas where their inability to withstand severe cold is unimportant.

These plants are drought-resistant (eliminating the need for continual watering), require little or no fertilization or other care, and can grow in soils where few other plants will survive.

Their ease of propagation makes Ice Plants especially useful for covering large areas. Ice Plants should not be used in heavily-traveled areas because they cannot withstand foot traffic.

Using Succulents In Wall Gardens

As more and more of the hillsides come into use as building sites, many people are finding dry walls an inexpensive way of retaining steep banks.

Because water is the principal problem encountered in taming a steep slope, the retaining wall is best thought of as a dam that may be required to hold water at pressures corresponding to its height.

If you wouldn’t attempt to build an 8-foot dam, don’t plan a similar retaining wall without professional help.

The best structure to control a steep slope is not a retaining wall, but a wall with open joints.

Such a structure prevents water pressures from building up, rather than attempting to direct or control the water, and may be built without the aid of an expert.

Rough stone, boulders, a lattice of concrete or wooden ties, all with earthen joints which can be planted, are ideal solutions. Concrete or cinder block placed edgewise on the slope with open end outward may also be used.

A dry wall can be built merely by laying rows of rocks against the exposed grade. Sometimes, in very cold areas, footings below the frost line are necessary, but generally, the wall may be built from the ground level up.

The first layer should be composed of the largest rocks, selected to fit closely together and with their broadest side down. Good garden soil should then be tamped around the rock and the desired Succulent species planted.

The best plants for the cold areas are the Sedums and Sempervivums, whereas any Succulents that form rosettes, such as Crassulas and Echeverias, are suitable for frost-free regions. Sempervivums will grow and bloom in a minimum of soil and thus can be easily established in a rock wall.

burros tail, pencil cactus and other succulents

Burros tail, pencil cactus and other succulents in a vertical succulent wall planter

Since a slight depression containing the merest speck of soil is all that is needed, any crack or crevice can have a jewel-like Sempervivum for decoration.

Many modern gardeners use trailing varieties of Succulents as a drape over the edge of a raised flower bed or garden wall. This is another example of the versatility which has led to the resurgence of Succulents’ popularity.

Succulents In Rock Gardens

The most natural way to use Succulents in the garden is in combination with rocks. Plants love to snuggle against rocks or grow out of fissures and in crevices where moisture and warmth are available.

The modern concept of a rock garden has taken it out of the back corner of the garden into wide use in the front of the house. Another innovation is the use of wide expanses of colored gravel to accentuate artistic rock and plant groupings.

Unless you have a natural South-facing slope in your garden, the best device is a mound. Over a central core of gravel or coarse material (used to provide drainage), a layer of garden soil is laid.

Generally, the mound should not be set in the center of a lawn, but towards the margin of the property or near the house where it will fit into the scenery. It may be varied in size and shape to suit your purposes, although a free-form mound is a more graceful than a simple oval, round or more formal pattern.

It is essential that the rock garden be open to the full sun and have good drainage. A rough outline of the bed should be first made at the chosen site, using a hose to form the shape.

rock garden of succulents

The width should be limited to provide easy access, but the length is without limits. If you can get at the bed to weed it from 2 sides, it may be as much as 6 feet wide.

The rocks, which must be chosen with care and positioned naturally, should be relatively large, rough-textured and of a neutral color. Wide variation in color and kind should especially be avoided.

After the rocks are selected, plants should be chosen with equal care, but here variety is desirable. Plants should be grouped according to size, habit, and color and never crowded or placed in a regular pattern.

Those particular varieties requiring shade should be planted on the North side of the tall rocks.

Hanging Baskets And Dish Gardens

Succulent Hanging Baskets

Plants in hanging baskets solve the problem of eye-level and overhead decoration when ground space is limited. Their use, however, is limited to places where dripping baskets will not harm furnishings or flooring. Therefore, roofed patios, vine-covered arbors and tree areas are good locations for hanging baskets.

succulent hanging basket

Wire and redwood lattice baskets are the most popular containers for hanging gardens. Wire containers are lined with green moss (to preserve the needed moisture) and filled with a good commercial planter mix, e.g., peat moss, leaf mold, sponge rock, shredded tree bark, and charcoal. Green moss or tarpaper makes good lining for redwood lattice baskets.

Because daily watering is required for ordinary plants, several varieties of Succulents such as Sedum, Epiphyllum, Ceropegia, Trailing Crassulas and Ice Plants are popular for hanging baskets, since they need only infrequent watering.

Many other species of Succulents which can be displayed best in hanging baskets have been so grown for several generations. A few well-grown specimens make particularly elegant fixtures on the porch or patio.

Succulent Dish Gardens

Attractive collections of Succulent arrangements may be planted in a large dish with many small stones to simulate a desert or wasteland. The soil of the dish should consist of sand or a sand and planter mix (half and half). Unlike most Succulents grown outdoors, Succulents in dish gardens must be watered and fertilized regularly.

Select for your dish garden (especially for use indoors) those Succulent varieties that retain a miniature size for a long period.

While many different kinds of Cacti and Succulents may be used in a single dish garden, larger Succulent containers for patio display should be limited to a single specimen or, at the most, to 2 or 3 plants. Remember, when plants are mixed, care must be taken that they all have approximately the same water and exposure requirements.

Succulents For Landscape Accent

Cacti and other Succulents serve admirably for accent plants in the modern landscape. For the traditional house, whose facade consists of a balanced arrangement of doors and windows, a balanced foundation planting with soft lines serves best.

But for the strictly contemporary house where horizontal and vertical lines predominate, the planting should repeat and accentuate these lines, rather than soften or blur them.

An excellent planting for the contemporary home is a pair of good specimen plants at the front entrance to attract and direct attention to this architectural feature. Yuccas are ideal for this purpose because they form a sunburst pattern that says “stop” as no other plant can.

They draw attention like an exclamation point to any strategic feature, and are especially fascinating when illuminated at night. Mostly desert plants, Yuccas require almost no care, except for the periodic removal of dead leaves, and withstand lots of heat, alkaline soil and low humidity.

Other dramatic specimens are the Agaves which also form giant rosettes, many with spiny leaves. One with smooth leaves, Agave attenuata, has found wide use in the landscape. The Winter-blooming Aloes, with their soft but pointed Succulent leaves arranged in rosettes, resemble the native Agaves, even though they originally came from Africa.

A plant that forms a living sculpture is the Elkhorn Euphorbia, Euphorbia lactea cristata. It is not difficult to grow but must have full sunlight and protection from frost. Great care should be used in handling Euphorbias because they “bleed” (exude milky juice) when damaged, which disfigures the plant.

Many Cacti especially make dramatic specimens because of their great diversity of form and growth. Most ornamental types are tender but, as previously discussed, some species can withstand periods of freezing weather. Prickly Pears are the hardiest species, the most common of which, Opuntia compressa, is found from the East Coast to the West Coast.

One interesting way to create a landscape accent using succulents is by taking an old outdoor water fountain and convert it into a Succulent planter.

source: pinterest

Succulent Pests And Diseases

There are several pests and diseases that attack Cacti and other Succulents, but all are easily controlled. The best way, of course, is to prevent their occurrence.

The easiest way to get an infestation is the indiscriminate collection of specimens from sources that are careless with their pest and disease control. Therefore, much grief can be eliminated by obtaining only clean, healthy, vigorous plants. The sometimes higher prices of reputable dealers (often justified by the costlier methods of raising disease-free plants) are more than offset by the savings in pest and disease remedies.

If you space your plants carefully so that they are not in contact with each other, any trouble that appears can usually be limited to a single specimen. Providing adequate light and air circulation will also help to keep disease and insect troubles at a minimum.

Remember that most diseases affect plants that are suffering from neglect and mistreatment or poor growing conditions, and that it is far easier to keep them healthy with sound care than it is to cure them once they have become infested.

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Insect Pests

Although ants cause no direct damage to plants, ant control is one of the most important operations in any garden, since ants carry many insects from one plant to another, gradually infesting every plant.

These insects are also nursed and guarded by the ants which, in turn, live off the sweet secretion that such insects, e.g., aphids, scale insects and mealybugs, produce. Since beneficial insects are more effective in controlling harmful insects than any spray program, this protection of harmful insects may cause serious damage.

Fortunately, ants are easily disposed of with diatomaceous earth which kills ants. Dusting the soil around plants with DE provides an effective barrier, and when the ants track through the treated soil they also carry enough back to the nests to destroy the entire population. One treatment will remain effective for 3 weeks or more.

Aphids or plant lice are the most common insects in the garden. These small, soft-bodied insects damage the plant by inserting their sharp beaks and sucking out the living juices. As a result of this feeding, plants become discolored (often yellow spotted) and distorted.

These pests, however, can easily be controlled naturally with a neem oil spray or with malathion or pyrethrins sprays.

More difficult to kill, and almost as common, are the mealybugs, which are covered with a wax-like powder. This powder prevents sprays and dusts from coming in contact with these juice-sucking insects.

Before an infestation becomes overwhelming, it may be possible to remove individual mealybugs by hand or with a camels-hair artist’s brush dipped in alcohol. A neem oil solution applied with a toothbrush is also effective.

When large plants are heavily infested with mealybugs, it is necessary to wash the plant with a forcible spray from the hose and then spray with a neem oil insecticide or malathion.

If mealybugs invade the soil and feed on the roots (as sometimes happens), such an infestation may be impossible to control without using drastic measures.

In such cases, drench the soil heavily with a neem or malathion solution repeatedly. If this fails, you may have to take up the plants, replace the soil and replant them in the clean soil.

Plant scale is another sucking insect that is difficult to control, since it is covered with a shell that is impervious to insecticides. Light infestations should be scrubbed with a toothbrush, but heavier infestations require repeated spraying with neem, or malathion and oil.

Oil fills the breathing pores of the insects and causes them to suffocate, but they still
remain attached, making it impossible to tell the dead insects from those that have escaped.

However, oils are dangerous to use on Succulents and often cause damage (especially if the weather is warm) because they may clog the pores of the plant.

Other Pests

Spider mites may attack plants that are kept indoors. They appear as minute specks and often have a cobwebby, dusty appearance. Spraying with neem or malathion will control them.

Microscopic eelworms may attack the roots of Succulents and cause galls (overgrowths) to form. This root knot nematode also causes the plants to become dwarfed and discolored. When such infestation occurs, the soil should be replaced or sterilized.

Slugs and snails damage Succulents by eating holes in the fleshy leaves. They can be killed by the use of baits which contain metaldehyde. We also like diatomaceous earth for slug and snail control. To help prevent recurrence, the weeds and debris under which they hide should be removed from the garden.

Fungi and bacteria cause Succulents to rot. They enter through small cuts and bruises and spread throughout the plant, causing a shriveling dry rot or a soft mushy, wet rot. Both are induced by over-watering and poor drainage.

The soft or shriveled area should be cut out with a sharp knife and the wound dusted immediately with sulphur. It will then form a callus if kept in a cool dry place.

Frosted plants also become soft and mushy. If the frozen areas are cut away, good care may start the plant growing again.





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