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08 Jul 2019

7 Tips For Keeping Your Garden Pond Healthy


A pond in the backyard can make for hours of fun for kids and adults alike. Like all water elements, ponds are relaxing and lovely,reflecting sky and nearby plants. They can also attract frogs and beneficial insects, like dragonflies, that lay their eggs in water. Maintaining a healthy pond isn’t as complex as it may sound.Here are seven simple tips to get you started.

1. Create a happy mess. If you want crystal clear water and manicured plantings, a pond is probably not the way to go. Backyard wildlife ponds should be messy, with an imprecise combination of mud, twigs and leaves to house wildlife. Don’t over-manage if you want to encourage a healthy habitat.

2. Build in shade. Sun is fine and helps aquatic plants with photosynthesis. But don’t put your pond in full sun. It doesn’t matter how many hidey-holes you include for reptiles and animals, plants bear the full brunt of the rays. A mix of shade and sun works best to keep plants growing without excessive organic buildup.

3. Plant politics. Mix your plants and aim for diversity. You’ll want some that float, some that grow up and out of the water,and some that stay submerged. Don’t forget to include plants around the pond edges as well. This provides many habitats for different critters. Look out for and avoid non-native aquatics that can become invasive and block out the others.

4. Deeper isn’t always better. Use the same principal of diversity for the depth of your pond. Mix shallow areas and deep water to give aquatic plants and animals different types of habitat. For small ponds, 12 inches (30 cm.) is deep enough to allow wild things to thrive.

5. No tap water. Don’t fill your pond with tapwater unless you are looking to attract algae, which nobody is. Water from the sink or hose usually contains more nitrates than are good for a pond and turn it dirty green from algae levels. Rain water works best, so wait for it or store it up.

6. Remember runoff. If you use toxins on soil near your pond, they may end up in the pond as water drains. This includes pesticides, fertilizers and any other chemicals. Likewise, sprays drift. Any and all of these can negatively impact your plants and animals.

7. To fish or not to fish. Fish are fun in a pond, and kids love to watch them. But fish don’t always work well with other wildlife like frogs, salamanders and newts. Inviting fish into the space will limit other animals.

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23 Jun 2019

Growing & Care Of Hollyhock Flowers (Alcea Rosea)


Alcea Rosea [al-KEE-uh, ROH-see-uh] the hollyhock plant is a genus of about 60 species of flowering plants in the Mallow (Malvaceae) family originating from southwestern China and exported to Europe in the 15th century.

When it became popular in Europe, William Turner, a renowned herbalist of the time, named the plant.

The Hollyhock plant fits the definition of old-fashioned garden plants.

They’re closely related to okra, cotton, and hibiscus.

The plant comes in a wide variety of colors: red, white, blue, pink, yellow, purple, and even black.


Common Hollyhock Plant Care

Size and Growth

Common Hollyhock grows tall with an average height of 6′ – 8′ feet tall.

It spreads around 1′ – 2′ feet, allow ample room for it to grow properly in your garden.

The hairy leaves of the Hollyhock are borne in clumps reaching 6″ – 8” inches across.

Blooms start at the base of the stem and continue to move upward 1′ – 2′ feet.

This ensures the entire stem is covered in bloom when the growing season starts.

Hollyhock flowers grow 2″ – 4″ inches in width.

Flowering and Fragrance

The Alcea rosea has a two-year life cycle, known as biennial plants.

Many of the available hollyhock varieties are biennials.

Depending on the soil and care, it will be annual or a short-lived perennial.

The first year is spent growing foliage and storing energy.

The second year or last year flowers bloom in late summer, seeds form, and flower stalks shoot up.

This species is a hermaphrodite (having both female and male organs).

It can have spires of single flowers and double flowers.

They have numerous stamens, and the stalks grow together.

The large, showy blooms attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

They have no particular scent.

Light and Temperature

Hollyhock plants need full sun and cannot grow in the shade.

A warm sunny location sheltered from the wind is ideal.

The plant is tolerant of the cold, but their flowers can become damaged by frost.

Seeds of the Hollyhock plant need to be sown from March-June in well-drained soil.

They should plant in large plug cells, and a pH level of 5.8-6.0 should be maintained.

For optimum germination, you need 55° – 60° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C – 16° C).

Germination can take place in up to 8 – 10 days.

After this occurs, you need a day temperature of about 65° – 70° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C – 21° C) while the night temperature should be 55° – 60° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C – 16° C).

Watering and Feeding

Alceas Roseas are heavy feeders and need high maintenance.

You will need to apply potassium nitrate and calcium at a rate of 75-100 ppm constant feed.

Don’t allow the soil to dry out since Hollyhocks need the ground to be evenly moist.

Soil and Transplanting

Hollyhocks are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 6.

They’re temperamental plants so transplanting is often discouraged.

They have large tap roots making them a challenge to dig up.

However, you may be able to do it successfully if you are careful enough.

Hollyhock seeds shouldn’t be moved until they have at least 4 leaves and the day temperature is more than 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).

The soil where you plant Hollyhocks should be mixed with clay, sand, and plenty of compost.

Remove the seedling from its pot gently and crumble the soil from the root ball.

If it was growing in the ground, use a trowel to dig it out gently.

Plant Hollyhock seeds in a hole prepared with composted soil and slide the roots of the seedling into it.

Press the soil down with your hands but don’t cover the crown where the stem meets the roots.

If you do, the plant will rot.

Hollyhocks will readily self-seed new plants if not maintained.

While planting Hollyhock locate them where this won’t be a nuisance.

Growing Hollyhocks Grooming and Maintenance

The foliage of the plant needs to be kept trimmed and free from insects.

Remove any yellow leaves by hand.

High fertilizer levels also need to be maintained to prevent yellowing of lower leaves.

Do not use ammonium nitrate, it will produce cabbage-like leaves.

If proper maintenance isn’t conducted, the foliage becomes unkempt and tattered.


How to Propagate Alcea Rosea

Hollyhocks propagate by seed and by division.

Sow seeds outdoors about a week before the last frost.

For same year growth, sow throughout the growing season until 2 months before the first expected fall frost.

In non-blooming seasons, loosen the ground around full-grown plants and pull out the stalks.

Retain their long roots and place them in water.

Grow new plants in early spring, they need 4 months to mature, this is key to their summer colors.

If you missed this year’s spring it may be worth waiting until next spring.


Pests and Diseases of Hollyhocks

Anthracnose can damage the foliage, leaf spot, and rust.

Hollyhock rust is treated with proper ventilation and fungicide.

Prevent rust by watering from below, providing good air circulation and giving a thorough late fall cleanup.

Japanese beetles and spider mites feast on the leaves.

If unprotected from the wind, it needs staking.

Snails and slugs feed on seedlings.


Suggested Alcea Rosea Uses

Common Hollyhocks provide great architectural height which looks great against old cottage gardens.

They grow well against fences and walls.

In herbal medicine, the Alcea Rosea is used as a laxative and emollient.

It’s often used to control inflammation and bedwetting.

Some cultures use it as a mouthwash to prevent bleeding gums.

The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

They have a mild flavor and textured leaves are desirable.

Chop them up and throw them in your salad.

The root has a nutritious starch which is good for your health.

The petals are often used to make a refreshing tea or extract oil.





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08 Jun 2019

Top 5 Composting Problems and How to Fix Them


Composting is a thing of beauty, unless it’s not. Many folks run into problems when composting. It’s okay, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the top 5 composting problems people come across and how to fix them.

1. Compost isn’t getting hot. Probably the number one problem with composting is that the pile doesn’t heat up, thus it’s doing a whole lot of nothing. There are several reasons for compost not heating up. First off, the pile might be too small. Secondly, the pile may not contain enough moisture. Turn the pile while adding water. Allow it to sit for a few hours and then check it. If need be, add more water until a handful when squeezed contains beads of water. Turning the pile is necessary to help it decompose as is enough nitrogen in the form of grass clippings or food waste. On the other hand, compost that gets too hot can be problematic too.

2. Compost smells bad. Another issue with composting is that the pile smells, which is never pleasant. The nasty odor rotten eggs may be the result of lack of air due to compacting or excess moisture. Turn the pile to add air and dry out. Also, add wood chips or some other carbon bulk to increase air space. If the pile smells more like ammonia, there is probably too much nitrogen in it. The solution is to add carbon material such as leaves or straw.

3. Compost takes too long to decompose. Let’s face it, we’re not always patient and composting takes time. That said, the process will take much less time if proper maintenance is achieved – this includes managing factors such as proper carbon to nitrogen ratio (browns and greens), surface area, aeration, moisture and temperature. Keeping compost ingredients smaller can help with quicker decomposition too.

4. Compost has bugs. Another complaint is that the pile is attracting bugs, typically flies. Well, assuming you are composting in the great outdoors, for the most part this is normal. To minimize the insect issue, turn the pile from the outside toward the inside so it heats up and keep the pile just moist enough so that beads of water can be seen when you do the squeeze test.

5. Compost attracts animals. Lastly, when rats and other animals are interested in the pile, this can become a problem. This means that you have food sources to close to the surface of the pile. Things like food waste should be buried between several inches of carbon material. Also, don’t add waste such as oil, fat, dairy, bones or meat to the pile. The aroma sends a clear signal to wildlife that dinner is served.



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24 May 2019

Tips For Growing The Peruvian Old Man Cactus


Espostoa lanata [es-POS-toh-uh la-NA-tuh] is a columnar type cactus belonging to the genus Espostoa and the family Cactaceae.

The genus name honors Peruvian botanist Nicolas E. Esposto. The specific epithet, lanata, means woolly.

This cactus hails from Peru and Ecuador and is also known as:

  • Peruvian Old Man Cactus
  • Cotton Ball Cactus
  • Snowball Old Man
  • Woolish Espostoa
  • Snowball Cactus

Peruvian Old Man Cactus is quite similar to another columnar cactus known as the Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis), and care instructions for these two types of cactus are interchangeable.

The main difference between these two cacti is that Peruvian Old Man has spiny thorns and the Old Man of Mexico does not.

Espostoa – garden plants


Espostoa Lanata Care

Size & Growth

When young, this cactus grows very rapidly. When it reaches two years of age, growth slows quite a bit.

While it is still young, Woolish Espostoa grows as a strictly columnar plant. As it matures, it may begin to branch out.

Outdoors, Peruvian Old Man Cactus grows to be about 8” inches in diameter and as high as 23’ feet tall.

If kept indoors, growth will naturally be somewhat controlled.

Even so, if you get one of these cacti to keep as a houseplant you may want to have a backup plan in place in case it outgrows your setting.

Flowering & Fragrance

Mature plants (at least two years old) produce nocturnal flowers in shades of white, lavender and purple in the late spring and early summer.

The flowers are large and showy and can be a couple of inches across.

When the plant becomes very mature, it may stop producing flowers if kept indoors.

Outdoor plants will continue to grow vigorously and bloom even in maturity.

Foliage

Peruvian old man cactus is covered by a thick, woolly coat of white hair.

This outer covering is so soft that people in Peru have actually used it as a filling for pillows.

Underneath its soft, fluffy coat, this cactus has between 18 and 25 ribs, each bearing sharp thorns.

Light & Temperature

Lighting should be bright in the wintertime and quite sunny throughout the summer. As a desert dweller, this cactus does well in full sun.

These cacti can tolerate temperatures as low as 10° degrees Fahrenheit. However, they will do better if protected from freezing.

Watering & Feeding

The plant should be watered well during the hot months of the summer, but leave plenty of time for the soil to dry out thoroughly between waterings. A cactus fertilizer used monthly is appreciated. During the wintertime, your cactus should be kept dry.

Soil & Transplanting

Cotton ball cactus does best when kept in well-draining, fertile soil. It can do well with a pH level ranging from 6.1 to 7.8.

If you’re keeping your Peruvian Old Man as a houseplant, use a combination of perlite and peat moss as your potting medium, here is another cactus soil recipe.

Alternately, you can use a packaged cactus mix.

Be sure to use an unglazed pot with ample drainage to prevent problems with root rot.

Grooming & Maintenance

Pruning is not necessary, but you may wish to carefully comb the Old Man’s furry coat from time-to-time.


How To Propagate Espostoa Lanata

This cactus may be grown from seed direct sown into the soil immediately following the last frost.

Alternately, it can easily be grown from cuttings.

As with all cacti, remember to allow the cut surface to dry for a few days before planting it in perlite or sand.

Avoid exposing the cutting to soil until it has begun to develop roots.

Keep your cutting in a warm, airy location with bright, indirect lighting until it has rooted.

Once you begin to see new growth, repot the plant into the cactus mix and treat it as a mature plant.


Peruvian Old Man Cactus Pests or Diseases

Because of its thick coat, Old Man Cactus may tend to harbor pests such as scale and mealybugs.

The best way to avoid problems with this is to keep the cactus healthy by avoiding overwatering.

Examine the plant periodically to be sure there are no problems lurking under its luxuriant coat.

Is Snowball Cactus Considered Toxic or Poisonous to People, Kids, Pets?

Espostoa lanata is not toxic, but it can be rather dangerous due to its hidden thorns.

Is Espostoa Cactus Considered Invasive?

Espostoa lanata is not considered invasive.


Uses For Peruvian Snowball Old Man

This drought-tolerant cactus is an excellent choice for xeriscaping. With its unusual looks and impressive height, it makes a very fine specimen plant.

Be sure to give it a spot off the beaten path to avoid injuries caused by accidental contact.

Peruvian Old Man Cactus grows especially well outdoors in the southwestern United States.

It can also be kept as a houseplant and makes an especially good addition to a solarium or greenhouse.

Be sure to provide good air circulation indoors to prevent problems with fungal diseases.





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09 May 2019

History Of Sedums: Learn About Sedum Stonecrop Plants


Some of my favorite low maintenance plants are sedums. I like to tuck them in amongst a rockery, along paths, in containers and even have a few as houseplants. Once established, these are the type of plant you don’t have to worry about when you go on extended holiday. They are succulents and not only useful as beautiful carefree specimens, but the history of sedums includes use as food and medicine.

Sedums can be found wild in most parts of the world. They are especially adapted to poor soils and can be very drought tolerant. They may be deciduous or evergreen, depending upon type. Additional characteristics vary by plant, with some low growing ground covers, others trailing, hanging specimens and still other varieties are taller vertical spectacles. The most common in the group have leaves that are plump and waxy with starry flower clusters that rise above the foliage – such as Autumn Joy sedum.

Sedum Plant History

The Sedum genus name comes from the Latin ‘sedo,’ meaning “to sit.” They are found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, Mexico and a few are even native to North America. Recognized species go by very colorful names such as Burro’s Tail, Gold Chain, Bird’s Bread, and Creeping Tom. The versatile plants are also in a bit of a tug-of-war surrounding their genus name. Some in the family are now classed as members of Hylotelephium, while others retain their Sedum status.

Such changes continue to occur in the botanical world as scientists unravel the genes of plants and reposition them to reflect more accurate family groups. As garden and greenhouse specimens, sedums have become popular since the early 1900s but were used by collectors as early as the 1800s.

History of Sedums as Food and Medicine

Anything you ingest should be carefully researched. This goes for the edible and medicinal varieties of sedum stonecrop plants. There are over 400 species in the family, some of which could cause illness if ingested. The juice in the succulent leaves and stems can be used topically to quell burn symptoms and on small scrapes and scratches.

One variety, Sedum sarmentosum, was reportedly used in Asia to treat inflammatory conditions. Several species of Sedum are undergoing trials as treatments for pain and swelling, with promising early results. As a food, sedums are used in salads and soups. S. sarmentosum and S. reflexum are the two most notable varieties that have a history of food use.

Fun Types of Sedum Stonecrop Plants

There are many unique forms of sedum plants. Here is a sampling of fun types to grow in your garden:

Groundcovers

  • Two-Row sedum (S. spurium) – An evergreen, mat forming species with numerous colorful cultivars
  • Broadleaf stonecrop (S. spathulifolium) – Silver to lime green leaves, branching, low, spreading plant.
  • Spanish stonecrop (S. hispanicum) – Close set, finely textured leaves that blend seamlessly into each other with blue-gray color.

Upright

  • Ice Plant stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile) – A vertical classic with a huge umbel of tiny starry flowers.
  • Coppertone sedum (S. nussbaumerianum) – Bronze foliage and orange-gold flowers.
  • Orpine (S. telephium syn. Hylotelephium telephium) – Bluish purple leaves and deeply hued stems.

Trailing

  • Burro’s Tail (S. morganianum) – Classic chubby, bluish green leaves reminiscent of a burro’s tail
  • Carpet sedum (S. lineare) – Tiny buttercup yellow foliage with dense growth and cascading habit.



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24 Apr 2019

Ficus Microcarpa Easy To Grow Bonsai Ficus


The Green Island Ficus – Ficus microcarpa, [FY-kus my-kro-KAR-puh] is a slow-growing plant that belongs to the fig family Moraceae.

Ficus lyrata and Ficus benjamina tree are popular indoor Ficus trees. However, the root system oofBenjamina is considered invasive.

The ‘Green Island Ficus’ is different and known for its smaller size and more ‘friendly’ root system.

Ficus microcarpa is relatively easy to grow outdoors in warm, humid regions like South Florida but requires a little more patience in cooler areas.

In 2001, the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association (FNGLA) recognized the Green Island Ficus as the ‘Plant of the Year’.


Green Island Ficus Plant Care

A quick glance of the Ficus green island and its glossy green leaves one could mistake the plant for a jade plant at home in a tropical garden.

Size and Growth

In its native regions, Ficus microcarpa can reach over twenty feet tall with a massive canopy.

The selected varieties commonly sold and cultivated in North America are a little smaller, reaching 8′ feet tall if left unattended.

The plant is typically grown as a low hedge or as a ground cover. The shape is managed by pruning to keep the Ficus at the desired height.

Some people keep it trimmed from an early age to maintain it as a small Japanese bonsai tree.

The Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Island’ features dense green foliage with small, rounded leaves. The glossy foliage is often used to help complement surrounding plants.

As a slow grower, the plant is easy to manage but the root system tends to spread quickly, which is why it shouldn’t be planted close to other vegetation or structures.

Flowering and Fragrance

The plant rarely flowers. It’s grown for its dense deep green glossy leaves, offering shade or helping to establish a perimeter.

Light and Temperature

The ficus is a tropical plant and thrives in warm, humid locations. It’s recommended for USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.

In areas with dry or cool weather, the plant should be grown indoors or moved indoors in the fall.

Outdoors, it should receive full sun to partial shade.

Microcarpa can handle full sun and is recommended in regions with high humidity while part shade is preferred for drier areas, helping the soil retain more moisture.

When placed indoors, ensure that it gets plenty of light throughout the day.

Consider setting it in an enclosed porch as the large glass windows often help trap in more humidity compared to the rest of the house.

Watering and Feeding

This low-maintenance shrub doesn’t require frequent watering except when young.

Until mature, water two to three times per week throughout the warmer months. Fertilizer isn’t needed.

After the plant matures, it only needs infrequent watering, about once every one or two weeks.

Give it a deep thorough watering, saturating the soil without completely drowning the plant.

Soil and Transplanting

Use ordinary soil with good drainage. The ficus is an easy plant to grow and tends to take root in almost any conditions unless the air is too dry or cool.

If the plant is grown in a container throughout the year, transplant it every two years to freshen the soil or if it outgrows its home.

Transplant in the early spring before active growth starts.

Maintenance and Grooming

Grooming is the main maintenance task when caring for the Green Island Ficus. It is easy to keep small with pruning.

Always use sharp pruning tools and trim throughout the year as needed.

TIP: Remove dead branches to encourage denser growth.


How to Propagate Ficus Microcarpa ‘Green Island’

Propagation is possible with root cuttings. The root system spreads quickly, often reaching several feet.

The roots can be divided and separated to spread the plant or grow new plants.

Take a cutting from a younger plant, dip it in root hormone and plant it in its own four-inch starter container.

Don’t cover with plastic. Simply set it near a window and keep watered.

Within a few weeks, the cutting should take root, becoming its own new plant.

It can then be transplanted to the ground or kept in the container as a small bonsai.


Ficus Microcarpa Pests or Disease Problems

Green Island Microcarpa is easy to care for with no major pests or disease problems to worry about.

However, mealy bugs and scale insect pests do set up residence on the underside of leaves and along leaf axils.

Inspect plants for pests and apply Neem oil for control.


Suggested Ficus Green Island Uses

Green Island is best grown as a low hedge or as a small Ficus bonsai plant.

The plant grows easily indoors as a small house plant or outdoors. When planted in large containers and planters it makes an attractive bush when pruned for shape.

When grown from cuttings it’s easy to keep trimmed as a small bonsai tree.





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09 Apr 2019

Roca Toys Big Gardening Activity Box Giveaway


By
Shelley Pierce | April 8, 2019



Get Your Kids Excited About Gardening!

During this week’s giveaway, ROCA Toys is giving you the opportunity to win a green limited-edition curated big gardening box full of things that will help get your kids outside enjoying nature.

What’s in the Big Box

Gardening Tools with STEM Learning Guide “Good Bugs for Your Garden”

Gardening Gloves

4 Seedling Planters to grow their first plants

Garden Stickers

Bee Coloring Mask

Crayons

DIY Garden Picture Frame

How to Enter:

  1. Follow RocaToys and Gardening Know How on Instagram.
  2. Locate and “like” the Instagram post on @gardeningknowhow announcing the Roca Toys giveaway.
  3. Tag as many friends as you can on this Instagram giveaway post.  Each tagged friend is an entry!

The contest is open to U.S. participants and will end at 11:59 PM ET on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Winner will be announced on Thursday, April 11, 2019.  Winner will be notified through Instagram messenger.  (See rules for more information.)

Connect with ROCA Toys:

http://www.rocatoys.com

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25 Mar 2019
sunscapes landscaping columbus

How To Care For The Cup-and-Saucer Vine


The Cobaea scandens [ko-BEE-uh SKAN-dens] is a fast-growing vine with beautiful flowers.

While technically a perennial, many choose to grow the Cobaea as an annual flowering plant vine.

It comes from South America, and Mexico, where a Jesuit priest named Father Cobo discovered the plant.

The vine is part of the Polemoniaceae family and goes several different common names, including:

  • Cup-and-saucer vine
  • Cathedral Bells
  • Monastery Bells
  • Mexican Ivy

The climbing plants grow in gardens throughout the US Southwest, but also in enclosed areas, such as a greenhouse or conservatory.

To learn more check out the following plant growing tips for the cup and saucer vine Cobaea scandens.


Cobaea Scandens Care

Size and Growth

Cobaea scandens is one of the fast-growing climbing vines with many branches and leaves.

The stems and foliage are green and can be trained to grow along trellises and other structures.

If left to grow without grooming, the plant may eventually span 24′ feet from a single set of roots.

Saucer Plant Flowering and Fragrance

The flowers are the reason for the name cup-and-saucer. The bell-shaped flowers bloom in the late summer and feature green foliage around the base, resulting in a look that resembles a cup in a saucer.

During the first year of growth, the plant should bloom later in the summer. Older plants tend to bloom a little earlier.

The flowers are violet with yellow stamens that produce no scent. While most plants have the violet-colored flowers, the colors are sometimes closer to a rose-purple.

Light and Temperature

If possible, avoid placing the plant in an area where it receives shade throughout the day. The plant prefers lots of full sun.

The cup-and-saucer vine is recommended for growing outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 10.

It doesn’t tolerate frost and should be kept indoors during the winter in cooler regions.

When grown indoors, normal room temperature is fine for the plant during the summer.

In the winter, it should not be left outdoors in temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering and Feeding

Like most plants, the Cobaea scandens requires more water in the summer and less in the winter.

Give the plant plenty of water throughout the summer months and decrease watering in the colder months.

From March to September, plants need to water once per week. Water soluble liquid fertilizer is recommended during this period.

NOTE: To avoid excessive growth, skip the fertilizer and water the plant each week.

Soil and Transplanting

Young plants grow better in sandy soil, instead of using rich soil with fast drainage. The sandy soil helps the roots retain more water.

As the plant grows, and the roots use more water, shift to a regular potting soil or compost mixed with garden soil.

Transplant older plants into large pots at the start of spring after the danger of frost passes.

This allows the plants and root system to get off to a go start for the growing season.

Maintenance and Grooming

Groom the plant to help produce larger blooms. With the younger plant, cut a few of the side shoots in the spring. For older plants, trim the side shoots in February.

Without trimming, the foliage will hide some of the flowers and inhibit growth. Trimming helps give the flowers more sunlight and room to blossom.


How to Propagate Cobaea Cathedral Bells

Propagate the plant using seeds or cuttings. The seeds are large and easy to grow. Just follow these steps:

  • Plant the seeds in a tray of sandy potting soil
  • Keep the tray in a room that stays about 60° degrees Fahrenheit
  • After the seedlings appear, keep the tray at 60° degrees Fahrenheit
  • After several leaves appear, place the seedlings in their own pots
  • Use three-inch or four-inch pots with sandy soil and water weekly

Cuttings can be taken in the early spring when trimming back the foliage.

Place the cuttings in a pot with sandy soil and cover with plastic.

After the cuttings take root, keep them in a relatively cool room.

The first flowers from the cuttings should appear in June.

During the following spring season, transplant the new plants into larger containers if needed.


Cathedral Bells Vine Pests or Diseases

The cobaea scandens is a healthy, hardy plant, but there are a few issues to pay attention to. Spider mites and aphids may attack the plant, especially in dry conditions.

Red spider mites are hard to remove from this plant. If the spider mites are present, trim the plant back in the spring to help revive the plant.

Using an insecticide (Neem oil) may stop the infestation and is typically effective against aphids.


Uses For Cup and Saucer Vine

When grown in frost-free zones, allow the vine to climb outdoors against a trellis, fence, facing wall or other structure.

In cooler regions, the plant should be grown indoors or in enclosed areas, such as a greenhouse, conservatory, or an enclosed porch. Remember cup and saucer plants grow quickly and require a lot of room.





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01 Oct 2018
sunscapes landscaping columbus

Top 5 Medicinal Plants – Gardening Know How’s Blog


Medicinal plants don’t have to be exotic specimens that grow in jungle climates, and they aren’t always ancient herbs propagated by our ancient ancestors. In fact, you may already be growing some of the best medicinal plants, as many are not only useful but highly ornamental. Here are our top 5 medicinal plants.

1. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) – Also known as coneflower, echinacea is a beautiful but rugged perennial that reaches mature heights of 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm.). Suitable for USDA zones 3-8, echinacea grows in plenty of sunlight and nearly any well-drained soil. Medicinally, it is used to build immunity and relieve symptoms of chest colds and other upper respiratory ailments. Echinaea may also promote healing of minor wounds and skin irritations.

2. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – St. John’s wort is well known for its ability to treat mild depression and insomnia, and the oils are used to relieve sunburns and minor wounds. However, gardeners love this bushy perennial for the fragrant, bright yellow flowers that appear in midsummer. St. John’s wort is suitable for growing in USDA zones 4-8.

3. German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – If you want to grow chamomile for its medicinal qualities, plant German chamomile (not Roman chamomile, a perennial most often grown as a groundcover). You’ll love the masses of small, daisy-like blooms, and while chamomile is well known for its relaxing properties, the herb is also beneficial for tummy aches, hay fever, and many other ailments. Although German chamomile is an annual, it usually self-seeds.

4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – A flowering plant that produces gorgeous, bright yellow flowers, ginger is commonly used to treat a host of tummy problems, including diarrhea, gas, morning sickness and motion sickness. It may also relieve muscle aches and arthritis pain, and many proponents think it may lower heart attack risk and improve blood sugar levels. Ginger is a warm climate, sub-tropical plant, but if you live north of zone 7, you can plant ginger in a container and bring it indoors for the winter.

5. Garlic (Allium sativum) – Garlic is usually planted in fall, but you can also plant this trouble-free member of the allium family after the last frost in spring. Rich in antioxidants, garlic is believed to combat the common cold, purify the blood, improve cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, and promote healthy skin and hair.



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25 Sep 2018
sunscapes landscaping columbus

Growing And Care Of Polyscias [GUIDE]


“Aralia plants” are members of the Araliaceae family along with the Schefflera plant (umbrella tree), Fatsia, Hedera (aka English ivy) and others. Some are woody plants, some are herbs, some are vines and some are trees.

Included in this family is the genus, Polyscias pronounced (pol-is’-si-as) which we commonly call “Aralia.” This genus includes about 116 species of shrubs and trees native to tropical Asia and Polynesia.

Many of these plants are very useful as landscape plants in tropical parts of the world and some polyscias make great houseplants and office plants in less conducive climates.

In this article, we will look at some of the popular Aralia varieties used as houseplants. For example, the Fern Aralia (Polyscias filicifolia) and the Feather Aralia (Polyscias guilfoylei). Read on to learn more.


How Are Aralias Used?

As young plants, the popular Polyscias cultivars start out with fleshy, herbaceous growth. As they mature, they develop woody stems and grow into small shrubs.

In USDA hardiness zones 11 -12, these plants grow outdoors as single specimens or planted in rows for use as hedges.

Aralias also come and go in popularity but always make wonderful large office plants and are suitable as house plants if their size is controlled with regular pruning.

Their stems are easy to bend, shape and train to create character specimens or make interesting looking plants when grown as bonsai plants.

Aralias (Polyscias) may Look Different but all require the same basic care.


How To Care For Aralia?

Soil: These tropical plants grow best in well-drained, loamy, rich, acidic potting mix. A standard potting mix with some additional perlite added works well for container grown plants.

Light: In an indoor setting aralias like very bright, indirect lighting. When choosing an indoor location, look to a north window.

The plants enjoy morning sun. Avoid full sun for indoor plants. If kept outdoors during the warmer months, most Polyscias do well in partial shade to full sun.

Water: When watering your Aralia plant indoors, keep a close eye on the soil. When it is nearly dry, provide a thorough, deep watering.

Do not allow the plant to stand in water, and do not allow the soil to become completely dry.

Humidity & Temperature: These tropical plants enjoy high humidity, so it’s a good idea to set your container on a pebble tray to keep the ambient moisture levels high.

Some recommend daily misting as a good practice but I have not found the need. Keep the room temperature above 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

Pruning & Grooming: The plant reaches a maximum height of about eight feet tall and has a spread of two or three feet.

Unless you have unlimited space, it’s a good idea to keep indoor plants’ size under control with regular pruning of the branch tips.

This practice also encourages the plant to grow in a more bushy, dense manner. Use the cuttings to propagate more plants.

Flowers: The flowers grow in inflorescences of about six inches in length. In the wild, in the tropics flowers develop into a drupe. However, flowering is very unlikely to happen when the plant is cared for as a houseplant or in a less-than-tropical outdoor setting. [source]

Acclimation: Aralias make wonderful indoor plants once they are acclimated to their new surrounds. Much like the Ficus benjamina expect your polyscias to drop a large mass of leaves when moving indoors.

Be patient, DO NOT start watering heavy and fertilizing. Give the plant time to adjust to its new surroundings, lighting conditions and humidity levels.

Other Topics You May Like:


With so many Polyscias (Aralias) shapes, sizes and leaf types which ones do you choose from? Below are some of the most popular Polyscias (Aralias) on the market:

Polyscias crispa ‘Chicken Gizzard’ (Chicken Gizzard Aralia)

Polyscias crispa has several cultivars and one is the celery leaf aralia also known more in the trade as the chicken gizzard Polyscias. The grows upright and branches freely.

Aralia Chicken Gizzard "character"

 

* Polyscias crispa ‘Palapala’ (Palapala Aralia)

The University of Florida describes this Aralia as:

“Palapala aralia is similar in branching habit and leaf characteristics except the leaflets are attractively patterned with dark green, golden yellow and ivory. Propagators should know that `Palapala’ is patented (plant patent number 3775).”

However, the patented plant #3775 as described in the actual patent document is of a sport from Polyscias (Aralia) balfouriana minifolia at Hoaks Nursery in Miami, Florida.

‘Palapala’ as described in the patent document:

Patented Aug. 26, 1975 3,775 ARALIA PLANT Joseph W. Hoak, 17040 SW. 90th Ave., Miami, Fla. 33157 Filed Apr. 8, 1974, Ser. No. 459,110 Int. Cl. A01h 5/00 US. Cl. Plt.-88 1 Claim This invention relates to a new and distinct variety of Aralia plant and is a result of a sport in the production of Polyscias (Aralia) balfouriana minifolia in Hoaks Nursery in Miami, Fla. The origin of the descriptive word minifolia in the recognized variety Polyscias balfouriana is unknown to the applicant, other than to say that it has been in general use by nurserymen in the South Florida area to describe an Aralia plant having smaller leaves than those of the balfouriana variety. I have named my new variety Aralia Palapala. This new variety has been asexually reproduced and propagated by cuttings for a period of over five years since the first mutation was discovered, with no reversal to the original variety, Polyscias balfouriana minifolia. This sport came about as a variant of a green Polyscias balfouriana minifolia that was growing in a shade house on the south end of Hoaks greenhouse and nursery in Miami, Fla When transplanted to the outside at the back of the greenhouse it was cut back. One year later one branch came back as a sport. After propagating this sport for about 5 years, cuttings were placed in a back slat house in cutting boxes. When of potting size, these were transplanted to inch pots and moved to Hoaks Silver Palm Nursery, Goulds, Fla. where they are at this time. [source]

Polyscias fruticosa (Ming Aralia)

The most popular of the Aralia plants grown reaching 6’ to 8’ feet indoors. An upright grower, finely-textured, unusual, twisted character with a lacy-looking specimen.

The exposed branches can be trained to create and add additional beauty to the ming Aralia.

Ming does best indoors with bright filtered light. Allow soil to dry between waterings. Aralia fruticosa is sensitive to cold temperatures.

Expect plants to drop leaves when temperatures fall into the 40°-55° degrees Fahrenheit range.

specimen ming aralia - polyscias fruticosa

Polyscias fruticosa ‘Elegans’ (Parsley Aralia)

The leaves of this dwarf cultivar resemble the leaves of finely-divided parsley. This Polyscias produces small-leaves, compact with side shoots making “Parsley Aralia” a good choice for growing in small 4”-8” inch pots.

Polyscias balfouriana

A bushy medium-sized bush, shrub, tree is often grown as a hedge is south Florida. Leaves often white and scalloped.

Several other cultivars of Aralia balfouriana include variegated ‘Marginata’ with creamy-white leaf borders. Another is the large-leaved variety ‘Pennockii.’


What Is Polyscias filicifolia (Fernleaf Aralia)?

Fern-leaf Aralia (Polyscias filicifolia) is a free-branching, broad-leaved evergreen. With a much-divided leaf, filicifolia is one of the best varieties to use in simulating dwarf trees.

Fernleaf grows quicker, has light, graceful leaves, with a deep green color making it very pretty as a small, young plant.

As the plant matures, the fernleaf can be trained into an attractive indoor tree. If you live in an area that does not experience frost (ever) you can plant Fernleaf Aralia as a hedge or as an accent plant outdoors. [source]

The shape of Aralia filicifolia leaves can vary with one plant making for some interesting looks. On young plants, the lance-shaped leaves with very jagged edges appear very “fern-like.”

As the plant matures, the leaves broaden and become more oval in shape.

Polyscias filicifolia grows wild:

  • Southern Malaysia
  • Solomon Islands
  • New Caledonia
  • New Guinea
  • Vanuatu
  • Fiji

In the United States, the fernleaf aralia is cold hardy in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12.


What Is Polyscias guilfoylei (Feather Aralia)?

Like the Fernleaf Aralia, Feather Aralia (Polyscias guilfoylei) grows as a small tree or shrub and makes an interesting indoor plant for the office or the home.

In appearance, however, the plants look quite different. This Aralia stands very upright and has a less dense growth habit than the fern variety. Its leaves are dark green and rather coarse. [source]

Feather Aralia is not especially attractive as a young plant as it never develops the delicate appearance of the fern leafed variety.

Black Aralia with crinkly leaves

However, with Polyscias guilfoylei patience pays off. When the feather Aralia matures it becomes a very handsome plant and well suited to being trained into an attractive bonsai.

This plant is known by several common names including:

  • Featherleaf Aralia
  • Geranium Aralia
  • Feather Aralia
  • Black or Blackie Aralia – A strong upright grower, dark green almost “black” leaves held on sparsely branched stems. The unique leaves have a wrinkled texture.
  • Lace Aralia

Blackie is a fairly fast grower, especially when you keep fed regularly. It tends to shed leaves, making room for more new shoots.

As with its cousin, regular pruning keeps the plant’s size under control. Systematic pruning of side shoots results in a good-looking, small tree. [source]


What Is The Best Setting For Geranium Aralia?

As with all members of the Aralia family, Black Aralia likes to be kept well away from radiators and other dry heat sources.

Bright, indirect indoor light, good humidity levels, and consistently warm temperatures result in success with this plant.

If you are worried about the fast growth rate of these plants, withhold light somewhat.

Position the plant a little farther from the window or give it “breaks” in a less well-lit, slightly cooler setting from time-to-time as a way of systematically stunting its growth.

Just take care to keep the humidity levels high enough to discourage spider mites.


How Much Fertilizer And Water Does Blackie Need?

Because the plant does have large, basal leaves, it tends to lose quite a bit of water via transpiration.

For this reason, it’s handy to set these plants up with a self-watering container or system so the plant never dries out entirely.

In the summer months, you can feed Geranium Aralia weekly; however, you may wish to feed less if excessive growth is a concern.


What Pests Problems Do Aralia Plants Have?

When well-cared for these plants do not have serious problems with disease or insect infestation. Keep an eye out for pests such as:

Be scrupulous in your watering practices as too much water can cause root rot, and too little water can attract mites.

This is true of all Aralias, and in fact, Aralia care is pretty much the same for all varieties.

Aralia Care Instructions


How Do You Deal With Aralia Pests And Diseases?

Spider mites are the main enemy of all Aralias. If you allow the soil to dry out completely and/or fail to keep the humidity levels surrounding the plants high enough, spider mites will move in.

If you see spider mites on your Aralias or any other houseplant, isolate the affected plant immediately.

Spider mites are fast moving and will travel from plant-to-plant rapidly if given the chance.

Treat affected plants by spraying vigorously with pressurized water.

Spray the undersides of leaves especially well as this is where spider mites tend to stay and to lay their eggs. Plan to repeat this treatment several times to knock “all” the mites off.

Treating with a Neem oil spray will help keep them off. Remember to mist your plants frequently to create an unwelcoming environment for spider mites.


How Do You Propagate Aralias?

Start cuttings at any time of year, but as with most plants, early spring (May) is the best time.

When you prune your plant, keep a few shoots – either softwood or hardwood – to use as cuttings..

Softwood cutting should have between two and four leaves. If using a hardwood cutting, you should remove all leaves.

Apply a good hormone rooting powder to the cuttings as Aralia plants are notoriously slow to root otherwise.

Place each cutting in its own small pot with a good, loamy, rich, well-draining potting mix.

NOTE: I’ve always had success with a well-draining propagating mix of equal parts peat moss and perlite.

Be sure to place the cutting in a pot large enough to accommodate the plant as it grows into a young plant. Avoid moving plants around until plants root and become established.

Set the pots in a warm (70°-78° degrees Fahrenheit) humid area with bright, indirect sunlight.

Keep ambient humidity levels high, but don’t mist the cuttings as this will cause rot.

Be sure to protect the cuttings from drafts. Covering them with plastic is a good idea to keep the humidity level high and to prevent draft damage.


How To Transplant Aralia Plants?

Interestingly, transplanting is not advised. These Aralia plants do not like being disturbed.

It’s best to start cuttings out in pots that can accommodate them as small plants for quite some time.

If/when transplanting becomes necessary, gently remove plants from their pots trying to not disturb the roots and at the right time of year. Springtime is best for transplanting.

When transplanting, choose a generously sized container that will allow the Aralia to stay in the same pot for a long time.

Choose the location for the container carefully so it will not need to move your plant unnecessarily as they simply do not take well to being moved around.

However, a ¼ turn every week will help plants receive even lighting.

Using a larger container will help prevent allowing the soil from drying out. This helps keep ambient humidity levels high and discourages spider mites.


Where And How Can You Buy Aralias?

In the United States, Aralias have been grown in southern Florida since the 1960’s but became more mainstream as a nursery item in the mid-1970’s.

Since that time, the number of Aralia cultivars available for purchase has grown from about half a dozen to more than two dozen.

Many are hardy enough to be used in the semi-tropical landscapes of the Sunshine State.

Until recently, it has only been possible to purchase mature Aralias in larger pots. However, you’ll find a wide variety of Aralia plants available in 4” – 8” inch pots online, mostly grown as bonsai plants.

The most popular and most readily available of these seems to be the Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa).


Aralias In A Nutshell

Though Aralias may be slow starters, once they have made it through their first year they tend to pick up speed and grow quite enthusiastically.

Regular pruning helps keep them under control and can yield very interesting bonsai-like results.

NOTE: Try bending the canes to create some unique looks.

As tropical plants, Aralias do require regular care in terms of watering and feeding.

Unlike many houseplants which you can allow to dry out completely and then watered thoroughly.

You must take care not to allow Aralias to become completely dry.

It is important to keep an eye on humidity levels and provide the right amount of humidity to keep foliage lush and spider mites at bay.

You may want to add a humidifier to your room with an Aralia, and you will find this makes the ambient atmosphere more inviting to you, too.

In addition to needing close attention to moisture and humidity settings, Aralias also need a bit of grooming and pruning to keep them looking good.

Because Aralias are tropical plants, you should not consider keeping them unless you can provide a consistently warm, humid, well-lighted setting.

If you have a bright, sunny, spacious room where the temperature never falls below 60° degrees Fahrenheit, you have a good place for a Fern leaf, Feather leaf or ming Aralia.

Aralias are very fine plants for any indoor setting with plenty of space and lots of bright, indirect light.

The large varieties make great mall, office, and houseplants. In addition to Fern and Feather Aralias, there are many more fascinating varieties to explore.

These smaller versions are especially well-suited to bonsai treatment.





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