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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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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

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


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:



































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25 Mar 2019

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

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

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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19 Sep 2018

Solving Common Garden Issues – Yes, There’s a Plant for That Too

“Bloom where you’ve been planted.” That’s great advice about life in general – if you’re a person. However, the familiar old adage doesn’t make much sense in the garden where most plants tend to be choosy about where they’re planted. The truth is, figuring out exactly where to put that old-fashioned rose bush or blue-green hosta is a lot more complicated than just digging a hole. If you’ve got a tricky spot in your garden (don’t we all), things can get downright perplexing.

The folks at Bluestone Perennials have been providing beautiful plants for three generations, and they’ve always been a great source of information and inspiration. If you’re not sure where to turn with those tricky garden questions, they’ve provided easy-to-use Gardening Solutions to help you answer those difficult questions – what to plant, and exactly where to plant it. Here is what Gardening Solutions says about some of the trickiest garden situations:

Dry shade: When it comes to difficult gardening situations, dry shade wins the prize. Most plants aren’t tough enough to survive dry spots under tall trees or on difficult slopes, but Bluestone’s Gardening Solutions comes to the rescue with a long list of hardy but beautiful options. Take a look at their selection of hellebore, available in a variety of stunning solids and multi-colors, as well as hosta, brunnera, geranium, ajuga, phlox and many others.

Deer: No plant is 100 percent deer tolerant, and hungry wildlife will eat nearly anything if food is in short supply. However, there’s a good chance that deer will find the following plants less palatable: coreopsis, echinacea, rudbeckia, salvia, agastache, monarda and allium. These gorgeous plants (and many others) may not be on the top of the list for deer, but you’ll love them all.

Winter interest: Hundreds of plants provide color when the days are warm and sunny, but gardens don’t need to look forgotten and forlorn during the winter. For example, Bluestone’s Gardening Solutions recommends grasses such as feather reed grass, a tall perennial that grows in a variety of conditions. Carex ‘Banana Boat’ is a great selection for shady areas or along streams or ponds, while pink muhly grass provides billowing clouds of color, even in poor, dry soil.

Foot traffic: You’ve got kids and dogs, or you’re trying to figure out what to plant between pavers or stepping stones. This sounds like a serious conundrum, but if you take a look at Bluestone’s Gardening Solutions, you’re bound to find something that suits your needs to a ‘T.’ Suggestions include colorful sedum, liriope or ajuga, or mats of evergreen plants like thyme or Irish moss.

Not finding answers to your particular problem? Check out Gardening Solutions to find plants suitable for nearly every situation you can imagine, including those that thrive in salty air, shade or humidity, or those that attract bees, butterflies or hummingbirds, and much more.

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13 Sep 2018

Bat Flower Plant – How To Grow And Care For Tacca Bat Plants

The Bat flower plant – Tacca Chantrieri has a wild, unusual looking flower. As exotic as it may look, the Bat Plant is not a difficult plant to grow. In fact, it is very hardy. I have found Tacca available in some garden centers. It is available online.

TACCA (tak’-ah) – A genus of tropical, tuberous-rooted perennial herbs having large leaves at the base of stems which are surmounted by brown or greenish flowers in dense, round-topped clusters.

The name “bat flower” comes from the plant’s bractea shape which looks similar to bats.


Also known as the Devil’s Flower, the plant has the most interesting flower seen and the most beautiful foliage as well.

In addition to the green and shiny leaves, the Bat Flower plant produces dark purple or maroon flowers with “eyes” on the bloom that seem to follow one’s moves.

There are whiskers on the bloom look like the flower has a Fu Man Chu that form flowing or fine forked tails. More of these strange flowers are produced with the conditions are right for the plant.

However, the Bat Flower plants are easier to grow outdoors than indoors.

Requirements Of The Tacca Chantrieri

  • Light: Tacca needs a northern, eastern or western exposure of shade or partial sun.
  • Temperature: Maintain temperatures indoors above 60° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Humidity: The bat plant is an understory plant growing in high humidity areas. Keep plants above 50% of higher humidity. Plants will tolerate lower humidity levels.
  • Watering: Allow soil to dry out between waterings. Water thoroughly until the soil is completely saturated and soil runs out the bottom of the pot. Try submerging the whole pot and plant into a bucket of water until all air bubbles stop. Drain off excess water. Overwatering and wet soil will cause root rot.
  • Fertilizer: Feed the bat flower with a balanced liquid fertilizer at 1/3 strenghth every two weeks during the growing season.
  • Pruning: Remove old leaves as they die off.
  • Insects and Disease: Tacca flowers experience few insect problems. Proper watering, will prevent root rot from developing.

Caring For The Bat Flower

In the North, Tacca plants can grow in the greenhouse or a “bat house” and also as an indoor houseplant.

Plant Tacca Chantrieri in a rich well-drained soil or potting mixture in a pot with good drainage.

The black bat flower blooms throughout late spring and summer.

During winter hold off on watering and allow the plant to rest over winter. It is also important to give them warm shade with high humidity.

When growing the black bat plant outdoors place them near trees or walls to protect them from direct sunlight.

These tropical plants are increased by division.

Other Species Of Bat Plants

Tacca pinnatifida, with finely cut leaves sometimes 4 foot long, is grown in the tropics as a source of arrowroot, which is obtained from the ground tubers or rhizomes. It has greenish and purplish flowers.

Tacca integrifolia also known as the white bat plant is another exquisite species from the yam family.

They are native to tropical forests and subtropical rainforests of Central Asia.

Almost all plants have been labeled as beautiful, lovely, captivating, and the likes. But have you ever heard of a mysterious, almost scary, strange plant?

Other than being fascinating, Tacca chantrieri or the Bat Flower is no doubt a perfect example of a mysterious, almost scary, strange plant.

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07 Sep 2018

Rezha Macedonian Pepper Information – Gardening Know How’s Blog

From the humble bell to the outrageously hot ghost, peppers come in an exciting and wide range of colors, shapes, and, of course, heat. If you want something a little different from your pepper crop, check out the Rezha Macedonian pepper, a truly unique specimen covered in tiny horizontal striations.

What is a Rezha Pepper?

As the name implies, these peppers are native to Macedonia and some neighboring Balkan countries. “Rezha” is Macedonian for “engraved,” an obvious choice when you see the state of the peppers’ skin. Another common local name, “Vezeni,” means “embroidered. The underlying skin of these peppers comes in shades of green to red, but the color is more than half obscured by thin, horizontal, raised stripes.

Rezha Macedonian Pepper Information

While heat can vary from pepper to pepper, Rezhas are not, as a rule, particularly hot. The most heat can be found toward the stem, where the seeds are concentrated. The peppers are not usually eaten fresh, mostly because the striations on the skin can make for a granular, slightly unpleasant texture. Instead, cooks tend to roast them whole or split down the middle.

The resulting flavor is richer than when the peppers are raw, slightly smoky, and with just a little heat. They lose a little bit of their hotness in the cooking process, but the emergence of the other, sweeter flavors is worth it.

Growing Rezha Macedonian Peppers

Rezha pepper seeds should be planted when all chance of frost has passed, and preferably started indoors in areas with a late last frost. Fruits can start to be harvested after 80 days. As well as being good roasted, these peppers dry well and make for excellent conversation pieces. The peppers are very tasty, but in the end it’s their appearance that is the real showstopper.

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01 Sep 2018

The Value Children Learning To Garden

There are lots of good reasons for kids gardening. It’s good to garden with your children and to set them up with small plant and garden projects of their own.

In this article, we share the many benefits children gain from gardening, along with some clever independent plant and gardening ideas for children. Read on to learn more.

How Does Gardening Help Children Develop Physical Skills?

In the garden, kids gain mastery of a lot of physical skills. For example, carrying and using gardening tools helps develop:

  • Body management skills
  • Object control skills
  • Whole hand grasp
  • Locomotor skills
  • Pincer grasp

These and many other fine and gross motor skills are necessary for success in school, sports and life. Additionally, developing the habit of spending time outdoors adds to lifelong quality of life.

In addition to the motor skill benefits of the lighter aspects of gardening, heavy work, such as:

  • Carrying water
  • Moving soil
  • Pushing a wheelbarrow or cart
  • Digging
  • … can actually help calm a child’s nerves.

This sort of work is believed to help children stay focused and calm in other activities.

How Does Gardening Boost The Immune System?

The physical activity of gardening also promotes physical health in ways that may surprise you.

In addition to healthy physical activity outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, gardening also brings your child in contact with the earth.

You may have heard of the “hygiene hypothesis” which posits that lack of exposure to germs in childhood actually exacerbates susceptibility to a number of serious health conditions, such as:

  • Immune system disorders
  • Allergies
  • Asthma

Gardeners have always waxed lyrical about the joys of getting their hands dirty. Now we know that there’s a scientific reason why! [source]

What Are The Sensory Benefits Of Gardening?

Gardening provides a wealth of sensory stimulation. The sight and scent of flowers and herbs, the taste of herbs and food crops, the warmth and texture of soil and stones, the splash of water and the sound of birdsong and much more combine to delight and revive the senses. [source]

How Does Gardening Develop Adventurous “Foodies”?

Children who participate in gardening are seldom picky eaters. Helping food grow seems to pique the appetite and the sense of adventure.

Can Gardening Boost Academic Skills?

Although it’s not something you’d automatically associate with gardening, you may be surprised to learn that when children participate in growing plants, it can boost literacy skills.

Think about it: children who garden have a need to read seed packets, make plant labels and perhaps even draw up garden plans or map out the existing garden.

When you are working on the garden together you can teach your child a wide variety of scientific concepts, such as:

  • Why does the quality of the soil matter?
  • How do earthworms benefit plants?
  • How does photosynthesis work?
  • Why do plants need water?

Learning to differentiate one plant from another and recognize the various parts of plants adds to general knowledge.

Gardening can also help kids get practical math experience. Think about the measuring necessary to set up a garden. Keeping track of plant growth by measuring on a regular basis is a solid practice.

Measuring fertilizer and other soil amendments and supplements is also a good math exercise.

How Does Gardening Encourage Critical Thinking?

Gardening also helps kids develop intellectual and cognitive skills. A good gardener must have the ability to analyze cause and effect and to remember what has been planted and what has been done.

Parents can boost the intellectual development aspects of gardening by talking with their children about what the garden chores that have been done, what still needs doing and why. Helping your children understand the reasons behind garden planning, soil preparation, fertilizing, watering at certain times and so on, helps your child develop the ability to think logically, plan and reason. [source]

How Do You Start Kids Gardening?

When you first start plant projects and gardening with your kids, remember that time for children is a bit different than time for adults.

It moves very slowly, and a week in the life of a toddler can seem very long, indeed. For this reason, the best initial plant projects for kids are those that produce quick results.

Here’s a collection of good ideas for children’s plants.

Quick Growing Seeds

You can sow seeds in potting soil, cotton or damp paper. Add just a little moisture, and your seed will sprout in just a few days.

Some of the best choices for quick growing, readily available seeds include:

  • Sunflower
  • Mustard
  • Melon
  • Cress
  • Beans

Various seasoning seeds, such as chia, flax, coriander, caraway, poppyseed and others can be sprouted and grown. Wild bird seed and plain popping corn will also sprout and grow, just for fun!

If you sprout seeds between layers of a damp paper towel, you can see how the seed sends out a vegetative shoot and a root.

You can then transplant the shoot into damp soil, or if you’ve planted edible sprouts, add them to a salad, sandwich or stir-fry and enjoy!

Edible Sprouts

The best seeds to use for creating edible sprouts include dried beans and peas. These are inexpensive and abundant.

You can sow them in damp fabric, cotton or paper toweling or in seed trays to grow an ample amount of sprouts to be enjoyed just a few days after starting your project.

You can also plant these seeds individually in larger containers with soil to grow full blown plants that will eventually produce fresh beans and peas to eat. Try preparing some as sprouts and some as potted plants so that you can compare their progress.

It can be fun to plant these large seeds in glass jars so that you can watch the roots and the vegetation grow.

Grain Crops

Your child can sow a little grass, wheat or grain in a tilled area outside to play farmer. This small activity gives an idea of how farmers grow grain crops.

It also provides a nice, seedy crop to benefit your bird population.

If you do not have an outdoor area to sow grain seed, try sowing it in a small, shallow pot on a sunny windowsill.

If you have a cat, he or she may enjoy having the fresh greenery as a healthy addition to the typical dry and/or canned cat food diet.

Freshly grown grass also makes a nice treat for a pet rabbit or guinea pig.

Grow Herbs

Herbs are fast and fun to grow indoors or outdoors. You can grow herbs in pots or between rows in a larger garden.

With their interesting scents and flavors, they make rewarding crop for little ones. Gathering them and hanging them to dry is also a fun activity.

If you don’t have garden space for herbs, set up a mini-herb garden on a sunny windowsill or under artificial light in your kitchen.

Keeping a mini-herb garden indoors provides your child with the fun of planting seeds, watching them grow and then harvesting and using the resulting crop on a regular, ongoing basis.

Grow Little Trees

Horse chestnuts, acorns, pecans, avocado pits, peach, apricot and cherry pits can all be planted in pots to grow into nice little trees.

These take a while to grow, so you may want to start nuts and pits in damp paper toweling inside a closed jar so that your little one can see the start when the seed sprouts.

With avocado pits, you can use the classic starting technique of poking toothpicks into the sides of the pit and suspending it (pointy end up) on the lip of a small jar.

Related Reading: How To Sprout An Avocado Pit

Fill the jar with water so that it touches the bottom of the seed. Before you know it, roots will form and a green shoot will sprout from the top.

Your little one can enjoy watching the seed grow like this for a month or so and then transplant it into a pot of well draining potting mix.

Citrus fruit seeds will also grow when planted in a small pot of good potting soil. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and tangerines all yield viable seed that can be grown into pretty little houseplants in a few months’ time.

Grow Your Own Date Palm Tree

If you purchase a package of dried dates with seeds still in, keep a few of those seeds and try planting them. Good soil, warmth and ample light are all that are needed to encourage these seeds to sprout.

Growing bushes and trees can teach patience. These projects are a bit slow and should be combined with quicker growing seed projects to hold little ones’ attention.

Plant Related Art Projects

In addition to sprouting and planting seeds and bulbs, there are a number of enjoyable plant related art projects children can pursue. Among them are:

  • Creating small container gardens, such as terrariums, fairy gardens, miniature rock gardens
  • Making name tags to identify which plant belongs to which child
  • Making identifying tags for crops
  • Making macramé pot hangers
  • Painting pots and planters
  • Pressing flowers

Seed Art

If you are planting very small seeds, you can sow them in the shape of a picture or letters on the surface of soil laid shallowly in a tray. Keep the soil moist and in a few days you’ll have a tiny, living image, word or phrase.

One of the best seeds to use in this way is cress. This is a very tiny seed that can be successfully sown on the surface of fine soil or sand, on clay, on damp paper toweling or even on the cut surface of fruits or potatoes.

Plant Bulbs

Planting outdoor bulbs in the autumn can bring surprise and delight in the springtime. Plant crocuses, hyacinth, narcissus and other springtime bulbs indoors early in winter to enjoy their scent and beauty during the holidays. These bulbs can be “forced” in water for easy, beautiful results.

Water Plants

If you are lucky enough to have a creek, stream or pond near your home, your child may enjoy experimenting with collecting water plants to grow in a miniature water garden or an aquarium.

A DIY patio water feature with running water can provide a good habitat for natural water plants.

Exotic Plants For Older Kids

Once your child has passed the seed sprouting stage, he or she may be interested in taking on the challenge of growing an exotic plant such as an echeveria succulent, donkey tail cactus, fern, African violet, orchid or even a Venus flytrap.

This sort of project is good for pre-teens and young teens who have had some practice with gardening and indoor planting.

Caring for a more exotic plant involves learning about seasonal care cycles, starting new plants from cuttings, repotting, fertilizing and so on.

Starting off with a succulent plant is a good idea.

These plants are fairly carefree, and there are many varieties of succulents that can make a nice addition to the landscape of a model train setup, around a dollhouse or simply placed on the windowsills in an older child’s room.

Succulents are forgiving of quite a bit of neglect. They live a long while, and some of them even produce blossoms.

Cacti are also an option for older children, but because of the thorns, they are not recommended for little ones.

Gardening Is Great For Your Child’s Mind, Body And Soul

It’s easy to see that there are lots of great plant and gardening projects you can pursue with your children.

Helping your kids enjoy gardening contributes to their overall health and well-being and helps them learn to appreciate and evaluate food quality for lifelong great eating habits.

Luckily, you don’t have to have a lot of outdoor space to help your kids enjoy gardening. Use square foot gardening techniques, indoor self-watering planters, soilless sprouting and planting and other innovative methods to make the most of your small space and the light you have.

You’ll be amazed at how many edibles your child can grow in a small raised bed garden or large planter. Countertop hydroponic setups also provide a bounty of edible food with a small amount of input from your curious child.

If you do have garden space, be sure to start your child off with easy-to-grow plants that provide a lot of quick success.

Examples include zucchini, radishes, lettuce and tomatoes. If you have the room, plant some pumpkin seeds for a delightful end of season harvest.

When your child helps with food production, he or she learns the value of home-grown food and enjoys the vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient benefits fresh, wholesome produce delivers.

Eating homegrown, garden veggies contributes greatly to your child’s growth, strength, development and brain power. Furthermore, when your child participates in growing the food for your family, success brings a huge boost of self-esteem.

How Does Gardening Strengthen Family Relationships?

Working with your child in the garden provides an excellent opportunity for “quality time”. As you strive together toward the common goal of helping things grow and creating a beautiful and bountiful garden space, you are also helping family bonds grow and creating lifelong memories.

Gardening takes kids and parents away from the screen and into nature. It provides an opportunity for family members to communicate directly and build genuine connections.

When you and your child plan a garden, plant and germinate seeds and watch them grow, you have a sense of shared responsibility and purpose.

When you care for the seedlings with the right amount of water, food, pruning and care you and your child develop a sense of mindfulness.

When you engage in activities such as gathering collecting rainwater for gardening and composting basics like kitchen scraps, you teach your children the importance of using resources carefully and respecting and caring for our one and only planet.

Spending time in the outdoors engaged in honest labor in contact with the soil has long been touted as a way to ease the mind, calm the nerves and soothe the soul. Today, science is validating this long held belief. [source]

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