Category Archives: News and Tips

Houseplant of the Month – Croton

The croton is an easy-to-grow houseplant known for its variegated foliage covered in green, scarlet, orange, and yellow splotches. Here’s how to care for a croton in your home or garden.
 
Croton, also called “garden croton,” are native to the tropical forests of southeast Asia and Oceania. In the wild, they grow as large shrubs, reaching up to 10 feet tall (in the home or garden, they stay a lot smaller).
 
Note: All parts of this plant are poisonous—especially the seeds—so it is not recommended for use in homes with curious pets or children. When damaged, croton produce a milky sap that can be irritating to the skin, too.
 
PLANTING CROTON
•When choosing a container for your croton, keep in mind that the plant will grow upright, which eventually may cause it to become top heavy. Pick a container that won’t easily tip over when the croton gets larger.
•Use a well-draining potting mix. Croton like to be kept moist, but not wet.
•In areas with warm, humid summers, croton can be grown outdoors as a unique and colorful landscape plant. They work well in tropical-themed containers or alongside annuals in the ground. When temperatures drop to around 50°F (10° C), croton will need to be taken indoors.
 
HOW TO CARE FOR CROTON
•Place croton in a sunny location such as an eastern, southern, or western window. If a croton is getting too little light, its newer leaves will be less colorful. 
•Keep the soil evenly moist, but let it dry out between waterings.
•If humidity is low in your home, mist around the leaves with water once a week or keep a tray of wet gravel near the plant.
•Croton leaves are dust magnets. Gently wipe the leaves with a moist cloth twice a month to keep them clean and dust-free.
•Fertilize the plant in spring and summer.
•New croton plants can be started with 4 to 6 inch long stem cuttings. Remove the bottom leaves and place the cutting in a glass of water. After roots have formed, plant in a small pot.
•Repot the plant in the spring if it has grown too large for its current pot.
 
PESTS/DISEASES
Croton are usually pest and disease free, though they are susceptible to common houseplant pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects.

Beautiful Bulbs…Easily!

Part of the allure of gardening is the anticipation. There is nothing more intoxicating than the thought of spring jonquils while enduring the heat of the summer. Properly planted, a gardener can create a blooming wonder that stretches from March till the end of June! Bulbs rarely need dividing so you can enjoy years of carefree color. Fall bulb planting is perhaps the most enjoyable gardening. Here are some points to remember when planning out a bloom pattern with spring flowering bulbs.

Drifts or vase?: Strange question-Are you planting your front foundation or naturalizing a semi-wild spot on the border of your property? For naturalizing an area use daffodils, tulips, scillas, crocus, or muscari to create a drift. A drift is usually viewed from a distance and therefore you should use more bulbs for impact. Plant in multiples of 25,50, 100 or 200. Scatter bulbs casually without regard for a formal pattern to achieve a look created by nature itself. These bulbs are inexpensive and are a great value in that they will spread and naturalize an area within a couple of years! A vase style is great for a more traditional planting as might be needed in the front of the house. Plant your tulips, daffodils & hyacinths in multiples of 3,5,7 and 9’s. Combining bulbs can create the effect of a flower arrangement effect-just as you might find in…A vase! Within your drift or vase you can create a planting that can provide lively color for weeks and months! If you are after a more formal look, then perhaps a border is what you have in mind. A formal border can be any geometric shape-square, rectangle, triangle or circle. To achieve a deep, full border of color, plant and space bulbs according to type. Generally, the proper planting depth is three times the bulb’s height from tip to base. Space bulbs equal to depth planted. Avoid planting bulbs any deeper than 8 inches in our area. This can stunt flower production. Finally, use a fertilizer high in phosphorous to encourage root development, either scratch it in as a top-dressing or put in the prepared bed. Water in well. The bulbs need this period to root in well. Planting can occur well into November or until the ground is too frozen to work. Once the ground is frozen, apply a mulch to keep shallow bulbs from heaving during thaws. You’ll have plenty of blooms to enjoy all spring!

Mum Basics

 
Chrysanthemums (mums) are one of the most popular fall flowers for the garden. Most varieties are easy to grow with their basic needs being full sun, rich soil, good drainage, and good air circulation. There are hundreds of varieties available that can provide blooms from late summer through fall.
 
MUM BASICS
Zones: 5-9 (some varieties to zone 4).
Height/Spread: Varieties 1-3 feet/1-2 feet
Flower Color: Chrysanthemum flowers bloom in shades of white, yellow, orange, lavender, purple, or red.
Exposure: Mums prefer full sunlight during the growing season, and not enough sunlight will result in a weaker plant that will produce fewer flower heads. However, blooms will last longer if they are moved to a shadier spot after flower buds develop.
Soil: Mums prefer rich, well-drained soil. A good rule of thumb is if the soil is good for vegetables, it’s good for mums.
Bloom Time: September to frost. Mums are known as short-day plants, meaning flowering is triggered by the shorter days in late summer and early fall. Flowering can also be forced in a light-controlled greenhouse.
 
PLANTING & CARE
When to plant: For use as a perennial, plant mums in early spring or at least 6 weeks before a killing frost in fall. Spring-planted mums will have the best chance of surviving the following winter. If you are using them as an annual pop of fall color, plant them when blooming in late summer or early fall.
Water: Chrysanthemums require more frequent watering due to their shallow roots, especially in high heat or little rainfall. A layer of mulch in summer will help conserve water and keep the soil moist and cool.
Pruning: Pinch approximately 1 inch from the branch tips two to three times during the growing season to encourage branching and a sturdier plant. Early bloomers that bloom in mid-September, should be pinched no later than mid-June. October bloomers can be pinched up until mid-July, with the rule of thumb being not to pinch any closer than 3 months to bloom time.
Propagation: When mums are grown as perennials, they can be divided every two to three years in the spring. Dig up the plant when new growth begins to appear, discard the dying center and re-plant the new shoots on the outside of the plant. Mums can also be grown from cuttings taken in the spring. Cut just below a leaf node and root in sterile potting soil. The new plants should be watered daily and kept in a sunny windowsill until established.
Fertilizer: Mums are not big feeders, so it is best to apply a dilute fertilizer several times before bud set. A 5-10-5 fertilizer formulation will have the greatest effect on flower production and overall growth.
Diseases and Pests: Some diseases that can affect mums are leaf spot, powdery mildew, and viral diseases such as mosaic or stunt. Avoid overcrowding and overly shady locations that cause moisture to remain on the leaves and provide a habitat for diseases. Pests can include aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, leafminers, plant bugs, and spider mites.
 
DESIGN IDEAS
Chrysanthemums are great for growing directly in the garden or in containers, here are some ideas:
•Perfect for containers and baskets because of their shallow-rooting habit.
•Use as an annual in the fall to fill in and replace summer-blooming annuals.
•With the many color varieties available, mums can provide coordinating or contrasting color accents to both indoor and outdoor spaces.
•Mums are relatively inexpensive, making them a great choice for large groupings or repeated throughout an area.
 
GARDEN MUM VS. FLORIST MUM:
The difference between garden and florist mums comes down to their hardiness. Garden mums are typically the varieties you would plant outdoors in your garden and are hardy in their specific zones. Florist mums are used solely for indoor potted plants and are not suited for transplanting outside. Make sure you are buying the correct type for your intended use and location.
 
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are chrysanthemums annuals or perennials?
Although the most widely available mums are grown as fall annuals, there are varieties that can also be grown as perennials in some regions with a little care to over-winter them. In colder zones, leave the top growth in place and add loose mulch such as straw or evergreen branches around them for protection, waiting to cut back in spring after new growth emerges. In warmer winter climates, they can be cut back to 6” tall after flowering. Check your local garden center to see what varieties work best in your area.
What about the potted mums sold at supermarkets and big box stores?
These affordable plants show up in stores during the fall and have a tidy mound of small flowers. Sometimes called garden mums or Belgian mums, these plants are typically grown as annuals. They are popular for use as part of an autumn container display. Most gardeners report that they aren’t as hardy as the mums featured above and rarely winter over.
Are mums poisonous to cats, dogs or other animals?
Mums do contain substances that are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses if ingested, so be sure to keep this in mind when choosing a location that might be explored by curious pets. See more Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats.
Are mums deer and rabbit resistant?
Deer and rabbits tend to avoid plants with fragrant leaves and fuzzy texture, both of which are attributes of mums, making them fairly resistant.