Houseplants

 

African Violet

Q:   When I bought my African violet it was blooming beautifully but it has never bloomed again.  What could be wrong? 

A:  Several things might be the cause of no blooming. My first concern would be the amount of light the plant may be receiving.  Although these plants are grown indoors they do require quite a bit of light exposure.  However, do not assume that means direct light as they should never be placed in full sun.  African violets should receive high indirect light.  They also need to be fertilized on a regular basis but the nitrogen level should be small.  Consider them as you would a baby which has to fed often but only with small amounts of food. Over watering could also cause the plant to not produce blooms.  I have included a publication from the University of Florida on growing violets.  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg028

Lucky Bamboo

Q:   The leaves on my lucky bamboo are turning yellow.  What could be wrong? 

A:   When the leaves of a plant start to yellow it is often the first indicationLucky Bamboo the plant is under some form of stress.  With landscape plants it can often mean the soil pH is too high or there is a nutrient deficiency.  Regarding your lucky bamboo, it is possible, if you are using city water, the pH is too high making the water alkaline. Even the bottled water we drink may be too alkaline for lucky bamboo. There is also a possibility your city water may have too much chlorine or fluorine in it. The best advice is to consider use filtered water instead.  If filtered water is not possible, then use the tap water but allow it to sit uncovered for at least one to two days.  This will allow much of the chlorine and/or fluorine to dissipate into the air.  Another possibility is the plant may be receiving too much sunlight.  Be sure the room is bright but not in direct sunlight – never in a window. 

 

Bromeliads

Q:  My bromeliad is starting to produce little plants off the side. Do I need to separate them from the original plant?

BromeliadsA:  The growths are called offsets or pups. Bromeliads slowly die over a period of a year or two after flowering. However, several pups usually develop during the flowering cycle and usually emerge from the soil near the edge of the container. The pups should be separated from the mother plant after they have developed a small rosette or circle of leaves similar to the mother plant. To remove a pup, use a serrated knife, pruning shears or small saw. Push the knife blade into the growing medium, between the pup and mother plant, and cut through near the base of the mother plant. The young pup may or may not have developed a root system of its own, but there is no need to worry, the roots will come later. Add more potting medium to the area where the pup has been removed and transplant the newly cut pup into another pot. The mother plant, especially if helped along with a small amount of dilute fertilizer, will continue to produce pups until it dies. Pups should begin growing soon even without a strong root system. It is very important to not overwater as this is the most common mistake when propagating bromeliads. These plants will normally flower in 1 to 3 years. Propagation by vegetative means (pups) is by far the best and most satisfactory method for home gardeners. Bromeliads can be planted in the landscape in frost-free areas of the state or grown in containers which can be moved indoors in areas where freezes occur. Since bromeliads require minimal care, they are an asset in the landscape. Some bromeliads tolerate low temperatures. The graceful, spiny Bromelia pinguin survives north Florida conditions, provided it is grown in a protected area. However, extreme cold temperatures will scorch and injure it. As a general rule, the softer-leafed species need a higher temperature, while those with very hard, stiff leaves are much more tolerant of cold.

Q: I recently read that Spanish moss and pineapples share the same plant family Bromeliacae. The two plants look so different! Can you tell me what characteristics put them in the same family?

A: Wow, you have posed a very interesting but difficult question! I am glad the complex choice of which plants fit into which group is not left up to me. Scientists group plants and animals using several criteria such as physical characteristics, growth and reproductive habits, even similar ancestry. Suffice it to say that greater minds than mine know more intimate information about Spanish moss and Pineapple and have concluded that these two plants are relatives. My limited knowledge can confirm that Bromeliacae are commonly called the Pineapple family. Some members of the Pineapple family are epiphytes while others are terrestrial. The terrestrial ones, which include pineapple, must live in soil to survive and reproduce offspring. Epiphytes, which include Spanish moss, do not require soil in order to grow but are often found in the canopy of trees. Epiphytes prefer partial shaded area and their roots are often exposed to the air for better absorption of water. In addition, epiphytes are also found in other families beside bromeliads. For instance, orchids are classified as epiphytes as well as some ferns but neither is in the Pineapple family. Both pineapple and Spanish moss are evergreen but you know plenty of other plants that fall into that category as well. So after saying all that, the bottom line is we cannot always look at the physical characteristics of a plant to determine the proper family; we have to leave that up to the experts.

Q: Can you please tell me what plants I have growing wild on my property on Amelia Island?  I have searched and searched on the web but can't find anything like them.  They appear to be some type of succulent, possibly in the Aloe family. Bromeliad

A:  The photos you sent me were beautiful.  I suspected they were some type of Bromeliad but I wasn’t sure so I asked a couple of the UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension Master Gardener volunteers who specialize in bromeliads to help.  One of the Master Gardener Volunteers, who has a horticulture degree and used to work for a local nursery, identified them as Bromelia pinguin.  Bromelia pinquin is native to Mexico, most of South American and even the Caribbean.  About one year after the fruit withers, the plant dies.  It reproduces vegetatively and by seeds, which is one of the reasons it has spread so quickly in your landscape.  According to John K. Francis, Research Forester from USDA, the fruit is strongly acidic, tastes somewhat like pineapple and is used to make a refreshing drink.  It can become a nuisance in wildlife areas and removal may be required if it becomes overgrown and escapes formal landscapes.  Their relative, Bromelia balansae, are non-natives and have a tendency to “misbehave” by escaping to wildlife areas. I realize you did not plant these bromeliads but it is a good lesson for all of us to be careful before putting plants in our landscape especially those coming from exotic areas. 

Q:  My neighbor has planted a bromeliad in full sun.  I thought they all had to be grown in shade. 

A:  Bromeliads come from a wide range of environments, from areas with deep shade to full sun, so chances are good you can find a bromeliad suitable for the amount of light your landscape receives. Light exposure can alter a bromeliad's leaf color, leaf shape, and growth rate.  If the light levels are too low for the variety then the leaves will become long, thin, and greener in color. If light levels are too high the leaves become shorter, thicker, and lighter in color, sometimes even the edges of the leaves will turn brown. Bromeliads have very shallow roots which are mainly used to anchor the plant so it is important to provide well drained soil which is moist but never wet.  The ideal soil should consist of equal parts peat, bark and coarse sand. Attached is a publication from the University of Florida: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep337
In addition, this article was printed in the Bromeliad Society Newsletter and lists some full sun bromeliads for South Florida.  However, do note, these bromeliads may not be able to handle the colder temperatures of Northeast Florida: http://fcbs.org/articles/full-sun-bromeliads.htm

Q:  What can you tell me about the chenille plant? I am thinking about putting it in my yard. 

Chenille plant A:  There is a standard variety of Chenille plant, Acalypha hispida, and a dwarf plant, Acalypha pendula.  I am going to assume it is the dwarf variety as it is commonly sold in our local garden centers but usually in a hanging basket.  Both types of chenille plants will grow only in South Florida year round.  What makes this plant so attractive is the long, drooping red colored flowers which are shaped like a tail. It almost looks like red fur. These flowers bloom during the warm weather. The dwarf plant grows to about 6 inches whereas the standard variety can reach heights up to 6 feet.  It prefers partial sun to part shade and can tolerate most any type of soil.  Keep the soil moist but well-drained. It is slow growing and I believe in Northeast Florida, it would be better suited for a hanging basket rather than putting it in the ground.  Most likely it will die back in the winter and probably not return so you need to treat it like an annual.  However, you might get lucky and get a season or two out of it but do not be surprised if it does not survive our winters.  It really has no serious disease issues but scale, aphids and mites can be potential problems.  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp005

 

Chinese Hat Plant

Q: Will you identify this plant for me? 

A:  I appreciated the photo of this plant.  I was totally unfamiliar with it as it chinese hat plantappeared to be a tropical plant so I called another Extension agent to help me.  Wendy Wilber from Alachua County recognized it immediately as Holmskioldia sanguinea 'Chinese Hat Plant' aka cup and saucer plant, or parasol flower.  It can reach heights of up to 8 feet and form a small shrub.  The flowers are orange and look similar to a hat – hence the common name – Chinese Hat Plant.  It is best grown in zones 10 – 11, which is south Florida.  Here it may last only one season unless it is grown in a much protected area. Chinese Hat Plant can tolerate most any type of well-drained soil but light requirements are best in part sun to part shade.  It has not been a favorite of gardeners as it has a tendency to get leggy and somewhat weedy looking over time. If you decide to try it, it is suggested to use it behind other shorter plants.  Look over the publication from the University of Florida for specific details.  http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/shrub_fact_sheets/holsana.pdf

Christmas Cactus

Q: Can I plant my Christmas cactus outside?

A: Christmas cactus is in the genus, Schlumbergera, Christmas Cactusand in Northeast Florida it is most often treated as a house plant rather than a choice for the landscape.  Of course, people are always surprising me and therefore in some micro-climates it may do well.  However, before you plant it in the ground consider it would be at risk should we have a hard freeze.  It is possible to cover the Christmas cactus until the threat of freeze is over, but may not guarantee success.  If it is too large for your house, you might consider propagating it into smaller hanging pots.  Propagation is easily done by leaves or cuttings.  All parts of the plant are poisonous - so don’t eat it.  But it might also be wise to keep it away from any nibbling animal friends or children.  Christmas cactus can tolerate sun to partial shade and most of the time the reason this plant fails is the result of over watering.  Err on the side of “too dry” to avoid root rots.  Be cautious when hanging plants in windows; few of them like the intense heat caused by direct sunlight through glass panes.  Filtered light through trees works best for most house plants.

Cyclamen

Q:  A friend just brought me a cyclamen.  What can you tell me about this pretty plant?  Cyclamen
A:  Cyclamen plants have exotic looking flowers but the leaves are also stunning – such a pretty plant. However, they are a little finicky about their environment. They prefer evening temperatures between 40 – 50 degrees F, day time temperatures should not go over 70. This makes cyclamen a great plant to help us out of the gray doldrums of the long stretch between January and March. It is possible to put the plant outside as long as you bring it back inside or cover it up when temperatures drop below forty. Cyclamen also prefers good air circulation and moisture in the air which makes it a poor choice as a year round house plant. Evidence it is unhappy with the environment is yellowing leaves, which eventually drop off.   In addition, cyclamen does not like wet soil. The soil must be well drained.  This is probably why it does not last from one season to another here in Florida as we always have one or two rainy seasons during the late spring and summer. The most common problem is overwatering which causes the tubers to decay. Mites can be an issue for cyclamen and violets which can best be controlled by horticulture oil. I would treat cyclamen like a cool season annual. Enjoy the beautiful leaves and flowers for the length of time you have it. When selecting one from the retail nursery, be sure to pick one with loads of unopened buds to provide the optimum amount of flowers. 

 

Desert Rose

Q: I have a question about my Desert Rose plant. I live 2 miles south of Callahan and my home faces the west. My plant sits on my front porch and gets full afternoon sun. It is in a well drained pot and I water it regularly every other day. In the past 3 days I have noticed the leaves turning yellow and dropping off. What is causing this problem? I appreciate your help.

A: Regarding your Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) plant.  It is good that you placed it in well-drained soil, but I suspect you are watering it too much. Desert Rose This plant is classified as a succulent and requires very little water.  It hardiness zone is 10-11 and it should be grown only in South Florida.  However, some people have great luck growing it as a house plant similar to the situation you have described.  The only problem this plant has is over watering, over fertilizing or low light.  It sounds as if you are doing everything correctly except for over watering.  I would suggest you cut back to once every week or two.  In fact, I water my succulents once a month or so and they do extremely well.  Try reducing the amount of water you give this plant and see if it doesn't recover. 

Donkey Ears

Q:  I have sent you a photo of a plant I purchased at a local garden store.  Donkey EarsCan you tell me what type of plant it is?

A:  I thought it belonged to the kalanchoe family so I set a Master Gardener to the task of finding the exact plant.  The name of the plant turned out to be Donkey Ears, Bryophyllum gastonis-bonnieri. This plant can be grown outdoors in south Florida (zone 11) but will die once our temperatures go below 40 degrees F, therefore we should grow them only in pots.  It can tolerate a wide range of light conditions from full sun to light shade.  It is drought tolerant and once it blooms it becomes an attractant for bees and butterflies.


Dracaena

Q: Please tell me what I can do about my Dracaena.  It is all stem and a few fronds at the top.  Is there a way I can bring it all down to my size?   Also I have some Lucky Bamboo with a similar problem--all stem and not much show.  Any help will be gratefully appreciated.

A: Dracaenas are generally rugged, carefree houseplants with a Dracenaerobust and tropical appearance. They are widely used for both home and office plantings. Many tolerate low light conditions. Allow dracaenas to dry slightly between watering. Wait until the soil surface is dry to the touch then water the plant thoroughly. Avoid watering with cold water. A standard commercial houseplant potting mix may be used. Feed dracaenas with liquid foliage plant fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer months. Time release fertilizer pellets may be used also. Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is part of the same family. The more common Dracaena are Dracaena deremensis, Dracaena fragrans (corn plant), and Dracaena marginata.  When the plant stems become too long or too bare pruning it to the desired height will force it to branch out.  All of the Dracaena listed above are indoor specimens for Northeast Florida; it gets too cold here to plant them outside.  Check out this website from Clemson University about Dracaena http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/indoor/foliage/hgic1504.html

Q:  My dracaena is getting so large.  How would I propagate it?

A: Rooting of tip cuttings, air layering, and cane cuttings are the primary methods of Dracaena propagation. Air layering or cane cuttings are mainly used for large specimens and tip cuttings are used for producing the smaller Dracaena species. Be sure your pruning instruments are clean and sterile before starting the project.  Use a 70% solution of isopropyl (alcohol) to wipe pruners before and in between cuts.  Make the cuttings about six inches long then remove all but 2 or three of the leaves. Cuttings may be dipped in root hormone before being placed in moistened sand, vermiculite and/or perlite media. Consider covering the plants with clear plastic to reduce the amount of moisture lost as the roots are being formed.  Place the cuttings in a brightly lit area but away from direct sun light.  It may take about 6-9 weeks for roots to form.  Once the roots have developed you may put the new plants in pots.

Q:  My office staff just gave me an indoor corn plant but I have no windows in my office.  Will this plant survive?  Do I need to purchase special lighting for it? 

A:  The good news about receiving a large indoor plant for the office is these plants are accustomed to being in a controlled environment with low lighting and consistent, ambient temperatures. In addition, the newer fluorescent lights are now offering the broad spectrum lighting plants prefer. These light bulbs will be essential especially when no direct or indirect sunlight is available. Fortunately for you, the corn plant, Dracaena fragrans, is quite comfortable in office environments.  It has become so adapted to low light we recommended keeping it at least 8 feet from the direct sunlight exposure of windows.  In most offices, overhead lighting is generally on eight hours or more which provide sufficient light for house plants. If any house plant begins to grow spindly and tall, then you know it is not receiving enough light and will need to be moved to another area, preferably near a window. 

Fig

Q:  What is causing the new leaves on my ficus plants to fold in half?  I have been told they are thrips.

A:  After talking to you about bringing a sample in a sealed plastic bag to the office, I was able to determine they were most likely Weeping fig thrips, Gynaikohrps uzeli.  Since the plants at your nursery were originally brought in from South Florida, it was important for me to notify the Florida Division of Plant Industry plant inspector about spotting this insect pest.  We do not want these insects to become established here as it is quite possible for the insects to feed on other landscape plants which could lead to some serious issues.  Weeping fig thrips is a very large thrips compared to the flower and chili thrips we are more accustom to seeing in this area.  They are dark black and can be plainly seen without the aid of a stereoscope or eyepiece whereas flower or chili thrips are best seen using magnification aids. Weeping fig thrips typically feed on the new leaves and cause them to fold onto themselves, covering the thrips. The feeding causes blotches on the leaves and can lead to pre-mature leaf drop. Chemical control is difficult but professionals have chemicals available with the appropriate pesticide license.  Such products as Merit and Safari can be used as a soil drench (poured around the root area of the plant). This will allow the chemical to be absorbed through the roots and then the chemical will move to other parts of the plant eventually reaching every leaf.  When the insects feed on the leaves they will take in the chemical and you should see some control in your nursery setting. 


Freesia

Q:  Can I plant my freesia in the ground here in Northeast Florida? Freesia sparrmanii

A:  Freesias do best as potted plants in Florida. Corms, which are specialized stems, should be dug up and stored when foliage turns yellow.  Digging them up each year and storing them in the refrigerator may be more trouble than it is worth but that decision is yours.  You have had great success growing them in pots so you might not want to ruin a good thing.  For those of you who would like to grow them in pots:  plant corms in pots from November to December about 2 inches deep in rich potting soil.  A six inch pot will accommodate about 3-6 corms.  Expect blooms to occur from January to February.  Freesia produces a variety of colors and prefers partial shaded light conditions.  I have been told that the most fragrant blooms are the white ones, so that may help you decide on which varieties to choose.  Freesia can be purchased at your local garden centers, nurseries and through reputable bulb catalog companies. 

Orchids

Q:  Can I leave my orchid in the plastic pot it came in? 

A:  It really should to be re-potted in an appropriate orchid pot.Orchid The first preference is one made of terracotta with holes in the side to encourage and permit appropriate air flow.  Providing the right amount of air circulating around the roots discourages fungal disease. Be careful when choosing a soil medium as the roots require good air circulation and water should drain readily. Therefore stay away from soil which has a tendency to hold water for long periods of time. We suggest selecting a potting mix developed specifically for orchids. We will demonstrate a step by step method to repot orchids at the next Landscape Matters class. This month’s free class will be conducted by UF/IFAFS Master Gardener volunteer Shirley Lohman and will be held at 10am, at the Nassau County Governmental Complex.  I have seen a few orchids the last few weeks with mealybugs and leafhoppers.  If you have problems with your orchids, please feel free to bring them to the class and we can provide a diagnosis and solution. 

Q:  How do I repot my orchid?  It was a gift from my son and I want to keep it alive.

A:  The first thing I notice about your plant is it has algae growing on the roots, this often indicates Orchidtoo much moisture.  The orchid is currently being held in a plastic pot with large slits which is perfect.  However, this pot was placed into a larger solid, glazed pot. This meant the roots have not been exposed to enough air circulation which has caused the moisture build-up. So, this first step is to use the outer glazed pot for something else – not orchids.  The best time to repot is always confusing for most people but to keep it simple – just don’t repot when the orchid is flowering.  Be sure your hands and tools are clean and sanitized and the working area is void of any potential disease or debris.  Use a sterile orchid medium which can be purchased at most any garden center. I know it sounds too simple but you can even use plain tree bark medium – avoid garden soils made for vegetable gardening. Remove any dead or mushy root material, throw away old medium and thoroughly rinse it off roots.  Place orchids back into a larger pot with slits, which allow for air around the roots, add bark material, moisten whole pot, drain excess water and you are set to go.  You may need to use clips to hold the orchid in place.  These also can be purchased at local garden centers.        

 

Peace Lily

Q: My peace lily is starting to have brown edges on the leaves. I have been watering it with tap water which goes through my water softener. Could that be the problem?

A: I am glad you called with this question; it is one we often get in the winterPeace Lily because people bring plants in during cold months and will water them with softened water. Brown edges on plant leaves can be caused by over watering, over fertilizing or even under watering. However, once you told me you were watering with softened water I suspected an accumulation of salts from the softener is causing the burn on the leaves. For house plants it is best to use bottled drinking water to avoid salt build-up. You can recognize the salt build-up by checking out the pot or surface soil for a white, flaky substance. In addition, this salt build-up can also occur when watering with hard water which will accumulate a calcium deposit. You may be able to flush out the excess salts by allowing clean bottled drinking water to run through the soil several times. Be sure the water is able to run out of the bottom of the flower pot to prevent the roots from getting too wet and causing root rot. You might consider repotting the plant in a new container and replacing the soil with clean potting material. The damage done by softened water is not limited to house plants; turf grass can experience the same symptoms of salt burn if softened water is used on lawns.

Q:  I have been trying to propagate my peace lily by cutting pieces and trying to root them in water but nothing has worked.  Do you have any ideas? 

A:   The Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum wallisii, is a very attractive houseplant for Northeast Florida.  It can be grown outside in protected areas but it is better suited for Central and South Florida (zones 10-11).  Remember, Nassau County shares two cold hardiness zones – 8b for the Westside and 9a for the Eastside.  It is generally thought I-95 divides the county into the aforementioned zones.  The reason you are having difficulty propagating this plant is it can be reproduced only by dividing its rhizomes.  Rhizomes are specialized underground stems that grow just below the surface of the soil.  These specialized stems are found on such plants as iris and canna.  Division of rhizomes should occur at the beginning or the end of the growing season. 

Peacock Plant

Q:  You and I talked about the peacock ginger and I have been looking for them since our discussion.  I bought a peacock plant the other day and I wanted to know if I got lucky and found a peacock ginger by accident. 

A: I am glad you brought it in for me to see as common names can be so confusing.Peacock Plant Peacock plants and peacock gingers are not the same plant although the leaves are similar looking.  I suspect the similar name “peacock” comes from the beautiful patterns on the upper leaves of both plants.  Peacock plant, Calathea makoyana, is considered a tropical, house plant here, although it might be possible to use them in a protected area such as a screened patio.  They are best suited for cold hardiness zones 10-11, which is South Florida.  Remember, we are more typically 8b – 9a cold hardiness zones.  Peacock plants can grow to 4 feet tall whereas peacock gingers only grow to about 18 inches.  For more information on the peacock plant, check out the University of Florida publication:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FP/FP08600.pdf

Philodendron

Q: My philodendron plants are very large and are putting on "pods" among the leaves.  The pods come out at the bottom of the leaves near the main stalk.  I can find nothing in any of my gardening books that help me to understand what these are. Philodendron po Can you please help me?  Thanks a bunch.

A: I suspect the plant you have is called a Tree philodendron or Selloum, Philodendron bipinnatifidum.  This plant can grow rather rapidly and reach heights up to 15 feet as well as a spread of 15 feet. It may be sensitive to the deep freezes we sometimes have here in Northeast Florida so you may want to protect it if we develop a hard freeze (28 degrees for more than 4 hours). It can be grown in full sun or partial shade in a wide variety of soil types and is slightly salt tolerant.  The pods are probably the structures covering the flower which is called a spathe; the flower portion is called a spadix.  The spathe will be greenish white, similar to the structure produced by a peace lily.  It will produce a few seeds which can be easily propagated by placing them in moist sphagnum moss.  Obviously you are taking good care of this plant because it is healthy enough to produce flowers and seed. Good luck and enjoy your plant.

Q:  I have seen a large plant growing on a tree at a local historic home in Fernandina Beach. The leaves are several feet long and it seems to die back in the winter. Can you tell me what it is?

A: One of the Master Gardeners knew the plant you were referring to and was so curious she went to Centre Street to check it out. We believe it is probably the split-leaf philodendron, Monstera deliciosa, also called Swiss-cheese plant. This vine is a vigorous climber that can grow to lengths of 30 feet or more. It prefers partial to deep shade, and rich, moist soils. Its native habitat is Mexico and Central America and it has several variegated cultivars. The split-leaf philodendron can be easily grown in south and central Florida but often dies back during the colder temperatures of North Florida. Propagation can be done by seed or cuttings. The only problems it may have are with scale, mealy bugs or mites.

Prayer Plant

A: Maranta or Prayer PlantPrayer Plant is a clump-forming herb indigenous to tropical Americas, primarily South America. It is a small tropical plant with broad oval leaves, up to 8 inches long by half as wide. The leaves fold upwards at night, hence the common name of prayer plant. Our weather here is too cold, so it can only be used as an indoor plant. Plant in regular, well-drained potting mix and keep the soil evenly moist, but not wet. Grow in diffused sun, bright, indirect light, warm temperatures (usually between 60 and 85 degrees) and high humidity. Do not allow water to stand on the crowns; the stems rot easily. It should be watered at the root area only. Since the plant has a shallow root system it should be planted in shallow pots. Re-potting can be done in February or March but only if the plant out-grows its container. During the winter, when our indoor air is dry, the plant may be lightly misted. The plant responds to being trimmed at least twice a year unless you want it as a hanging plant. Trimming helps to keep the plant growing vigorously in a clumping fashion. Propagation is by division of root system. Some Marantas have the red veins as you described, but other plants are totally green. Marentas are versatile indoor plants because they can be used as small specimen plants, hanging plants, ground covers in interiorscapes and in dish gardens and combination planters.

Swedish Ivy

Q:  I'm attaching a picture of my Swedish ivy which I have had in a hanging basket for awhile. Lately it seems kind of pitiful looking and I'm wondering what I could do to perk it up some.

A:  Swedish Ivy is often used as an indoor hanging plant but it can be placed outside if the conditions are appropriate. Swedish IvyIdeal temperatures are 55 to 60 degrees at night and up to 80 degrees during the day.  Since most of our summer days are above 80 degrees this plant should be grown in an area that never receives direct light.  This would be especially true during the summer.  Keep the soil evenly moistened in summer but drier during winter.  Do not over-water because this could cause root rot.  Fertilize regularly, spring through fall, with a house plant fertilizer used according to label directions. The plant needs pinching to keep it bushy. If the bottom leaves turn yellow and fall off, reduce watering. Propagation is by cuttings, therefore, ideally you might consider taking the plant indoors.  If you need outdoor hanging plants you might consider herbs, begonias, spider plants, ferns or another ivy plant.

Q:  I had Swedish ivy in a hanging basket for two years but it finally died last year.  I cannot find it anywhere. Do you know where I can purchase some more? 

A:  Swedish ivy is generally considered a house plant so you might check in the local franchised garden centers for it. This plant can often be found inside the stores located in special areas with other house plants.  Now might be a difficult time as the stores are just finishing the Christmas season and it may take some time before new shipments of plants will arrive. Swedish IvyYou can always check on-line but you will have to pay shipping costs and often those plants are very small initially.  If you want some other ideas for hardier plants you might consider lantana, Algerian or English ivy, vinca, spider plants, creeping fig, cherry tomatoes, squash, cucumber, potato vine or even strawberries. All of these plants will hang and some of them will even produce fruit for you which can be a very nice bonus.  Some are evergreen while others will be annual plantings.  Many attract butterflies when flowering, making then a wonderful addition to any landscape. 

Wax Plant

Q:   My house plant is thriving and flowering.  Can you identify it for me? 

A:   Luckily your photos of the unusual flowers made it really easy to identify.  Wax PlantYour plant is Wax Plant or Porcelain Flower, Hoya carnosa.  Wax plant is an evergreen, succulent tropical plant which can be grown in cold hardiness zones 9-11.  The fragrant flower clusters are creamy white to pale pink which attract butterflies and bees. Propagation is simple by either division of root system or cuttings from the leaf or stem.  It prefers a slightly acid soil but avoid overwatering.  Wax Plant is often found in fair competitions as the flowers are so attractive.  I would recommend any of you hobby gardeners submit your plants in the Northeast Florida Fair this fall.  The fair will be taking plant submissions from 8am-6pm on Friday, October 17 at the Multi-purpose building in Callahan.  The Nassau County Extension office is located at this site.  The address is 543350 U.S. Highway #1.  All entries must be free of disease and insects and containers need to be clean.  No cuttings or stems will be accepted.  The plants would have to be removed after 10pm on Saturday, October 25.  Come be a part of the fun of a County fair and show off your gardening treasures!