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Plant Health Care Division   Date: Thursday 18 December, 2014
News Summary:
Check Here To See Plant Care Information: RECENTLY UPDATED- NEW INFO!

News Content:

Unpacking Your Plant:

If you've recently purchased a live plant from us, you will want to follow these basic unpacking directions.

When unpacking your plant, please note:

1. Even though various plants like lots of light and heat, it can be shocked after being in a dark box. Make sure to gradually expose it to the proper light and heat. Never put it straight outside because that can cook the plant just as you can be sunburned when you do not have the proper sun tolerance.

2. Most plants prefer temperatures of at least 70 degrees F. But 80-90 would be most ideal. Anything below 70 degrees will affect the performance of your plant. Below 65, it will typically stop growing at all.

3. Transplanting can be a shock to the plant. Hold off transplanting until your plant has adapted to your new environment and looks stable. You do not want to add any new stresses to a plant that has just spent days in a box.

4. Certain plants like high humidity. Often subtle changes in humidity can cause leaves to drop. You can always put a clear bag over the top of the plant to increase the humidity- even in a dry area. This often helps to stabilize the plant.

5. Some plants leaves drop very easily. But as long as you still have healthy nodes, the leaves will grow back once it adjusts to your conditions. If the roots and stem are healthy, it is not uncommon for a plant that has lost all its leaves to grow back.

6. Certain plants do not like soils that are too acidic. Even though it may like nutrient-rich soils, soils rich in organic matter tend to be acidic. This may cause the leaves to lighten. You can use garden lime, gypsum or Epsom salt to help balance the soil ph.

Plant Cuttings:

If you ordered a plant cutting, it is very important to re-cut the tip (rooting) so that it can absorb water, as it may have begun to heal over during shipment. Do this first thing before you begin to root the cutting, using your preferred method.

Softwood cuttings are just that, from soft wood such as new growth that is somewhat pliable. If woody stems, these are hardwood cuttings, which are from hard wood and generally harder to root. Softwood cuttings are generally made during the early part of the growing season for perennials, end of the season for annuals, or most any time for houseplants. Hardwood cuttings are often made during fall or winter while plants are dormant. Cuttings should be about 3 to 5 inches long, and should be cut from the parent plant just below a leaf or bud. Remove the lower leaves, if present, from the portion of the cutting that will be inserted into the rooting medium, leaving 3 to 4 leaves on the upper portion of the cutting for the best rooting from softwood cuttings.

There are other types of cuttings especially used with houseplants, such as leaf cuttings or leaf bud cuttings. In the latter such as with African violets and begonias, a leaf stem, with bud attached at the base, is inserted in the rooting medium. For leaf cuttings, notch the veins on a leaf such as of begonias, lay flat on the rooting medium and weight or peg down gently. New plants should arise from the leaf where the veins were notched.

Cuttings can be rooted in vermiculite, perlite, coarse sand, mixtures of sand or perlite with peat moss, or any other material that will support them, while remaining loose enough to allow air to reach newly forming roots. The material should hold enough water to prevent the lower end of the stem from drying, and it should also be free of insects and disease-causing organisms. Plants, such as gardenias, that prefer acid soil often root better in a mixture containing peat moss in addition to sand or perlite. Water is not a good medium to root most cuttings in because an adequate amount of oxygen can't reach developing roots. You'll get a sturdier root system if you use another rooting medium. Some very succulent plants such as coleus and mints, and some vining houseplants as swedish ivy, ivies, or philodendrons will root readily in water. If you use a fish aquarium aeration system, this is the best way to root in water.

Place the rooting medium in a container, such as a flower pot, and settle in gently by tapping. Don't pack it down hard. Then insert the cuttings into holes made with a pencil, taking care not to crowd them too closely. Dusting the bases of cuttings, prior to sticking, with rooting hormone powder may increase your success with some hard-to-root kinds of plants, but many kinds of houseplants and herbaceous plants (annuals, perennials) will root satisfactorily without this treatment. Leaves of adjacent plants should just overlap. Water thoroughly to settle the rooting medium around the cuttings and hold them in place.

After inserting the cuttings into the rooting medium, place a polyethylene bag over the entire pot and fasten it tightly around the base. You may wish to support the bag above the cuttings with straws or small stakes. This bag helps maintain optimum moisture conditions for rooting cuttings. Place the pot where it will receive plenty of diffuse light, but no direct sunlight. A north- or east-facing window is a good choice, especially in warm, bright weather. Open the bag every day for a few minutes to allow fresh air to reach the cuttings and to prevent mold from forming.

Check the temperature near the window to make sure it doesn't drop below 55 or 60 degrees F at night. The cuttings will root faster if temperatures are 65 to 75 degrees F. It is not usually necessary to water the cuttings again for about 2 weeks. But check them periodically to make sure the "soil" doesn't become dry. The length of time needed for roots to form depends on the kind of plant, the temperature, and other factors. Many kinds of houseplants, coleus and such will root in 10 to 21 days.

When cuttings have developed several strong roots, they can be transplanted into potting soil. Don't yank rooted cuttings out of the rooting medium by their stems or you may break off some of the newly formed roots. Instead, insert a broad, flat object, such as a table knife, into the rooting medium below the cutting and gently lift it out. Water thoroughly after potting and leave in diffused light for a week to ten days until new growth begins. Some plants that wilt easily may benefit if the polyethylene bag is left over the tops for a week after potting.

Fertilizing:

Fertilization for Young Plants

Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it (the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.

Fertilization for Established Plants

Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.

Part Sun:

Part Sun refers to filtered light, with most sun being received during the afternoon hours. Shade usually occurs during the morning hours.

Light Conditions:

Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.

You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.

Full to Partial Sun:

Full sunlight is needed for many plants to assume their full potential. Many of these plants will do fine with a little less sunlight, although they may not flower as heavily or their foliage as vibrant. Areas on the southern and western sides of buildings usually are the sunniest. The only exception is when houses or buildings are so close together, shadows are cast from neighboring properties. Full sun usually means 6 or more hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on a sunny day. Partial sun receives less than 6 hours of sun, but more than 3 hours. Plants able to take full sun in some climates may only be able to tolerate part sun in other climates. Know the culture of the plant before you buy and plant it!

Types of Pruning:

Types of pruning include: pinching, thinning, shearing and rejuvenating.

Pinching is removing the stem tips of a young plant to promote branching. Doing this avoids the need for more severe pruning later on.

Thinning involves removing whole branches back to the trunk. This may be done to open up the interior of a plant to let more light in and to increase air circulation that can cut down on plant disease. The best way to begin thinning is to begin by removing dead or diseased wood.

Shearing is leveling the surface of a shrub using hand or electric shears. This is done to maintain the desired shape of a hedge or topiary.

Rejuvenating is removal of old branches or the overall reduction of the size of a shrub to restore its original form and size. It is recommended that you do not remove more than one third of a plant at a time. Remember to remove branches from the inside of the plant as well as the outside. When rejuvenating plants with canes, such as nandina, cut back canes at various heights so that plant will have a more natural look.

Light and Plant Selection:

For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.

Full Sun:

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering Conditions:

Moist

Moist is defined as soil that receives regular watering to a depth of 18 inch deep, does not dry out, but does not have a drainage problem either.

Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants:

Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to over-water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Outdoor Watering:

Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:

* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.

* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.

* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).

* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.

* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.

Planting:

Planting Vines & Climbers:

Choose the planting site for your climber carefully: its long flexible stems may need some shelter, but planting right next to a wall might keep it from the sun or water it needs. Make sure that there's room for the climber to grow when it gets tall, and remember that it will grow towards the sun unless carefully trained. Be sure you will be able to manage the plant once it becomes tall, or that if it has a mind of its own, it won't become a problem.

Select a support structure before you plant your climber. Common support structures are trellises, wires, strings, or existing structures. Some plants, like ivy, climb by aerial roots and need no support. Aerial rooted climbers are fine for concrete and masonary, but should never be allowed to climb on wood. Clematis climbs by leaf stalks and the Passion flower by coiling tendrils. Akebia and Wisteria climb by twining stems in a spiral fashion around its support.

Do not use permanent ties; the plant will quickly outgrow them. Use soft, flexible ties (twist-ties work well), or even strips of pantyhose, and check them every few months. Make sure that your support structure is strong, rust-proof, and will last the life of the plant. Anchor your support structure before you plant your climber.

Dig a hole large enough for the root ball. Plant the climber at the same level it was in the container. Plant a little deeper for clematis or for grafted plants. Fill the hole with soil, firming as you do, and water well. As soon as the stems are long enough to reach their support structure, gently and loosely tie them as necessary.

If planting in a container, follow the same guidelines. Plan ahead by adding a trellis to the pot, especially if the container will not be positioned where a support for the vine is not readily available. It is possible for vines and climbers to ramble on the ground or cascade over walls too.

Problems:

Pest: Spider Mites

Spider mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing mouth parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They also produce a web which can cover infested leaves and flowers.

Prevention and Control:

Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered, especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.

Pest: Whiteflies

Whiteflies are small, winged insects that look like tiny moths, which attack many types of plants. The flying adult stage prefers the underside of leaves to feed and breed. Whiteflies can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 500 eggs in a life span of 2 months. If a plant is infested with whiteflies, you will see a cloud of fleeing insects when the plant is disturbed. Whiteflies can weaken a plant, eventually leading to plant death if they are not checked. They can transmit many harmful plant viruses. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Possible controls: keep weeds down; use screening in windows to keep them out; remove infested plants away from non-infested plants; use a reflective mulch (aluminum foil) under plants (this repels whiteflies); trap with yellow sticky cards, apply labeled pesticides; encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden; and sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant.

Fungi: Leaf Spots

Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.

Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.

Miscellaneous: Arbors, Trellises, Pergolas

Arbors, trellises, and pergolas provide vines and climbers the support needed for their growth habit. These can be used as features or accents in a garden to add height, to provide shade, or as a transitional element from one area of the garden to another. Common materials for these structures include wood, metal, and plastic. Select according to the style of your garden and the amount of upkeep required. Painted, wooden structures will be higher maintenance, whereas a rust-proof metal structure will require less maintenance and last longer.

Evergreen:

Evergreen refers to plants that hold onto their leaves or needles for more than one growing season, shedding them over time.

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