What's Coming Up 208: Get the houseplants in order

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Frustrated by being housebound, we can over-do houseplant care. Don't let your beautiful collection slide downhill. Check this compendium of indoor gardening advice for the end of winter. 

February 8, 2014

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Deep into winter, garden plans and houseplants

We conducted a vegetable gardening workshop this week where 50 hardy souls discussed seeds, planting, row length and squash bug remedies. All were apparently unaffected by huge piles of snow covering every vegetable bed everywhere in this phenomenally snowy winter. "Gardening requires a leap of faith," someone said, and everyone laughed, "Indeed!"

As usual after a class, we left with riches: Questions to research. What's the sweetest pea? Must we turn under a vegetable garden's mulch? Did I kill my rubber plant by transplanting it? The list reflects two common strategies for getting through winter --planning new beds and tending pot-lined windowsills.

We are so happy to research or look for information that you need. For over 30 years you've told us what to write here, via questions, Sponsorship requests that name a favorite or desired topic, and comments such as a recent "Spot on! More of that!"

So we focused this week on houseplant topics and assembled these most timely answers:

Cabin fevered people kill houseplants with kindness

Frustrated by winter, we sometimes over-do our houseplant care. Strange to say, "Oh, I've neglected you! Here, have some water," can be a killer's statement.

Plants use so much less water when days are short; less still in a cloudy winter. We've watered our jade trees just twice in the past 10 weeks, the dracaena only three times. If this sounds extreme to you, think again. They're all hale and hearty.

Here's how to know when too much water is the problem, including a simple watering guide suitable for every potted plant everywhere, with links to specific plants' water problems and fertilizer notes.

When leaf tips go brown

Here's the cutting edge info on brown tips, plus news about grow lights that can make that indoor garden expansion more affordable.

We love to visit and learn but, "Hey, close that door!"

A Green Thumbs warning to keep indoor plants out of cold drafts. Part of a winter planning bonus: Short reports from ten top-notch instructors about best lessons learned.

Cold facts: Defining hurtful degrees of water and air

It pays to know about the damage cold water and cold air can do to our indoor plants, starting with what temperature "cold" really is. Lots of answers about cold water poured on houseplants -- and all plants -- and how much cold air various indoor plants can handle.

Winter can't shut us in! We still go out, and invite you along.

You asked Come prune with us in a thaw, meet us for a winter conference, or reserve a date for hands-on learning at a Garden by Janet & Steven. Check our website calendar and please notice the three Secrets workshops beginning May 2.

Please check out new Ensemble issues, too:

In the Weekly Ensemble department

Thanks to new Sponsors, we've posted or illustrated 12 What's Coming Up and Growing Concerns issues from our library during the last two weeks as their topics became relevant to our new articles. Here's a list of those issues, highlighting a relevant topic from each:

Minimizing wintry hazards: Snow, salt and wind

It's one of ten topics in What's Coming Up #10

Fireplace is nice, ashes not so much

This warning to vary where you throw those ashes, in What's Coming Up #42, along with vines for fence covering, fluffy white scale on beech and pine, weedy lawns, lightning facts, butterfly gardens, and native plants.

Pick-me-ups for pooped out potted plants

These answers for reviving potted plants in summer applies to indoor plants year 'round. Also in this issue, the low down on trees' girdling roots, crabapple problems and a plug for eating the fruit from your serviceberry. That's all in What's Coming Up #49.

Artful burlap to zapped jade cut back, in What's Up #71

An issue that runs the gamut, including what to do about trees bent by ice and snow, burlap protection that's not an eyesore, gnatty poinsettia and nifty Scrabbling words for gardeners.

Quick, fun "best of" in What's Coming Up #74

We were looking for past references to snow cover when we came across this issue and a Sponsor helped it jump the queue to be posted. Fifteen best-of topics from the best blue flowers to the best prank prairie.

More short reports, clematis wilt to weevil wars

In What's Coming Up #103 we tackled squash in a big way, assembled a gallery of stunning daisy family native flowers, then held our nose and took the plunge with short reports on Magnolia scale, alpine strawberries, hydrangea wilt, mildew, high-phosphorus fertilizers, Clematis wilt, weevil damage, gardener's injuries and more. Formatted so a quick look into the future may help you better your garden and beat its problems.

Plan now to renew that perennial bed

Perennials are wonderful in the garden but they are not the forever plants deceptive marketers sometimes make them out to be. Early spring is a good time to refresh that perennial bed and also take steps so it can do more of its own renewal. In Growing Concerns #87.

Redtwig dogwood? Ready, set, prune.

In late winter as our need for their color lessens we can start cutting back shrubs that look best when full of young wood. Redtwig dogwoods are chief on the list, and Growing Concerns #350 is the cut-back how-to. Includes help for no-bloom peonies and clematis pruning, too.

When must soil pass the acid test?

Growing Concerns #403 takes on the whole range of problems that can keep a new bed from performing up to snuff. Why acidity is just one aspect of fertility, and why water and light are so much more important to address first.

Gear up for hard cuts on shrubs, dream of shady water lilies

Cutting back hard takes nerve, we know. Start building grit now with this advice for Viburnum cut back. This issue includes an article every shade gardener will love, with plants for shady ponds.


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