All About Dipladenia

Try this bushy form of mandevilla in your pots by the pool, on a sunny deck or anywhere you want constant blooms this summer.   This plant loves the heat and is showy enough to stand on its own or use it as the thriller in a container planting.  It is an alternative for tropical hibiscus in your larger pots.

The trumpet-shaped flowers come in red, pink, coral, peach or white and will attract  hummingbirds.  It’s glossy leaves are deep green and create the perfect backdrop for the bright, multiple blooms.  No staking is required and it has a fuller shape than the climbing mandevilla.  

Water frequently in the heat of summer allowing the top few inches of the soil to dry out between waterings.  Fertilize with liquid plant food or BR61 weekly during the growing season.  You can overwinter indoors or in a greenhouse but suspend fertilizing in the winter.  

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A Little Bit About Bromeliads

These showy plants look like they are high maintenance, but the opposite is true.  They are easy to care for and the blooms are long lasting and produce “pups” to carry on after the Mama plant is gone. 

They are prized for their thick foliage and brightly colored flowers.  The leaves are shaped like a cup which catches water. 

In the wild they cling to trees and other structures used as perches to gather sun and moisture.  They are similar to “air plants” since they grow nested onto logs, moss or other non-soil items.

Fill the cup at the base of the leaves and place them in a brightly lit area, but not in direct sun.  Feed them with a half strength fertilizer every month in the growing season.

You will notice pups form at the base of the plant.  After they are large enough to break away from Mom, cut them away and plant them in a sphagnum moss mix. 

Sadly, the original plant’s life is over at this point, but now you can enjoy watching the little guy (or girl) grow and form a flower of its own.  As the pups mature water and fertilize them the same as you did the parent plant.  

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Grafting: What is it? Why is it done?

Most are familiar with the term grafting, but do you know why most fruit trees, roses, camellias and countless other plants are grafted?  Without getting all scientific, I’ll not only explain why and what but also what to watch for in your grafted plants.

What is grafting?  It is the joining of 2 plants into one.  A grafted plant uses the roots and the bottom portion of one plant (called the rootstock) and the top part from another plant (called the scion).  All the top growth of a grafted plant comes from the scion.

The graft is easy to see on many plants – it can appear as a knot at the base of a rose bush or a crook in the trunk near ground level of an immature fruit tree. 

Why graft?  The grafting union allows the combining of characteristics of both plants to form a superior plant.  Rootstocks can contribute traits to improve yield, cold or drought hardiness and disease resistance.  The scion is usually a young shoot or bud from a plant with great flavor, color or disease resistance. 

It also is a reliable method of reproducing plants that do not grow true to type from seed. 

What to watch for: 

  • Suckers from the rootstock or roots.  They will appear below the graft and need to be removed.  They are not grown from the scion and will not perform the same way – bloom color could be different, growth rate is usually accelerated.
  • Don’t bury the graft joint underground.  The rootstock will grow its own plant and the scion will grow its own roots.  The plant will not be the same once this occurs.
  • If the scion dies the root stock can still be alive and will send up shoots (suckers).  This growth is not from the scion and will perform very differently.

Grafting dates back over 4000 years and there are many methods of grafting and all have their specific uses.  New strains of plants are developed this way and the benefits are many. 

If you want to try grafting yourself, watch a few YouTube videos, follow along and graft away.  It’s a great project to do with the kiddos, they can help and watch the new plant grow.

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Overwintering Elephant Ears and Banana Trees

Elephant Ear Plants and Banana Trees with their large leaves add a tropical or coastal feel to our landscape.  Grown in ground or in containers these perennials can be enjoyed year after year in our yards. 

Their foliage is affected by freezing temps and heavy frost turning their leaves dark brown to black almost overnight, but the underground tuber is not affected on many species – so they are still very much alive!

Only the foliage has died back, the tubers (bulb and root ball underground) are still kickin’.  In our climate, the tubers are winter hardy, so removing them from the garden in fall or early winter and replanting them in the spring is not necessary.

Over the past 30 years our area has experienced 2 periods of prolonged excessive cold (consistent low temps in the 20s and teens) that caused serious damage to most Elephant Ears and Banana Trees, resulting in some to not come back.  No one can control or guess what Mother Nature will do, but under normal conditions these plants overwinter well.

Overwintering Elephant Ears Tips

– You can prepare them for winter prior to inclement weather when it is more pleasant to work outdoors, or you can wait and cut them back after the foliage turns black. 

– Some gardeners believe it is best to let the stems die back naturally versus cutting them which could lead to rot. I’ve done this both ways and have not noticed a difference. 

– When cutting the stems off be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant.  My husband discovered this the hard way, he had itchy skin for several days where the sap came in to contact with his skin, whereas it didn’t have that effect on me.

– After cutting or allowing them to die back cover the plant with a small mound of mulch, leaves, grass cuttings – something to help protect it from the cold.

– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil.  Once our soil is 60 to 65 degrees you should see new growth emerging.

Overwintering Banana Tree Tips

– Just like the Elephant Ears you can prepare them for winter prior to the arrival of inclement weather or wait until the foliage turns black.

– Again, like the Elephant Ears, be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant.

– You can cut each leaf frond from the trunk and then remove the trunk itself or cut the whole tree down fronds intact.  (I suggest removing the fronds first if it is a large tree, they can be quite heavy and bulky to move otherwise.)

– Cut the trunk down close to the ground and cover the plant with a small mound of much, leaves or grass cuttings to help protect it from the cold.

– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil.  You will see a new plant emerge from the edge of the tuber once the ground temperature has warmed up to 60 – 65 degrees.

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Houseplant Care Series: Fertilizing

Since the roots of houseplants are trapped and unable to go elsewhere, unlike in-ground plants that can look ‘elsewhere’ for food, they’re counting on you for feeding!

Houseplants need fertilizing with an all-purpose plant food, such as Schultz® Liquid Plant Food, Schultz® All Purpose Slow Release Granular Plant Food, or Bonide® 10-10-10 Liquid Plant Food. How much your plant will need will depend on how large the plant is, the size of its root ball, and what kind of houseplant it is.

You’ll want to fertilize during the growing season (Spring, Summer, and Early Fall). That way, the plant can use it’s energy to absorb the fertilizer properly and grow.

Research your specific plant and make sure to follow the instructions on the fertilizer package!

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Going “Bananas” for the Banana Tree Plant

Banana trees are one of the common trees that come to mind when dreaming of the tropics, but did you know that it is not really a tree? It is the world’s largest herb.transparent-banana-9

The trunk is composed of the main fruiting stem enrobed by leaves. Still, due to its size, it is commonly thought of as a tree.

How to Grow a Banana Tree

You may plant a single banana plant but you will end up with several – so choose a spot that will accommodate several plants.  There are different varieties available, the main difference being their height and leaf color.

The question we get the MOST is “Can my tree produce bananas?” Sadly, our growing season is not long enough to produce ripened bananas.  They will set fruit and it is most interesting to watch them change from the flower stage to bunches of small bananas.

  • Light

Banana plants prefer full sun.

  • Soil

The soil should be well-drained, deep, and organically amended. Slightly acidic soil (5.5 to 6.5 pH) is preferred.

  • Water

Since banana trees are tropical and hail from rain forests, they need a lot of water and plenty of moisture in the air. They do best when planted in groups rather than as single specimens. Being close together helps them retain moisture in the leaves. Provide 1 or 2 inches of water weekly or MORE (especially during the heat of July and August) and check frequently to make certain the soil stays evenly moist. Make sure they are not over-watered, so you do not develop root rot. The soil should always be moist but not soggy, if possible.

  • Temperature and Humidity

Bananas thrive in warm, humid conditions. When temperatures drop, growth slows down, and very cold temperatures cause plants to die back.  It is best to cut the plant down to ground level and cover with mulch for the winter.  Only in the extremist winters have we lost hardy banana plants due to prolonged below freezing temperatures.

  • Fertilizer

Banana plants should also be fertilized very well. Use a balanced fertilizer once a month. Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a circle extending 4 to 8 feet from the trunk. Do not allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the trunk. Feed container plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants.

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How to fertilize palms the RIGHT way!

windmill-palm-1Elements your palms need to stay healthy

Applied in correct combination; magnesium, iron, and manganese will keep fronds from yellowing or curling. How much and when depends on where you live.

Here in East Texas, a bag of 8-8-8 is sufficient in keeping your palms healthy and happy!

Steps to establishing a new palm:

  1. Water plays huge role in establishing a new palm. Water every day for 45 days until the risk of transplant shock has passed.
  2. Apply the fertilizer away from the base of the palm, staying around 18″ away from the base. Banding fertilizer around the base of the palm tree is considered a poor practice because it can damage the roots.
  3. Wait about 4 to 6 weeks after planting to fertilize.

Fertilizing palms DO’s:

  • Thoroughly read the directions on the fertilizer bag.
  • Water BEFORE AND AFTER fertilizing, especially when using a quick release material. Under-fertilize rather than over-fertilize.
  • Under-fertilized plants just don’t grow as fast; over-fertilize them and they may die. Pick a fertilizer with an approximate NPK ratio (like an 8-8-8).
  • sago-palmAn ideal palm fertilizer has the right mix of microelements, magnesium and calcium.
  • Fertilize your palm trees three times a year: spring, summer, and fall.
  • You can also augment with organic fertilizers such as blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion, and worm castings.
  • Fertilize completely around the plant, distributing the granules over the entire root distribution area (approximately the size covered by the mid-day shadow of the plant).
  • Work fertilizer into the soil if possible.
  • Rake the garden of debris, apply their fertilizer, and finish with a top dressing.
  • Soil test for salt content, especially in container plants. Inexpensive pronged meters easily tell you when you have problems.
  • Keep turf well away from your palm trees. This will make it easier to fertilize your palms and will help keep diseases away from your palm.

 Fertilizing palms DON’Ts:

  • DON’T fertilize on dry soil, as it can lead to plant burn and death.
  • DON’T over-fertilize as this can lead to plant injury.
  • DON’T Throw granular fertilizer down the crown of the plant.
  • DON’T Throw all the fertilizer in one pile at the base of the plant. Scatter it.
  • DON’T Throw the fertilizer against the trunk of the plant in a big pile as this can lead to necrosis or scaring of the trunk.
  • DON’T Use the cheapest, highest concentration quick release fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate 30:0:0 (lawn fertilizer), as this can lead to plant burn or injury.
  • DON’T Put fertilizer directly in contact with the roots when repotting a container plant, especially if using a quick release fertilizer.
  • DON’T Put manure into the hole when planting a palm. Too often the generated heat and solute concentration are damaging to the palms roots.
  • DON’T allow rain to fall on your stored bags of fertilizer as this may solidify the granules or leach out the fertilizer. Protect the bags with a tarp.
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Build Your Own Succulent Garden

sucuclent

https://www.theeasttexasweekend.com/build-your-own-succulent-garden/

One of the newest crazes taking over is building your own succulent garden. Our friends at The Home & Garden Center in Longview are here to showcase two types of plants that are super important when building your own succulent garden, and they’re unique and low maintenance.

The first are succulents and the second is tillandsia, which are also known as air plants.
Both of these can be considered house plants or even be outside most of the year just as long as they’re brought inside during the winter.
“One thing you need to consider when choosing their location is how much light they can handle,” says Michelle Westbrook. “Succulents can take quite a bit of direct sunlight, while air plants do best in indirect light. We’re going to walk you through a really need and different way of showcasing both of these.”

Here’s what you need to build your own Succulent Garden:
• A container– When picking a container to plant in, drainage is one of the most important things to consider. It’s recommended to drill at least two holes into the bottom of your preferred container. If it still doesn’t drain well you can drill extra holes into the bottom and add a small layer of pea gravel before adding your soil.
• Cactus/Succulent Soil– When working with succulents you definitely want to use a potting mix that’s designed for cactus and succulents. It drains a lot faster than normal, and succulents are very susceptible to root rot of the soil they’re planted in stays too wet.
• Pea Gravel– The pea gravel has two purposes. First, it can be used on the bottom of your container before adding soil to help with drainage. And it can also be used on the top of the garden to help cover the bare soil and add some texture to your final product.
• Succulents– These are the star of the show! There are hundreds of varieties, so choose a variety of textures and colors to really make your garden pop.
• Air Plants– Now probably because of their name there is a misconception out there that air plants live off of air. But that is not the cast. Out in the wild they grow off trees and live on rainwater so they do need to be either spritzed or soaked depending on the conditions they’re in, and what variety they are.
• Glue– Make sure it’s non-toxic. A hot-glue gun is also acceptable.

• A few decorative rocks
When building your garden it’s always a good rule of thumb to remember the Thriller, Filler and Spiller rules.
-A thriller is something tall that’s normally showcased. In the above demonstration it’s the piece of cedar that’s placed in the center of the garden. There are also a few taller succulents behind the cedar to add to the thriller affect.
-A filler is something shorter that helps fill the container. So this will be your succulents.
-A spiller is something that will spill over the edge. For this purpose, it was the Sedum.

Now let’s get started:
1. Drill two holes with the bottom of your container
If using a large thriller like cedar, place it in the container before the following two steps
2. Fill container with a thin layer of Pea Gravel.
3. Add a layer of soil on top of the gravel.
Now, your larger thriller should be secured in place
4. Start adding your succulents to the soil around your thriller
When working with succulents it doesn’t hurt to pull some of the soil away to help them fit the pot you’re putting them in, just as long as you don’t damage the roots.
5. Add your spiller, and other plants you want to include
6. To add your air plants, simply use non-toxic glue to make them stick to your favorite spot
7. Fill bare soil spots with more Pea Gravel
8. Admire your succulent garden!

When planting, you’re only limited by the scope of your imagination. And for those of you whose imagination isn’t there yet, that’s what The Home & Garden Center in Longview is here for.

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No, your Sago Palm is probably NOT dead!

No, your Sago Palm is probably not dead!

The trunk of the plant is usually not harmed if it undergoes brief periods of below freezing temps.

kathys_dormant_sago

Follow these steps to prune it correctly and you should see new fronds growing from the center once our weather warms up in April – May.

The fronds that are brownish-yellow will not change back to green – they are dead. Cut them back to the trunk. BEWARE of the sharp barbs that protrude from the trunk. You do not want to suffer a puncture from one of the barbs since it can evolve into a serious medical problem if not treated properly. We suggest using a l

ong lopper to trim instead of a hand trimmer so you are not in close proximity to the barbs. (If you are not comfortable trimming your plants our professional maintenance team can do so for you)

After pruning, new fronds will emerge (flush out) from the crown of the palm once our temperatures warm up enough. Usually once the night temps have reached 70 degrees. You should see 2 -3 flushes during the growing season.

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