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Ask A Gardener: Your Gardening Questions Answered

By Melody Rose (melodyOctober 13, 2012
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Gardening is both art and science, with some luck and skill thrown in for good measure. A big part of what attracts people to Dave's Garden has always been our forums, where gardeners ask and answer questions for one another. Occasionally we come across a question that we find particularly interesting or intriguing. We hope you find these questions (and answers, penned by our admins and writers) helpful as you grow your gardening knowledge!

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Question #1

ImageCarolinaMike asks: I live in East Tennessee.  Zone 6b.  Our lowest winter temps are usually about 10 degrees F ( -12 C).  Does anyone know of a plant that would grow here and produce caffeine?
I have been told that Camellia Sinensis (common tea) will grow here, but this is only marginally true.
What else is out there?

carrielamont answers: When I wrote this article "Caffeine, the most widely consumed drug in the world," I learned about the Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria. The Yaupon Holly, according to PlantFiles, is native to the Southeast  North America and is hardy up to zones 7a and warmer. Caffeine is present in the leaves, which were both chewed as a stimulant and brewed into a caffeinated tea by American Indians. Of course, it may have also induced vomiting, which accounts for the species name I. vomitoria.  Although there are reports of leaf-chewing and tea-drinking practices in modern times without ill effects, PlantFiles has the official position "all parts of the plant are poisonous." Yaupon Holly should be easy to obtain from a local nursery or by mail order.

Question #2

ImageJudyMorgan asks: Does a solution exist for eradicating moles/voles?   I have tried the castor oil sprays,  sunflower seeds soaked in strychnine, and planting in pots and sinking them into the ground, lip above ground.  I lose more plants each year. I live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and in the woods - good habitat for them.  Does someone have a method that works?  Thank you for any advice other than moving.

adinamiti answers: Judy, I also have moles and voles in my garden. There's no way you can get rid of those for sure, but you can try different methods and some may work for a while. You can try the "drowning" method by pouring water with a hose in the vole's hole and keep it there until it fills in all the tunnels and the water comes out...which can take some time, but it worked for me several times. Once I found a dead vole outside the exit hole(where the water came out) after doing that, but on other occassions they might just die inside the tunnels...or not! But I can tell you that my plants don't die, meaning the voles don't eat the roots or bulbs, so this method is working. You may also try a vibration device which you will bury in your garden . This can also keep the voles and moles away . For more information you can also read my article "How to get rid of a mole, nice and easy"

Question #3

Imagebuildingblock asks: I was given an Amaryllis and told to put it in my garage which I did and quickly forgot about it for a couple years. This past spring I noticed there was green growing in the pot, pulled it out onto my deck and it bloomed twice during the summer. Everything I read says it should bloom at Christmas time. How should I take care of this plant? It looks like it has developed an offspring. Should I divide them?

Kelli answers: Blooming at Christmas is not natural for an amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrid) in the northern hemisphere.  Those that bloom for Christmas have had a forced dormancy or were grown in the southern hemisphere.  Those grown outdoors will typically bloom in the spring, though I have had rogue plants rebloom in the summer or fall.  It is reported that plants grown indoors may bloom at any time.  Plants may be grown outdoors in the ground in zones 9 and warmer.  They should have a half day of sun and be watered and fed like any conventional garden plant.  In places colder than zone 9, amaryllis are sometimes grown in the ground in the summer and potted up and brought indoors for the winter.  Potted plants should be kept in a sunny place and watered like a conventional houseplant.  Plants can be kept in pots year round, but my experience has been that those planted in the ground bloom much more consistantly. There is no need to repot or divide your bulbs until they are about ready to burst out of the pot. The report is that crowded plants bloom better. 

Question #4

Imageladymsdre wrote: I bought some strawberry plants early this season. I used peat and plant food as instucted. They did not flower. I continue to water them hoping that they will grow next season. Are the roots still viable for next year?

adinamiti answers: You did well and your strawberries' roots will be there next year. They will produce runners and more plants, so be ready for the invasion!LOL My first 2 strawberry plants bloomed, but only one or two flowers,, so don't be worried. They will flower next year, more than you can imagine.

Melody adds:  adinamiti is right, in fact, many sources advise you to pinchany blooms from your plants the first year to promote a healthy root system. you should see plenty of fruit this next season!

 

Questions #5,6,7

ImageMikeman13 asks: Hey guys, I have a Yucca that seems to be healthy, but I'd like to get your guys' input on it because it's younger sibling in the same pot is really struggling to grow fronds faster than they are withering.

Russ15 asks: I recently planted 3 blue glow agave in the front of my house.  I am in zone 8b and in the high desert.  For planting I used a cactus mix and some native soil from the backyard which is very sandy and rocky.  I have noticed the lower leaves around one of the agave getting yellowed and what seems like wilting.  I went to see how dry the soil was around it after watering yesterday and discovered soil was not covering up the roots on one side of it after planting so I quickly filled that in.  I'm not sure if this could be the death of this beauty or if it can recover.  I have had it about 2 weeks and it seems to only have affected the lower leaves.  I have included pictures and appreciate any advice you might be able to give.  I have been hand watering them every four or 5 days (which I read to do for the first month or so until acclimatized... I hope that's right!) They receive full sun from the morning until around 1pm then are in filtered shade from a nearby tree for the rest of the day.  Temperatures have been around mid to high 90'sduring the day. 

Kayla375 asks: Have been finding these little pod like white spots all over my golden cane palm. The palm hasn't been affected and is still growing and green, but I'm not sure what they are or how to get rid of them before they cause any damage. Any help appreciated.

palmbob answers all three questions: For Mikeman13; Normally this is not an ideal indoor plant as it likes LOTS of light.  It also, being a yucca, does not need much watering (maybe monthly?).  I have seen these happily living outdoors in hot summer without any supplemental water here in California for over 8 months.  These also grow massive roots and it is possible there is little soil left in the pot?  But this is a pretty hardy and hard to kill plant, so if its not doing well, look for a problem in the roots (like rot).  I might remove the little sad one and either toss it or leave it out to dry for a few weeks, particularly if its roots are wet, or worse, rotting (that part will need to be cut off and some anti fungal power applied).  When in doubt, don't water.  Put near as bright a light as possible.

For Russ15; 1) why were roots exposed?  Did something get in there and start eating them (like a gopher, rabbit etc.?).  Fortunately agaves are pretty forgiving when it comes to root damage. 
2) root exposure can obviously lead to desiccation, so that is likely going on... however, again, very tough plants and should easily survive that if you took care of that problem.
3) it is normal to lose lower leaves and you will continue to do so for the life of the agave, particularly as new leaves are formed.  Once dead, I like to remove them, as these can trap water and allow for rot to take place, and bugs to hide in
4).  I don't like soil on the lower leaves like your plant has... good place to rot to take place as this soil gets wet.  Hose or blow off all that dirt.

For Kayla375; The problem you're having- looks like scale... and you need to get rid of that.  Apply an insecticide after physically washing and/or rubbing off bugs.  These will quickly suck the juices out of the leaves and kill them.

Remember, if you have a gardening question that you would like to suggest for this feature, post it here.
Our writers and admins will handpick a few of your questions and answer them in an upcoming Ask-a-Gardener, one of our Saturday morning features. Other questions may be moved to one of our other forums so your fellow members can help you
.

(all images are public domain)


  About Melody Rose  
Melody RoseI come from a long line of Kentuckians who love the Good Earth. I love to learn about every living thing, and love to share what I've learned. Photography is one of my passions, and all of the images in my articles are my own, except where credited.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Overwintering amaryllis pastapicker 1 15 Oct 15, 2012 12:26 PM
The best way to get rid of moles.... Gardeningman 2 23 Oct 15, 2012 10:08 AM
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