Question #1

Imageshaylee_marie asks: I am extremely interested in growing myself a flower garden. I started last year, and some of my flowers did pretty good, but I didn't have anyone teaching me or helping me, due to the fact that no one is really interested in it as much as I am. I dont know hardly anything about how to start my flowers, or when to begin planting. Can I get some tips on what I need to know to start my flowers and keep them going?

Melody answers: We have knowledgeable gardeners who will be delighted to assist you at Dave's Garden. There are several free access forums where your specific questions will be answered quickly and accurately. Our Seed Germination forum is perfect for questions on starting plants from seed. The Beginner Flowers forum blends newbie questions with experienced gardeners and no question is considered trivial. There is a general Beginning Gardening forum for miscellaneous questions and a free Vegetable forum for help with edibles. All of these forums are free for any logged in member and the helpful members will gladly assist you with anything from Azaleas to Zinnias.

Question #2

Imagecakegirl57 asks: This violet is about 10 years old. It blooms all the time and seems to thrive. However, I don't know what to do with it. It appears to be growing out of the pot. As you can see by my picture the "stalk," for lack of a better word, is about an inch in diameter and winds like a snake. I don't want to hurt it but should I transplant it or leave it alone. If I need to transplant it, how?

critterologist answers: As you remove older, outer leaves from your African violet to groom and shape it, the plant can develop a "neck." If you repot your AV every year or two, you can bury the neck when you do so. You don't have to put it in a larger pot necessarily, just give it fresh potting mix. If the plant has a 1/2 inch neck, trim 1/2 inch from the bottom of the root ball, and you'll be able to bury the neck. Here's the cool part -- new roots will sprout out from the neck once it's buried!

When a plant goes a long time without being repotted, that bare neck can get long and snake-like, just as with your AV. You might be able to bury the neck gradually, cutting the root ball down enough to bury an inch or so of neck each time you repot and repotting every 4 to 6 months. I think I'd try something that sounds more drastic -- cut off the crown (the rosette of leaves and the stem that holds them together) and re-root it.

You'll need a pot of moist (not soggy) potting mix. A 4 inch pot is more than big enough, and you might want to use a 2 inch pot or a 5 oz plastic cup (with a couple of holes poked in the bottom for drainage) for your cutting until it gets good roots, then up-pot it. I like to lighten the mix by using half good-quality soil-less potting mix and half perlite.

Leave a good long stub of bare neck when you cut the stem, because that's the part you can stick down into the potting mix. Scraping the neck in a few places with your fingernail can help roots to form. Remove at least a couple rows of leaves (fewer leaves on a cutting means less water loss or wilting while new roots are forming), and try to make the plant more symmetrical again. People who grow AVs to show say 3 rows of leaves are enough for the plant to have when you repot.

Stick the neck of your crown cutting down into the pot, and firm up the potting mix around it. You'll want some sort of humidity dome for your cutting for a few weeks... it can't take up water until it grows new roots, and meanwhile extra humidity around it will keep it from wilting. This can be as simple as a plastic bag propped loosely over the pot, held up by a couple of chopsticks so the plastic doesn't touch the leaves.
You can read more about repotting and general care in this article, "African Violets 101: caring for your new plant."
You might want to hedge your bet by rooting a few leaves (to make new baby plants), just in case. You'll find more info in this article, . This is a good article for you to read anyway, because re-rooting a crown cutting is very much like rooting a leaf.
Good luck!

Question #3

Imageatikot asks: Hi! I noticed that all the plants stems that are near the lamp (florescent) turns red, is that bad?
It looks also like the plants is growing a lot faster and the stems are wider and the leaves bigger comparing to plants that are in bigger distance from the lamp"

sallyg answers: I think both of the effects you are noticing are related to the light being close, AND that they are both showing that the plant likes that light. I have a few plants brought indoors for the winter that should have color in the leaves but don't. Plants like mine, that don't have all the light they want, will lose pigment as the plant tries to maximize its photosynthesis. The same thing happens outside, when some colorful-leaves shrubs get too much shade. Your plants that are growing bigger and faster near the light are showing too, that they like it. We people fail to realize how much brightness most plants need. Typical home indoor lighting that allows you and I to function is just not enough light for a plant. It needs to photosynthesize and create all of its growing energy. Plants need water and nutrients, too, but they can't use them without adequate light. Fluorescent bulbs are cooler and safer for plants than incandescent fixtures. I've had plants grow leaves up in between the two bulbs of my fluorescent ficture and seem very happy there. Bottom line: you're correct that being closer to the light seems to be helping your plants.

Question #4

ImageKleeKlee asks: Hi! I am looking for about 90 plants on my wish list, many unusual or tropical-ish. I am a beginner gardener and am just about ready for plants after a yard reno. I want the planting fun and I'd like a go-to nursery where I can find many of my plants and trees over the next several months.
I would also like a place with experts I can go back to with questions from time to time. It would be great to have just one or two places as my regular forever nurseries. Suggestions are most welcome!
Some of the plants I'd like are specimens you might see at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Miami like the Rainbow Eucalyptus, Old Man Palm, Jade Vine, interesting gingers, heliconia, exotic lilies, passion fruit, pomegranate, edible fig, unusual orchids... as well as cut flowers. I would just transport that place into my backyard if I could- and if I had the space! : ) Do you know of a great and diverse nursery not too far from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida? Thanks!

Melody answers: Our Go Gardening database is just what you need! You can search a specific town or zip code for local destinations geared to gardeners. I've pulled up a list of nurseries and garden centers within a 25 mile radius of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. You can expand the search to a greater distance if you wish too. Our members review their shopping experiences so others have an idea of what to expect. Several nurseries on this list have reviews indicating that they might be what you are looking for. Go Gardening lists nurseries , botanical gardens, farmers markets, U-pick farms, pumpkin patches, CSA's, display gardens and Christmas Tree farms. We encourage gardeners to review their favorites and if you don't find it listed, let us know and we'll be happy to help you add it.

Question #5

emperess treePamelaMesserall asks: You have a pic on DG of a dragon tree. It looks exactly like the tree at our friend's. I want to know about it. They have had it several years and cut it back every fall. I really liked it. She thought it came from a tuber and the first part of the name started with Red. I seem to be way off. One article I was reading, if it is the same plant, said this plant in the south has become a problem. Can't get rid of it. But there again, I don't know if it's the same. They show a pic of it in the wood, and it looks exactly alike. But I just want to know what I am trying buy and how. If you have any thoughts please let me know.

sallyg answers: Would you believe that PlantFiles has 34 listings for something with dragon tree given as one of the names! This points out one of the problems with using common names, and why also having a picture, or the Latin name, is so helpful when asking about a particular plant. By your picture I can see you're referring to a Paulownia dragon tree, or Empress tree. Although some young trees have larger than normal leaves, not many could have those enormous leaves!
Paulownia does not come from a tuber as far as I know, but could sprout from the roots even if the tops are cut off. It has become naturalized in many areas because it so easily grows from the many tiny fluffy seeds contained in the pods. Here's a link to PlantFiles entry, from which you can click on the pictures link and see pods, flowers and more.
A bit farther down that page, you'll find comments from a number of Dave's Garden members who have grown or observed this tree. Some like it, others hate it. If you're still interested after reading what they say, you can scroll back up to near the top and find the link for "7 vendors have this plant for sale." That takes you to a list of vendors with links to their websites. I have not seen it in local nurseries, so mailorder may be your only choice.

Now that you're familiar with using PlantFiles, you can research any number of plants, (actually, ten per day unless you subscribe and unlimited wth subscription) and see where to buy one for yourself.

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 Melody's except for the african violet and the paulowina tree, which belong to the members who submitted the questions.