Q: My variegated rubber plant loses its lower leaves and just when I'm ready to throw it away, gorgeous pink leaves open on every stem during this cold, cold Fargo weather. Is there any way to keep those lower leaves from falling off? — Mary Jo McClellan, Fargo. A: Knowing a houseplant's native habit and form give important clues to their preferred care and habit. Rubber plant, Ficus elastica, including its variegated form, is native to India, Burma, Malaysia and similar tropical regions.
In a recent column about long-lived houseplants, I invited readers to share stories about their own older-than-average plants. Houseplants become part of the family, and responses came from states north, south, east and west as people were eager to tell their plant histories.
FARGO — Diamonds are high-priced and chocolates add calories. That's why flowers and Valentine's Day go together like Martha Stewart and color-coordinated garden hose. On Valentine's Day, flower shops are filled with floral arrangements elegant enough to give even Martha a run for her money. Speaking of money, there's a way to enjoy a nice floral arrangement from the local florist, even if you're on a tight budget.
Q: I don't have a question, but I have to share this with someone and since you know plants, it is you. Last year for Valentine's Day I received an orchid plant from family members. It bloomed for months so I truly enjoyed it. When it was done blooming, I looked online for care and decided it was a lot of work, but since I can't bear to throw out a plant, I put it with my other plants. I watered it occasionally, but sparingly, because the pot had no drainage hole. It was the most neglected of plants.
Wheaties might be the breakfast of champions, but it's hardly the secret formula behind our region's champion trees. Recent news reports have featured several of the region's largest trees, termed champions on official registries kept by forestry departments in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. How can we get the trees in our yards to grow like that: large and long-lived?
Q: I inherited a 10-year-old peace lily from my grandma when she passed away. I've transplanted it into a larger pot three times in the past seven years, but it's declining. Is there anything I can do? — Benay Knaany, Pittsburgh, Penn. A: The photo shows your peace lily leaves with brown tips and margins, which are almost always caused by peace lily's adverse reaction to salts that accumulate in the soil from water type or excess fertilizer. Fertilize peace lilies no more than monthly during the increased daylength months of March through September and skip the other months.
FARGO — It's the moment we've all been waiting for. No, it's not an announcement from Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. It's the arrival of seed catalogs in mid-winter. You might say it's the official kick-off of the 2018 gardening season. But proceed with caution: it's impossible to browse the colorful pages of mouth-watering vegetables and bright flowers without catching a serious case of gardening fever. Seed catalogs have been satisfying the gardening itch since the first one was published in 1784 by Philadelphia's Landseth Seed Company.
Q: I've included a photo of the gorgeous amaryllis bulb I purchased from Baker Garden and Gift, Fargo, last November. It's had three flower stalks with several blossoms on each. Now that the flowers have faded, what would you recommend to rebuild the bulb? - Dawn Doetkott, Fargo. A: Your experience proves the value of choosing large-sized, top-quality bulbs from good sources. Amaryllis bloom quickly after potting because the flowers are already formed inside the bulb. The huskier the bulb, the more prolific the flowers.
The average lifespan of houseplants is difficult to determine because their birth and death dates are seldom recorded in plant obituaries. Longevity in houseplants is held in high esteem; for example, in 2014 a lady in Pittsburgh left a sizeable inheritance to her philodendron, so the 42-year-old companion plant would be well cared for after she was gone. How long can houseplants live? The oldest currently living houseplant of record is located in the conservatory at London's Kew Gardens. The 242-year-old Eastern Cape cycad has been growing in a pot since 1775.
Q: Can you settle a tomato disagreement? My neighbor says adding Epsom salts to the soil prevents the black rot that frequently happens on the bottom of tomato fruits. I've heard that it doesn't work. Who's right? - Linda M., Hillsboro, N.D.