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Fielding Questions: A blooming jade plant, caring for potted lavender and starting geraniums from seed

Sharon Kuttler was recently surprising to find blossoms on her jade plant. Special to The Forum1 / 2
Don Kinzler, Growing Together and Fielding Questions columnist. The Forum2 / 2

Q: This morning, I found blossoms on my jade plant! It started as a little plant from an arrangement from my father's 2002 funeral that has been propagated into two large plants. I have never seen flowers on a jade plant before, and was wondering if anyone else had? — Sharon Kuttler, Dubuque, Iowa.

A: What a fun surprise. A blooming houseplant is a happy houseplant, which shows your jade plant is being well cared for.

Jade plants are succulents native to South Africa. They tend to flower indoors as they become more mature, are receiving sufficient sunlight, are slightly pot-bound and if the room temperature drops slightly at night, which often happens near the windows in which plants are located.

Sharon continues with a few pointers: “I use soil for succulents instead of regular potting soil. The succulent soil is less dense and sandier. The jade plant loves the spot on our screened porch during summer, and the west-facing windows of our house that receive good light. To determine when to water, I just do the test with my finger to check for level of soil dryness.”

Thanks, Sharon, for reminding us of the joy houseplants bring, especially on a winter’s day.

Q: Could you discuss the care of a potted lavender plant? — Verna LaBounty, Fargo.

A: Lavender is fun to grow in our region because it’s relatively rare. It’s definitely borderline in winter hardiness in our zones 3 and 4 if grown outdoors, although I know of several plantings of lavender doing well in well-protected spots in area yards.

Different strains of lavender vary in hardiness, and some types were developed that do well in pots, and yours is probably of this type. For best results, give the lavender as much sun as possible in winter, preferably a south or east window. Be cautious not to keep the soil too moist. If you feel moisture at your fingertip when a finger is poked into the soil up to the first joint, wait a day or two and check again before applying enough water to moisten the rootball.

Potted lavender thrives if given a summer vacation outdoors. Keeping it in its own pot is simpler than using it in a combination planter. Locate in full sun, or at least morning sun. Avoid hot, sunbaked spots. Fertilize every two to three weeks from April through September, and reduce to monthly during winter.

We’d enjoy seeing a photo sometime as your lavender plant develops.

Q: The seed catalog I recently got has geraniums that can be grown from seed. How early would I need to start the seeds to make decent plants by spring? — D. Benson, Grand Forks, N.D.

A: In my opinion, geranium cultivars that are propagated by cuttings have larger, fuller flower heads than most of the seed-grown geranium types, but improvements have been made over the years.

Geranium seed should be started in early January or before to produce plants large enough for transplanting outdoors in mid- to late-May. For best growth, start seeds under fluorescent lights and use a seed germination heat mat.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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