Sometimes, Plant Adoption is the Best Option

By Jane Malec, EMGV

Long before my master gardener journey began, I loved bringing plants into my home. Quite a few years ago while passing by an apartment building at Michigan State University, I saw a dwarf leaf schefflera (Brassia actinophyllia) sitting on the front stoop.  There was a note attached reading “please give me a good home!” So, what was I to do? I officially adopted my first houseplant out of which grew a long habit of picking up plants and bringing them home. Some were gifts, others found like the first one and some were purchased with lunch money during lean years!

To this day, I always have plants in my home. I believe they make rooms more interesting by bringing in life and color. Foliage is the primary draw for most indoor plants I purchase. Unusual texture, shape or color starts my imagination working. Hmm … where could I put this little beauty? So, it stands to reason that while shopping at a favorite garden center a few years ago, a little Philodendron bipinnatifidum, or tree philodendron, caught my eye. It was no more than two feet tall and the foliage was very interesting.  I knew I had the perfect place for this tropical beauty.

 

 

Tropical landscape plants

Philodenron bipinnatifidum is in the Aracea family and is native to Brazil. It grows naturally in hardiness zones 10-12 especially along the edges of rivers in the tropical rain forests and in other areas such as Paraguay. It can also be found in the landscape of more tropical areas of the United States particularly in Florida were many landscape architects feature it in their designs. They are also popular indoor plants both in homes and commercial buildings.

The tree philodendron has a single and unbranched four-inch diameter trunk which and can grow up to 10 feet tall when planted in the ground. A plant grown in a container will  achieve a height usually less than six feet, directly correlated to the container size.  The foliage is unusual with its dark green and shiny leaves.  They can get really enormous growing up to 30 inches or more.  The dark green shiny leaves are enormous — growing to 30 inches or more. Each half of the leaf has eight to ten lobes each of which each can be 20 or more inches in length.  The leaves grow at the ends of the plant’s slowly elongating trunks and are held up on long petioles.  This feature also seems to be fascinating to golden retrievers!

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Leaf supporting petioles

Another interesting characteristic of this plant is the long dangling roots that grow up and out of the soil. They become more noticeable as the plant matures and may not even be present when you purchase a young plant. In fact, I didn’t notice them in my plant until I had it several years and it had grown at least a foot. Growing up to eight feet, these aerial roots anchor to the bark of tree philodendrons growing outside and will provide some light anchorage for the plant. There will still be roots in a container habitat but they will wind through the stems creating a spaghetti look which is really eye catching.

 

This philodendron will flower growing in a container but the plant needs to be 15 to 20 years old before it comes into heat. It is a beautiful petal-less flower which only lasts about two hours. Although it seems like a short life span, it would be amazing to see this unique flower.

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Philodendron selloum; Scott Zona, CC BY-NC – 4.0

Most pests and diseases tend to be caused by an overcrowded environment and/or over-watering. It prefers bright light but will tolerate lower light during winter periods. Also, as a container plant, it thrives outside during our Durham summers and it isn’t particularly fussy about humidity. I had my plant in quite a number of locations over the last few years. It wasn’t until recently that I situated it in a very sunny room of our home. Wow! It took off! The leaves started growing so fast that I could have sworn it was noticeable over night. I had to move all the other plants out of the area to give it room and, of course, it kept growing.

A New Home

About this time, I noticed that my church had a tree philodendron growing in nearly the exact conditions as mine and it was much larger! This wasn’t a good sign for what was ahead for my little kitchen corner. What to do?

For the answer I circled back to the beginning of my journey as a gardener of houseplants. I needed to find this plant a new home. Another bright yet empty corner in the church revealed itself. So, I convinced the church’s plant crew to adopt my tree philodendron and now I can visit whenever I want.  I love happy endings!

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Sources & Further Reading

from North Carolina State University Extension:  https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/philodendron-selloum/

from University of Arkansas Extension: https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-week/tree-philodendron-1-13-06.aspx

from Pennsylvania State University Extension: https://extension.psu.edu/philodendron-diseases

Tropical landscape plants: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/syllabi/308/Slides/PLTL1b.pdf

Unless otherwise noted, all photos were taken by Jane Malec. 

 

 

 

 

Briggs Avenue Community Garden is Accepting Applications

Have you ever wanted to plant a vegetable garden but don’t have the space or enough sun exposure in your yard? Consider joining a community garden! The Briggs Avenue Community Garden, located at 1598 S Briggs Avenue, has plots open for the 2019 growing season. Come learn edible horticulture with Durham County Cooperative Extension.

Where: Applications accepted through February at 721 Foster St, Durham NC
Contact: Cheralyn Schmidt Berry (919) 406-4606 or cschmidt@dconc.gov

 

Beware of Potentially Harmful Additives in Glyphosate Spray

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Glyphosate spray can help control poison Ivy, but beware of sprays with additives like diquat.

Glyphosate (sold under the trade name Roundup) is one of the most effective, widely used, and safest herbicides in the U.S.

But beware—always read the label. Ready-to-use herbicide formulations of glyphosate often contain diquat, a quick acting nonselective herbicide that may be harmful or fatal to humans if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Skin absorption is particularly dangerous. In animal testing, prolonged exposure to diquat was shown to cause cataracts. It can also poison some species of fish and harm waterfowl.

The theory behind adding diquat to glyphosate is that it “makes the glyphosate work faster.” Ironically, a 2008 Study in Weed Technology showed that while the glyphosate-diquat formulation appeared to more quickly injure greenhouse plants, glyphosate alone had better long-term plant growth suppression.

I think I will stick with good old glyphosate—it’s been around since 1974.

That said, all herbicides carry risks—some studies have linked prolonged glyphosate exposure to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Always read the label instructions and use herbicides with care. I use them only as a last resort. Avoid windy days, wear skin protection, goggles, a safety mask, and foot covering. And be careful with pets—they shouldn’t walk in any herbicide that hasn’t fully dried. Exposure to wet glyphosate can cause pets to drool, vomit, have diarrhea, lose their appetite, and seem sleepy.

It’s cold now, but gardeners will be battling weeds again before we know it!

— Marty Fisher, EMGV

Sources and more information:

http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/dienochlor-glyphosate/diquat-ext.html

https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/risk/rcd/diquat.pdf

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html

http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1614/WT-07-181.1?download=true

 

 

Refresher For Reflowering Poinsettias and Long Term Care

By Wendy Diaz, EMGV

If you are like me you probably bought a big beautiful poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in December for easy and festive home decorating over the holidays.  My poinsettia is doing quite well in my west facing picture window and because it is a relatively easy houseplant to care for I will probably keep it until spring and take it outside until the frost kills it in the fall and buy a new one in November. Nevertheless, a friend asked me how she would go about getting her lovely poinsettia to reflower next Christmas and keep it thriving until then. I decided, for my friend, to do some research and refresh my memory on the reflowering steps, because four years have past since my master garden training on this topic, and write a primer on the care of poinsettias.

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Several poinsettia plants in one pot placed by west-facing window.
Photo by Wendy Diaz, January 9, 2019

The following list of tasks will keep your poinsettia thriving until you want to prepare it to reflower.

Indoor Care of Poinsettia Plant

  1. Place plant in a bright window preferably south, east or west facing and temperatures between 70oF to 75 oF.
  2. Make sure temperature of room does not drop below 55oF.
  3. and avoid cool drafts. (Cover when purchasing them in the winter especially.) Conversely, temperatures about 75 oF cause bract fading and leaf drop.
  4. Water plant when needed, about once per week or when surface of potting soil feels dry (do not let plants dry out or lower leaves will fall). Do not over water because poinsettias do not like “wet feet”. Let them drain well before putting them back in their foil covering if the pot is covered with decorative foil.
  5. Remove the bracts (brightly-colored red modified leaves) when they discolor and wither.
  6. Apply half-strength fertilizer solution monthly.

Poinsettias are tropical plants originally from southern Mexico and Central America and temperatures below 55oF can damage the plants so when the danger of frost has passed, move it outdoors to a location that receives high indirect light (morning sun/afternoon shade). Then, if you have the dedication to get it to reflower you must complete the process of artificially lengthening its daily exposure to darkness for about a couple of months in the fall. The poinsettia is sensitive to the duration of light (day length) and it is a “short-day” plant whereby the shorter length of time the plant is exposed to light within a 24-hour period triggers physiological response of flowering. The sensitivity to day length is called photoperiodism. Figure 18-23 from the Master Gardener handbook shows the affect of only green foliage on poinsettias that are exposed to too much daily sunlight (less than 8 hours of darkness) during the fall period.

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Figure 18–23 from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook Photoperiod demonstration on Poinsettia ‘Prestige Red’. Short Day exposure (right): More than 12 hours of darkness in a 24-hour period. Long Day exposure (left): Less than 8 hours of darkness in a 24-hour period2. Photo credit Diane Mays  CC BY – 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

Steps for Poinsettia Reflowering

  1. Place plant outdoors in high indirect light after danger of frost.
  2. Cut back the stems to 3 to 4 inches to promote new growth and encourage branching.
  3. Water and fertilize as in indoor care.
  4. Bring plant indoors when night temperatures fall below 60oF (near the end of September for Durham).
  5. On October 1, 2019, put the plant in 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day until bract color is well developed about mid- to late November. Put it in a closet of place a cardboard box over it. Any light during this time will delay flowering. See Figure below for affects.
  6. Night temperatures should be 60 to 70oF.
  7. Place poinsettia in maximum sunlight each day for 10 hours.
  8. Water the plants as needed for medium soil moisture.
  9. Fertilize every other week with a complete-analysis (20-10-20), water soluble fertilizer
  10. Plants should bloom (red bracts) after 9 to 11 weeks of short day/long night treatment.

I wish my friend and other intrepid houseplant gardeners success in reflowering their 2018 Holiday Poinsettia but as an outdoor person and due to lack of closet space, I will continue my tradition of keeping them outside between last frost in April and first frost in October, followed by a trip to a local grower to purchase new poinsettias in late November.  I am looking forward to new and interesting colors each new year brings.

References:

  1. https://poinsettias.ces.ncsu.edu/homeowners/home-growing-poinsettias/
  2. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/consumer-care-of-poinsettias
  3. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/18-plants-grown-in-containers#section_heading_8773
  4. https://lee.ces.ncsu.edu/2015/12/poinsettias-16/

Further reading:

  1. https://durhammastergardeners.com/2018/02/14/my-poinsettias-survived-the-season-now-what/

Learn With Us, week of January 13

FRUIT AND VEGGIE VARIETIES FOR 2019 – Durham Garden Forum
JAN. 16, 7-8:30 PM, Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Presenter: Craig Mauney, Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center, NC Cooperative Extension
Greet the new year with information about new and emerging crops for the home garden. Perhaps expand your garden to include wasabi or upland rice! Craig will also review some exciting new varieties of both fruits and vegetables.

Please note the date has been changed to Wednesday, 1/16 due to a scheduling conflict.

No pre-registration necessary. Lecture fee: free for forum members with $25 annual membership; $10 per meeting for non-members, payable to Durham Garden Forum.

For membership information, email durhamgardenforum@gmail.com