Indoor Plant Bargains

It is quite common to see reduced price sales of large size indoor plants in the late summer. Growers in subtropical areas such as Florida where they are produced end up with a surplus this time of year. They cut the prices drastically and sell them to the big box stores. This is the very best time of year to buy a large indoor plant.

Big box stores sometimes do not give regular care to their plants. As a result, they can deteriorate quite quickly in the store. If you buy them soon after arrival, or if they have been watered regularly, they can be satisfactory plants.

Check individual pots to see if the soil is completely dry. Check the foliage to see if it looks droopy and wilted. If possible, slide a plant out of its pot and check the roots. White roots are healthy, whereas brown roots indicate some damage has occurred.

If there are several layers of roots on the sides and bottom of the ball, the plant will need to be moved to a larger size pot soon. If you do decide to repot a plant into a larger pot, take a knife and make top to bottom slices several places around the root ball. Make criss cross slices through the bottom roots and loosen them.

Get a book or go on line to read about various indoor plant varieties. The varieties that are most successful have low light tolerance. Some of the most low light tolerant are Cast Iron plant, Peace lily, and Chinese evergreen. The Parlor Palm is a low light tolerant upright plant which doesn’t get too wide. Several other palms are also tolerant of low light. Dracaena and Diffenbachia are narrow upright plants with a reasonably low light tolerance. If they are placed close to a window, they will probably get enough indirect light.

Indoor plants should have drain holes so excess water will drain out the bottom. If you place a pot inside another decorative pot or saucer which catches excess water, make sure water does not stand in the outer container. If an inch or more of water is retained, it will be reabsorbed by the soil in the pot. When soil stays constantly wet, there is insufficient oxygen for the roots and they begin to deteriorate and die.

For best success feed indoor plants regularly. I like to use a coated fertilizer such as Osmocote which releases fertilizer gradually over a 3 to 4 month period. If you use liquid fertilizers, plants will need to be fed at least once a month.

Caring for Summer-Transplanted Plants

Question: I recently planted a 10 foot maple tree in the ground. The roots had been covered with burlap and tied with twine at the top. After placing the tree in the hole, I carefully removed the twine and folded the top of the burlap down into the hole as instructed by the garden store. I placed the top of the ball at soil level. A week after transplanting, most of the leaves have burned on the edges. I have watered the tree daily except for a 3 day period when I was gone. What do you think caused the leaves to burn on the edges? Should I have completely removed the burlap?

Answer: I commend you for your careful transplanting procedures. Leaving twine tied around the trunk can cause damage as the tree grows. You could have completely removed the burlap, but if you folded it away from the top, everything should be just fine. If burlap is left on top of the soil ball it can wick moisture and cause the ball to dry out quickly. Check to make sure that none of the burlap is sticking up above the soil line. I would also cover the top of the soil ball with a half inch of soil to reduce evaporation from the ball.

Did you place a ring of soil around the tree to hold water when you irrigate? Sprinkling a little water on top of the soil ball is not enough to completely wet the soil ball. Allow an inch or two of water to accumulate on top.

Did you sprinkle granular fertilizer around the roots or on top when you planted? An excess of fertilizer can cause water to be pulled out of the soil ball. If you applied a lot of fertilizer, I would recommend extra heavy watering to wash some of the fertilizer away from and below the root zone.

Unless the leaf scorching gets worse, your tree will probably be just fine. It is natural for the stress of the transplanting to cause some leaf edge burn. The root system is not adequate in hot weather to get enough water to all the leaves. You will probably lose some of those leaves before the normal time of leaf drop. Your tree will have time to develop a larger root system this fall that will be adequate for new leaf development next spring.

Continue watering every 2 to 3 days until consistent fall rains (usually mid-October).

Fall Is Excellent Planting Time

Full-service nurseries and garden stores have a very good selection of trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers to plant in the fall. Planting now helps plants establish a good root system before winter. Roots continue to grow even after top growth has become dormant. Plants are then ready to grow and bloom next spring as established plants. This is also the best time of year to start a new lawn. Seeded lawns come up quickly because the soil is still warm. Frequent irrigation is necessary to keep the top of the soil moist until rainfall takes over. If you want to move a shrub or tree to a new location, wait until October or November when top growth goes into dormancy.

Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs

Fall planted bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, are available in stores now. Now is also a good time to plant summer flowering lilies. The best selection of large size bulbs is found in full service nurseries and garden stores. From now through November is the best time to plant bulbs.

Bulbs can be planted in two locations you might not think about. They can be planted in beds where you have annual flowers such as petunias or impatiens. It is easiest to wait until frost kills the annual flowers and remove them before planting bulbs. But I sometimes plant bulbs earlier between the annual flower plants using a trowel or bulb planter. Then next spring after bulbs are through blooming, I plant annual flower plants between the bulbs. Once planted, the bulbs continue to come up each spring without replanting.

Another good location for bulbs is in low growing ground cover beds such as ajuga, creeping potentilla, or blue star creeper. Make holes for individual bulbs between ground cover plants. You may need to cut out a little ground cover to make room for individual bulbs. Bulbs will grow right through the ground cover next spring.

Plant Pansies Now

If you would like color through fall, most of the winter, and early next spring, nothing does the job like pansies and flowering kale. The sooner you plant, the better plants will establish themselves before winter. Try planting a bed near your entry or where you can look at them from the back deck. Tubs and planter boxes are good locations for pansies too. You can even plant them between summer flowering annuals, so they will be established when the summer annuals are through blooming.

Fall Color with Chrysanthemums and Asters

Potted chrysanthemums and asters are available in stores now. They are in bud and bloom and will give almost instant color for several weeks in the fall. Mums and asters are perennial flowers that will overwinter and bloom again next fall.