Tag Archives: houseplant

March Garden Calendar


As I’ve stated many times, The Department of Horticulture at Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service has tons of a great publications.  The particular one that I want to share a portion of with you today is Spring Garden Calendar (HO-91-W).  This article outlines some monthly Spring activities that will help make our indoor and outdoor plants and lawns to be more ready for summer.  It is time to start preparing for Spring!

Indoor Plants & Activities

  • Apply fertilizer to houseplants according to the label directions.   As the days grow brighter and longer, the new foliage growths will require a high-nitrogen fertilizer; while blooming plants will require a higher amount of phosphorus.
  • Remove spent leaves and flowers regularly to improve appearance and encourage blooming.
  • Start seeds of cool season plants for transplanting outdoors later in spring.  Check your local zone requirements.

Woody Landscape Plants & Fruit Trees

  • Prune trees and shrubs while plants are still dormant.  The spring bloomers should be pruned after the flower fades.
  • Fertilize woody plants before new growth begins and after the soil temperatures have reached 40°F.  Two pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet should be broadcast over the entire root area.
  • Remove winter coverings from roses as soon as new growth begins.  Keep mulch close for protection from late freezes.  Prune and fertilize as needed.
  • Apply superior oil spray to control scale insects and mites on landscape plants and fruit trees when tips of leaves start to protrude from buds.
  • Remove tree wrap from trunks to prevent scalding due to overheating of the bark.


  • Rake to remove leaves, twigs and other debris.
  • Mow lawn as needed.  The first mowing should be slightly lower than normal to encourage green-up.


  • Prepare garden soil for planting.  Do not work the soil while it is wet.  Soil should crumble when squeezed in your hand when it is ready to work.  If it forms a solid ball when squeezed, it’s still too wet.
  • Fertilize soil as needed.   If you’ve had a recent soil test, that will help you determine your fertilization and pH needs.
  • Start seeds of warm season vegetables and flowers indoors.
  • Watch for blooms of early spring bulbs such as daffodils, squill, crocus, dwarf iris and snowdrops.
  • Remove old asparagus and rhubarb tops, and then side dress with nitrogen or manure.

More great articles can be viewed on Purdue University’s Extension website.

February Garden Calendar

The Department of Horticulture at Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service has tons of a great publications.  The particular one that I want to share a portion of with you today is Winter Garden Calendar (HO-90-W).  This article outlines some monthly winter activities that will help make our indoor and outdoor plants and lawns to be more ready for summer.  If you’re winter involves snow and ice like my winter does, you might think there isn’t any horticultural activities to work on currently.  But not true!

Indoor Plants and Activities

  • Maintain water levels on cut-flower vases, as well as, houseplants.
  • Repot houseplants as they outgrow their current pots.
  • Early blooms of spring-flowering bulbs can be forced into blooming early indoors.  Keep the plant in a bright, cool location or longer lasting blooms.  These forced-bloomed plants make poor garden flowers and it is recommended to discard them after the blooms fade.

Lawns, Woody Ornamentals, Landscape Plants and Tree Fruits

  • Check mulches, rodent shields and other winter plant protections to make sure they are still in place.
  • Prune landscape plants, except early spring bloomers, which should be pruned after flowers fade.
  • Birches, maples, dogwoods, and other heavy sap bleeders can be pruned in early summer to avoid the sap flow, although bleeding is not harmful to the tree.
  • Prune fruit trees to control plant size and remove dead, damaged, or weak limbs.

Flowers, Vegetables and Small Fruits

  • Prepare or repair lawn and garden tools for the upcoming season.
  • Start seeds indoors for cool-season vegetables so they will be ready for transplanting to the garden early in the season.  Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds should be started five to seven weeks prior to transplanting.
  • Test leftover garden seed for germination.  Place 10 seeds between moist paper toweling or cover with a thin layer of soil.  Keep seeds warm and moist.  If less than 6 seeds germinate, then fresh seed should be purchased.

More great articles can be viewed on Purdue University Extension’s website.

December Garden Calendar

Winter Garden Calendar

Winter time in zone 5 might not be the most desirable time to be outside.  But, not all is lost.  There are still activities we can do outside and inside that can help prepare us for the spring.   In an article from Purdue University’s Department of Horticulture (Publication HO-90-W), a monthly calendar summarizes activities that will help prepare your yard and gardens for next year.  Keep in mind that this information is based around zone 5 weather and that timing of these horticultural events can vary from year to year because of the fluctuating weather patterns.


Indoor Plants and Activities

Houseplants- Now is great time to check your houseplants for humidity issues.  To learn more about increasing humidity levels or other houseplant issues, see this blog article on Houseplant Problems.

Poinsettias and Christmas cactus – To help extend their beauty, place them in a cool, well lit area, avoiding cold drafts.

Proper lighting- Decreased sunlight is inevitable in the wintertime.  If needed, relocate your plants to sunny windows.  Be careful to avoid plants touching the cold window panes.

Bulbs- If you are forcing bulbs for the holidays, bring them into warmer temperatures (60°F) for 2-4 weeks after they have been sufficiently cooled.  Bulbs need a 10-12 week chilling period of 40°F, which simulates their real life winter environment.   Be sure to provide bright light and moist soil in this warmer environment.

Real Christmas trees- It goes without saying to always make sure to keep your Christmas tree properly watered.

Evergreens- can be properly pruned and brought inside for holiday greenery.  Pines and spruce are not recommended.

Lawns, Woody Ornamentals, Landscape Plants and Tree Fruits

Bark protection- Young and thin-barked trees, such as fruit and maple trees, might benefit from a tree wrap- especially south- and southwest-facing sides.

Shrub limb protection- Shrubs such as junipers and arborvitae may need protection from excessive snow load.  One such way to remedy this is to tie their stems together with twine.  Remove excess snow with a broom.

Salt, wind and sun damage- Protect your broadleaved evergreens with canvas or burlap where damage from road salt or excessive wind and sun damage can be become severe.

Rose graft insulation- Protect your rose graft union by piling soil and additional organic mulch or straw up to 12 inches high.

Flowers, Vegetables and Small Fruits

Perennials- Protect new or tender perennials with mulch or straw after the plants have become dormant.

Garden chemicals- Be sure to store leftover garden chemicals in a dry, unfrozen environment.  Care should always be taken to keep out of the reach of children and pets.

Dead Plant Material- Clean up this debris in your flower beds and vegetable gardens.

Strawberries- Temperatures at 20°F are ideal for mulching your strawberries.

Seed Catalogs- Now is a great time to order seed catalogs and get ready for next year.  This is the fun part!


Bromeliads work great in a terrarium environment

A terrarium is essentially a garden in an enclosed glass container that provides adequate humidity preferred by tender tropical plants.  It can also be used to start new plants or freshly cut un-rooted plants.  While many of you have probably seen a prepackaged terrarium kit that provides all the materials needed to make your own “garden under glass”, you can assembly your own with some items you may already have around your home.


Almost any clear glass container with a lid can be used for your terrarium.  Cloudy or colored glass is not recommended because it filters out too much light, while non-lidded containers wouldn’t provide the humidity and moisture needed.  If the container doesn’t have a lid, clear plastic wrap and a rubber band or cellophane tape will work.

Keep the scale of the relative to the container size.  For example, small evergreens or deciduous tree seedlings can be grown in larger containers such as aquariums, while smaller plants could be grown in a fish bowl, goblet, etc.

Soil and Drainage

The ideal soil mixture is one part of each: sand, peat moss and loam.  Ordinary garden soils are considered too heavy for plants to grow well in this environment.  One teaspoon of 5-10-5 fertilizer should be added to a six-inch potful of soil mixture.

Drainage should be employed using a layer of moss.  For larger containers, a layer of sand or gravel is recommended before adding the moss.

Planting and Care

  1. Cover the bottom of the container with 1-3 inches of gravel or sand.
  2. Place a fine layer of sheet moss over the drainage material.
  3. Place the soil mixture over the moss.  Just enough soil is needed to hold the plants in place.  Roots do not need to be completely covered as the humidity will keep the roots from drying out.
  4. After planting, wet the soil with a fine mist.  Water only until it seeps through the moss layer.  Do not allow water to stand in the bottom of the terrarium.  If this happens, remove the cover for several hours a day until the excess water evaporates.
  5. Water only when the soil surface becomes dry and add only enough water to moisten the soil.  The condensation from the terrarium will drip back down onto the plant helping to keep it moist.
  6. Place your completed terrarium in a well lit location, out of direct sunlight.
  7. Pinch back plants that become overcrowded or too tall.
  8. An annual re-design will be needed.  At this time, replace mosses and reuse plants if possible or employ new for a fresh look.


Below is a list of recommended plants that will adapt well in a terrarium environment.  Keep in mind that because of the moist environment, un-rooted cuttings can be used, as they will eventually form roots.

Source: Purdue University Cooperative Extension

Houseplant Problems

Root Rot: Several contributing factors include:

  • Overwatering
  • Heavy soils (too much clay)
  • Containers that lack adequate drainage holes.


  • Always water thoroughly until water comes out the drainage holes.  Do not water again until just below the surface of the soil is barely moist.
  • Use a quality potting soil which will adequately allow for drainage
  • Assure that containers have drainage holes

If root rot is suspected, remove plant from the container and visually inspect the roots.  Healthy roots will appear fibrous with white root tips.  The presence of rot will have roots that have blackened tips and slimy brown-black decay.  If root rot is not extensive, try to improve drainage by employing the solutions above.

Nutrient Deficiency: There are several nutrient deficiencies possible:

  • Nitrogen deficiency is displayed by leaves that turn pale green or yellow
  • Potassium deficiency is displayed in brown and dying of leaf margins.
  • Phosphorus deficiency is a little harder to define.  Some symptoms could include the leaves turning a dark, dull green or bluish green.

Solution:  If nutrient deficiency is suspected, fertilize appropriately.  Always read and follow the instructions on the fertilizer bottle.

Hot &/or Dry Air: This problem is most severe in the winter months where a lack of humidity and high heat are issues.

Solution:  If heat and humidity are a concern, keep plants away from heat ducts, vents or radiators.  Increase humidity by placing container is a shallow bed of water covered pebbles, being careful that the plant does not sit in the water.  Placing the plant in a room where a humidifier is available.

Insufficient Light:  Symptoms include pale, yellow, small leaves and poor growth.

Solution:  If insufficient light is suspected, determine the proper light intensity for the plant and place it in an appropriate location.

Accumulated Salts: A noticeable white or yellow crust on the soil surface and plant stems is a good indication of accumulated salts.  Plants that have been established in a pot for a length of time may accumulate this from fertilizers or hard water.

Solution: At least once a month, apply enough water to the top of the soil to thoroughly leach all excess salts to the bottom of the pot.  A loose porous soil helps with this leaching process as well.

Pot Bound Roots: Pots that have been growing in the same pot for extended periods of time can become pot bound.  An easy indicator is to lift the plant out of the container and note roots circling around the potting soil.

Solution:  Repot the new plant using a pot that is 1-2 inches wider and deeper than the previous pot.

Sudden Change in Environment:  Sudden leaf drop is a good indicator that a plant’s environment has changed.  Environmental changes that can cause this include: rapid temperature change, drafts or dry, hot or cold air, change of location from sunny to dark.

Solution: Understand your plant’s environmental needs and follow them.

Fungal Leaf Spot: Minute black dots on the leaves are an indicator of this fungus.

Solution:  Keep the foliage dry, and pick off and destroy infected leaves if infection is minimal.  Keep this plant isolated from all other plants.

Water Spots: Some plants, such as African violets, are susceptible to water spots when leaves get splashed with cold water.  Aerosol sprays, sun shining on wet leaves, hot grease spattering can also irritate some plant leaves.

Solution:  Take caution not to get water on the leaves.  Also avoid other spattering sources.

Mites and Insect Problems:  Bronzed colored leaves and webbing can be noticed on plants infected with spider mites.  Also, placing a white sheet of paper under a leaf and tapping the plant can identify spider mite damage.  The mites will fall onto the sheet of paper and will resemble very tiny dots.

Solution: Preventative measures are important by using the identifiers listed above.  Spider mites are attracted to plants under stress.  Keeping plants healthy will help to solve this.  Also a steady stream of water applied to your plant every 2 weeks can help rid the problem.  Insecticidal soaps are also effective at eliminating spider mites.

In general, be careful to consider the plant’s best location, surroundings, water requirements and history.  These can also give you good indicators as to what your plant is experiencing.

Source: Purdue University Cooperative Extension