Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: House plants need TLC, too


After March sauntered in like a lamb, it now seems there may have been a lion in that sheep's clothing ... I presume the lion ate the wolf beforehand.

Nevertheless, the bit of snow and cold weather of last weekend made me feel sheepish about a few of the gardening tasks I mentioned in last Sunday's column, which left some readers roaring about the premature suggestions for outdoor planting. Baaaa, I say (pun intended). With a few days of sun and warmth, proceed with sowing seeds of peas, leafy greens and root crops in the vegetable garden, cold hardy annuals in flower beds, and dormant nursery stock in the landscape.

Regardless of the weather, there are many other indoor and outdoor garden-related activities to help take your mind off lions:

• Sort seed packets, flowers and vegetables, according to the date when you will be sowing these seeds, whether indoors or out. Writing the starting date on the front of the packets will also help organize your seed-sowing schedule.

• Use a damp, soft cloth to wipe dust from large leaf plants, such as rubber plant, corn plant (dracaena), and philodendrons. Do this about every two weeks. Dust and grime on leaves interfere with plant functions and can cause plants to drop their leaves or even die. Besides, dusty plants are a reflection of your housekeeping habits.

• Give houseplants a dose of water soluble fertilizer. With duration and intensity of sunlight steadily increasing, most houseplants are awakening from their winter slumber and are in need of some nutrition. This is also a good time to check for root-bound plants. Poor growth, pale green foliage, and occasionally lower leaf drop are symptoms of a root-bound plant. Trim off up to a third of their roots and repot the plants.

• Carefully examine all houseplants for signs of insect and spider mite infestations. Keep in mind that pesticide applications to control insects and spider mites on houseplants must be repeated in order to get the best results. This is especially true when using organic pesticides, such as insecticidal soap, which work only on contact with the pest. Though insecticidal soap and other organic pesticides are considered quite safe, do read and carefully follow label instructions on the product used.

• Keep potted daffodils, hyacinths and other forced bulbs growing as long as possible after they have flowered. Treat the plants as if they are houseplants by watering regularly and applying fertilizer. Once the leaves begin to turn yellow, stop watering and allow the leaves to dry up. At that point, plant the bulbs outdoors in the garden. This same treatment applies to Easter lilies. However, to extend flowering of Easter lilies beyond this Easter Sunday, snip the yellow anthers from the center of the flowers; keep the plants in bright but indirect sunlight, and in a cool location free of drafts. Also, remove faded blossoms.

• Dig up roots of horseradish. Though the roots will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks, you'll get the most pungent sauce if you grate it soon after digging. Grating horseradish is something I do outdoors, preferably with gale force winds at my back.

• Prune hedges now, but make sure to leave the base of the hedge wider than the top. This allows sunlight to reach the low parts of the plants. The reason that many hedges have naked bottoms, that is, are leafless at the lower parts, is the lack of sun.

• Get your tiller, mower, and other power equipment to your local serviceman for a tune up or repairs ASAP, that is, before businesses reach the manic state of affairs when the weather really warms up.


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