Fall is for Planting

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Most of the summer, I looked at this dead tree. It was a star magnolia. It went into last winter without a problem, but it didn’t form its buds, as magnolias do. Perhaps that should have been my first clue that there would be a problem this spring.

Sure enough, this spring, when all the other trees began to flush leaves or blooms, this magnolia did nothing. The Spoiler, ever the optomist, kept saying, let’s just see what happens. By mid-July, it was obvious even to him nothing was going to happem

So we finally cut it down. It is in morning sun, so that gives me some nice options.

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I left the self-sown goldenrod on one end of the bed.

In the rest of the bed, I put my “test” plants that had been accumulating all summer. There are 6 veronica (3 blue and 3 white), 2 pink perennial pelargoniums, and 2 smaller hydrangeas.

I also put a dwarf joe pye weed in, and I left some self-sown asters as well. I need some pollinator plants, after all (although the bees loved the veronica all summer, even in pots!)

Generally planting in fall is much better for plants because the soil is still warm. For those of you who live near any type of water, you know how long the water takes to warm in the spring–soil is similar.

Likewise, in the fall, water stays warmer longer than the air–that’s why maritime communities get frost a little later. Again, soil cools more slowly than the air so planting into the fall actually aids the plants by settling them into warm soil.

I will want to watch these–& perhaps mulch them once the ground freezes–so that they don’t “heave up” out of the soil. But otherwise, no other special care is needed.

I still have some bulbs to add here, but nature hasn’t been my friend on the timing–as usual, the rain on the weekend isn’t conducive to bulb planting.

Sure the Citrus Looks Nice Now….

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These are my citrus plants. There are 3 lemons, a lime, an orange, and the large variegated one at the end is a kumquat.

I regularly get lemons. Everything else flowers and that’s good enough for me. If you grow citrus, you know that they flower sometime between January and March.

The fragrance is absolutely wonderful. It’s sweet without being overwhelming (in other words, unlike with my snake plants, I don’t have to leave the room because the scent is so over-powering).

I suspect I might be able to get fruit if I “played the bee” and tried to pollinate some of the lime or orange flowers, but really, life if complicated enough as it is for me to worry about that. Maybe someday.

What I can’t seem to stop is the leaf loss. I wonder, again, if I added grow lights, if that might solve the problem? But I would need to figure out a spot for those–that’s another “maybe someday” issue.

Besides, once they are down to basically just twigs, watering is easy. I need some easy plants in the winter.

Indoor Plant Leaf Loss?

If you have put your plants outdoors for the summer–or even perhaps if you haven’t but you start to see something like this, what do you do?

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When I lecture, I often say that we are far too quick to discard plants that “look” like they’re dying. I know more ficus plants end up in the trash than ever should because a weeping fig’s (ficus benjaminii) unfortunate habit is to lose many of its leaves once it’s moved.

So if you buy one in a nice humid greenhouse and bring it home to your house–especially as we get into the drier heating season–you can bet it’s going to lose most, if not all of its leaves. That’s the point that new plant growers think they’ve killed it, not realizing that this is just the unfortunate habit of the plant.

So patience! Patience is sometimes required (and let’s face it–who has patience and wants to look at a bunch of sticks in a pot?) But do try not to discard a weeping fig before it’s really dead.

My geranium (pelargonium, actually)(the plant in the above photo) is another story. What’s happening?
Well, a bunch of things. First of all, it’s pot bound (which you can’t tell by looking, of course, but I know from my experience with this plant) so it goes through cycles of “wet” and “dry.”

When it was outside and in full leaf all summer, it was fine with this. Now that it’s indoors and in a sunny window, it’s not so happy about this. I tried to cut it back a little to prevent some of the transpiration from the leaves, but obviously I didn’t succeed enough.

Should I worry? Not as long as I can see that my leaves are burning (as they are) and that I am still losing older leaves from the bottom of the plant (as I am–it may not be apparent from this photo).

I don’t want to do anymore cutting back right now–there’s not a lot to cut. I would rather let it defoliate, if need be and then trim up in the spring.

But I hope that this shows you that it’s okay to let a plant lose leaves. On Friday I will show you my citrus. They have come in in full leaf. But mid-winter, they’ll be sticks in my climate, even though they are in a full sun south window. Do I worry? No. Do I hate it. Yes. We’ll talk more Friday.

A Different Kind of “Watering”

This lovely gallery of mushrooms is just a small sample of what’s in my yard. There are some even more exotic ones around my neighborhood and I swear I saw something resembling a portobello at work.

It’s all courtesy of the “monsoon September” that we had. I counted almost 14″ of rain at my house, although the official rainfall total at our airport was about half that. I will bet that they don’t have nearly the good variety of mushrooms that I do either!

After another 2.75″ on October 2, these sprang up.

One looks suspiciously like a death cap–I am not testing things out!

Proper House Plant Watering

A chance comment I made in my post on Calatheas 2 weeks ago has led to this post.

One of my faithful commenters pointed out that my watering practices could lead some of you astray because watering from the bottom could lead to toxins from the water accumulating in the soil. He has a valid point.

It’s not that I so much worry about soil “toxins” per se–I think what he was getting at is the build-up of excess salts and minerals that accumulate when you (or I, in this case) exclusively water a plant only from the bottom. I think most of you probably know what this looks like or have seen it somewhere. It looks like a white, crusty ring on the edge of your pot, or white, crusty deposits on tops of the plant soil. Here is an example–although a minor one–of some of that mineral deposit.

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It is not perlite, which is a soil additive that loosens soil. This is what perlite looks like.

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Normally, setting a plant outside will flush all the mineral deposits from tap water from the soil because it will be watered naturally (and in my case, quite abundantly this summer) by rainwater. You can also avoid this by watering with collected rainwater, if that’s practical for you. If you have a large collection of plants, clearly, that’s not practical.

Over-fertilization with synthetic fertilizers can also cause this problem. Again, flushing the soil–in that case, even with tap water, can be helpful.

And of course, upon re-potting, scraping the pot rim to remove the build-up of deposits is always recommended.

In the case of the Jade plant–the plant I showed with the deposits of minerals–that plant is watered very lightly and not from the bottom. That just shows that any plant that stays in its pot for some time can be prone to this issue.