Ask the Master Gardener: Trendy air plants perfect as beginner houseplants – Brainerd Dispatch

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Ask the Master Gardener: Trendy air plants perfect as beginner houseplants – Brainerd Dispatch

Dear Gardener: A friend gave me an air plant. How do I take care of it?

Answer: If you are a beginner to growing houseplants, an air plant (Tillandsia) is the houseplant for you! This is an easy, low maintenance plant that has been very trendy in recent years. In nature, they are epiphytes – they attach themselves to other plants or rocky substrate as a means of support. Their roots are used only for attachment. Unlike most plants, they do not absorb water and nutrients via their roots, but rely on the moisture in the air to grow and thrive. They grow best with bright, indirect light, preferably a west or east window. Good air circulation is important.

They can grow just about anywhere except in soil. Some people display them by hanging them on wire, placing them in a hanging glass teardrop, or placing them in a terrarium, decorative bowl, or seashell. They make interesting wall art — my daughter-in-law has a display of Tillandsia on her wall. There are three ways to water them. One method is to mist the plant to the point of runoff. Another technique, and the simplest, is to rinse it by holding it under the tap twice a week. Another is to soak it weekly for 20-40 minutes in a bowl of water and then drain it on a paper towel. Clemson University Extension recommends adding liquid fertilizer at one-fourth the recommended rate once a month when you water.

Dear Gardener: A few years ago you explained how to stop paper blanks from tipping over, but I forgot to keep the column. Can you please explain how to prevent this from happening?

Answer: The Paperwhite Narcissus is a popular bulb for indoor forcing because it does not require a cold period like other daffodils. The Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell University has found an effective way to reduce stem and leaf growth of paper whites. They suggest that you wrap your paper white orbs in stones, marbles, glass beads, etc. as usual. plant. Add water as usual, then wait about one week until roots grow, and the shoot is green and about 1 to 2 inches above the top of the bulb. At this point, discard the water and replace it with a solution of 4-6% alcohol, use just about any “hard” liquor. You can do the math to calculate the dilution, but as an example, to get a 5% solution from a 40% distilled spirit (gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila), you add one part liquor at seven parts water. Researchers at Cornell suggest 4-6% alcohol as a safe range. If plants are given much more than 10% alcohol growth problems will start and 25% alcohol is toxic. Do not use wine or beer as the sugars in them will cause major problems with the plants. If you don’t have any alcohol at home, 70% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) works just as well. Dilute it to one part rubbing alcohol to 10-11 parts water. Then use this solution instead of plain water to wet your bulbs. The result will be a plant that is one-third shorter, but with flowers just as large, fragrant and long-lasting as usual. You can have fun with your kids by doing an experiment with one bowl of dumplings with plain water and the other with alcohol. You may find the difference incredible!

Dear Gardener: I see amaryllis bulbs in the stores, how do I plant them for holiday flowers?

Answer: Amaryllis are classic holiday flowers and make a beautiful floral display. If grown from a bulb, it takes four to six weeks to flower. An amaryllis plant has multiple showy, trumpet-like flowers on a thick stem. It grows 1 to 2 feet tall with 6-10 inch trumpet-shaped flowers. The long straps give this plant prominence without being too wide. Although red and scarlet are the most popular colors, the flowers can be pink, white, salmon, apricot, rose or bicolor in both single and double forms.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, when growing amaryllis from bulbs, careful selection of the bulbs is important because the plant’s performance is affected by both the size and condition of the bulb. It is best to choose the largest bulbs available, as they will produce more stems and flower the first year. The bulbs should be firm and dry with no signs of mold, decay or injury.

Choose a container that is deep enough to allow adequate room for good root development and provide drainage. The diameter of the pot should be about 1 inch larger than that of the bulb. Although they may seem small, amaryllis bulbs prefer a smaller container. Choose a potting medium that is high in organic matter but drains well. The bulb should be positioned so that at least one third, preferably half, of the bulb is above the surface of the potting medium. Secure the potting medium around the bulb, water it thoroughly and place the container in a warm, sunny location. Do not fertilize the bulb until it begins to grow. After growth appears, it is essential to fertilize the plants regularly with a fertilizer that has a high phosphorus content. Move the plant out of direct sunlight when the flower buds begin to show color.

Dear Gardener: I would like to grow a cocktail herb garden next year. What herbs should I plant?

Answer: Craft cocktails have become quite popular lately. You can become a mixologist by experimenting and using fresh herbs from your own garden to make cocktails at home. Herbs can be chopped or mixed (the leaves crushed with a mortar and pestle) and used in the cocktail, or a sprig can be used as a garnish. Mint is probably the most popular herb to grow for cocktails, but keep in mind that it can take over a garden. Spearmint is grown for mint juleps. Other herbs used in cocktails include: rosemary, lemon verbena, sweet basil, tarragon, thyme and lavender.

You may be able to get your gardening questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Helpline at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Master Gardener will answer your call. Or email me at [email protected] and I’ll answer you in the column if space permits.

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.

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