mATERNITY pLANT broke off 4'

by sylva parrillo

I had a Maternity plant and tried to cover it because we were going to have a freeze. It was 5' tall and broke off to 4'. Is there any way to replant and save this plant?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

As these plants are so fleshy and tend to be top heavy, I can see how this would be a problem, especially if you're covering it. I would just go ahead and cut off the damaged part, and make cuttings out of it if you want more.

Cutting off the top will make it more bushy, and it won't get as tall (if that was your intention) unless you start a new one.

You could do this with the part you cut off, by planting the whole top as a huge cutting, in fresh soil (you don't say if these are in containers or in ground). This is such an undemanding plant that you will most likely have great success with doing the huge cutting thing.

Happy Succulent Growing!

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Succulent Invaders

by Deb Krajnak
(Atlanta, GA)

Something is making holes in the stem/trunk of my succulent, and is now making holes in an offshoot. When I stick my fingers in the dark hole, it feels gritty. I don't see any insects in the hole or on the plant. I don't want to lose the succulent, which has leaves like paddles. I've had it a long time. I take it in during the winter and put it outside in the spring in the sun. I live in Atlanta, GA. I haven't noticed any problems with the kalanchoe in the pot beside it. Do you know what the holes might be and how I can treat the plant? It is otherwise very healthy. Also, do you know the name of this succulent? Can't find it online. Thanks.

Oddly enough, this is also a Kalanchoe - thyrsiflora or luciae - you can see more here: Kalanchoe thyrsiflora.

For the issue with the invader, I'm thinking possibly some type of moth or beetle has dug a hole and laid their eggs in it, or possibly even a cricket.

It sounds as though the larvae has hatched out and left after pupating in the plant, so all is well there; however, the damage could potentially trigger some rotting if you don't watch it.

I would probably propagate some of the growth that isn't affected, just to make sure you don't lose the plant.

Best of luck battling the invaders!

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Why cant plants grow to full potential when they are bent over?

by Emma

I have a science assignment about plants (im in year 8) and I for part of my discussion I have to explain why its important to have a plant with structure instead of it bending over.

Its due tomorrow so a quick answer would be highly appreciated Thank you in advance :)

- Emma

Hi Emma, boy, that's really put me on the spot! Hmm.

Well, I would say that it's important for each leaf (the power house of a plant) have room to face the sun (which powers it).

If a plant is bending down, this might not be possible, and the plant wouldn't be able to photosynthesize properly.

There are also chemicals involved that tell the plant what phase of growth it should be in, depending on the position of the stem; in fruit trees, a good horticulturist or arborist always removes the upright growth; this is because upright growing branches, called suckers, will just continue to draw all the strength from the tree, at the expense of the fruit, which only form on the horizontal branches.

Some plants also have an odd reaction to the direction it's growing; spruce trees will always retain the character of the direction the scion or grafted part was growing, so any grafted trees that were taken from outward facing branches will always struggle to stay that way, making for some oddly shaped trees as we try and maintain an upright growth habit.

I hope that's quick enough for you!
Best of luck with your presentation,

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Purple heart

by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY, U.S.)

I have had this purple heart plant for a few months now. I was given a cutting from a local plant place and have been happy with it.

The piece they gave me is the curly sad looking part, and the tall part is the offshoot that started growing not too long ago now. I want to continue to propagate this so I can have a much fuller plant but I wasn't sure how often I would be able to cut pieces off and stick them in the soil. I wasn't sure if I could cut a few pieces off, or if I should stick with doing one piece at a time.

My friend has a purple heart plant that has many stems and is very full and I would like to have mine look like hers someday (but she did buy it like that, so I will feel better about mine).

Drought Smart Plants reply:

The funny thing about plants is that as soon as you remove the apical dominance - high falutin' talk for chopping it's head off - more buds below it will try and become the dominant one.

If more than one sprout, then you'll end up with lots, equals a bushier plant.

You can chop the tall piece into several shorter pieces, each with a leaf and probably several root nodes, each one will grow into a new plant. Looking at the plant, each node is the slightly thickened part - that's where the roots will emerge. These plants are easy to root in water, so you can do a science experiment to see where they actually sprout from.

If you want only one bushy plant (like your friends) then stick several of these cuttings close together in the center of the pot, and as they compete a little to grow, they'll be very vigorous, which is how they get the nice bushy plant.

Have fun!

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Weird outside plant

by Chris
(New Hampshire)

The plant is a green plant that is round shape. It has a long stem that goes from the ground to the round shape plant.From the round shape that is a size of a golf ball is growing spouts of small stems with green shape like grass and inside of those has small looking seeds. I do not know how else to say what this looks like. The easy way is if I can send a picture of this to you. By the way, this plant is in Rhode Island. I am helping out a friend.

Thank you,


Hi Chris, I'm thinking that this is some kind of mutation.

The grassy parts are probably what this plant normally looks like, but there is some kind of gall caused by damage to the growing point by disease or insects that is causing this.

I've never seen a plant that looks this way deliberately, but I have seen some galls caused by wasps laying their eggs inside the stem. The larvae hatch out and live inside the stem, and the plant tries to compartmentalize the damage from the insects by creating a gall.

If you cut this open, I would think there will be a tiny grub in the center of it. These are not harmful to the plant, generally, but they are a bit unsightly.

Hope that helps with your weird plant!

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Tall succulent

by Rachel

Tall Plant

Tall Plant

Hello, How would I repot a tall succelent? It started off very tiny and now it is very "tall." It is so pretty so I hope the answer isn't chopping it! :O) Thank you.

Also, I have another plant that is growing very big, but not sure exactly how to cut it without killing it. Any ideas? (I think I could possibly get a few new plants from it as it is so big.) Thank you! :O)

Hi Rachel, sadly, the best way to rejuvenate all kinds of plants is to chop their heads off. You can get lots of cuttings off both of those; the tall one is looking like it's aging a lot; that is what causes the dead leaves at the base.

Cut off at least the top half, root those as new plants, and then the bottom part will also shoot out some new growth, in time. You can repot it at the same time, to give it a chance at some better soil.

One interesting thing that I have found is that growing my own plants from cuttings is that they are completely adapted to my conditions. They are healthier, grow better and have less issues.

You can also tailor the soil to their needs, not as they come from the nursery. In many cases, the soil they are potting in is meant to be easy to water, so that they don't require as much care when they are in the grocery store (or anywhere else that they might be in the hands of the inept or unknowledgeable).

The second one is a bit different; these little guys are Haworthia; use the 'unscrewing the lightbulb' method of taking cuttings.

This is when you just select the tip of the stem, and holding firmly, just start twisting. The tip will eventually come off, in the exact right place to start some roots.

Try it; be brave! You may be surprised at how easy it is.

Happy Propagating!

Have a look on these pages for more;

Succulent plant propagation

How to prune succulents

Pruning succulent plants

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My poor heart-shaped succulent:(

by Brittanie
(Athens, Georgia, U.S.)

Hi! My poor little guy is dying I believe. It is an indoor heart-shaped succulent in Georgia, US.

A week or two ago, I noticed a small white spot. So I started to let the soil dry out and started giving it more sunlight.

I was hoping I could get that white-ish spot to go away.

However, it has only gotten worse. It has only gotten bigger, and black spots have also appeared.

I believe it's probably some sort of fungus or mold inside the plant. What do you think I should do? I'd absolutely hate for him to die:( He's the only plant I have room for in my tiny dorm:(

Hi Brittanie, that certainly is a really cute little plant - I think you may be able to save it, but it won't look as cute for a while.

I don't know what this plant is, but I think the only way to save it is to use a really sharp razor blade - the straight kind, not the kind in disposable razors. A scalpel of some kind would work too, but don't use scissors which will crush too much of the tissue, and just spread the rot.

It has to be extremely sharp, and very clean; use rubbing alcohol - isopropyl alchohol, which will kill any germs.

Slice off the leaf underneath the damaged part. Then, don't water it, at all, for at least two weeks.

This most likely is the cause of the rot, that, and not enough light, so make sure that you can get a grow light for it - you may be able to find a small single plant sized grow light, which you will also need to find a timer for, so you can give it 12 hours of dark, 12 of light.

This might be what it takes to save it, so I will totally understand if you decide not to try.

Hope you can get your plant back on track, and save it!

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My wedding succulents

by Abby
(Horton, MI, USA)

My name is Abby. My wedding is December 1st in Michigan, and I was planning on making succulent arrangements.

You mentioned in your post about making wire basket hanging globes that succulents don't over winter indoors. I put all the ones I have collected for my wedding downstairs in the cool basement to protect them from the frost.

Will they last long enough indoors for me to use them for my wedding by December? (We've got a month and a half) What should I provide them to keep them happy till then?

I work at an industrial greenhouse, and can purchase a grow light from work that will cover a large area. I could also get a small space heater if you think they would prefer the heat. Though I liked how the cold weather affected their color. Any suggestions you have I would be happy to hear them. Thank You.

If you still want pictures I can provide you with some, but I didn't have any ready and available when I made this post.

Hi Abby, I'm a little unclear on which succulents you have - if it's Sempervivum, the hardy hens and chicks, no, they don't like to be kept indoors. However, for a month or so if they are kept very cool (unheated is fine) they will be okay, and yes, by all means get your light fixture going. They will survive and look fine until after the wedding. One small tip: don't water them overly much in the interim - they are much easier to manage if they're not soaking wet, and not so heavy to carry either.

Then the trick will be to allow them to go dormant outside without shocking them too much if it suddenly gets very cold.

I suggest in this instance that you collect some bags of dry leaves so you can cover them after the big day. This will provide some insulation, yet still allow them to go dormant.

The leaves can get wet after they are on the plants, it's just so you can handle them (especially if it gets to below freezing which would make them unmanageable).

Hope this helps.

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Hanging over the edge of the pot

by Ann
(Wenatchee, Washington )

My maternity plant is hanging over the edge of the pot like a hanging plant. Is that normal? Or is there a way that you can make them grow up and not just hang over the sides?

Hi Ann, this is fairly typical, although it tells you two things: one is that it's overgrowing it's space, by being overwatered and overfed, and also it's not getting enough light.

These originate in hot climates with plenty of sun, and in northern climates, we have such short days through the winter.

A grow light will help; in your situation the type that is a single lamp would be good to give it that extra light, and if it's in a window, give the pot a quarter turn every day to even it out.

I would probably chop it off above where it's leaning, and make it into several cuttings and by the time spring arrives you'll have some nice bushy plants.

Each leaf axil (where the leaves meet the stem) has a bud, so if the top is cut off, these buds all start to grow.

One thing I probably wouldn't do, but you might want to, is to stake it to hold it upright.

You should tie the stem onto the stake with some kind of soft wrapping, like t-shirt strips, in a figure 8 format.

This prevents the strips from constricting the stem and killing it.

Hope this helps get your plant back on track!

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by Amjad
(Amman,jordan )

Hello Jacki,
what are the chances of getting a hard wood cut from
an old lagestromia to root into a healhty tree

Thanx Jacki

In most cases, older wood does not root as well as juvenile cuttings; this is not a hard and fast rule, just a general guideline; if all you can get is a hardwood cutting, don't turn it down. If you have a shaded spot under a shrub, simply stick the cutting deeply into the ground; you should aim for at least half of the cutting into the soil.

The best time of year to do these kinds of cuttings is early in the spring because of the surge of life in the wood. Later on, there will be less vigor so they may not root. I would use a rooting hormone, or failing that, soak it in some willow tea; pour boiling water over some small willow twigs and let it cool, then soak the bottom of the cuttings in this.

I would probably do this for overnight, depending on the size of the cuttings. Then stick them into the soil. You could also cover the cuttings with a glass jar upside down over them to keep moisture in - only do this if there is no chance of the sun hitting it because that will just cook them.

Have fun with your experiment!

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ruby cactus

by jean
(bklyn ny)

Why is my leaves falling off my ruby cactus? Can you help me? Thank you

Drought Smart Plants reply:

I'm sorry I don't know what type of plant ruby cactus refers to as it's not the botanical name.

However, if it's a succulent plant and is losing its leaves this can be because of a lack of light, and it sheds leaves because it can no longer maintain them.

It can also be caused by excess watering, or possibly it's in a place that is in a draft of either hot air from a heat register, or a cold draft from air conditioning.

Sometimes, plants simply drop some leaves seasonally, and replace them when spring rolls around again.

Without knowing more about where you are and the conditions that your plant is in, I can't really say much more than that.


See this page for more:

Succulent Care

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Flapjack - dividing


We have a flapjack that's "having" babies but we don't know how to separate them or when. The "Mommy," who is tall, lost a bunch of lower "leaves" but appears to be healthy, is leaning over the side of the pot. It looks like she's making room for the babies at her base. There are at least three of various small sizes. We don't want to jeopardize them, but would love to transplant them so they can flourish.

Thanks for any help.


Hi Debbie, this is pretty typical of this plant - the top growth is so heavy that they topple over.

To remove the pups, just cut them as close to the bottom of their stem as possible, using a sharp scalpel or razor (scissors or pruners tend to crush the base of the stem and can cause the stem to start rotting).

Then, the important step is to allow the cuttings to dry overnight, or even longer. If you want to skip this step, just set them into some dry potting soil, so they can callous. Don't water them for a week or so, to allow them to start to grow roots.

In a few weeks or a month, they'll be sturdy little new plants, ready to display in your garden.

Your other option is to chop off the mother plant, right underneath the lowest leaves of the rosette. Root this in the same way as the pups.

Still need more? Buy the e-book:

Learn how to root your own succulents:

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loofahs turning

by mik

I'm growing loofahs and the leaves are turning rusty with squiggly tubes what is it and what is the corrective solution

Boy this is a tough one - especially without a picture, even with your descriptive technical description! Squash or cucurbits (which is what Loofahs are) sometimes get rust, or in some cases the leaves seem to be getting paler and sort of rough from spider mites. Is this what it is?

The squiggly tubes could be some kind of leaf miner, in which case, it's too late to do much more than cut those leaves off and destroy them to prevent another generation from emerging and continuing the damage. There really is no other control, unfortunately.

Without some kind of visual aid, that's my best guess,
Best of luck,

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Soil Problem???

by Angad

Q-- I know that when the soil is too acidic or basic plants donot grow well. So a farmer generally neutrallises it using suitable acids or bases . But how does he know that actually the soil is acidic or basic ?

Hi Angad, there are pH tests which determine which type of amendment it would need. These can be simple tests using a type of paper that changes color depending on the amount of hydrogen atoms in water that your soil has been soaked in, or you can use the simple Home Soil Test outlined here which you can do with some common household ingredients.

Hope this helps,

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Grow light for succulents?

Hi there,

I've been a long time enthusiast for succulent plants.

I live in New York City and during the Winter I don't get the kind of light they need so have started to research grow lights.

It must be small since I live in an apartment.
(I've seen ones that are 2" long but I need one that is smaller. )

Can you make any recommendation to me?
I can't stand to see the plants get so leggy in the attempt to reach out for more light!

Thanks so much,
Susan Barth

Hi Susan, the most important thing to remember is that the light has to be within a certain spectrum for the plants to be able to use it to grow.

There are fluorescent spot lights, developed specifically for growing plants, and if your collection is small, these are perfectly adequate.

The only issue I've found with them is that they warn you not to use a timer, which pretty much negates the benefits of giving your plants a specific length of light.

There are no shorter fluorescent tubes than the 2' ones, that I know of.

Some of the curly fluorescent lights seem to be good for growing plants under; depending on your light fixture, these will just replace an ordinary incandescent bulb, but you will need to have at least 60 watts (or the equivalent) to benefit the plants.

There also isn't much room under these lights, so you may be able to fit four smallish plants under them, and have them about 6" away or less for best results. The good news? These can be used with a timer!

See more about grow lights here.

Hope that helps.

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Mail Order Crassula

by aga

hi . 2 weeks ago It comes by post to my home small crassula argentea variegata , plant was posted without pot. plant arrived in one day in good condition.

I potted strait away intro small pot , I use sand based soil. some of the leaves got small black egdes on leaves. I keep my crassula near window, where is good light. I watered only once yesterday, let this crassula grow 2 weeks without water after potting.

my second problem was that 2 leaves grows from the bottom the stem,from the root level.. because those leaves was covered with top soil I removed them (by twisting it ) and now I'm worried that it will cause rot.

Hi Aga, it sounds like you've done everything right.

The black edges sound a bit worrying, but as long as you don't overwater (as in, keep it wet all the time) it shouldn't rot unless there is something wrong with it already. Without a picture of exactly what's going on there, I can't tell you any more about that. Dark red edges on the leaves are normal, black not so much.

The leaves that you took off will root and form new plants, if you still have them; just place them on the surface of the soil in the pot, and watch for the little pink roots to emerge. If you're worried about the fact that they were under soil level, I would say that most succulents, Crassula included, are pretty good at compartmentalizing that kind of damage, so it doesn't spread into rot.

Best of luck with your variegated Jade!

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My hanging wall art with succulents keep rotting...

by James Cooper

I recently created a frame in which to house succulents, that can then be hung on the wall. The frame is a box frame with chicken wire over which the succulents then sit on, and root through.

The compost is a vermiculite and house soil mix and is hardly watered but the succulents seem to be rotting from underneath. They're not kept by draft, extreme heat or other plants so I cannot understand this... please help!

Hi James, I wonder if your mix is causing the plants to rot; house soil mixes are not all created equally, and if it's got added fertilizer, or is contaminated with some pathogen, this could be the issue.

The key here is that you've said they seem to be rotting from underneath, I'm taking that to mean that where they're in contact with the soil. I hate to suggest this, but it might be worth trying some different soil mixes.

It's important to use a sterilized or pasteurized mix, to prevent any pests or other critters being in there, but also depends on what kinds of plants you're growing.

The manufacturer of the soil mix could have added other things to it, such as lime - if you're trying to grow Echeveria, they don't like an alkaline soil.

Personally, I wouldn't grow anything in vermiculite, because the problem with it is that it tends to hold too much water, and breaks down too quickly.

My favorite soil mix for crafts is Sunshine Mix #4, which has added aggregate and also a water holding polymer, so the water is released slowly.

If you can find something like this, it might work better for this craft.

Hope this helps,

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Pothos is angry

by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY)

Hello again!

I have this pothos plant that I have had for a few years now. When I first got it it's legs were super long (4+ feet) but the legs were mostly bare, so I eventually chopped them all off and it was growing much better.

Recently though, it has started to have its leaves turning yellow to brown and dying. I have no idea why though. Before, the leaves would do this when they were on the leggy parts, but as you can see in the pictures, this is right up on top of the plant.

I have not changed where the plant is, it still gets the same water (tap which sits out for a few days). Any thoughts?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Andrew - my first thought when I see a plant looking like this is that there is some kind of issue with the roots, although the way the leaves are curling up could indicate something else.

There are many kinds of root rot fungus which are dormant in the soil (yes, even pasteurized potting soil!) so in this case, I would take the plant right out of the pot and check what the roots look like.

Healthy roots will be white or pale coloured, especially on the ends; rotting roots, well, they'll be rotting. They will either be dark brown or black, and mushy. If this is the case, then carefully pull away any that look like this, until you reach some that look as though they are okay (if any).

Repot in fresh potting soil, and water carefully.

You're doing the right thing with the tap water, as long as it doesn't run through a water softening unit - if it does, this is the culprit. Sorry to say, but the use of water that has the water softening salts in it is the leading cause of houseplant death (right after excess water).

I notice that on the inside of the pot in one of the pictures it does show some salt build up.

Sometimes this is caused by not enough leaching of the soil after being fertilized. Depending on the fertilizer you're using, flush the pot completely a couple of times - the way I do it is to take the plants outside during a rain shower, which may or may not be possible where you live.

Other thoughts; some plants are extremely sensitive to the fumes from natural gas stoves. If you have started using your furnace after a long summer without heating your home, sometimes this will happen. Get your furnace checked for leaks!

Let me know how it goes, and if any of these suggestions are of use.

Happy Growing!

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Can You Help Me?

by Charles
(Byron,Ga USA)

I can't find the name for this plant anywhere. So I don't know how to take care of it. Can you please help with the name.

Drought Smart Plants reply;

Hi Charles, I'm not 100% sure, but this is either Delosperma (Ice Plant) or one of the lovely drought tolerant Portulaca.

They are very similar in appearance, and in their requirements.

They are both wonderful bright summer flowering annuals, used in many places - even on the 'hell strip'; that droughty, dusty, roadside area that generally gets completely neglected.

They thrive in brilliant sunshine, dry sandy soil, and virtually no care. If they seem to be flagging, a quick trim with the string trimmer will take off the dying flowers, after which it will bloom again with renewed vigor.

Happy Xeric Gardening!

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help with propagation of my crassula

by Joris Vicca
(Winksele Belgium)

I have a nice crassula buddha's temple.
However the main branch has "broken off" cause it became too top heavy.
I want to root this stem and create a second plant off course :-)
But on the internet I find confusing advices.
so I have a few questions.
On this type of plant is it a smart idea to use "rooting powder"?
Do the 'baby' plants need to be in full sunlight of half?
Is normal cactus soil good to plant them in?
Should I cover the 'baby' plant with a plastic bag?
and I read somewhere that giving the new plants extra nutrition is also a good idea (to give them an extra "boost")
could you help me out?
Kind regards

Hi Joris - all valid questions - so starting
from the top;

Most succulents don't need any hormone to help them root. Many can root from just a leaf, if necessary, and in many cases you'll see little pink roots emerge from near the leaves on the stem. Any plant with this type of aerial roots doesn't need any help, and in fact, the hormones can burn the plant, so I don't recommend it.

Keep the baby plants in bright light but not full sun. Before they grow roots, excessively bright sunlight can dry them out too much. After they root, many succulents thrive in bright morning light, with a bit of shade in the later afternoon.

Normal cactus soil is perfect - they still need good drainage, so any soil with added pumice, gravel or perlite will work in a pinch.

Don't cover the plant. This will lead to moisture building up and condensing on the bag, which can cause rotting. For many other kinds of plants (shrubs and groundcovers like thyme mostly) I do cover the plants, but not succulents.

It's pointless fertilizing cuttings unless you're very careful. Yes, it's true that they can absorb nutrients through their leaves, but they don't have the capacity to utilize them, and in some cases, even a little bit is too much. Wait for them to root and start growing before fertilizing. Then use the 'weakly, weekly' formula; very diluted fertilizer such as compost tea every week until they are healthy. Succulents as a rule don't need much nutrition - they originate in areas where there isn't any available, so they have evolved to get what they require out of the lean soil.

Hope that helps!

More questions? Buy the book!

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Magnolia as promised

by Amjad
(Amman,jordan )

Hello again Jacki,
as i promised you in July ,to let you know of my magnolia tree decision:
1. i have just received M. Denudata seeds from Hong Kong,of to sub-types
they are wrapped in tight nylon isolator bags,10 of each type,with a leaflet
atttached ,to explain methods of sowing ,according to some code,DD,MD,etc..
the process is complicated and long,is it really that hard to start them or people
are trying to be extra cautious ??? they came with a couple of seeds of M. Soulangiana
as a gift,should we treat M. seeds all the same way??? can i start sowing in the summer or
autumn, or shall i wait till spring,shall i start in small flats,or start right away with 3-7 inch pots
to avoid early transplanting,, too many questions ,,,,,sorry????!!!!!
2. a few weeks ago i bought this nice M.Grandiflore, as an evergreen for the garden,
its 3 years old,and the local guy said that it did not bloom yet,it should next year,
the price was good, so i took it, ........attached is a photo of a leaf from this tree,
it has a dozen of this on it,the guy said its from under watering from the caring staff,
is it so , or would think of some disease, or additives???
3. we are having now a heat damp wave, is it still enough to water it twice weekly ??

thank you jacki,for making gardening easier......

Hi Amjad, phew, you're right - a lot of questions!

For the seeding, yes, sometimes it's more complicated than it needs to be, but that is just to ensure that you will have some success. Over the years, people have taken notes on what works and what to avoid doing, so if they give you specific instructions, you should try to follow them.

For the timing, generally, seeds germinate best in the spring.

Magnolia may or may not need a cold stratification period, depending on the species; most probably will be fine without it, but if they germinate now (August) they may not put on enough growth to make it through the winter.

Even though your winters may not be that cold, the plants still go into dormancy, correct? So that means the brand new seedlings will stall and possibly not be able to grow any more, even when they've successfully gone through a winter.

I would say that you can treat all the Magnolia species the same way.

Keep in mind that following the instructions to the letter does not necessarily mean success; the age of the seeds, when they were collected, how they were stored, if they were even pollinated all have a bearing on viability.

So, for the Magnolia leaves, that definitely could be caused by improper watering, especially if they were using overhead sprinklers (which should be banned!) in very hot temperatures.

As for how often to water it, you are the best judge of the climate; trying to keep the soil damp at all times might be difficult, but if it's very hot and dry at the same time (ie; windy) then you may need to water more often.

It also depends on the soil that they used to pot it up, the size of the container, the size of the plant, and how long it's been in that container. As you see, there are many variables. Isn't horticulture fun?

Hope that helps,

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Maple tree growin thru my deck

There is a sort of lichen ( I guess) growing on our maple tree in the center of our deck. It's over 40 years old. And it may not be getting enough water or the stain on the deck has hindered its growth. I say that because of the same type of maple tree grows nearby and it didn't loose as many leaves or look as scraggly as the one on the deck. I've got pics of the leaves and trunk. Tell me what you think about the lichen and the growth. Okay. Looks like it won't let me add a picture. I guess I need to email them to you all

This system has a limit of 100 kb on the picture size, maybe that's what happened.

I've seen this, where people leave a tree growing through the deck, and I always cringe at it. Not only do maple trees in particular have a lot of debris, both from the leaves and samaras or seed pods, they also need a lot of water, and the roots require air. This is why you always see maple roots emerge into the lawn as the tree ages.

Trees are not happy in this situation, and it's never a good end for a tree, and usually they cause a lot of damage when the time comes to take them out. There is no way around it, but to cut it down. Unless you're willing to take the deck down, this is the only solution to it.

The lichen is a normal and harmless growth. It won't harm the tree, although it could be indicating that the tree is extremely ill.

Hope this helps you to make a difficult decision.

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red thyme?

my english thyme is turning red...can I still eat it?

Without seeing a picture of it, I can't tell for sure, but quite often, in the fall, even plants that don't lose their leaves (like thyme) change color as the nights get cooler. It's not harmful, and in most cases, it will revert back to its regular green color in the spring.

I think it's safe to say it will still be edible, however, it might have a slight flavor change as well, and be a bit stronger. Just use a little less than you usually would until you can gauge if you need to alter the amount you use in your recipes.

Hope this helps!

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Freakishly tall and skinny succulent plant

by Miko Alger
(Salt Lake City, UT USA)

October 2010

October 2010

Light green, new leaves point up around rosette end then older leaves curve down. It grows so fast and is getting too tall for me to handle.

The first picture is when I got it in October 2010, then July 2011 (with 2 other plants at the base). Now it is at the top of the curly stick.

What is it and how do I make it stop getting taller?


Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Miko, once I stop laughing at the look of this character I'll be able to give you an answer!

Okay, all hilarity aside - what you appear to have is an Echeveria of some kind, which is in dire need of decapitation - behead it, just under the top most rosette, and it will re-root to make a really nice plant.

Discard the rest of the incredibly long stem, or cut it off close to the base, and it will most likely make a bunch more smaller rosettes.

Each of those can also make a smaller plant (do you have a lot of friends who like succulent plants?) or use them to fill in a lovely planter for your deck.

The rule to follow is 'be cruel to be kind' as these plants just don't have the ability to stop growing unless you take the top bud off.

Your plant also looks as though it needs more light, and this will keep it from getting so carried away.

See the pages on how to grow Echeveria, pruning succulent plants and succulent plant propagation for more information.

Happy Echeveria Growing!

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Plants for Northern Peru Dry and Warm Year Round

by David and Lin
(Los Organos, Peru)

Los Organos, Peru, South America

Los Organos, Peru, South America

It is dry like desert and warm to hot year round with very little precipitation.

What would you recommend as easy and hardy ground cover and border plantings?

Hi David and Lin, it sounds like the ideal climate to grow lots of succulents where you are - if you seldom have frost, look at some of the plants that do so well in places with a similar climate like California - Echeveria and there are lots of tender types, such as the many tender succulent plants on this page.

Hardy succulents can thrive in warmer areas, with enough cool weather especially in the fall; these come in all kinds, ranging from smaller rosette forming Sempervivum, also known as hens and chicks to my favorite Sedum.

For groundcovering types, look for creeping stonecrop, such as these types.

Taller Sedum for borders will add height to a wide bed; aim for a variety of heights, textures and colors for a really lush look.

There are many plants that originate in the Mediterranean too, rosemary, lavender and Santolina, thyme and similar scented herbs.

Hopefully, that gives you a starting point and you can find plenty to choose from. I expect some pictures when you get your landscaping settled in!


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by Richard Cook

I hope you can help me or point me in the right direction I am working on a school project and I am looking for a seeds(flower) that are very durable - the seed would have to stand up to heat and travel through a animals digestive system. Any help would be great. Thank you Rich

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Okay, so what kind of animal are you thinking of?

Birds quite often eat berries, and transport the seeds long distances in their digestive system. In some cases, their digestive juices and scarification of the seed coat by the gravel in their crop is an essential part of the germination process.

Ruminants like cows, sheep and goats that have four stomachs pretty well digest any of the seeds, and this explains why their manure is preferred for gardening - no weed seeds make it through their digestive tract.

Horses are renowned for transporting weed seeds intact, to spread them wherever they go.

Without knowing more about what you're trying to achieve with your experiment I'm at a loss to suggest any kinds of flowers to you.


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by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello Jacki
Sorry if this question is out of smart drought Plants discussion, but I trust your judgment; I am planning to buy a magnolia for my front Garden, this part of my garden has full sun but exposed to winter winds, the soil is rich. I have been taking care of it for two years.

Now, the space am offering for this is 1.3 meter x 2 meters, now the big question:

Shall I go for evergreen or deciduous? age? Tall or short? Original or hybrid? Actually I would prefer it with burgundy cup or star flowers; it's your call now.....(I am in zone 11 )
Thank you Jackie

You're right, Amjad - where I am, I can't grow Magnolia, although they truly are one of the most beautiful trees.

For the size of the area you have available, many of them will outgrow that in no time, so choose the size wisely; these trees tend to have a wide spreading crown, which shows to best advantage with a lot of space around it.

When you say, taking care of it, does this mean you have one in a pot that you want to plant? or buy one like it? Many will grow for years in a pot, so that's another option.

My reference book states that they prefer a well drained organic soil, so adding lots of compost and peat moss to the planting hole is important, before you plant.

If you're using stakes to hold the tree in place for a few years, make sure these are put in at the same time, so you don't damage roots by hammering the posts in later.

These trees dislike root disturbance, and are hard to move once established, so finding the right place and preparing the soil ahead of time will give you the best chance of success.

Due to the fact that you are getting winds through the winter, a deciduous tree would survive this best; evergreen trees will hold onto the damaged leaves and never look their best.

Some varieties and species to consider:

Magnolia stellata - shrublike, typical smaller start shaped and many petalled flowers, generally white.

M. denuatata - Yulan Magnolia; to 35', flowers white and fragrant, sometimes tinged purple at the base. Irregular form that works well in informal gardens or woodlands.

M. globosa; to 20', flowers white fragrant, cupped or globe shaped, nodding or drooping.

These are just a few of the many many gorgeous options, but asking those questions; is it deciduous/not too big/suits your conditions? Flower color? will give you the best options.

Can't wait to see what you choose!

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Haworthia Fasciata growing mushrooms, turning yellow, falling over, and falling apart

by Alexandra
(Oceanside, California)

I bought this beautiful little plant in Arizona, around the middle of May, and brought him home to California.

I was unable to plant it until June. When I planted it, he was still all completely green and this was the first time I watered it.

I bought it as a little kit and used only the things that came in the kit.

A few days later I notice he started to turn yellow so I kept turning him every day thinking maybe it was lack of sunlight.

I have him in the window, from the first picture, which is a western facing window so he receives plenty of sunlight. Then after about a week and a half it still wasn't turning back to green and the bottom leaves were becoming thin as if needing water and turning a little brown so I watered it a little more.

Now, about another week later two mushrooms have grown, which are in the 2nd picture, all three stalks are falling over slightly, and just about all of the leaves around the bottom are either yellow or brown and very thin, unlike the top leaves.

Also there is a leaf in the back that has just broken off completely and the plant has not been touched, which is in the third picture.

Please help my plant! I've only had this plant for about a month and a half! Thank you in advance!

Any plant that starts growing mushrooms out of the center of it is pretty much doomed, I'm sorry to say. You say 'I was unable to plant it until June' - what does this mean? That it was without soil for that time?

Haworthia don't really like being in full sun - unlike some of their more robust cousins, the Aloe. I have a sinking feeling about the mushrooms - pull them out, they must have been in the potting mix, which if it grows mushrooms, could be the wrong thing to use for any kind of succulent plant, which should be well drained and sandy, not manure based.

It's pretty typical that the older leaves dry out and shrivel. The top leaves look fine, so maybe it's alright. Stress of being transplanted will do that.

Resist the urge to keep moving it around, but get it out of direct sunlight (especially western light, which is really hot). See more about Haworthia here.

Best of luck with your little plant, I hope it recovers!

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Lucky Bamboo!

Quick question...what is the difference between growing a Lucky Bamboo plant in water vs soil? I have an extra pot and would like to use it but I know most of these plants are in water...


Drought Smart Plants reply;

This is such a cute plant!

Usually, you get a clump of stems, obviously cut into lengths, and then some of them are sold in wiggly shapes which is caused by the stem reaching for the light, and then moved to a different position to make it reach again.

The real name of this is Draceana sanderiana, which isn't actually bamboo at all.

Apparently, it will grow for ages in water with rocks to hold the bottom of the stems steady, and it will root quite happily.

The water has to be changed periodically, as it will stagnate and smell awful if you don't.

Some people put them in fish tanks, where they help clean the water of impurities from the fish.

It's acceptable to also pot them into soil, using any well drained soilless potting soil.

These plants are given often to people recovering in hospital, as a housewarming gift, or for using to brighten up an office. Based on the Asian beliefs of Feng Shui, they attract good luck to the grower, and luckily, they're also easy to grow to keep that good luck flowing!

Even though these are lucky, that luck is apparently null and void if you buy one for yourself, which explains why they're given so often as gifts.

So, Good Luck with your Lucky Bamboo,

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Bella Donna and my tomato plants....

by Heather Youngblood
(North Branch, MI)

I purchased my tomatoes plants from a nursery this year. When I went to plant them I noticed one of the plants in the package of four ...was different.

I planted it to the side to see what it was. About 3 weeks later it had green berries and white flowers.

My neighbor, who works for the nursery I purchased them from... came over and told me it was Bella Donna. I freaked out because I have a three year old who freely picks out of the garden what she wants to eat.

I took it out immediately and went online to make sure that was what it was...confirmed!!!

My question is was planted in a package of four..with my tomatoes. Could this have tainted my tomato plants?? I read that the roots of the plant are the most toxic could this some how poisoned my other plants?? I am worried that the tomatoes will have traces of this poison?? I am concerned about eating the tomatoes.

Thank You.

Heather Youngblood

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Heather, I think your fears about the roots of the Bella Donna somehow contaminating the tomatoes is groundless. By the time the tomatoes are ripened, there would be absolutely no chance of even a tiny bit of whatever chemical is released by the Bella Donna being present, even if this was possible. It's a good thing to be aware of the chance of poisoning, but in this case, as you've got rid of the offending plant you won't have any issue.

Did you know that Bella Donna and Tomatoes are related? They both belong to the Solanum family, which also includes peppers.

The Bella Donna is only poisonous if ingested by eating parts of the plant, such as the berries, which as you may know are very bright and colourful. It's easy to see why they would be appealing to youngsters; it's a good thing to teach even very young children to always show you berries or fruit that they find before eating it (if only to wash it if it's an edible type of fruit).

Danger averted!

Enjoy your tomatoes without fears of poisonous contamination,

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health of an indoor colorado blue spruce

I have purchased a potted blue spruce and need to keep it alive over the winter till spring when ground thaws. need help. thinking i've overwatered as the smell of water is quite sharp and needles are already dropping . hopeing the needle thing is normal.

Hi Kelly, spruce trees are lovely, but they belong outdoors and are really not happy inside. I'm not sure if you just plan on keeping it alive until spring, or you want to use it as a Christmas tree. The dry air, forced air heat, lack of light and many other factors indoors can cause them to have a number of problems.

The dropping of the needles is an indication that all is not well with it, and overwatering won't help. Spruce trees as well as other evergreens do tend to lose a few needles, but they will never normally lose all of them from a branch - they won't produce more from a branch that has lost them all.

Here are a few suggestions that might help; if you have a porch or other outdoor area, put the tree outside - a deck with sliding glass doors enables you to enjoy the tree, while not killing it completely.

I suggest insulating the pot by putting it inside another larger one, or in a bag of fall leaves to prevent root damage. If you have a sheltered place outside, you can do this there too.

Check and see if you can see any webbing on the needles; some pests like spider mites love the dry conditions of your home, and will thrive. Spray with a light spray of water.

Don't in this case use anything with soap in it, because you will destroy the 'bloom' or the waxy coating - the needles are a boring old green underneath, so you'll lose the characteristic blue color.

This is a temporary issue, and the tree will regrow the bloom over time, so if appearance isn't important at this stage, feel free to spray with insecticidal soap.

Aphids are another pest that you can bring in - check for tiny white cast off skins around the tips of the branches. If this is the case, you won't likely have much success getting rid of them easily.

Hope this gives you a few options,

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Hypertufa Mix

by Thommas
(London ,uk)

Hi, could you please tell me where can I get the mix to make hypertufa in London UK?

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questions about blooming succulents

by Dee
(Bismarck, ND)

Some of my succulents are blooming. Should I cut the flower stalk off after they're done-or are most of them going to die? Will it save the plant if I cut the stalks before they actually flower?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Dee, depending on what species of succulent you have, some will die after blooming, it's just how they work. Aeonium, Sempervivum, Jovibarba, Agave and several others are monocarpic, meaning once flowering. With luck, the mother plant will have formed some chicks to take her place once she's finished blooming and dies.

Other succulents such as Echeveria and the generic hybrids Pachyveria and Graptoveria, Crassula, Sedum and Aloe don't die after blooming. In fact, some of the oldest flowering plants in the world come from this group. If this is what you have, by all means trim off and discard the dying flower stalk unless you want to try seed propagation.

On plants that are doomed to die after flowering, in some cases you can do radical surgery on the plant and induce 'chick' formation, such as on a very special 'one of' Sempervivum that otherwise you will lose, but in doing this you will lose the plant as well. It's a last ditch effort to keep the line going by prodding it into making chicks rather than blooms.

Hope this helps.


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flowering cactus

by dorothy
(ontario canada)

What can i do to make my cactus bloom? I have had it for about 9 years. it had 1 cactus in a very small pot when it was given to me. It now has 19 cactus growing from the 1.

Hi Dorothy, there are several things you can do to trigger blooming of your cactus.

Imagine the native habitat of these plants.

In some cases they grow in extremely inhospitable places; Full sun exposure with sandy, infertile soil, desperately hungry and thirsty animals that want to eat them (that explains the spines that they've evolved as protection) and periods of drought that can be for most of the year, sometimes several years.

When they do finally get some rain, this triggers the plants to flower, to take advantage of this one time chance to make some seeds and reproduce themselves.

Try and see if you can copy these conditions for your plant.

Bright light is essential, with well draining soil mix (not manure or peat based, preferably) and keep it dry. Yes, that's right - let it dry right out, so that the plant starts to shrivel.

Water it well, a couple of times, then let it go dry again. I use rainwater, but distilled water is good too. Avoid your tap or well water because of the minerals and chemicals, and never use water that has gone through a water softening unit, as this adds salts to it - most plants will not do well with this type of water.

The soil can be so dry that the weight of the plant threatens to topple it over. This is why I usually use terracotta clay pots or hypertufa to display my collection in, as they are heavier than the plants.

If you know what kind of cactus you have, try and copy what the climate would be in their natural habitat, otherwise, allowing the plants to have their dormant (non-watering) time in the winter, and a growing season in spring to summer will work for most kinds.

Best of luck getting your cactus into bloom!

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Small but SPECIAL

by Brody Turner
(Farmington Hills, Michigan)

Hi. I'm 10 & just got a succulent from English Gardens in Michigan.

It's very small, has very pointy leaves that are mostly green at the bases and the very center of each cluster, and then become more mauve or purple-ish as the go up.

The leaves have little teeth thingies along their edges and some lighter white or gray spots closer to the tips. It's not chubby like my aloe or graptoveria (I don't know if I spelled that right.)

Its roots are white and long. Right now, the roots are growing throughout the dirt AND they're starting to circle around the outside of the dirt too.

A few of the outer, lower leaves that look like they're dying off are kind of a peach or orange-ish color. WHAT IS THIS THING? I had a venus flytrap that died and I don't want to kill this one too. Please help me find out what it is and how to care for it. Thank you, Brody

Hi Brody, welcome to the wonderful world of succulents. There are many to choose from that are easy to grow and will thrive with almost no care.

What you have is indeed an Aloe, this one is known botanically as Aloe aristata, which has characteristic thread like ends on each leaf. This one looks extremely root bound, but luckily, as you've described the roots as white, this means that it's perfect timing to transplant it.

Choose a pot a little bigger than this one, and pull the plant out. You should tease or dishevel the roots out while you're at it, because even though they are healthy, they will tend to just keep going round and round in circles, eventually strangling themselves.

I also take this opportunity to make sure there are no black, shriveled or brown colored roots, and trim those off, as they are dead or dying and won't come back.

The soil you use for these plants has to be well drained - this means, don't use your garden soil (which also could have fungus, rot organisms, or other pathogens in it).

Find some good potting soil that is sterilized for house plants, or even better, specifically for cactus plants.

If all you can find is houseplant potting soil, mix it half and half (use a coffee can or something similar to measure it) with some kind of small gravel - turkey grit is a good size, any kind is fine, as long as it doesn't have very fine particles like dust in it.

At this point, with the plant out of the pot, you can also pull off any dead leaves (I say pull them, because they should just detach from the stem, rather than cutting them with scissors which leaves a stub that can rot).

Put a small amount of soil in the bottom of your new pot, and then nestle the plant down into it, filling up the sides with soil. Shake the pot or carefully bang it on the table to settle the soil. Then, don't water it for a day to two to let it heal up any open surface wounds. Once it's looking perky, keep it in fairly bright light until it shows signs of new growth, and you're good to go.

You can see more about Aloe plants and more here. For general succulent care, see this page.

Happy Succulent Growing!

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by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello Jacki
is it about time to behead this old Kalanchoe orgyalis; is it even doable? Process advice please,

That poor thing! Yes, by all means, just cut it off right under the few remaining leaves.

Use a sharp razor blade, not scissors which can crush and damage the stem which might allow it to start rotting.

Stick the cutting/top on the surface of DRY potting soil (use very well drained soil, with some added perlite/gravel/pumice) and then leave it for a week or so.

Resist the urge to water it, because it needs to callous and dry out so it won't rot.

That's it. In a few weeks, it will be rooting, and then soon after that it will put out new growth.

Then you can start to water it, gradually at first, then a bit more as the summer progresses.

The important thing is that it doesn't get overwatered - it's best to water deeply, then let it almost completely dry out.

This will encourage the roots to follow the water down into the soil.

You also don't need a huge pot - they prefer to have a pot just big enough to keep them balanced, and then the roots bump up against the inside of the pot, and split; these are the feeder roots, and the more the plant has, the happier and healthier it will be.

Rough surfaces promote this, so a terracotta pot or unglazed pottery work well.

Hope that helps!

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Should I behead it?

by Trina
(Lakeland, Florida)

Just got tihis aeonium arboreum variegata last week. I immediately planted it but today I saw this disaster!

I only gave it a sip of water since it's very hot in florida right now and I am not sure if it will go dormant.

I must have dropped water on its crown.

This aeonium sits on a table with a ceiling fan running during day. Should I behead it? Will it make a new plant? I have removed the leaves that were rotting.

Hi Trina, I wouldn't waste a single moment - the black rot at the top of the stem isn't going to go away, there may be no hope for the rest of it.

I would behead it, and then leave it on the surface of some very sandy or gravelly soil, with no water for a day or so. Then, very lightly start to spray the adjacent soil around the base of it, which could be just enough to start encouraging the roots to emerge.

Hopefully, even in the extreme heat it will still be able to root.

There doesn't seem to be any information if the summer dormancy refers to root formation as well as top growth, so you're pioneering here!

Best of luck with it,

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Overwintering Succulents

by Risa
(New York)

Hypertufa Sphere with several different Sempervivum

Hypertufa Sphere with several different Sempervivum

I was given a lovely container of succulents (winter hardy) as a gift. What is the best way to winter this? We have very severe winters in upstate NY and I'm afraid that just leaving the pot out would not work. I know these plants would survive in the ground.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Risa, there are several options for overwintering succulents such as Sempervivum, Sedum and other hardy succulents. These are very hardy given the right conditions; mostly they rely on being kept relatively dry, as in all cases, extreme wet situations where the soil around the roots then freezes will be the end of them.

Here are a few suggestions:

Option #1) If you want to keep the plants in their container, as long as it has good drain holes and fairly well drained soil (ie: sandy or gravelly, not peat, manure or bark based potting soil) then you can most likely safely overwinter them by placing the pot on a gravel bed - raised beds work well for this so no water will pool around the base of the pot.

Only use this option if you're guaranteed to get good snow cover.

I use this method with my topiary and succulent spheres, and although I lose a few plants, they're quick to fill in with new ones in the spring.

Clay pottery containers are especially vulnerable to freezing, and will crack.

Option #2) You can determine if you want to take the next step, which is to construct an open wire mesh container, made out of a length of chicken wire, or other fencing material, which is placed around the pot like a fence, and then filled with dry leaves.

You can cover the top with some type of board or other roof to keep heavy rain off, while the air will still circulate through the leaves.

Important! Make sure you don't place the covering of leaves too early, as mice or other vermin will quickly move in to the lovely warm place you provide for them, and they'll also help themselves to the free lunch.

Mouse bait in some type of covered container so pets can't get into it will keep them at bay, killing the mice before they can do much damage.

Option #3) Another way to overwinter succulents is to take them right out of the pot and plonk them in the ground, water them once or twice before winter really sets in, then mulch with lava rock or pebbles.

You can dig them up again in the spring and replant them in the pot. This gives you the assurance that the pot itself will not get accidentally broken as you can store it for the winter in a dry area such as a basement, garage or greenhouse.

This last option is my recommended course of action.

Many succulents such as Sempervivum especially take a couple of seasons to really get established in the garden, but once they do, they'll quickly take off and provide you with many more seasons of enjoyment.

Each year there are more rosettes, which can be split from the main one to be potted up in decorative containers, clay pots, or hypertufa.

You don't indicate what type of material your pot is made of, but if you're not sure, then err on the side of caution and choose option #3.

Happy Succulent Gardening!

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Kalanchoe plant is leaning forward

by Ben
(Port St. Lucie, Florida)

My Kalanchoe plant i have in a pot on my terrace was growing straight when i got it.

It is now start to turn forward a lot growing that way.

Is my plant dying or needs any special attention???

Also the paddle seem to be getting soft too, not as firm as before. I am sending photos. i hope this helps.

Hi Ben, sometimes these plants start leaning because they're not getting enough light from directly above, so they lean over or stretch to try and get more.

They need to be in bright light, and these ones in particular need full sun, not necessarily as much for just growing, but also to get that nice red blush.

To prevent them from leaning, you can turn the pot a quarter turn every day, and this will help it to grow straighter.

For the leaves getting softer, make sure you're not overwatering it - that soil looks like it may hold too much moisture; if it's soil that is blended for most other plants, it won't drain as quickly as required for succulents, which can create the conditions that get root rot started.

Repot it into some soil specially for cactus plants, or add half and half pumice, small gravel or perlite to the soil you have been using. This should help prevent any of these issues in the future.

After repotting, don't water too much; in fact, hold off on any watering for about a week, to allow the damaged roots to heal up.

You can see more about this plant here.

Hope that helps get your Flapjacks plant back on track!

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Coral Cactus

by Colleen

I live in NJ. I have had my coral cactus for about 4 years.

Since I bought it, it has not been pink at the ends. What am I doing wrong?

I water it once a week and it sits in my window. It hasn't grown any. I've tried different sides of my house, to get either morning or late day sun. HELP?

Coral Cactus are one common name of some of the Euphorbia, and several of them seem to go by the same name, which is confusing.

There is also a coral cactus that is known botanically as Rhipsalis cereuscula. Without any kind of botanical name, or a picture, it's hard to identify which plant we're talking about here.

Generally, for any drought tolerant plant, watering it once a week is probably too much.

This is most likely why it's not showing the characteristic color that you would expect.

They originate in hot dry climates, and if the light is not intense enough, all you'll get is plain green (this is generally true for all sun loving plants). They always show much more color in bright light, even if it's only a grow light.

Hope this helps a bit.


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growing near my hens and chickens -

by Barbara Arlen
(Santa Fe, NM)

I am in Santa Fe, NM and just found a succulent (I think) growing near my hens and chickens. I first thought it was wild but now I think it is not. It is spiney but starlike and a yellow green. It grew very fast and looks like it will be a shrub?
Thank you.

Hi Barbara, that's interesting. I don't think it's any kind of succulent; it could be a native wildflower (that always sounds better than 'weed', don't you think?) and without seeing it bloom it could be almost anything. I would wait and see what it looks like as it grows, as long as it's not covering up your Sempervivum.

It could be some kind of cultivated perennial plant too - some of these will reseed in odd places. Let me know what the flowers look like, and maybe I'll have more ideas of what it could be.

Happy Gardening!

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Propagating Jackfruit

by Farouk
(Sydney, Australia)



Hi Jacki! I am back for another question..

I wanted to plant a Jackfruit from seed, do you know how long it will take for it to fruit for the first time ever from seed>tree>flower>fruit?

It will be well fertilised, watered, soil will be good/well drained etc.

Will it take the usual 4-5 years? Will it take over my backyard (my backyard is pretty much filled up with fruit trees lol no more space all squished in pretty much) as it looks like rather a huge tree after looking at the fruit, I guess the tree must become really thick & strong.

Is Jackfruit related to the asian Durian? What else can you tell me about Jackfruit planting/Propagating?

Much appreciated,
Your friend from down under

Drought Smart Plants reply: Hi Farouk, your garden must be spectacular with all your new trees. You have access to lots of unique and different kinds of fruit trees than I have; it's amazing and I'm suffering from zone envy.

I've never even heard of this Jackfruit - off to do research.

Okay, here's what I've found out: There seem to be two species of the same genus that go by this name, so you'll have to determine which you want. They are know botanically as Artocarpus heterophyllus and Artocarpus nitida.

Here's some more useful information about Artocarpus hererophyllus and Artocarpus nitida on Dave's Garden Website. Read through the notes from other gardeners for information about cultivation and propagation.

I didn't find any information about a possible relationship to Asian Durian, but here's some more information on Durian, the Prickly Custard Apple (love these common names): Annona muricata, Durio zibethinus.

I'm thinking these are not related to your Jackfruit, the link about Durio zibethinus is a hoot, talking about signs banning the fruit due to its scent in hotels and so on.

Keep 'em coming - I find out so many interesting things about the different plants in your area.

Happy Weird Fruit Growing!

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Growing Thyme

by Marina
(Guelph, Ontario)

Red Creeping Thyme pic

Red Creeping Thyme pic

I need some information on Thyme growing. I'm wanting to grow thyme groundcover to spread amongst some rocks, and wondered if thyme Doone Valley would work for this - how big does it get, and will it fill in? I also want to grow creeping red thyme on and around the flagstone walkway and pavers on my patio. Will this work as a thyme ground cover? I would love to see some pictures of thyme used in this way so I could design my garden around it. Without a picture of thyme it's hard to imagine the way it will look.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Marina,
You're in the right place to get lots of information about how to grow thyme, and ways to use one of my all time favorite plants. Hardy, drought tolerant and tough, and pretty all at the same time - or should that be 'thyme'?

Thymus 'Doone Valley' is one of the prettiest of the lemon scented thymes, with variegated dark green and gold foliage. Ultimate size is around 30cm (1') across, and more suited to growing where you won't need to walk on it, as it is more upright in growth habit than some of the more flat types, such as the red creeping thyme, Thymus coccineus, which will work very well planted among pavers, as it only gets to be a few centimeters tall, or less than 1". A little taller with flowers, but it doesn't mind being stepped on. All in all, a good choice for what you want to use it for.

Make sure you look at the pages on thyme listed here for more information:

Look at funny sayings about thyme on the Signs of the Thymes, more information about the different kinds of Thyme plants here, and learn all about
How to Grow Thyme, and see other Thyme projects by visitors to the site. One of my favorite uses for the lowest of the creeping thyme varieties is a thyme lawn.

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Mealy Bugs and other Guests

by Alicia


I've never had any problems with my Succulents, But now I've got Mealy bugs which I'm treating but a couple of my Succulents have small holes (some holes on my bigger succulents are getting quite large) and they look like they are getting eaten from the inside out.

Please Help

Thanks Alicia

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Mealy bugs can be a problem with succulents. It's best to deal with them immediately you see the damage start, as they're insidious and can spread through your whole collection.

If your plants don't seem to thrive, and just generally don't have that vibrant look to them, find out if mealy bugs are the culprit.

These little insects snuggle down into the crown of the plant, or wherever a leaf joins the stem, and eventually forms a webbing around them for protection. Not for long! I get after them with multiple applications of Safer's Insecticidal Soap (always follow the instructions on the bottle for dilution rates) and this usually does the trick.

Constant supervision of the plants forever after is essential - don't think that as you've dealt with them once that you're done. Mealy bugs are very sneaky and will hide until your back is turned, then re-emerge.

As for the other issue of the holes in the leaves, this one has me puzzled. Have you cut open the leaf to see if there is an insect larvae in there? That's the only thing that would account for this type of damage. If you test one leaf and there is a bug inside, you'll have to take off every leaf that has the hole in it. This will pretty much eliminate the problem, and stop it from happening again once the larvae hatch out into adults of whatever these are to lay their eggs on your plant!

Good luck with this, Alicia - I know how frustrating and disheartening these types of problems can be, but constant surveillance and prompt action will save your plants.


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Italian Cypress Bending

by Alex

We planted 5 Italian Cypress tree about 2 months ago. We took the stakes that were along side the trunk out, because they were visibly impeding on the trunk. Now, some trees are very "bendy" and we had to help them to stand up with loose staking. Only one tree stands on its own and is very straight. However, the tip of that one is bent and other branches seem to want to go straight.

The trees are about 7 feet tall now and everywhere I read it say that they will straighten out. But it's hard to believe. So, what should we do? Stake them? Leave them be? Train the tips?

Thank you very much!

Hi Alex, great choice, those are gorgeous trees and so evocative of the Mediterranean, especially around the Tuscany region, where they are grown quite often. Many of them are really old, and still growing and healthy, so they are long lived trees in the right conditions.

As you've just planted these trees, it can take several years for them to get really established, and it's critical for them to get enough water while they do that.

I recommend deep watering for several hours once a week, or use drip irrigation of some kind. Don't over do it, or you can drown the roots, or cause them to only have fine surface roots. It's important to train them to seek out the moisture in lower levels of soil, so watering well, then letting them dry out a tiny amount will create that effect. Of course, if it's really hot, dry and windy, more moisture more often is fine until they're established.

I'm of the opinion that many trees won't show their true character until they are firmly rooted and established, so the bending of the tops in most cases is a temporary effect of their being transplanted. Keep an eye on them though. Sometimes this is the first sign of stress, and if the needles start to dry out and fall off, it could be an indication of being dried out either before you got them, or in transit.

If you're really concerned that the tops won't straighten out, I would advise a light stick or twig to help them grow in a more upright position - however, it's crucial that whatever you use to tie it on is flexible enough or will deteriorate and rot once the tree grows a bit more. Otherwise, you're not going to fix the problem, in fact you'll create more by killing off the leader.

It's also important that the trees don't move too much while the roots are seeking out new soil. This is why newly planted trees are staked for several months, sometimes several seasons. I usually use lengths of garden hose looped around to protect the tree, and then three stakes spaced out equally with wires between the stakes and the tree to hold it upright. A small amount of movement is beneficial so that the tree doesn't get too dependent on the support.

I would advise patience, as you've only just planted these trees. If they are still showing this type of growth in a years time then you can take remedial action. I'm pretty sure that as they grow more strongly as they get used to their new home, they will become straighter.

Best of luck with your beautiful trees!

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jane doe

by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Crassula 'Gollum' or Goblin Fingers

Crassula 'Gollum' or Goblin Fingers

Hello jacki,
its spring already here,is it there yet?
jacki,what are these 2 succulents,is it time to propagate them by splitting?

Hi Amjad, spring is pretty well here now; still some snow and ice left to melt, but mostly bare ground/mud! I have crocuses blooming, but that's about it so far.

Your plants are very healthy looking; They are both really easy to propagate with cuttings, so that's what I would do; the main part of the plant will just be bushier and more compact if you take off all the taller shoots and root them as new plants - allow them to dry for a day or two, then put them into some dry potting soil.

At this time of year, with long hours of light, they'll root quickly. You may find roots starting in just a few days, and in a week or two they'll be well on their way.

You could also divide the root ball, but in some cases you just end up with a long gangly stem, which falls over, and those both look as though they may be multiple cuttings in the pot; I avoid this, because in some cases, once the plant gets bigger, they tend to strangle each other.

If you ever have a plant that seems to be fine for a while, but then starts to go downhill, take it out of the pot and check.

This could be the problem, and all the roots are twining around each other.

In fact, I quite often just take cuttings of any plant I get, and discard the original. You wouldn't believe how some growers mistreat the plants!

I hope you've got lots of room!

Happy Spring!

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Buddah's temple blues

by Heather
(Kent , England)

My Buddha's temple has collapsed and looks like its dying off at the base, the top is fine with lots of babies. What sort of soil should I plant out the babies to save their lives?

I'm not 100% sure what Buddha's Temple is? but all succulents should have very well drained soil.

Cut the top off, and discard the base, in case whatever killed it off is contagious (some kind of root rot, possibly?) and set the top onto some cactus soil, specifically mixed for cacti and succulents, or mix your own; I recommend some kind of potting soil, such as Sunshine Mix #4 if you can get it, mixed with the same quantity of turkey grit, pumice (my preference, but hard to find) or even large sand.

This should be sieved to remove dusty particles, which will clog the pores.

Resist the urge to water your plant until it grows some of it's own roots, because you will just compound the problem.

I recommend using rainwater, if you can get it, or distilled water, because they don't contain any minerals, such as calcium or lime, which can be a problem.

Never, ever use water that has been run through a water softening unit, as this contains salts, something that most succulents have not evolved to deal with.

Fingers crossed for an early and uneventful recovery!

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Pleiospilos nelii

by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello Jacki
i had this Pleiospilos nelii for a few months now,
i give it water every 2 weeks,never fertilize,
it started to welt a few days ago,just about the
time it need water,
what do think is going on,its floppy down to the
root,is it roting or dying?

Hi Amjad, it sounds like you're doing everything right; if the plant is floppy right at the crown, where the roots join to the top growth, this looks like some kind of root rot.

You may be able to save it with some drastic action; I would cut off the top part with a sharp razor, right where it changes to the root section. Discard the roots, and the soil and sterilize the pot just in case it is something contagious.

Use dry potting soil (you know what I'm going to say here; cactus soil, or potting soil mixed with the same quantity by volume of aggregate like gravel, pumice or perlite), and set the top of the plant on it; don't water, just let it dry and callous for at least a few days. Then start to just spray lightly, the surrounding soil. Don't actually water it until it's rooted. With luck, the little guy will recover nicely.

Hoping for the best result for you!

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by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY, U.S.)

living room

living room

I've had this aloe plant for about 6 years now. Originally both of these larger parts were in the same pot, but about a year ago I separated them to try and have them grow more upright and it was seeming crowded in the pot.

Both (at almost the same exact time) started producing an offshoot. One is growing at a phenomenal rate, while the other hasn't seemed to get any larger since I first spotted it a few weeks ago. The one with the smaller offshoot is in the bathroom, while the other is in the living room. Both receive about the same amount of sun, but the bathroom window is covered by vertical blinds while the other window is covered by a shear curtain, so it probably lets more light in. The bathroom plant has also been much more difficult to encourage to grow up-right, as you can probably see.

Any tips would be great, I am assuming that it is no problem to allow the new plants to grow in the same pot for a long time, I just wasn't sure if there was anything special I should be doing. Also, if there was anyway to try and remedy my twisty aloe into something that less resembles an acrobat.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Well, the circus contortionist act is due to not enough light - even though it seems bright to us, obviously, plants have a different view.

I keep mine in a warm but fairly shaded greenhouse for the summer, which they love - but the light comes mainly through the plastic of the roof more than the sides.

This is the key - brightest light you can muster, even if you need to get a fluorescent grow light for them.

I know this is a bit of a pain, but unless you simply discard the larger parts and keep some pups to replace them with when they start doing this dance, there is only one other way to keep them compact.

This entails removing the most vigorous growth by unscrewing the top of it (wherever you would like it to start bushing out) and then it will force new buds to break. You'll never get the single rosette form that most people like, but it makes a much more attractive plant, plus keeps it smaller.

Other than staking them to keep them upright, and turning them a quarter turn every day to try and get an even amount of light, they will always try and reach for more. That's the risk of growing desert plants as houseplants! Also see the page on Aloe for more tips.


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The edges of the leaves are turning brown

by Shannon
(West Chester, Pennsylvania)

It has a thin base from which all of the leaves originate. The leaves are long and green with white stripes running throughout. The edges and tips of the leaves have been turning brown.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Shannon, this is one of the nicer Draceana, or Corn Plant - there are many different ones, with stripes of variegation, some in red, or like this one with striking white and green.

These plants even though well adapted to living as houseplants, do have some quirks.

If they're moved, in some cases they resent it and show it by dropping lower leaves.

If they are placed right near an air conditioning unit and have dry cold air blowing on them, this might account for the issue that yours has.

Try and place it where it gets air movement, but not cold air. You can also put a tray of pebbles close by and fill it with water every day to increase the humidity.

Also avoid over watering, as the leaves will show the damage of root rot by dropping or becoming dried out.

If all else fails, chop the top off the plant, and it will respond with some new buds emerging that won't show the damage.

Above all, keep your cat away from it, as chewing on the leaves can cause some severe medical problems. It's also known as 'Dumb Cane' after it's poisonous effect of a certain chemical it contains, so your pets are at risk.

Happy House Plant Gardening!

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Succulent Fever

by David
(Newfoundland, Canada)

I've grown to love succulents. Can you tell me which succlents can be grown in Newfoundland, Canada?

Many thanks,

Hi David - welcome to my obsession! In your region you can most likely grow any of the plants that are listed as hardy succulents, such as Sedum, Sempervivum and Jovibarba.

The tender ones such as Echeveria are only suited to be grown outdoors during the summer, and overwintered indoors under lights.


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Beheaded Echeveria

by Christina

I just (for the very first time) beheaded my Echeveria "Topsy Turvy". Without thinking, I also cut the remaining stem left in the pot away from the soil as I have the beheaded rosette sitting atop a glass while I wait for it to show roots, and a long stem connected to nothing...will this stem still produce new plants? Where should I put it?


Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Christina, you're halfway there! The top rosette doesn't need water - in fact, I recommend that you don't put water anywhere near it.

The roots will emerge in time, and don't worry, the plant has enough reserves to live on until they start to sprout. Water doesn't make it go any faster, and can actually cause it to rot.

For your long stem, I would just lay it down on the top of some potting soil, and you can even cut it into several pieces, and each one will most likely root and sprout some tiny new rosettes.

The beauty of these fascinating plants is their seemingly magical ability to make new growth out the air - that's not quite accurate, but sometimes it seems that way!

Time and patience are the key, and once you've seen how long it takes to have success, you'll be well on your way to being a great propagator.

Good luck with your Topsy Turvy!

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Insect and Plants in Jurassic times

What caused the size of plants and insects to change?

In my Environmental Science class we learned that millions of years ago insects, dragonflies etc. were gigantic compared to what we know them as today and why. When and why was that true for plants?

Drought Smart Plants reply:
This is not something I'm trained to answer, but I do have a theory why plants have changed in size compared to millions of years ago.

Many fossils that can be identified as similar to some of our plants today tell us that plants now are much smaller.


This could be due to climate change and other environmental changes, such as a much colder climate than there used to be, as well as different make up of gases in the atmosphere. Plants simply grew faster in the environment of the Jurassic period.

Don't forget, in the interim, there were several ice ages, so only the smaller species of plants survived; the larger, more tender types would have succumbed to the cold. This is the effect of evolution that Charles Darwin was so intrigued by.

As to the exact dates that all this took place, our minds simply can't comprehend the sheer number of years. Based on fossil evidence, millions of years ago is the best guess.

I hope this helps answer your question.

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Hoya and things

by Amjad

pic 1

pic 1

Hello again Jackie,
Your replies are pushing me fast forward, I like your simplicity in explaining things. Here are some more inquiries for you, if you
should have the time for them;

1.i am asking for cuttings,for this part of the world people are not into succulents yet,my aim is show people what you can do with succulents - can you imagine that I live in a city with a population of 4 million,with only one cactus and succulents nursery and with one shop!!!!??

Now I have in my garden some of these plants, so I am in need of things that we don't have,e.g; Jovibarba so, you sell cuttings to an U.S. address ??

2.My Crassula have this dotted depression ,that looks like an erosion; is this a sunburn over wet leaf or something else???? pic.1

3. this is the nearest I can get from this cutting,and it doesn't have square trunk,i just need to know how to take care of it pic. 2

4. I am trying to grow a few hoya plants from cuttings and leaves,some are advising me not to continue,for it is highly unpredictable ! what do you think?

5.Is it better to propagate geraniums in winter or spring,or it doesn't matter? I had a few cutting from a nice purple ivy geranium, a few days later it collapsed, and not a single cutting has survived; what has happened here????pic.3

By the way, my city is compatible with zone 11 in the U.S.

Oh Jackie,i think this is too much, I will stop here, thank you in advance

Hi Amjad, I'm so happy that you're so interested - you could certainly try to start a succulent swap in your area.

I can't ship plants outside of Canada, it's too expensive as I think I explained before. So sorry!

So, to answer your other questions;
2 - this looks as though the leaf got damaged somehow, and it is trying to heal up the scar. They have the ability to seal off or compartmentalize damage, so don't give up on it just yet, especially as the damage is not near the petiole end (where the leaf attaches to the stem).

3 - Without seeing more of the plant than two little leaves, I can't identify it. Wait until it grows a bit more, and try again.

4 - Hoya are easy to root! Each little bump on the stem is a place for a root to form. Don't let anyone tell you it can't be done, prove them wrong. Propagators are always pushing the envelope.

I worked for a nursery in Langley, British Columbia, and figured out several ways to use the same facilities that had produced hardy Juniper and other evergreen cuttings to increase production - it's said that you can never get perfect rooting of any crop of cuttings, I almost reached that by getting around 96% success rate on some types where before we were lucky to get 50% - finding new ways of growing plants by providing exactly the right conditions for them is so satisfying.

5 - Pelargonium cuttings must be treated as a succulent, and dried off overnight before sticking them in almost dry soil. The trick is to lightly mist them, and bright filtered light, warm temperatures and sterilized soil are essential.

If you're in Zone 11, that's pretty much like areas in California - you could grow lots of gorgeous plants, and not ever worry about them being outside. I'm so envious!

Best of luck with your succulent nursery!

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Sedum and Cedar Hedge

by Jacki
(Grand Forks, B.C.)

Michele asked me this question and I thought it was important to share, as others may be wondering the same thing.
Here is the question that Michele asks:

I'm looking for ground cover to put around a ceder hedge, will Sedum be able to survive around the ceder? If yes, the hedge is about 5 feet large X 40 feet long. How many plants will I need? Presently, the ceder are not large...

Here's my suggestion:

Sedum may not be the very best choice of groundcover plant, due to several reasons.

Sedum loves full sun, and being shaded by the cedar hedge won't be the best situation for it.

Also, cedar (I'm assuming you're using Thuja occidentalis, or Brandon cedar for your hedge) tends to drop old leaves on top of anything below, sometimes smothering it, but even more potentially harmful, will contribute a very acid environment.

Part of this is from the roots, and part from the rainfall carrying it from the leaves.

This is why many times you'll see cedar trees of all kinds with no undergrowth.

I suggest instead of a plant, simply mulch to prevent weed growth, and a distance away from the root and drip zone, plant a wide bed of Sedum there. Depending on the width of the bed, one plant every foot / 30 cm will be adequate for a one foot wide bed. Adjust to suit your measurements.

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Cutting off Dead Flower Stalks

by Margaret
(San Angelo, TX)

Should I cut the dead blooms off my succulents?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

There is no reason not to remove the dead bloom stalks once the plant has finished flowering, but it's not essential for the health of the plant.

If you are going to try and grow the seed, then once it has ripened a bit, cut off the seed heads and put them into a brown paper bag to finish drying.

Pruning off the flower stalks may help in a couple of ways: it will eliminate the problem of reseeding in the garden, such as what can happen in some kinds of Sedum especially, and also will prevent any rot from setting in if you are in a very humid or damp area.

In some cases, such as with some hardy succulents such as Sempervivum and Jovibarba, the bloom cycle signals the end of the rosettes life, so removing the whole stem and dead rosette will leave more room for the chicks that she left behind to take her place.

Other than our natural urge to tidy up, there is no real benefit or downfall to taking off the dead stems.

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patio plants


Camouflage Pots on parade

Camouflage Pots on parade

we have a deck behind our cottage, it gets afternoon sun, I was planting carnations and marigolds and some ferns.. when we leave on the weekend we water them well, but if it doesn't rain during the week we are pulling out and replanting. help!! mmarino

Well, as you know, I'm a firm believer in planting succulents - everywhere. If there is a challenging site that needs color and texture, put in some hardy succulents which need virtually no care.

In your situation, I would plant several kinds of Sempervivum (hens and chicks) together in a big pot, with some Sedum to drape over the sides and fill in amongst the plants.

Some of my most successful containers (and the most fun) have been some that I painted in camouflage paint, and then used for some of my mixed Sempervivum stock plants. The secret to their lovely growth is that I added some steer manure to the usual soil that I use, Sunshine Mix #4.

The difference with this mix is that it contains a water holding polymer; not only does it hold moisture to release it slowly over several weeks, it also is easy to re-wet.

If you've ever stood there with a garden hose and flooded your containers for twenty minutes while it runs out the bottom, only to find that an inch down, the soil is still bone dry, then you'll love this stuff.

These containers get watered about twice a month, and don't ever seem to get totally dry (which of course, is what succulents like - to have a dry soil in between waterings) but so far, they don't seem to be complaining.

They were out under a foot of snow all winter, and emerged perky and ready to go early in the spring.

The cute part of my containers is that I found small flat rocks and made a forest trail, winding through the containers. This is like a miniature garden, with some of my favorite plants.

See more about the Camouflage Planters here.

Hope that gives your creative urge a nudge!

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Leaning Sedum telephium

by Joe McCarty
(St. Boni, MN, USA)

I have several Sedum (Telephium???) plant in front of my house, about 4 yrs old.
They are so big, that they have opened up (all plant stalks have leened outward). They are not so pretty anymore.
Can I divide them, or do anything else to keep them in tighter to look better & healthier?
Please help,

Drought Smart Plants reply:

This is a common problem if Sedum telephium or Sedum spectabile are over watered and grown in soil that is too rich. They put on lush growth that has no strength, and tends to flop over, leaving the middle of the clump bare.

You have a couple of options: Cut the whole clump back to about 2-5cm (a few inches) and wait for it to re-grow.

The drawback to this is that the clump will not bloom again, as you will have cut off the flower buds. It's best to do this early in the summer, before they get to this point, as then they may have time to produce flower buds.

The other option is to divide the clump now, and replant them in slightly sandier or gravely soil so they don't have as much nutrition. This will keep them compact and full.

Either of these options will produce a nicer plant next year, unfortunately, there isn't much to improve the situation for now, except to (shudder) stake the plants by driving a stick in beside it and using string to hold them upright. This is really a stop gap solution, and should not be relied on for a permanent situation.

See the pages on Sedum Autumn Joy for more on a variety that is similar to what you have, and for a more general overview, look at Sedum for Borders.

Learn more about Succulent Plant Propagation and see Propagation by Division.

Happy Growing,

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Mystery Office Plant

My co-worker has a plant that we cannot identify. She's had it for a few years.

The plant has survived a couple of mishaps - overwatering, lack of water. Suddenly, over the past year, it has grown from a single sprig about 4 inches tall into a several sprig plant with the tallest sprig a little over two feet. Any ideas? Thank you!

Drought Smart Plants reply;
As the picture is from a distance, and doesn't show some of the important characteristics that I would need for a really 100% accurate identification, I'm going to go out on a limb, and suggest that it might be Abutilon, the flowering maple.

I'm basing this on the shape of the leaves, and the fact that they're speckled. I could be wrong, but that's one place to start:


Happy Houseplant Gardening!

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bird of paradise

5 year old plant that all of a sudden leaves are turning brown on ends and half of the leaves are turning yellow, help

Without more information, and some pictures, I can't help. Please post again, with pictures of exactly what's happening, and tell me where you are geographically, and where you have the plant, if in ground planted, or in a container, inside or out. Without knowing more about your situation, it's absolutely impossible to pin down what is wrong with your plant. Sorry to be so picky...

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School Succulent Project

by Ken Steinberg
(Toronto, Ontario)

Wow! what a great, informative site! I'm a teacher and we've successfully propagated some succulents.
How do we (prune?)train them to create the hearty, low-to-the-ground rosette shape?
Thanks in advance!
Gr 7, MJDS

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Ken, welcome to you and your students - start 'em young, I always say! Gardeners are made, not born, so your kids will have a head start on this fascinating hobby/lifestyle.

To answer your question, it would help to know what exactly the plants were. Pruning will certainly make them break new growth from buds below the cut, but if they aren't a rosette forming plant to start with, no amount of training will make them adopt that type of growth habit.

To get the rosette shape, you need to start with plants that have that type of shape to start with: some of my favorite low growing hardy succulents are Sempervivum and Jovibarba. These are similar to some of the tender types such as Echeveria and its relatives, but are super hardy in cold climates. These will come back bigger and better every year, eventually making a colony or cluster.

If some of what you have is Sedum, the low growing types such as Sedum spurium varieties will benefit from an annual trim - I use a weed whacker for this if I have a large area to cut back, and this promotes new growth from the stems that are left. Sometimes, these types of plants tend to grow outward from a central crown, leaving it balding and bare. The pruning will help keep them compact and bushy.

Best of luck with your project,

See these pages too:

Sedum spurium 'Dragons Blood'

Sedum for Groundcovers


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banana trees

Would planting banana trees near south windows provide shade from the sun to help reduce my cooling bill? Also, how to prevent them from multiplying into the neighbor's yard?

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Mealy bugs

by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Help Jacki
I have mealy bugs on my 6 weeks old
Zinnia seedlings
What shall I do ?

Hi Amjad, mealy bugs are so pernicious, and spread so easily, that this might be one of those times that you just start all over.

Zinnias being a quick and easy type of plant to grow, it really is not worth the risk of transmitting then to all your other plants. They are so hard to get rid of, and you will battle them for years.

So, the only treatment seems to be using a soapy spray with isopropyl alcohol in it; I suggest you test this on some plants first, if you want to try it.

On succulents, which have a waxy coating, this works well, it may not work so great on the tender foliage of Zinnias. Your call.

I know what I would do, with a heavy heart. I would put the whole thing, soil, plants and all, right into the garbage; do not even try to salvage the pots, or the soil.

Hope this helps nip an infestation in the bud,

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yellow and dark pink waxy petals

hi my name is david,
My freinds live in the rainforest of Kuranda, far north queensland. they have identified these spectacularly coloured waxy type petals scattred around in different locations on one of there regular walks on their property. Any help identifying them would be greatly appreciated!

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Hi David, if these are on a walk that your friends follow often, then they can look around the area that they found the petals, and see what plants are growing there.

Plant identification requires a few different things to figure out the plant - is it a tree? a vine? and also what kind of leaves, the way the leaves are attached and many other characteristics.

I can imagine what the flowers look like from the petals - astonishing!

I'm not familiar with many of the amazing plants in Australia, as they've evolved in isolation from the plants in the Northern Hemisphere. Maybe another 'Aussie' will recognize the petals, and tell us what plant they come from.

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Black fat short"Ants"

by Amjad

Hello Jackie,
more questions to you,you have been extremely helpful,
i have on my chrysanthemums ,and on my dracenea compacta,
on the foliage,very tiny,fat short "ants"that you cannot even feel
when you crush them,since you cannot hold them,
i lost a huge number of my mums to them,
i have these main 2 materials at hand(Ethion50% W/V
and ,triadimenol25% W/V ,
are they good for these creatures,and .....what are these?

Please accept my thanx and wishes of a merry x-mass
and a blossomful 2013

Hi Amjad, without seeing a picture of your 'ants' I would hesitate to suggest any kind of treatment - don't start randomly poisoning the earth, just to kill off some kind of unknown insect.

I would just keep an eye on them, observe their habits, and then maybe try some kind of non-chemical type of treatment.

I don't use any chemical pesticides so I can't advise you on the ones you've listed but without identifying the pest, it's not going to be much benefit.

Some ways you can use that don't poison the whole environment are:

- sticky traps, which are cardboard or plastic covered with some kind of glue (make your own with vaseline or other gummy substance on a piece of cardboard) - these only work on actively foraging types of insects, which will wander across the board and get stuck.

- diatomaceous earth (get the kind that is food grade, used for weevil control in grain in storage - totally harmless to people and pets, deadly to insects which are killed by the scratching of their outer coat) - apply with some type of puffer or just put some on a small cloth and dust the leaves with it - wear some kind of breathing protection or dust mask when doing this as the fine dust can cause lung damage.

- mix up my favorite all purpose non-lethal spray; one liter (one quart) of lukewarm water, add a couple of drops of dish soap or hand soap, and a few drops of any cooking oil, shake well, spray as needed. This could mark hardwood floors and upholstery, so make sure not to damage those when spraying.

Hopefully, that will take care of the insects.

Best of luck, and best wishes for 2013!

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aphids on overcrowded sempervivum!

by Pon
(London, UK)

overcrowded sempervivum

overcrowded sempervivum


I'm a novice and just started raising succulents. I've recently acquired a pot of Sempervivum that are quite overcrowded. It's just the beginning of summer (early June) here in London so I'm not sure if it's the wrong/right time to re-pot some of the buds and separate the plant out a bit? And if I should separate/repot, what the best way of going about it would be.

The buds are also infested with what I think are aphids (little white flecks that look like dust, but grow into little green oval shaped bugs that secrete a green liquid when squished). I've tried vigilantly cleaning and squirting the plant with water, and a bit of dish soap, but they survive, and I've spent a lot of time just picking them off but don't know what the best overall pest control solution would be. Help!

Should I start by separating/repotting the plant a bit- will this alleviate some of the aphids (make it less easier for them to procreate/move around?) and then, what next?

Thanks in advance!

p.s.- I've also got one 'doris day' echeveria I think, which has roots growing out of the bottom of the container. Should I repot the whole thing in a larger container, or separate the three buds into different containers (best method to do this without killing the plant?) Sorry for all the questions, but I'm really concerned!

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Pon, don't worry about asking questions - that's what I'm here for!

First off, your Sempervivum - are you trying to grow it indoors? This could be part of the problem as they are a hardy plant, and happier outside in the weather. They need much brighter light that what you can normally provide inside, even in a sunny window.

I would take it out of the pot and separate each crown, as each of these will make a new plant.

Simply pull them apart - they will most likely already have roots. Even if they don't have any roots, they will quickly grow them under the stress of being removed from their mother plant.

You'll get lots - make sure you have lots of friends lined up to give them to, or start making some succulent crafts - I put my extras into a succulent balls, or a succulent mosaic.

Once you get them apart, inspect them, and see which ones are the worst - you may want to discard the really badly infested ones.

The others can be soaked in a mixture of a few drops of dish soap (not detergent) or Safers Insecticidal Soap, or similar, in water.

This will take care of the majority of the pests.

Aphids are particularly attracted to plants under stress, so if you see them, there is work to be done to de-stress your plants.

Once your pieces have soaked for a few minutes (don't leave them too long) allow them to dry overnight (yes, I know, sounds cruel, right?) and then pot them into new potting soil.

For potting soil, use something that does not retain too much moisture. You can even add more drainage material to the soil, such as pumice, small sized lava rock, turkey grit, small gravel or perlite (this is unsightly, and tends to float to the surface, so it's a last resort if you can't find anything else).

For your Echeveria, definitely, repot it; you can do this anytime it's growing. See also how to grow Echeveria for more.

I would separate each crown, and use the same system and soil mix as for your Sempervivum - even though they grow at completely opposite ends of the earth, they still need similar soil.

Echeveria as a species don't like lime in the soil, so don't get carried away and add anything except the drainage material.

See also these pages:

How to Grow Sempervivum

Succulent Care

Succulent Soil

Succulent Plant Propagation

Good luck, and welcome to our addiction!


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white patches

by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello Jacki,
I had this cactus(unidentified)for a couple of years, on an east facing window(indoor)
a few days ago i started to notice these white patches, and difference in color between the 2"poles" of the cactus
can you help?

Hi Amjad, the difference in the color is normal; the top of the plant is getting more light, so it's darker. I don't know if that is a cause for concern, unless the base starts to get soft as well.

In this case, it might mean that you have either been overwatering or it's in the wrong kind of soil.

The white patches are odd.

Are these dried out parts of the skin of the cactus?

They look like scorch damage, more than anything. If your sunlight is really intense, and through a window, this could be what's happening.

Move the plant away from the window a bit, if possible, or put a thin curtain between them and the window for a bit of protection.

Although these plants require bright light, when it's magnified through a window, it can burn the tissues.

Alternately, (because I can't really see enough detail) if these are actually fuzzy or waxy, you most likely have mealy bugs - I'm not sure this is the issue, because mealy bugs generally cluster around the aureoles and spines of cactus, not out in the middle.

Check this by seeing if you can scrape them off. If this is the problem, you should be able to use a toothpick or similar and scrape them off, or use a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) to dab them.

This removes the waxy coating and kills them. There are very few sprays that are recommended for cactus, so follow the instructions if you're going to try this.

Hope that helps,

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Regional Flowers

by Tracy
(Fairfield, OH, USA)

I live in Fairfield, Ohio and I was wondering what flowers would you reccomend planting at my school?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Tracey, you are in planting zone 5, which means there are lots of plants to choose from that will do well for you.

There are a couple of things to take into consideration.

As this is a school, will there be someone to take care of the plants in the summer?

If not, then you'll need some kinds of early blooming plants (before school gets out in June) that will thrive on low care while classes are out in the summer, and then continue to bloom or have another season of bloom in the fall.

Here are a few plants that might fit these criteria:

For a perennial garden (one that doesn't require re-planting every year) you'll be best off with some kinds of plants that thrive on neglect.

For an area in full sun why not try some daylilies (Hemerocallis). Stella d'Oro is a good one that doesn't get really big, and will repeat bloom for at least three weeks or more in June.

Echinacea, the Purple Coneflower is a good bet to plant where it will get some water, possibly with an automatic irrigation system, and it will bloom well into the late summer and fall.

Rudbeckia, the Black Eyed Susan is perfect for vibrant fall colour in oranges and browns.

I highly recommend some of my favorite plants intermingled with these taller perennials such as Sedum spurium 'John Creech', which may bloom before school is out in the spring, Sedum 'Autumn Joy', which is a taller border type, grown for it's lush pale blue green leaves, and brocolli like flowers through the fall, and underplant with many varieties and species of my favorite hardy succulents, Sempervivum or hens and chicks.

Round out your selection with some ornamental grasses, and sprinkle annual seeds among the perennials to give instant colour until they get a little bigger. Some that I recommend are California Poppies, Nolana, Phacelia, Nasturtium and Alyssum.

This will give you colour, texture and low maintenance, all in one beautiful package.


See also these pages for more ideas:

Xeric Plants


Xeric Gardens

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Ugly dead Aeonium bloom

How do I cut back this ugly dead aeonium bloom without having an ugly stump? Thank you Susan

Hi Susan, without a picture, it's difficult to give you any guidelines.

If you can cut the stem as far down as possible, right at the soil line, if the rosette is dead or dying, the new pups will grow up and hide the stump. This won't take long - it's almost as if they wait for the queen to die, and then all burst into life and compete to get to be the biggest.

As always, clean, sharp pruners are essential (if it's at all a worry, clean the blades with isopropyl alcohol, to remove any disease organisms)

Hope this helps,

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outdoor succulents

by Nira milo

I would like to plan outdoor living walls for my west and east side house walls. I would like to use succulents as I love their colors and textures.

Would you be able to recommend small succulents which will survive the cold temperature in Toronto?

My east side wall is totally exposed and gets lots of sun until about 1pm.

My west side wall is in the shade during the summer months since I have a very large tree in that area. In the winter when the leaves are gone and the sun is shining there is sunlight from about 2pm.
thank you for your help
Nira Milo

Hi Nira, the best succulents would be some of the smaller Sedum, which are used for ground covers, and can withstand quite a range of conditions. You can see more about sedum for green roofs - these are tough and reliable, and have been well tested in similar situations on green roofs.

Other plants that thrive in challenging conditions are Sempervivum and Jovibarba, both of which will form colonies of plants, eventually covering the surface of the wall.

All of these plants will require a bit of re-planting, because they'll all tend to want to fall off. Luckily, they are easy to pin in place with a toothpick or behind netting. Also, with them being exposed through the winter, your wall may experience higher than normal losses, because although they're hardy in garden conditions, without snow cover they are less protected.

Hope that helps give you some choices,

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Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora goes limp

I've grown many many of these and they stayed healthy and vigorous without much effort. This is the first time I've ever seen the leaves go soft and limp.I don't want it to die---what to do?

I already lost a small one to whatever this is and now it's affected this larger one. I can't remember if the two are related, these things propagate like mad, tho that's not happening either.

I think the environment it's in is alright and I can't see any bugs on the plant. Please advise.

In many cases like this, it seems to be an issue with the soil; is the soil staying too wet?

Can you dig out the plant and see if there is root rot? This will be indicated by black, mushy roots, with a distinctive odor of mold.

If so, you might want to cut the top of the plant off, and try to re-root it.

If it's already limp, sometimes the rot has gone too far already, and the stem and everything will follow. Sometimes, though, it's a rough treatment that saves the plant.

Here's what I would do:

If the roots are still white and plump, you have a chance of saving it - cut the plant back, and repot into clean soil. Hopefully it will start to make more buds soon.

If the roots are black and mushy, look at the base of the stem, and see if it's also showing signs of rot.

If so, you have some type of fungus infection - cut the top of the plant off well above the black part, and let it dry out thoroughly.

Use clean sterilized cutting tools (dip into isopropyl alcohol - rubbing alcohol - to disinfect them) and let the cutting callous.

This part is crucial.

Pot it into DRY potting soil, which has added aggregate for drainage - I would shy away from anything that has bark, peat or manure in it.

If you have an issue with root rot, it will spread, especially if you cross contaminate plants, pots and spores can even spread by the air.

I am of the school of thought that you have to ruthlessly rogue and cull if you have any problems like this, because even if you're totally careful, they can still be emerging many years later.

Good luck with your plant rescue!

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Mystery plant and growth?

by Heidi Baehr
(Kenosha, WI)

mystery plant

mystery plant


I think this is some type of dieffenbachia, but I don't know. If you can, please identify? Also, can you tell me whether or not the taupe/tan crusty lines are a mold, an insect or just the leaf drying up?

I've had it for 6 years. I rescued it from a co-workers office. It was not quite 1 foot tall with one pathetic, droopy leaf.

It seemed to flourish after I took it home. It's been in Miracle Gro Cactus/Succulent soil in a well draining pot. I've repotted it to a larger vessel three years ago. It's in a shaded, south and west facing window corner. I'm in southeastern Wisconsin.

When it first began growing upper leaves, the lower leaves shrank a little. Then, after the first year, maybe once every 6 months, a leaf would shrink back down to nothing, shrivel and fall off.

I thought maybe this was normal to sustain energy for the upper leaves which continued to grow quite rapidly.

In the last two years or so, this leaf loss has become more rapid, and in just this last year, I've noticed this crusty, tan-colored stuff on the branches, and on the segment areas of the stem after the leaves come off.

I've been looking online and it doesn't match anything I've found. I can't find any trace of mealybugs or spider mites. There's no stickiness anywhere. It doesn't look like scale insects.

There are two small, round, darker colored areas on the stem - but they are not soft. There more like the beginning of some kind of nodule? There is no softness anywhere on the stem or branches.

Whatever this is seems to be making the leaves fall off faster. They're now starting to come away from the stem BEFORE the shrivelling starts.

I've been using an organic (basically neem oil) anti insect/fungus/mite spray which seems to slow it down a little bit, but nothing worth talking about.

I've attached some photos. A few are not as clear as I'd like - my camera just couldn't focus down to that small of an area. Thank you so very much for you help!

Hi Heidi, thanks so much for the detailed explanation. Yes, this is indeed some kind of Dieffenbachia.

The normal growth habit is to lose the lower leaves as the new ones grow out of the top, so that part is normal. My reference book suggests that if the leaves droop and fall without yellowing first, this is an indication of the plant being chilled, so possibly this is the problem.

If the plant is in a place where it's getting cold from an air conditioner, move it to a less intensely cold area.

Leaf burn has long been the nemesis of growers of this plant, and newer hybrids are chosen on the basis of less susceptibility to this, but there is still the potential for the leaves to brown.

As for the darker green 'nodes' it's quite likely that is exactly what they are; adventitious root nodes ready to spring into action when needed.

The crusting could be caused by excess fertilizer. Make sure you flush the soil through with clear water (preferably rain water or distilled water, not from the tap if your water is heavily treated, and not from water that has gone through a water softening unit) until it runs out of the bottom of the pot.

One of the biggest problems with these plants is that they soon reach a gigantic size, okay for an atrium in an office building, less desirable for a living room in a residence.

You can cut the top off and re-root it, but sometimes that's more complicated (and messy) and generally people just toss the plant and buy a new nicer one, and there's no shame in that.

Don't feel that you have to continue to struggle with it, if it's too big, and has issues.

Take the knowledge that you have gained from this experience, and use it to grow the next plant even better.

Best of luck whatever you decide.

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Chinese Redwood Tree

by Marie Sliman
(Tallmadge, Oh)

I heard that the chinese redwood tree is rare in the united states. My mother planted one about 50 years ago in our back yard. She bought quite a few rare plants that I have no idea what they are but I wonder if anyone would be interested in it. Thanks, Marie

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Hi Marie, we're always interested in odd and unusual plants, so bring it on. Post pictures please, and only one plant per entry; this makes it easier to answer your questions.

Without seeing pictures of your Chinese Redwood tree, I can't tell you much about it, as the botanical name is important and without pictures, I can't identify it.


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my stepelia cactus

by Lola White
(United States yulee fla)

Example of a Stapelia flower

Example of a Stapelia flower

yes my stepelia has just bloomed the most beautiful stinky flower and has more fixing to open.

I have people wanting cuttings from other plants just like it; can I just break a piece off or how do I do that and can you just stick the cutting in the ground will it grow?

Hi Lola, I generally pull of a whole stem from the base - these will root quickly and have the best chance of survival.

Having said that, it's just as easy to simply cut off a piece of a longer stem, and you can chop it into pieces around 3-4" long; each will root and make a separate plant.

Keep in mind two things; one is that they have to be stuck into the soil right side up, so keep that in mind when you cut them up, and also, it's absolutely crucial that they are allowed to dry out and callous over before you put it into soil.

It's important to have the right soil; extra gravel or sand, and sterilized if possible, especially for indoor plants so you don't accidentally give someone a pest.

If you do want to put it directly into soil, don't water it for at least a week. Otherwise, it can allow moisture into the inside of the cutting and rot can start.

Best of luck propagating!

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Echeveria looking scarier

by ann marie
(phoenix az)

I'm in phoenix az. Zone 7? I got an Echeveria in April and put it outside in a pot in full sun it was doing well. Got concerned about the heat and brought it inside in late may. I put it in a south facing window. Now the bottom leaves are turning brown and dropping. Should I put it in an east or west facing window instead? How much water do they need? Thanks! PS. I can't figure out how to send pix. Sorry

Hi Ann Marie, pictures would certainly help, but what you describe is pretty typical of Echeveria.

They tend to drop lower leaves as the top rosette gets bigger and eventually it starts to look like a palm tree - a tall stem, with a fluff of leaves on the top.

This calls for 'beheading' or cutting off the rosette and re-rooting it.

Don't worry, it's really not that scary.

These plants have the ability to quickly root from the bottom of the rosette, and they may take a few weeks to recover, but once they grow some new roots, they take off and regain their health. See the bottom of this page to buy the book which will tell you all about how to do it.

For water, they should be watered well, once or twice a month. Allow them to dry almost completely between times - don't tease by giving only a tiny amount. They need a good drenching, but it's crucial that they have well drained soil.

Have a look at this page on how to grow Echeveria for more tips.

Hope that helps with the Scary Echeveria!

Learn how to root your own succulents:

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My rescued easter cactus?

by Andrew S.
(West Henrietta, NY)

A person that I know was going to get rid of this plant, but I figured it is worth saving. I was thinking about breaking some 2-3 segment pieces off and sticking them in some soil (same way I've done with my Christmas Cactus).

She was going to get rid of it because of these weird marks on it. Any clue as to what it is? some kind of disease or something? maybe just too much light?

Thanks for the help as always!

Hi Andrew - long time no hear from!

I'm assuming that your concern is about the corky, dried out looking parts?

I don't see anything about this plant that is indicating that it's in trouble; without knowing more about its history, I would suggest that it was either dropped at some time in the past, which caused some mechanical damage, and now it's drying out.

Too much light, as in brilliant blazing sunlight could cause this kind of damage too, as these are generally grown indoors, or in the dappled shade of a tree during the summer.

As these plants age, they do tend to get some quite woody growth around the base of the plant on the oldest branches, that's just a normal part of aging.

One thing that I've had success with is to just take cuttings off a rescued plant; using this method, you can pretty much discard the older parts, which are where things like scale and other creepie crawlies tend to gather.

I would urge you to make sure that you follow good sanitary practices, and as always, quarantine the plant (whether the whole thing, or cuttings) and keep them separate from your collection until you're absolutely certain there are no hitch hikers.

Hope that helps with your rescue!

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propogating succulent leaves

by Shelley Holtgrefe
(Cincinnati ohio)

OK so I have been trying to propagate succulent leaves such as echeveria, jade, hens and chicks and a few others.

I live in cincinnati, ohio. It is winter here but the plants are inside. I let the leaves callous over for a couple days and laid them on top of the soil and mist them lightly once a week I guess.

The echeveria leaves turn black and dry out and my jade leaves literally shrivel up and turn crunchy.

I have them on top of my refrigerator where it just stays warm not over heated, and its bright indirect light. What am i doing wrong???

Hi Shelley, you're almost there - just don't mist them. They'll make roots without it.

You also might need a grow light to give them the 12 hours of light that they need; even though they might root without it, they'll start to grow much better with more light (day length, not intensity).

Sometimes it's hard to get leaves that have the potential of rooting, because you resist the urge to take the best ones off the mother plant!

Totally understandable, but the lower down leaves are already maybe past it, and won't root anyway, as you've found if those are the ones that you're trying to root.

Jade leaves root easily if they're allowed to dry out lots. Don't worry too much if they shrivel a bit; this is because they're using up the moisture in the leaf to produce roots; if they go black, or completely shrivel to nothing, well, too bad, those are done. Keep trying!

You say 'hens and chicks'; are you referring to Sempervivum, the hardy hens and chicks? It's unlikely that those will root from a leaf, and they don't tend to do all that well inside as a house plant; they require a cold dormancy to be able to grow with vigor in the spring.

For other succulents, once beheaded, the bottom part of the stem will sprout out some new, smaller rosettes, giving you a much better chance the next time around.

The younger the growth, the better and more vigorously it will root, generally.
Hope that helps,

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Do I need to water this lithops anymore?

by Ryan
(Washington, DC)

I have had this lithops (I believe it's karasmontana) for a little over a month now. I have been scared to water it.

Two weeks ago, I noticed that it was wrinkling a bit and I decided to give it a sip or two. I gave it a couple of cap fuls (soda bottle cap) of water and it seemed to get more wrinkled after that.

I did some research online and it said it is sometimes a good idea to let the plant soak in some water from the bottom of the pot so the tap roots won't completely dry out.

I did that, and it seemed to plump up again.

I did all this when it was cloudy and two days later, the sun returned full force and it wrinkled again.

I decided to leave it alone and let it do what it does, and since then, it has become more wrinkled than before. Other than that, it seems to be fine.

I have two others (not sure of the species) and they have never been watered while under my care yet they remain turgid and the skin is taut. I've had one for a little over two weeks, and the other one a week today.

Basically, should I water it again, or leave it alone and not be worried.

Drought Smart Plants reply: Hi Ryan, that is a beautiful specimen of Lithops, so it would be worth keeping it happy.

As for the wrinkling, that does seem to indicate that it is under stress of some kind, but as this is a normal (for Lithops) reaction, I would say that you should just leave it to recover on its own.

I've had some that shrivel to almost nothing, but plump up fine once they're watered.

I always use tepid rain water, not water that has gone through a softening unit. Alternatively, you could use distilled water, as they take so little.

Lithops are funny creatures, with their multiple dormant periods, and without investigating further into this species I would have a hard time saying if that is what it's trying to do. Also, if you've just acquired it, it's hard to know what soil it's in, and what care it received prior to getting it.

As always with these plants, err on the side of too little water, rather than too much. This is the number one cause of death with them, so when in doubt, don't.

Best of luck with this little living stone!

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When can this plant be transplanted to another area of the garden?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Eucalyptus, well known in their native Australia and grown in many parts of California thrive in warm climates. Their only real pest is the eucalyptus longhorn beetle, which are attracted to pruning cuts. Prune only in very early spring, or later in the fall when the pests are dormant.

When you transplant the tree in the early spring, make sure the roots are not wound around each other, spreading them and placing them on a mound of soil in the planting hole. Water well, and keep irrigating until the tree is well established in its new home. This can take two seasons, but after that, it should be fine with natural irrigation.

Good luck with your project,

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The Strange Tale of the dying Echeveria

Echeveria runyonii 'Topsy Turvy'

Echeveria runyonii 'Topsy Turvy'

Peter, from Vancouver tells this strange story via email:

Why did my succulent plant Echeveria Runyonii 'Topsy Turvy' die within 2 days?
Wondering if you can help??
I had a Echeveria Runyonii Topsy Turvy Crassulaceae. I had one of these plants for 4 months in my office at work. It was doing very well then suddenly within 2 days it had totally turned dark purple from the base and center outwards and dried up and died very suddenly.

Do you have any idea what may of caused this? It was not treated any differently than normal prior to its dying off. It looked very healthy 2 days prior with new buds coming out in the center..I have pictures I took of it before it died in perfectly healthy state and pictures during the two days it changed dark purple
and dried up and died.

I have no idea who to ask to find out why it died so quickly after looking so healthy the past months..Any idea what could of caused this? or where I can find out? Many thanks, Peter

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Peter,
Thanks for your inquiry!

I'm sorry that you lost your plant, but here's how to prevent that from happening again.

Have your seen my page on How to Grow Echeveria? See if anything you did or did not do is mentioned there.

First, the problem with growing plants in an office, is generally, there is not enough light, especially for succulent plants. Can you get a small light especially for your plants - I think Lee Valley has one in their catalogue so that might be an option.

See also the page on grow lights for more information.

Second, succulent plants do not like too much water. They like to totally dry out between waterings. It sounds from your description that your plant got root rot,which can be caused by too much water staying in the soil, so possibly the soil was not the right kind (ie: too much peat moss, not enough drainage material like pumice or large sand)

I hope this helps with your next succulent plant - don't stop now! Also, don't take it personally, sometimes plants die for absolutely no reason.
Best regards,
Jacki Cammidge,
Certified Horticulturist and owner

See the pages on succulents and succulent care for more.

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Why is my succulent so droopy?

by Jill
(Anchorage, AK)

I repotted this succulent in October and seemed to be doing fine until I had to move it (only about 6 feet) to fit my Christmas tree and then back after the holidays. Now it is loosing leaves and some of the stalks are drooping and shriveling up completely. How do I fix it??

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Jill, I'm sorry I probably won't be able to help much without a picture but here goes:

There are several reasons why your plant might be droopy, listed here in order of the most likely to least likely:

If you repotted it late in the season, and then watered it a lot, then it most likely rotted, instead of adapting to the new soil. I only repot succulents when it's warm and they're in active growth, otherwise they sulk, and tend to just give up.

It's possible your plant got too cold if you moved it closer to a window for instance.

It's also possible if you have propane or natural gas heat that it's warning you of a leak; plants are extremely sensitive to the chemical that gas companies put into natural gas to warn you of a leak called Mercaptans.

Okay, so I'm leaning towards culture shock after being repotted too late in the year, and then watered. So here's what you can try (this is a last ditch effort to salvage your plant, so don't expect it to be pretty):

Take the plant out of the pot, and carefully remove the soil.

Look and see what the roots look like. If they're just black mush, then you must do radical surgery, and possibly just remove some of the top growth in an attempt to propagate it.

If there are new pink or white roots, all is well, carefully repot, but DON'T water it.

This is the first cause of succulent plant death - watering right away after repotting or disturbing them. They need time to callous and repair the damage to the roots.

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas of things to try. Best of luck, hope all goes well.

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Indoor Cactus/Succulent Garden

by Sandra
(Nixa, MO, USA)

Very full succulent planter

Very full succulent planter

How many cactus & succulents could I safely plant in a container that measures 15"? The container is round.

Oh, boy, here's a loaded question! Without knowing more about where these will be displayed, and how big they are, there is really no definitive answer. It also depends on what kinds of plants these are. I would say that it's safe to plant most succulents much closer together than other kinds of plants.

As succulents tend to be so compact, and to have quite shallow root systems, they don't require as much room around them. The biggest issue and requirement with all cacti and succulents is that of the appropriate light. If your display is under a grow light, then you will be fine with more plants. If you're trying to have a window garden in a northern climate, then more room around each plant will allow more light to get to each plant. You can also add some pebbles, driftwood or other embellishments to make your container seem more established.

So, for actual measurements, I would plant smaller 2-3" potted succulents around 3-4" apart, and keep in mind their growth habits too. Trailing types can be planted near the edges of the container to flow over and taller more upright growing plants should be in the center (or the back) of the container.

The depth of the container will also make a difference in how closely you can plant them. Deeper pots will hold moisture longer, and also make the plants more stable. Shallower ones will dry out faster, and the plants may tend to flop over more.

The pictures above show some great examples of closely planted succulent planters.

Hope this helps to answer your question!

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echeveria runyonii broken!

something fell on my little (i think..echeveria runyonii) plant and the top half of the plant broke off. Can I save it? If I take the top all the way off, will the bottom keep growing and look good again?

Drought Smart Plants reply:
You have it backwards! If you take the top and re-root it, the top is the part that will look better. That plant is in an absolutely gorgeous bowl - I'd love to know more about it.

Here's what I would do with your plant;

Take the broken part of the plant, and remove the lower two leaves (or enough that you have a couple of centimeters of bare stem (1/2") and then stick that part into DRY potting soil/gravel.

You must use really well drained soilless mix with no lime in it for Echeveria.

In a couple of weeks, you'll see that the plant is growing and has new roots - it's magic!

Now for the bottom part.

This will heal up and most likely, as you've removed the top part, it will shoot out new growth from one or several dormant buds below the cut off part.

This is why I say the top part will be better looking.

However, once the new little rosettes are healthy and growing, you can carefully take those off, and root them exactly the same way you did the top.

Then you'll have several new plants for your collection, or as gifts.

Happy Succulent Growing!

See also the pages here:

Succulent Plant Propagation

Succulent Care

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Advice on Vikane-d agaves

First agave

First agave

Hi - I had my house fumigated for termites last week with Vikane gas, and my two outdoor octopus agaves started turning brown a couple of days later. I'm trying to determine if they even have a chance of survival and if I should try cutting off the diseased leaves (the vast majority are brown now), or if it's better for the neighboring plants for me to remove them altogether.

I've attached some photos and would greatly appreciate any advice. Many thanks.

Cindy Olnick
Los Angeles, CA

Hi Cindy, what a disaster! I have no experience with this chemical, but if it does this to plants, you have to wonder what else it affects.

I doubt if this would be contagious to other plants - the damage is done, so there is no need to get rid of them completely, unless you think that there is some kind of residue on them that could transfer to other plants.

If you do remove the leaves, wear some protection, at the very least, gloves and long sleeves, and dispose of the leaves in whatever manner your municipality requires - this could be classed as chemical waste, so inquire as to how to dispose of it.

Seeing as how the center of the plant is still green, there is some hope that it can recover. Just give it time, and if it takes until next season to grow out of the damage, that's just the way it goes.

Patience, and benign neglect is the best treatment.

Best of luck,

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Plant identification

Got this plant as a gift but I do not know its name. Can you identify it?

I'm pretty sure this is a type of Rhipsalis. Without a close up of the stems it's hard to identify it exactly. Many Rhipsalis have hairy or bristly stems, some are smoother.

Dave's Garden Website shows some that are similar here:

Rhipsalis teres var. heteroclada

Hope that helps to narrow it down,

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To prune or not to prune?

by Jo Crooms
(Jacksonville, FL., USA)

Hello there. I inherited a small Haworthia attenuata (I only know that thanks to your wonderful site (: ) a few years ago.

It spent a year or so forgotten about in a pot in my mothers backyard. I rediscovered it and brought it home to care for it around October or so.

After some trial and error I think I understand the light it likes and a good watering regime.

The mother plant (the pup grew during the time it was in my mothers backyard) stands probably six inches tall, my problem is that many of the lower leaves are dying/diseased and give the plant a general unkempt look.

Their tips are totally dead and gone with the rest of the leaf being brown or even totally black.

Can I prune my little guy or will this harm it? And if so can I prune as much of it as I need to, about one third of the total leaves?

Should I prune as far back as possible or only as much as is brown/black? Since I brought it home no new leaves have died but the ones that already were continue to turn black and die.

Also I have never tried to disturb this plants root system but it is planted pretty low in its pot, about two inches or so. I understand that it is clump forming so I was thinking maybe I should repot it with a little more soil. Should I or should I just let it be? And what would be the best soil mixture?

Thanks so much in advance for any help and advice you can give me! You really do have a fabulous site here that I find myself on again and again. :)

Drought Smart Plants reply: Thanks for your nice comments Jo - I'm glad you're enjoying the site!

So, one way I recommend that you prune these types of plants (Aloe, Haworthia) is to simply 'unscrew' the topmost part of the stem.

This ensures that you get some of the adventitious roots (you'll see these as little pale yellow or white bumps under the papery covering at the base of the stem - see this page for a closeup picture of what it looks like on Aloe).

You can shorten up the long growth using this method, which promotes it to bushier new growth from below where you take these off, and, as an added bonus, you can plant them as cuttings for more plants. Think Christmas gifts!

I don't recommend actually cutting these - you'll end up with a cut that turns brown and doesn't improve the look of the plant.

See also this page: Pruning succulent plants and find out more about succulent plant propagation here.

Hope this helps - be brave, your plant will thank you!

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Obsessive-Compulsive Question of the week . . .

Hi! I live in Oregon and have an indoor collection of succulents. Can I dust my topsy turvy without hurting it?

I tried dusting one leaf with a very soft brush and it looks like some of a "protective coating" came off that has now changed the coloring of the plant from a silvery matte to a shiny green.

As you can probably tell, I love my collection and hope I didn't do something incredibly stupid in an effort to help my plants. Thanks so much for your help!


Hi Tracy, the pruinose or bloom is a white waxy and sometimes dusty coating that the plant produces to protect itself from bright light, and also to prevent moisture loss.

As you've found, it's easy to damage it, especially on some of the Echeveria, Graptopetalum and other related plants and especially those that are blue and grey.

The good news is that it won't harm the plant if it is removed. That bad news is that the plant now has to try and replace it, which takes months.

The best way to remove dust without damaging the pruinose is to use a trigger sprayer and water, or kill two birds with one stone and put a small amount of insecticidal soap (or dish soap - not detergent), shake well, and spray until the water runs off, taking the dust with it.

This method doesn't seem to damage the pruinose as much.

Do this a couple of times during the year; I recommend this be carried out in the bathtub or outside as it can stain or mark furniture.

You can also put your plants out in a soft rain shower in the summer.

Hope that helps get you back on track,

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succulant terrarium dying?

by plantkiller

so sad my plants are dying. they are a variety of succulents which was told they are impossible to kill but i have already killed my housewarming gift and now it seems my terrarium is on its way out to.

The leaves seem to fall off. the ones which fall off are really squishy.

the housewarming gift i thought i killed it by overwatering but my terrarium i was really careful about that and now have no clue?

Dear Plantkiller, without pictures of what kinds of plants these are, and where you're keeping them, it's hard to say.

Generally, terrariums, although popular for growing succulents in, are not really their preferred conditions; terrariums hold moisture in, where succulents like to have lots of ventilation; they also can heat up too much if they are in a sunny window.

Also without any kind of drainage holes, without exactly the right kind of soil, pathogens can build up in the soil, and the plants get root rot.

From your description of what's happening, I would suggest that this housewarming gift has already worn out its welcome, and the plants can be safely composted, and you can replace the plants with something that actually likes being in a terrarium; some brightly colored glass balls maybe?

If you're really sure you want to keep trying succulents, why not try some faux plants - you can't tell these apart from the real ones until you really look closely.

Just a few suggestions,

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does this grow in zone 11

by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello Jacki,
what is this plant
how do i take care of it
why leaves do get shredded fast
does it even tolerate zone 11,it looks tropical to me???
thanks Jacki

Hi Amjad, I don't know what this plant is, but it's not a bird of paradise.

There are many, many different kinds of palm trees, which this looks like. Many of these kinds of plants will do fine in your zone, if you don't get frost.

They are specially designed to withstand windy conditions, which is why the leaves split so easily. This is an adaptation to prevent the whole plant from being uprooted in hurricanes and strong winds.

It may be unsightly, but it's a unique way of dealing with these conditions. The leaves can still function, and photosynthesize, even though they're in tatters.

Sorry I can't tell you much more about it, but here in Canada, there isn't much point in growing these kinds of plants - they won't survive in cold temperatures.


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Hanging baskets

by Dannielle Woodford

Hi I have 4 hanging baskets and I am having trouble keeping what ever I put in them alive. I have been putting flowers, but I would like to try succulents what do you advise? please help? dannielle

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Hi Dannielle, excellent choice - succulents of all kinds are totally at home in any container, and they don't care if they hang in the air.

This gives you the opportunity to try some different types all combined. The beauty of succulents is the sheer variety of texture, color and sizes, which all mesh together perfectly.

When you plant, put the root balls close together for a really full look, water one or two times, then they'll start to fill out.

If you try some tender succulents like Echeveria, Senecio rowleyanus (the string of pearls plant for dangling over the edge, Sedum varieties, Crassula for some height and maybe even some of the smaller Aloe varieties, this will give you a low maintenance hanging basket all summer.

I highly recommend these for those hot and sunny areas as all of these need bright light, and love warmer conditions.

For a basket that may not get really bright light, try a combination of the many Haworthia species as they actually prefer less bright conditions, and a bit more water.

Keep in mind that if they're in this kind of condition, they will still need water, but maybe only once every day or so, instead of twice a day for some other flowers like Petunias.

See these pages for more:

Succulent Hanging Baskets

Succulent Plants miscellaneous

Best of luck with your project, I hope you will share some pictures!

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Peperomia dolabriformis help?

by Erin
(Marietta, Oklahoma, USA)

I have been looking all over (and even asked in a forum) how to propogate Peperomia dolabriformis. At this point I have nothing. I am not even 100% sure if it falls into the succulent category, as I have seen it listed either way. Do you have any helpful info on how I can start a new plant from mine? It is around 6 inches tall and has been putting on quite a few new leaves in the last few weeks. I have it indoors in a windowsill and water it when it gets dry and it seems to be doing well. I would like to be able to start a new plant for a friend, but am clueless on how to do that. Thanks!

Hi Erin, luckily, these are renowned as some of the best plants for beginners to learn on, as they seldom fail.

Having said that, here are a few tips on how to go about rooting your cutting: Use a sharp razor blade to cut one of the stems about halfway down - for the best (most successful) rooting, the cutting should be just like the beds in Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale; not too soft, not too hard, but just right. If it's too soft, it could just rot before rooting, if too hard it might not root at all, as the roots can't emerge from the stem.

If you're of a mind to, you can use some kind of rooting hormone (use the lowest number you can find - something with less than 1% IBA) but that's not really necessary.

For Peperomia, I might be inclined to use some kind of cover for it, such as a plastic bag. For more of my tricks and tips, buy the book:

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by Kelsey
(Charlotte,TX, US)

Will a plant that is not pinched branch? And if so, why?
As in, if I was doing an experiment and the control plant didn't receive a chemical pinching agent or was actually pinched, will it still branch?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Kelsey, that would depend on the type of plant - in some cases, the plant will branch regardless of whether you pinch or not, but in most cases I would say that without the release of 'auxins' (a chemical growth inhibitor given off by the terminal buds) most plants will branch. It would surprise me if you didn't pinch, and got a nice bushy plant.

Many nurseries (especially those growing hardy plants for the prairies, for instance) routinely mow the plants, using a machine. There's nothing delicate about their pinching methods.

A bonsai grower is constantly pinching their plants that are more like artforms. In many cases, once these plants are formed into the characteristic aged shape, pinching is all they do to shape them.

With all the attention paid to pinching, hedging, mowing and pruning it would be unusual to see a plant retain its normal shape in cultivation.

Hope that helps,

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No one knows

by Doug

This picture was posted on 365 days of natures, but no one can ID it. sorry, I don't know any more about it. It's nothing like we've seen here in the North East US

And, it looks like I'm going to have to tell you the same thing - you need to have a bit more information to go on; is this a native plant?? What part of the plant is this?

If these are berries, it looks similar to some of the Sorbus species out there, which can have different colors of berries, but there is nothing to tell the scale of it.

How big are these berries?

What kind of situation is it growing in?

Is it a tree? A shrub?

No wonder you didn't get any answers, because there is nothing to reference in your post.

Unless someone is totally familiar with the local plant species (I'm in British Columbia) then it's hard to identify a plant from another area.

If you know more of where it's growing (swampy ground, dry sandy soil, among other trees, on a woodland edge, beside coniferous trees and so on) then please post in the comments.

Sorry I can't help.

Have a look at this link to see if it's similar; Sorbus cashmiriana.

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Soil Sickness? or something more dire?

by Marina
(Lethbridge, AB)

sick Echeveria plants

sick Echeveria plants

I've been growing succulents for a while now, and had a lot of success - I'm in Alberta, so I have to bring them in for the winter (thank you so much for the Winterizing Succulents E-Course - that is a blessing!).

This winter after I brought them in, they didn't seem to be doing as well as other years.

I've heard of something called Soil Sickness, where they don't seem to thrive as well; do you know of this, or what else could be wrong with my Echeveria perle von nurnberg in particular - and some of the other Echeveria?

They seem to be really paling out in the center, and are stunted.

Thanks so much - I'm a big fan!

Hi Marina, thanks for the vote of confidence! And, I'm so glad you're enjoying the e-course, it seemed like a great way to help my visitors to save a ton of money by bringing their succulents indoors, instead of buying new ones every spring.

However, you've discovered the bane of every horticulturist - this is not soil sickness, but mealy bugs. These pernicious creatures do a lot of damage, and as you've found, they're well hidden in the crown and growing points of the plants where they are protected.

Here's my solution to these horrible critters; take cuttings off the older leaves that aren't showing signs of the infestation.

To make sure that you don't just propagate the bugs at the same time as the plants, I wash the leaves off under warm water.

Apparently, they can't withstand anything over 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just about warm enough to wash your hands in.

For the main plant, once they're this deformed, even if you could find some kind of spray to use, or a systemic pesticide, they would never recover their former glory.

Once you start to propagate them with the leaves, discard everything, pots, soil, leaves, debris; everything.

Also make sure you wash your hands before handling any other plants so you don't just move the mealy bugs over to them.

Keep a close eye on your cuttings, and spray as needed with Safers insecticidal soap mixed to the proportions with water that is recommended on the bottle, and I add about half a cup to a liter of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) which breaks down the waxy coating that they protect themselves with.

Hope that helps with your infestation!

Learn how to root your own succulents:

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Need help not ID

by Emma

Jelly Bean Plant

Jelly Bean Plant

This is my jelly bean plant. I don't understand why all the beans fell off when I bought it. Now it is just the stem and the beans at the top. Do you know what is wrong with it?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Emma,
I've moved this into the Ask the Horticulturist thread, as it's more appropriate.

The problem with this little guy, called Sedum rubrotinctum, is that the 'beans' are very loosely attached and the slightest change to their environment can dislodge them. Each one, if left in a dry place in bright light, will eventually form its own root system. In this fashion, the plant will form a colony, eventually covering a large area like a ground cover.

My suggestion would be to cut off the tops, and stick those into some new well drained soil in a sunny window, where they can root and form a better shaped plant. But wait! That's not all! You can get two plants for the price of one, as the leggy stems will most likely sprout out several new tops, making a bushy little plant as well.

The beauty of Sedum of all kinds is that you can take one plant and end up with lots for a lush full planter. I would sprinkle the 'beans' on a sunny patio, close to the edge where they will root happily with no care from you, and plant the other parts in a mixed patio planter.

Don't forget to enter it in the Best Succulent Containers Contest!


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sprouted lilium and late spring snow

my lilies are about 5 inches tall in late april (4/22/12) due to a very mild winter and spring. Weather predictions are for heavy wet snow. Do I need to protect them from the anticipated snow fall? My variagated Iris are huge, but not in bloom, will they need protection as well?

Drought Smart Plants reply: In most cases, these types of plants have the ability to withstand even quite cold temperatures, but unfortunately, they may be damaged by heavy snow, which can break the soft new growth.

If you're sure that you will get lots of snow, I would put some kind of cloche or even just an upturned pot over them to protect them.

Luckily at this time of year, any snowfall is generally quick to melt, and is not associated with very cold temperatures. In most cases, those types of perennials are tough, and even if they take a bit of a beating, they'll spring back once the weather settles.

Use your best judgement; if you feel more secure in doing something pro-active, by all means protect them. If you're using some kind of dark pot, though, make sure you get it off as soon as possible, as the sun has some heat in it now, and could cook the plant underneath it.
Happy Spring!

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my snow ball bush

by lena
(highland lakes NJ)

Was in full bloom last week with full foilage. Came to house this weekend it is dead. Did my neighbor poison it? If this is true can you tell me how I can figure this out?

Whoa, wait a minute before you start accusing someone of poisoning your plant! There are many other ways that plants can be killed off. If you're referring to Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' they are prone to a few problems. These include a susceptibility to certain fungal and bacterial issues, including the dreaded Phytopthera ramorum, which can kill full grown trees in 48 hours or less. Please don't start a feud over this with your neighbor - how would you feel if the death of your shrub was caused by something completely different. Intensive research is crucial to get all your ducks in a row.

You can ask a horticulturist or your local extension agent to visit, and see if there is anything tell tale that they can suggest as a cause of death, or if there is any hope of recovery.

Best of luck with this,

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White rose

by Amjad Qasem
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello jacki,
Any clue why some parts of this lovely white rose tree are getting pale
the texture is healthy ,but the color is pale yellow

A long time ago, I decided not to try and grow roses, and this type of thing is why.

They are not the easiest plants to care for, and sometimes, despite providing exactly what we think they need, they will still fail to thrive.

One thing that I see on the leaves is a white powder, which could be powdery mildew.

This can grow even on leaves that are healthy and dry, and it's hard to get rid of.

One thing that does seem to help is to cut off the leaves that are affected, and get rid of them.

Never leave dead leaves anywhere near the plant, because the spores will float around and before you know it, it's back.

You can also try spraying with a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda, not baking powder) in a liter of water. This alters the pH of the surface of the leaves, preventing the powdery mildew from germinating.

In some cases, the leaves will turn yellow simply because they're old and worn out. Cut them off, it won't affect the plant.

Another reason for yellowing leaves, and a much more dire one, is virus. This plant doesn't appear to be suffering from that, but they are prone to it.

Typically, the leaves will be mottled in pale yellow and green, and the plant will not thrive. It's important to cull any plants like this, because the virus will spread easily, being carried by aphids and other pests.

Hope that helps,

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Black Shadow of Death on My Black Bamboo?

by Rodney
( London)

I'm quite anxious about this bamboo plant. I have two and they are both receiving roughly the same care, but this plant has limp leaves and two dead (nearly dead?) shoots. I'm worried of over/under-watering but don't know which might be the case. No leaves are dropping but that's the least of my worries as two entire culms might have .... dare I even say it. Oh, and we're currently raising these plants indoors in a sunny room in London. The other plant is healthy, robust, even bushy.

Hi Rodney, I'm far from expert on Bamboo, but I do have a small amount of experience with grasses, which are of course, related, but much smaller.

If you're concerned about over or underwatering, the first thing to check is that the pot they're in has a drainage hole. I don't know how many times I've seen that, where the most important feature of a container is completely missed.

Then, if it's possible, and the plant is well enough established, you might be able to carefully pull the pot right off the root ball. This will tell you right away if it's too wet or too dry, just by looking at the soil. Also carefully inspect the roots for any signs of rot (black or dark brown mushy roots) or any kind of uninvited visitor (grub or other creature).

If you can't see anything wrong with the roots or the soil, then it's possible the plant is in the direct path of a draft or air conditioning, or with the advent of cooler weather, possibly the forced air heater.

If you have natural gas heat, sometimes plants will warn you of a tiny leak even before you are aware of any problem. They're very sensitive to the chemical that is put into the natural gas to alert of a leak.

If none of these things seems to be what's causing the issue, then other things that might cause some problems are:

Over fertilizing, especially when the plant is dry.

Spider mites, aphids or other tiny insects - carefully inspect the undersides of the leaves.

More ominously, certain fungal or bacterial infections can get into the stem and in many cases, that's it for the plant. I would isolate it from the one that is still healthy, just in case there is something contagious going on.

Hopefully, one or more of these possibilities will be what is causing the plant to fail, and you can rectify it.

Best of luck with your Black Bamboo!

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Succulent Plant Problems

by Lynn

Don't know the type of succulant, but it has got a whitish powder on all the leaves. I can touch it and get a little off on my finger. Also is getting a spot that looks like a burned place. Turned tan & is circular. Lost one leaf & is on another. This has just happened & we have gone through months of hot summer. It is only in the sun for a few hours of direct morning light.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Lynn,
Many succulents including Echeveria have a powdery coating - it's a special wax coating called 'pruinose' and is meant to protect the plant from burning or drying out. It's just another one of those fantastic drought smart strategies that these plants use to help them survive challenging conditions.

This is my best guess without a picture.

As for your other issue with the circular burnt place, this sounds more serious, and even without seeing it, I am concerned. It could be a problem with too much water, or some type of fungus infection, or even Anthracnose. I would cut off the leaves that are showing this problem, and watch carefully to make sure it's completely cleared up before heaving a sigh of relief.

See the pages on succulent care and how to grow Echeveria for more insight into the needs of succulent plants in general, and Echeveria in particular. If you're not familiar with growing succulents, finding out about their quirks is certainly going to be a steep learning curve.

Hope this helps,

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Twin echeveria

by Amjad

Hello Jackie,
Is it possible to get twin baby echeveria
from rooted cutting,do they grow as this,
can we separate them later?

Hi Amjad, I sometimes find that the little plants tend to compete with each other, and get really leggy, so the sooner you can separate them the better they can grow.

Here's what I would do:

Get a really sharp razor blade, and cut between them.

Let them dry out so they callous, and then pot them onto some dry potting soil - even if they have roots just set them on top of the soil and the delicate roots will find their way down into it.

You can mulch with some kind of small pebbles or rock to help anchor them.

You can even cut the leaf in half if they are still depending on it for nourishment.

Alternately, you can just cut one of the plants off below the first few leaves and treat it like a tiny cutting - follow the instructions below.

The important thing is to keep them quite dry until all the cut surfaces have healed, or you run the risk of losing them to rot.

As they start to grow, use a spray bottle to just water the soil a tiny bit, and avoid getting the water on the foliage at first. Pretend that the spray is just dew, not a torrential rainstorm.

Bright light, but not full sun is best - in a natural situation, the babies would tend to lodge against a rock or close to the mother plant after they fall off, so they need protection at first.

Have fun!

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Best Nitrogen Source - organic of course

by Fred

I have another question related to where I can find the best nitrogen source for my garden.

I wrote earlier about my wish to be organic, and start using sustainable methods, but it's been a hard slog to find a commercial product that will be high enough in Nitrogen for my really starved garden. I'm doing what I can to start adding organic matter, such as compost (what little I can produce with kitchen scraps) and other things like sawdust (in small amounts as I realize that this can tie up Nitrogen) and I'm starting to grow some cover crops (starting with Buckwheat). Is there anything else I can add to the soil for a quick boost?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

You are on the right track with your additives.

Compost by itself is a hard slog, you're right. It seems that even a large compost pile in the fall will shrink down to less than half the amount, making it seem almost not worthwhile.

Don't give up!

Try and find a source of raked fall leaves, old straw, horse manure (my favorite) and other animal wastes (except household pet feces) and compost, compost, compost.

Making friends with the owner of a grocery store, restaurant or coffee shop will give you a wide selection of kitchen scraps to get into the compost bin.

If you go this route, make sure you are picking up the waste reliably, as nothing will frustrate the owner more than having a bin of kitchen scraps festering and going moldy if you only pick it up once a week.

Get a pick up schedule, and be sure to maintain good communication with them, to either tell them that you're discontinuing the pick up, changing the schedule, or best of all, your success with the growth of your vegetable garden.

For good nitrogen sources, these are the best:

Any kind of leguminous green manure cover crop. This will include: Alfalfa, clover, field peas and beans of any kind.

Liquid organic fertilizer - yes, you guessed it - human urine contains uric acid, which is a high source of nitrogen.

Learn how to use it here: Liquid Organic Fertilizer

You can also maybe find a horse stable where the animals are kept confined for the night in a stall, and get that valuable commodity, urine soaked bedding to compost.

Blood meal and cottonseed meal, bat guano, and other pre-packaged organic fertilizers are good sources of nitrogen - however, the potential for having the supply of these getting cut off is high.

It's best to start finding other (free) ways of gleaning nitrogen from the air, such as in the roots of nitrogen fixing legumes that can be dug into the bed or pulled out and composted, animal or poultry manures that are composted to kill weed seeds and pathogens, and salvaging and composting sawdust, which although it does tie up nitrogen as the tiny micro organisms attempt to break it down, will again release those once the initial composting cycle is complete.

Once you have some compost, or if you need a really fast foliar application of micro nutrients as well as the basic N, then use compost tea. You can make this will commercially bagged manure, I prefer using this method with chicken manure as it's not so strong smelling (after the initial brewing) as applying it directly to the soil. Keep in mind that foliar feeding with compost tea should only be done on non leaf crops, as there is the possibility of salmonella or E. coli contamination.

The mantra with organic gardening is 'everything in moderation, and nothing goes to waste' so start utilizing all the free stuff you can accumulate and put it in the compost - the very best of all slow release fertilizers.

Happy Organic Gardening!

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what to do with flowering paul bunyon?

by rachel
(Western Australia)

My echeveria paul bunyon has grown fantastically and now has two flower stems that have shot up to about a foot above the base, i have not been able to find any photos of this and im not sure if they need to be removed. Will the plant die if they are left to flower?

Hi Rachel, not to worry; Echeveria are polycarpic, so live on after flowering. Don't bother pruning off the stems until they dry out and the flowers shrivel. Enjoy the flowers, as they will bloom only once a year, in general. The blooms last about three weeks, and some varieties have more flower stalks than others, ranging from one or two, to more than a dozen.

An Echeveria has to be slightly root bound to bloom well, and you can make sure they are adequately watered during the time they are forming the stalk. After that, you can resume normal (less) watering.

Happy Succulent Gardening!

You can see more about how to grow Echeveria and Echeveria 'Paul Bunyan' here.

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Christmas Cactus turning pink.

by Ben
(Port St. Lucie, Florida USA)

Notice the pinkish leaves

Notice the pinkish leaves

My Christmas Cactus i noticed that the leaves are turning pinkish. The plant itself seems very healthy otherwise. Is this a problem or is the plant lacking anything. I keep it on my terrace in indirect sun light.I also provided a photo for you to see.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Hi Ben, thank you for the picture! This trait does seem to be quite variable; it is a seasonal change, and might be related to temperature, so I really don't think you need to worry about it.

I would hazard a guess that this one has pink or red blooms - that generally is a hint of the flower color coming out in the foliage.

You're doing exactly what I most recommend with these plants; they develop the flower buds in response to cooling temperatures in the fall (I know, you don't have fall, right?) but if the night temperatures are at least four or five degrees cooler than in the daytime, this is what triggers it, as well as the shortening daylight hours.

When you take it back inside for the winter, they will (depending on the exact genetic background) start to bloom, some as early as Thanksgiving, others at Christmas time and some will wait until Easter - this is why as a group, these are known as Holiday Cactus.

See more about Schlumbergera here.

Happy Growing!

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Peperomia is enormous

by Andrew S.
(West Henrietta, NY)

I've had this plant for a few years now I think and I really like it, it's very pretty with it's big fat leaves.

Recently, it has gotten a bit top heavy. I've turned the plant so that it's 3 stalks are leaning against the bookcase that the plant is on, so that it doesn't fall over. I know I should probably do something, but I've been slacking (was out of the country, but really I'm just procrastinating).

Also, a few of the bottom leaves are changing color a bit, I wasn't sure why that was happening.

Anyway, I need to do something with it, and now it has these weird tentacles growing. They are going towards the window and are a bit creepy looking.

When I got this plant it was maybe 7 inches tall, it is currently around 15 inches tall, and if I were to measure the stalks with the tentacles, it'd probably around 25 inches.

Any clue what this plant is doing? What can I do to make it happy again?

Hi Andrew - what a beauty! Your Peperomia is totally happy with it's situation; the light levels must be perfect, and the little bit of neglect that it got while you were out gallivanting around has triggered the bloom cycle - those are the flowers that you speak of as 'tentacles'.

The only thing that I would recommend is that you start to do some judicious pruning - this will keep it from being too top heavy, and as an added bonus, you'll be able to root the parts you cut off and make more of these great little plants.

Another way to keep it more upright is to use a cache pot; a larger container that you can just stick the plant pot into to support it and give it a bit more weight.

The problem with such rampant growth, even though it's lush and beautiful, is that the plant can topple. You may want to think about repotting it in the not too distant future, although it's a shame to disturb it when it's obviously growing so vigorously - they prefer to be a tiny bit rootbound.

You can also turn the plant so that it will correct itself by leaning towards the light from another direction; a quarter turn every day will even it out nicely.

The bottom leaves are changing color because they are aging; happens to us all. You can cut these off, or wait for them to just fall off naturally.

Hope one or more of these suggestions will help your plant stay healthy and happy.

See more about Peperomia here.

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yellowing of bamboo

by Rita

have had a good luck bamboo plant for 10 years or more, its leaves are turning yellow????? haven't done anything different to its care. Thank you

Hi Rita, without some pictures, I'm flying blind as to what's going on with your plant.

Lucky Bamboo isn't in fact a bamboo at all; it's known botanically as Dracaena braunii. These plants are commonly grown indoors as they're really not fussy about the conditions. However, they do have some requirements that have to be met for the most healthy and happy plant.

They shouldn't be overwatered if planted in soil, but they do need regular watering.

If the clump is getting quite overgrown, new cuttings can be easily rooted to form new plants. They like some fertilizer when in active growth, and depending on if you're growing it in water or potted in soil with a drain hole in the pot, this should be flushed out a couple of times a year to prevent the build up of salts.

Sorry I can't really give you much more information on why it's having trouble without seeing how you're growing it, and the type of conditions.


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Old Curving Aloe Plant

by Roxanne Rench
(Geneva, IL)

Curving Aloe

Curving Aloe

My aloe plant is about 24yrs old & it's curved & very heavy on one side. It always produces "babies" that I remove when they get a yr or two old. Is there a way to get my mother plant to straighten out, after all these yrs?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

That is one venerable old Aloe!

I don't think you could straighten out a stem that long after this length of time, as it probably lacked light at some time in the past and got etiolated (stretching towards the light). Unfortunately now it's probably quite brittle, and trying to straighten it will break it.

Thanks for sharing this great plant, Roxanne - may it live many more years under your care!

Happy Succulent Gardening!


See these pages with more;

Aloe succulent plants

Aloe plants

And don't miss Andrews adventures with his Aloe and tall and spikey trying to die again

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Dwarf bean leaves thin and limp

by Christina
(Sydney, Australia)

I'm currently growing dwarf beans in a pot. The plant leaves are growing a lighter coloured green than they should be, and are thin and limp. They are some beans growing, although, not many. The pot get's full sun during the day, and it's been averaging around 23C during the day for the last few weeks. I water them most evenings. Should I be concerned?

Hi Christine, many plants that are completely fine with full hot sun can't take those same conditions if in a pot. The pot will get hot, and the roots are more delicate than the top growth, which is the only part you see, so that's where the stress shows.

If your container is anywhere near a wall, rock or any other object that will reflect heat onto the pot, this could be the problem.

I would move your container, if possible, if not, then drape something insulating or reflective around the container to prevent the sun from heating it up too much; straw piled up around it, or a bamboo mat, emergency mylar blanket, twigs, anything.

The fact that you are watering every day won't stop the root damage, if that is what's happening. In fact, you will just trigger the growth of fungus or root rot if the soil is now saturated.

Hope this helps,

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Pest Prevention

by mari

Hi. Would you have any organic pesticide prevention method especially for mealy bugs and snails? I have a lot of succulents in my greenhouse and some are planted in the ground. I just want to be proactive to prevent this from happening. Also, how often do I do this recommended prevention and if it comes in a spray bottle, do I need to put the plants in a shady area while it dries up? Thank you!

Hi Mari, I've just started doing some tests with diatomaceous earth, and the results are promising. I have found that it's a bit unsightly until the rain washes it off, but effective on aphids and many other pests. I'm not sure how it would work on mealy bugs.

I have used sprays that have varying results on mealy bugs; the most effective ones seem to be insecticidal soap, mixed to the directions on the bottle, with the addition of about 1/2 cup of isopropyl alcohol per one quart of spray.

This cuts through the waxy, fluffy coating of the adults, and they dry out pretty quickly. Keep in mind that the adult males fly, and the young crawl, and the eggs will hatch out regardless of the spray you use.

This means that you must be vigilant forever; the moment you see more, start spraying again.

I was surprised that the succulents don't seem to be bothered at all by the alcohol, which I thought would dry them out.

In hot bright areas, I would do this in the shade, or at least in the evening to allow time to dry off before the sun hits the droplets.

For slugs and snails, one sure fire method of getting rid of them is to use a lava rock or pumice mulch. They don't like the sharp material, and it looks nice too; a win/win situation.

I also find that if you move your planters around, sometimes you'll see slugs or snails hiding in the drain holes; put the pots up on some kind of spacer (bits of tile, rocks or special feet that allow air movement) or bait the growing area (near your pots, or in the garden) with a board covering up a plate of damp material to attract them; in the morning, just tip them into a bucket of salted water, or find a neighbor with ducks.

All molluscs (slugs and snails) are also partial to a saucer of beer or other alcoholic beverage, which can be tipped out into your compost, or buried in the garden when it's done its job.

Happy Succulent Gardening!

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Homeowner with Thuja issue




My husband and I planted 5 Arborvitae Green Giants last year, probably around October. We decided a 6th would look nice and rather than back to the nursery, we went to Lowe’s. They only had Arborvitae Emerald Green but assured me it would look and grow very similar. Well, we took their word for it, but I wasn’t happy with it so maybe a few months later we ended up transplanting it to our front yard. Now, the leaves are all slouching. I am not sure if it is in shock or dying. My husband said the only thing he could find on the web is over watering or snow causes this. We live in SC and it hasn’t snowed since the tree was moved a few months ago but I find it hard to believe over watering caused this…it almost looks like it is wilting.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

This looks like it's too late for this poor creature.

Quite often, the quality of the plants in Lowes and other large box stores is not the greatest to start with, and then they don't receive proper care while they're in transit, or on display.

It looks to me that possibly at some point it got really dry, and this is how they respond. Stress of over watering, cold temperatures or temperature swings, drying out and insects and pests are hard enough; transplanting and shipping long distances is sometimes the last straw.

The damage sometimes doesn't show immediately, but the roots have been killed off, and the result is that the top growth has to die to try and balance the demands of the green top with what roots are still available.

You don't say if this was potted, or in burlap, so I'm going to hazard a guess that it was either in a ball and burlap when you got it, or had been recently potted into a plastic pot. Unfortunately, this type of tree (the botanical name is Thuja, pronounced 'thooya') will never recover from this much damage.

I guess this just goes to show that sometimes convenience isn't better - I always feel that it's better to patronize a local nursery, because not only is the service better, the staff usually know how to take care of their plants; and the plants have usually acclimatized to the local conditions.

I've killed more plants than I care to count - it comes with the territory of horticulturists and gardeners, so don't feel bad.

Move on to the next stage, put this poor thing on the bonfire and replace it with the correct plant - one that's not already stressed out.

Good luck,

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Stone Face plant

by Kiersten

My stone face succulent is shriveling up.... WHY?????!!!!!!!

Judging from the way your succulents are leaning, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that these aren't getting enough light.

All of the pebble plants (Lithops, Conophytum and Ophtalmus and related types) all have weird dormancy requirements, as well as being extremely sensitive to wet soil.

They absolutely have to have well-drained soil and very little water.

I water mine about twice a year, whether they need it or not. Watering more than what they want at any particular time will cause root rot and instant death.

These are not a succulent plant for beginners, and in addition, they must be grown separately from other plants, because of their pickiness.

If you want to give it a chance at life, you'll have to take it out of the mixed planter and have it in a separate pot and keep it in a brighter area, and stop watering it for at least 4 or 5 months.

Where they are native, this would be in extremely bright deserts, with intense sun. They may struggle along for a while in poor conditions, but eventually just shrivel to nothing. Don't let this happen to your plant!

Best of luck with it,

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Hibiscus help

I Repotted my hibiscus and shook the roots off...the heAvy soil around them. Will they survive?

Without seeing pictures of the size of your Hibiscus, and knowing a bit more about where you are it's hard to say what will happen; here are a few hints to help your Hibiscus survive the traumatic treatment; spray the roots and keep them moist, and repot right away into a lighter mix.

I usually use Sunshine mix for indoor plants, because it's sterilized and does not contain any pathogens that could potentially get into the plant and infect it with root rot for instance. You could use any good quality potting soil, but stay away from those that have fertilizer added; the tender delicate new roots that will emerge could be burned by contact with fertilizer.

To reduce the burden on the roots, you can cut back the top of the plant. Remove any flower buds, because these will be a major drain on the plant, and most likely won't open properly anyway.

Cut back up to half of each stem; you can also pull off leaves to reduce the work that the roots have to do, and allow the ones remaining to do the work of supporting the roots and helping it recover. If you don't cut the plant back, it will do it for you by wilting.

Spray the plant with plain water a couple of times a day, especially if you're gardening where the temperature is hot.

Other than that, have patience; sometimes plants go into shock by being repotted, but just hang in there and watch; you will most likely be rewarded by some new growth in a month or so.

Best of luck,

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Sedum Mexicanum Problems :(

by Ben

some of the shriveled leaves

some of the shriveled leaves

Hi Jacki! I'm a microbiology student currently, and I've been growing a single cactus for a few years -- she's big and strong with lots of cute lil offshoots :) -- but this year I decided to try growing some succulents!

I purchased a few small Sedum mexicanums from my local Lowe's and replanted them that day, into a somewhat spacious pot with a clipping from my big 'ol cactus, which just recently callused over and starting rooting :)

Although this lil cactus is doing great in the pot, my sedums are suffering terribly!

Many of their lower leaves have withered up to little brown or grey strings, some of their stems are very weak - a few broke! - and I'm afraid they're halfway to plant heaven...

I'm growing them in a special succulent/cactus/palm mix that's quick-draining. Additionally, they're located inside my back porch, which is pretty well shaded -- they get around 5-6 hours of pretty good indirect light though! Attached are some pictures of the stems and leaves. Also, if it helps, it's really humid down here in Florida!!

Thanks and have a nice night!

Hi Ben, from what I can see, this Burros Tail is suffering from too much moisture; don't water them for at least a week, and see what happens.

I generally resist the urge to water, and this seems to suit most cacti and succulents.

Growing them together like this probably won't be that great in a little while - the Sedum is quite vigorous, and will over take the tiny cactus. As well, they require slightly different care.

Cactus are happier when they get a complete drying out period, especially through the winter, and once they get more water that will trigger blooming. The Sedum will continue to grow throughout the year.

Just so you know, these kinds of Sedum do tend to 'shatter' or lose their leaves easily, so that's not a big deal. In most cases if the soil is dry, they too will root and grow, resulting in a mass of plants all tangled together.

It's also best to not 'over pot' them - use a pot only a bit bigger, that way they can quickly fill it, which triggers some top growth. A heavier type of pot (clay, hypertufa or similar) are best, or a hanging planter for Burros Tail.

Hope this helps get you back on track.

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Dying Impatiens

by Melissa
(Manchester, CT)

I have two hanging baskets with Impatiens. I live in the Northeast where we just got a plethora of rain in the last week.

My hanging baskets are under a porch so they get a lot of shade but were also not too exposed to the drenching rain.

I held back from watering them everyday because they were getting some moisture from the water dripping down in between the cracks of the floor boards above.

On Wednesday they began to look a little wilted so I watered them. Within an hour they were back to looking lively.

I did not water them on Thursday and Friday. Saturday morning they looked very sad and wilted again. This time when I watered them they did not come back.

I have been supplying them with lots of water the last 48 hours but they still look very drab. Some of the stems are purple and some leaves look completely lifeless.

Does this mean they are dying?? I don't think they have Downy Mildew because I'm not really seeing white specks and they are in a hanging baskets. Please help me! What can I do to revive my impatiens?
Thank you so much!!

Hi Melissa, that is very upsetting - from what my experiences have been with impatiens they are really forgiving of being under/overwatered. The New Guinea impatiens, which these are, have been developed to be low care and reliable for summer flowers.

Downy mildew can certainly be a problem when the humidity is really high, and the temperatures are warm at the same time. Somehow, I don't think this is the problem; this type of mildew usually hits one plant at a time, not all of them at once.

I have a thought; do you have a propane or natural gas barbeque close by - I can't tell for sure, but that looks like one under a tarp in one of your pics? Double check the propane bottle or the connection; this type of damage is typical of what happens to many plants if they are exposed to Mercaptans, which is the odorant that is deliberately added to natural gas so you know there is a leak. To check this out, move the baskets to somewhere that they wouldn't be exposed to the chemical, if this is a possibility.

Also, you may want to make sure that you use the barbeque out in the open, to prevent the fumes from rising up to the level of the plants when it's in use.

It may be that you will have to trim off most of the flowers while the plant recovers; flowering takes a lot of energy, and if you don't do this, the plant most certainly will die. There is still time for them to rejuvenate and bloom again, if you do it now.

Once the flowers are off, check the water level in the soil daily. Don't overwater, because without the flowers taking all that moisture, they may not need as much.

Have patience, and they might just perk up once the air dries out a bit.

Hope that helps,

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Succulent Garden Soil Issues

by Peter Gooller
(Chula Vista, California, USA)

I need help with my Succulent Garden. My soil appears to have a lot of clay. I think I may need to add Gypsum...

Hi Peter, generally, clay soil is good for succulents, however, what it needs more than gypsum is most likely gravel. I would mix some smallish gravel, like pea gravel size, into the top part of the soil, which unless it dries into concrete will open it up and prevent the pore spaces from clogging.

You haven't said if you are growing your plants in raised beds, but this might be a good idea so that the clay doesn't just get completely waterlogged and rot the roots of your plants.

In some cases the most successful succulent gardens are built with rock walls, which ensures the perfect drainage that these plants need. The soil can be nutrient poor, but absolutely must have the ability to drain.

I've also had good success with adding dolomite lime to the soil for succulents, especially in places where it's had decades of pine needles falling on it, or in your example, the soil is predominantly clay. This helps the plants by adjusting the acidity of the soil into something more close to neutral.

Be aware that Echeveria dislike lime, so if you're growing those, avoid putting dolomite lime on the garden.

Hope this helps a bit, if you have any more questions, ask me in the comments.


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From a Maple sapling to a tree

Granddaughter Erin with her Maple sapling.

Granddaughter Erin with her Maple sapling.

We lived in Sonoma County, Ca and had a 7 foot maple in a large outdoor pot. Near it was a small house pot. We only surmise that a maple seed fell into the small pot because when we relocated to Phoenix Arizona a small twig with one maple leaf came up in the house pot.

Well, one leaf led to another and to another and to another. The twig has not grown much in circumference. My granddaughter loves this tree and cares for it herself, age, 7. We found out that in order for the leaves to turn color and fall we would have to gradually get it use to the outdoors as it is kept indoors.

Then when it frosts it would drop it's leaves.I want the sapling to grow into a nice Maple tree.

Should I transplant it into a very large container and will it survive in the Phoenix summer outdoor climate ( 115 degrees), Remember it came from California. If I leave it alone will it eventually die in that small container? Thanks, Grateful Grandma

Hi GG, I would say that maple trees are not really adapted to be in that kind of climate, so it's probably not going to ever grow into a massive gorgeous tree.

The best way to grow it might be to keep it in a container, gradually planting it every spring into a larger one than the previous year.

It's not good to give a tiny tree a huge pot, it's better to actually remove the soil and cut some of the roots off, rather like making a bonsai tree.

This encourages finer roots to grow, which have more surface area, so they can absorb the nutrients and water better than if they are the larger roots.

I also recommend that for the winter, if you get very cold below freezing weather for a long time you should bury the pot into the ground so it's more insulated. Root damage from extreme (or sudden) cold kills more plants than any other cause except overwatering.

Best of luck with your maple tree.

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Jaundiced Agave

Help! My Agave attenuata(?) is looking a little jaundiced/chlorotic.

Leaves have a slight yellowish hue, veins are visible, and leaf tips are drying out and curled downwards.

It's grown in a clay pot, Eastern sunlight.

I water only when the soil is almost dry. No fertilizer. Maybe she's just hungry?

You've hit the nail on the head! I would say the same thing; a bit of feeding with some water soluble fertilizer might be just what the horticulturist ordered; keep in mind that you don't want the fertilizer to dry on the roots, so maybe a couple of extra waterings while the plant uptakes the nutrients will be best, as all fertilizer (even natural ones like compost tea) are salt.

Sometimes, all I do is sprinkle some work castings around the plant on the surface of the soil. Watering then releases tiny amounts of nutrients over a longer period, with much less risk of creating the same issues of burning the roots.

Judging from the size of the plant, and the size of the pot, it's probably time to transplant this guy; keep in mind that this will most likely trigger a growth spurt, which may or may not be a good thing.

The smaller the pot, the less growth they will put on, and cramping their toes can make them a little less unwieldy.

Just an observation, but if the soil you are using is organic, as it appears to be (what is that, bark mulch??) then stop this cruelty immediately!

Succulents of all descriptions don't have the ability to thrive in organic potting soil, they need lots of aggregate. Mix your regular potting soil half and half with pumice, gravel or perlite, or use a soil specifically for cactus.

Depending on where you live, and if you have access to an outdoor space, these plants thrive on a summer vacation outside.

Be careful introducing the plant to brighter conditions; although they originate in very hot and bright situations, suddenly exposing them to direct sunlight after being only in an eastern facing window can give them sunburn.

Happy Succulent Growing!

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Snail Attack!

by Anna Wong
(Nipomo, CA)

Will my annuals survive after snail attack?

Hi Anna, it totally depends what kinds of plants, and how much damage they've done. If you don't deal with the snails, they'll keep coming back until there's nothing left, so don't waste a minute.

I don't know how you feel about using any kind of chemical bait, but if you have pets, I would shy away from any kind of metaldehyde bait; they work well, but other animals are attracted to them too.

Instead, place a board over the soil, and check under it every morning; as snails do most of their 'work' under cover of darkness, when the air and soil is moist from dew.

They hide from the sun under objects that will be shady and cool; this gives you the chance of collecting them and dumping them into a bucket of water - they're not very good swimmers.

Alternately, use lava rock, ashes or other sharp material around the plants; molluscs (snails and slugs) don't like to go over these kinds of mulches, but it won't get rid of them, they'll just avoid that place and move on to something easier to get at.

Another common way of getting them is to put small dishes (lids off jars or a shallow plastic container) and use beer or fruit juice to fill them, and the snails are attracted to it and fall in. It's a messy death, so clean them out (compost them!) fairly often.

Hope that gives you some options and your annuals will survive the carnage.
Best of luck!

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out aloe vera tree in a pot

by carolyn
(del mar, CA)

i have a large out door aloe tree that seems to have white fuzzy deposits on the branches and to the touch it is sticky what is it? should i do something?

Hi Carolyn, without seeing some pictures of this, I can only guess what this is; the white fuzzy part sounds suspiciously like mealy bugs, which are a grey insect which covers itself with a white cottony substance for protection.

The sticky stuff is 'honey dew' which they excrete.

These bugs will drain a plant if you don't get rid of them, and you will have to keep a close eye on that plant, and any others that it might have come in contact with.

Here's my favorite way to get rid of them; keep in mind that this is not very scientific, and your results may vary;

Get a spray bottle, fill about half full with warm water; add about half a teaspoon of Safers insecticidal soap, or dish soap (not detergent) and then add about four teaspoons of isopropyl alcohol; shake to mix, and add warm water to top it up (this will make about one quart).

Thoroughly spray the whole plant, including the soil surface.

Make sure to get under the leaves and in the axils of the leaf as well.

Do this a couple of times in succession, several days apart, and you will see the plant heave a great sigh of relief. Don't relax too soon, as these bugs are pernicious; just when you think you've finally got rid of them, you'll see them again.

Don't spray this mixture in full sun or you'll burn the plant.

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My Jade is Woe

by Andrew S.
(West Henrietta, NY)

Hello once again!

I've been known to propagate a Jade or two... currently I think I have about 11 or so Jade plants growing.

My first Jade that I planted, which is currently about 15+ inches tall and looking wonderful, came from a plant that my wife bought for her office.

This plant has lost a lot of lower leaves, and they are slowly getting yellow and falling off. I believe she's been over-watering it, but I wanted to check-in and get your thoughts :)

I'm not sure if pinching each stem and pinching some leaves will encourage more healthy growth or what.

Thanks as always!

Hi Andrew - I laughed at your comment that you've been known to grow some Jade Plants - you'll be happy to know you're not alone.

Judging by the top growth of your plants, which look very happy and healthy, I'm going to suggest that the older leaves (those at the bottom of the stem) are simply too old to do their job any more and are falling off.

You will see this characteristic on a lot of succulents, which can lead to an incredibly long stem, with a rosette of green growth at the top of it.

I recommend chopping that off, which will 'remove apical dominance' a highly technical term to say that this will just encourage more shoots to emerge from lower down on the stem.

In time, you'll have much happier (and shorter) plants by doing this on a regular basis.

In your plants case, it also is likely that the plant is reaching terminal velocity, and should be repotted and split into several groups. No amount of fertilizer will help a plant that is root bound, which this appears to be.

You can use an old bonsai masters trick of chopping off some of the roots, and repotting the plant, which encourages lots of smaller roots to form.

This is useful in several ways; you can actually just repot it back into the same pot with fresh soil, and in addition, the new roots are much more efficient at processing the nutrients - a win/win situation.

Best of luck with your never ending projects!

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Help with a tulip

by Pratik

I have bought a tulip bulb and planted it in a tub 2 month ago...but the roots are only growing not the stem or any flower. Can you tell me why?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Pratik,

Tulips (Tulipa species) require a cold period where they are allowed to grow their roots before they have a time of dormancy, after which they will send out several leaves and a flower stalk.

If this isn't happening, there are a few reasons:

First, it didn't get cool enough for them to perceive it as winter once they had some roots, so they may never bloom.

Second, it may take longer than a couple of months for them to go into growing mode.

Think of how long winter would normally be for them in their native habitat (southern Europe, Turkey and Greece) and try and copy those conditions. The soil is very well drained in those areas, even rocky, with lean topsoil.

If your bulb is showing roots, all may be well, and it just needs more time.

Be patient, and eventually, the shoots of some leaves will sprout, and hopefully a flower.

I would plant the bulb (once it finishes flowering) in the garden or other place to rest (don't water it at this time) and it will go dormant. The leaves will wither and die back, but next year, it should grow again, with possibly smaller blooms.

I hope this advice helps you to grow the most spectacular tulip bloom ever!

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Aloe vera plant

by Jo Ann
( )

I have had this plant for about a year. It is now starting to flop.

The branches are losing the support of the plant and are starting to flop over - one is bent.

When I purchased the plant I transplanted it. Now not sure what is happening?

Any suggestions?

Thank you

Jo Ann

Hi Jo Ann, without seeing a picture of it, and more information about where you are in the world and growing the plant, it's hard to say what is going on. If you're in a cold climate, and your plant usually grows outdoors through the summer, sometimes attempting to acclimatize to an indoor environment will cause some issues, especially if you're continuing to water the same amount as when the plant was actively growing.

I seldom water my succulents through the winter, because the roots can easily rot - unlike other types of plants, wilting in succulents generally means that they are rotting, not that they lack water.

If this sounds like your situation, stop watering immediately. Your plant will not die from underwatering, but it will die from too much water.

The other major factor in overwintering succulents is light levels. These plants originate in hot bright climates, and our houses mostly are nowhere bright enough to keep them healthy. Get a small grow light, or keep it under fluorescent grow tubes for the winter.

Sign up for the FREE Winterizing Succulents E-Course for more ways to keep your succulents happy.

Best of luck,

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Hen and Chicken Plant

by dave tweddell
(louisville ky)

Sempervivum ciliosum var. borissii in bloom

Sempervivum ciliosum var. borissii in bloom

What do you do to the tall stalk that grows out of a hen and chicken plant?

Hi Dave, that tall stalk is actually the flower. Once the flowers fade, that hen is done and just shrivels up, so there is no need to do anything.

If you want a challenge, let the flowers dry up, and then save the seeds to plant in the spring. If there are lots of different kinds of hens and chicks around, the bees will have cross pollinated the flowers from various ones, and you could end up with the next brand new hybrid.

If you decide not to save the seeds you can either cut the stalk off low to the ground, or simply pull it out. There will be a gap until the chicks surrounding it fill in and grow.

That's the nature of these plants; generally, they only live three to four years but as they grow in a colony of many different aged plants together, there will always be some that are growing, making chicks or flowering at any given time.

Best of luck with my favorite plants!

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Root Mats on Garden Tile Sedum

by Tom
(Loachapoka, Alabama, USA)

I bought two Garden Tiles of sedum for the first time.

As I was ctting them into squares for placment, the plastic netting came off the bottom of all of them, pulling off the little mat of roots.

I went ahead and placed the squares on the tilled soil, but I'm worried that I've killed them by pulling off the root mat. It's been 24 hours and they still look good. Is there anything I should be doing, or did I kill them?

Drought Smart Plants reply: Tom, take a deep breath, stop worrying!

Sedum is the toughest plant in all creation, and losing a few roots is not a cause for concern. They will quickly replace them, and start growing. It will take a bit of time for them to do that, but in the meantime, there is nothing that you can do except put them on ignore.

If it gets really hot, make sure you give them a bit of water, but in most cases, they'll be fine and recover without any extra care.

Happy Sedum Gardening!

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Night time bug is bugging me.

Something is eating my indoor thyme plant at night and leaving little tiny pillets on the counter. What kind of insect does that indoors? No sign of anything during the day.

Drought Smart Plants reply: Well, first of all, this isn't thyme, it looks like culinary sage, or Salvia officianalis.

The damage you see is typical of some kind of caterpillar, which based on the size of the holes is really small.

Your description of the frass is typical of a caterpillar.

I would put the plant outside, and spray with just plain water to dislodge the little character. Avoid using any kind of chemicals, as you most likely will be using this to flavor your food, right?

If you look very carefully at the underside of the foliage, you might be able to see a tiny green caterpillar - they are very well camouflaged in some cases. Simply pick off the leaf and put it outside so the caterpillar can still hatch into a moth or butterfly and continue its lifecycle.

Best of luck with your nocturnal marauder!

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My Italian Cypress Tree

by Daneille
(Bay Point, CA)

My Italian Cypress is approximately 15 feet tall (just guessing) and has just recently started to bend over, separate and droop at the very top. What could be causing this and how do I remedy it? I only have the one in my west facing front yard.

Hi Danielle, I'm not terribly familiar with this type of tree, so my only suggestion would be to carefully prune it a bit to shape it.

As to why it's happening, it could be that it's growing too fast for the top growth to keep up, and it could straighten out in time as it matures, in which case, you may not need to prune it.

If you've had heavy rain recently, this could have caused it to both grow extremely fast, and to also bend it outwards just from the pressure of the water.

I would probably wait and see if it recovers it's shape over the summer, and prune it early in the year next year to reshape it if it doesn't.

Hope that helps,

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Senecios that look like brains or underwater corals

by Michal Ann Simenson
(Merced, CA, USA)

What are the senecios that look like something from the sea. They are succulents and are strangely beautiful.

I don't know of any Senecio that are like that, but your description fits many of the Euphorbia, such as some of t he brain Euphorbia and so on. You can see more of those here: Euphorbia - check out the submissions at the bottom of the page for more information and pictures.

Is that kind of what you're thinking of?


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green giant arborvitae trees

by Ruth

Our neighbors planted trees that were evergreens that reach to be 50 ft. tall as a border between our properties.

After the recent snow/ice storm, one of the trees fell on our house, and thankfully no damage resulted.

Another of the trees bent over our fence about 6ft over, but no damage resulted! They were so sweet in coming to us about it, and we found out they were planning to replace them in the spring with green giant arborvitae trees. I

feel that with just 1/2 acre lots and about 25 ft. between our houses, (just an estimate - it may be less..) that those trees are just too big (growing to be 60 ft. tall, and not sure how wide around. Aren't these trees meant for parks, or larger properties?

What would your suggestion be regarding this?

The trees would be planted very close to our property line, and our family has always enjoyed seeing sunsets on that side of the house. I'm afraid these trees would overtake that side, as well as to take away our sunsets from view.

How far from our property line would you suggest the trees be planted if our neighbors are adamant about having those trees put in?

He said there would be 7 trees planted within a 20 - 22 ft line.

Our house is just about 12 ft. from his property line.

How far back should they be planted, and how far apart would you suggest? I just want to see sky, and the sun shining in our house, and the trees that fell on our house and fence blocked it, and I'm afraid these will be doing the very same thing except to a greater extent.

Please tell me your advice on this matter.
Thank you very much.



Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Ruth - with a name like Green Giant, I would imagine that these trees will indeed be as much of a problem as the original ones. I can understand that your neighbors value their privacy, but maybe there is some other type of tree which will be a win/win for both of you.

The choice of Thuja, or arborvitae is a good one, as the root systems are not invasive, however, you've experienced first hand one of their drawbacks - weak growth that can break or even uproot the whole tree in severe weather.

I would see if there are any covenants in your area as to set backs of large trees from property lines, and also if there are any guidelines within your city bylaws for site lines.

Other than a bribe for your neighbor, or an offer to share the cost, unfortunately you don't really get much of a choice of tree types, but giving them some options of other varieties that may not get so big may be enough to sway them.

Good luck!

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Arial roots

by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

hello jacki,
are arial roots signs of thirst???

Hi Amjad, they could be one sign of the plant needing more water - or, the roots could be rotten from too much water, and the plant is trying to make more roots to take over.

It depends on the plant; some, like Aeonium haworthia 'Kiwi' seem to make a lot of aerial roots, eventually getting long enough to reach the ground.

Others, like many creeping Sedum, will root all along their length. What is the plant that this is happening with? That might give me a clue to what's going on.


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Miracle Grow on Klanchoe

by Ben
(Port St. Lucie, Florida)

Can you use Miracle Grow on kalanchoe thyrsiflora plants or any kind of succulent plants?? Just wondering.


You're referring to Miracle Grow fertilizer? This product is a water soluble fertilizer, and contains all the nutrients that most house plants require.

The only problem with using any kind of chemical fertilizer on succulent plants is that these plants require the soil to be dried out considerably.

This has two adverse effects; one is that because all fertilizer is salt based, there could potentially be a build up of these salts, which although generally not harmful, can be unsightly. They look like hard white crystals stuck to the sides of a clay pot, if that's what you're using to grow the plant in, or in some cases, a crust on the surface of the soil.

The other thing that happens is because of the fact that they are salt, this dries out the roots, and can start root rot.

I recommend using these kinds of products sparingly, and dilute them more than what the recommendation is on the package.

It's best to thoroughly water the plant first, then water with the dissolved fertilizer. Flush the soil with clear water the next time you water. Always give a good drink, then let the soil dry out almost completely; don't tease the plant with a teaspoon of water at a time.

Hope this helps,

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The blisters are gone!

by Gayle
(Sacramento, CA)

I adopted my Paul Bunyan echiveria last summer. It had big fat blisters which I loved. Now all of the new growth has no blisters at all. What am I doing wrong?

I live in Sacramento and have many succulents which stay outside all year. It seems to be very healthy, even after an attack by snails while I was gone for a week. What can I do to get the blisters to come back?

Drought Smart Plants reply: Hi Gayle, the blisters on these plants seem to be missing or deficient on newer leaves, and it's quite likely that as the leaves age they will again show those lovely carunculations.

Snails attacking, or any other cultural change will not affect this permanently, as the blisters are determined by DNA, not anything you do.

In time, you'll most likely see the blisters again.

It could be that in the first part of the year when growth is rapid, the leaves will show up plain, but in the summer the new leaves will be slower growing and have the carunculations.

Happy Echeveria Growing!

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West Coast Gems dying

Since the 2011 floods in Echuca, our 92 row of West coast gems have started dying or have become spindly and small leaved with no flowers, some leaves have gone yellow. What can we do to save them?

I have no idea what west coast gems are - this is obviously an Australian name for some kind of local plant, and being in Canada, I'm not familiar with Australian plants.

However, sometimes what happens in flood situations is that the soil becomes very compacted and the pores can get clogged with fine silt or clay.

This could be what's happened here; if the area where your plants are was actually under water for any length of time, the roots of the plants could be rotted too.

If the plants are still alive after two years, they must be really tough, so there is hope!

The characteristic traits of any kind of stress in plants are yellowing and dropping of leaves, however, the fact that they're not blooming is a puzzle, because quite often, they'll go into overdrive and bloom with more than usual energy, in an effort to reproduce.

Here's a suggestion; again, not being familiar with the plant, you'll have to decide if this is feasible or doable, but I would go along the row and stab down with a pitchfork to allow air to get down by the roots, giving them not only air, but also allowing the roots to travel further along the tunnels that this will create.

Sorry I can't help more, but maybe this will give them a chance of survival.

Best of luck,

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Any green use or healthy use for left over cuttings?

by RC

grasshopper on my gollum

grasshopper on my gollum

I have a succulent, common name Gollum, that grows as fast as weed. I have made multiple plotted plants from it and I just don't have room for them anymore so now I just trim all to keep them under control and throwing all the cuttings away.

So my question: is there something useful I can do with the cuttings?

I feel terrible throwing all away. I wish there was a some sort of medicinal use or bio-diesel use for it. any ideas? Gollum is most closely related to the jade plant but it grows like its on crack !


Hi Rene, any plant parts make great compost! I throw everything on there, and don't feel the slightest bit of guilt; the pieces I cut off aren't wasted and they go on to provide nutrients to other plants.

Alternatively, you could put an ad in the paper or on Craigslist, and give them away (or sell them!)

I wonder if there are any animals that would eat it? Just a thought...the grasshopper seems to like it!

Hope that helps,

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Science project peril

My 6th grader is doing a science fair project about which fertilizer is best for plant growth. We bought 2" mums to use, half were red and half were white. After several weeks the white ones started turning a light purple. What causes this?

Hmm, very odd indeed. The only cause I can think of that would cause this type of reaction would be a change in the environment. If they had been grown previously in a warm and bright greenhouse (as I'm sure they had been) then being in a cooler and much less bright place, as in the classroom, this might cause a color change.

I would make sure they have bright light, even getting some grow lights to try and copy what they had before.

Just so you know, adding fertilizer to the plants at this stage most likely won't show the same effects as if they were pre-bloom. Once the flowers form, they don't require much fertilizer.

Good luck with the science fair!

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what is eating my plant???

by melissa
(melbourne, australia)

at first i thought that the possums were nibbling on my succulents - sometimes they take chunks out of the leaves, but this is now happening to parts of my plants they cant reach - what is ruining my plants??

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Melissa, that is strange indeed. Could it be a snail or slug? Check the bottom of the pot to see if a creature could be hiding there, or even a caterpillar.

I've had chipmunks or even mice eating my succulent plants - and believe me, they do a lot of damage in a short time. Try moving the plant to a new spot up off the ground, or cover it with a bird cage for protection. If you don't see any more damage, that might be the culprit.

I hope you find out what it is - if you do, please share it.


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My big strong jade (cont)

by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY)

So, I took your recent suggestion and am trying my hand at Crassula Bonsai.

Here are some pictures of the start. My wife is not very excited, she called me a "plant mutilator" and is pretty disappointed with me so far, so I hope this does work out ;)

I wasn't sure if I should remove a few more leaves, or if this looks good so far. I figured I would probably remove the bottom three leaves as well and leave the ones on top, but I just thought I'd ask. I also wasn't sure if I should try to take a knife or wire brush and scrape the sides a bit.

I'm going away on vacation soon but I hope to throw all of those leaves into a sandy/cactus mix soil before I go so I can begin growing another bunch of babies.

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Oh, Andrew - I'm so proud of you! I've had the same reaction to some of my experiments, don't let it bother you - they'll see the final result, and be amazed.

You've done great for the first stage. Allow the plant to recover, and start putting out some little branches, then you can decide which leaves you should remove next. This is a long term prospect, not something that is accomplished overnight.

I would wait for awhile to start brushing the stem, this is a technique to use once the plant is starting to achieve the proper form, and you want to enhance the rugged look.

You'll get a ton of baby plants with that amount of leaves. I hope you have a lot of room!

Who knows, this could be your home based business eventually.

Happy Bonsai Growing!

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Ornamental Grasses

by Sheila

Hello Mr.H, I hope you can help me.., When does Maiden Grass start new growth ? Thank you for your time...R

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Actually, it's Ms. H!

Maiden Grass, also known by its botanical name of Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' is one of most attractive types of ornamental grass. In most cases, these types of grass are classed as warm season grasses, so won't start in to growth until the nights are warm enough. Be patient if you're anxious to see if they're alive, because they do seem to be reluctant to start growing.


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Can you tell me what this is?

by Drew
(St Peters, MO, USA)

my company's corporate offices have these bushes as part of their landscaping, and I'd like some, too, just don't know what it's called... the guys spreading mulch said it was a burning bush, but my wife thinks it's nandina... the leaves turn a nice red color in the fall, and they don't grow fast or big, which is why we don't think it's a burning bush...

Hi Drew, the landscaping guys are right; it is a type of burning bush, but this one is Euonymus alata 'Compactus' which is almost identical in every way to the regular species, except for it's size.

It generally only reaches about 4-6' high and wide, and is amenable to pruning to keep it even smaller as a hedge.

You'll be able to tell for sure if you look on the stem; 'alata' means 'winged'; the corky protuberences on the stem are what this is referring to.

They do have the absolute best fall color; a rich reddish pink, and then after the leaves fall off, they show these incredible twigs for the winter. Seeing burning bush with a light sprinkling of snow, or hoar frost is enough to give you goosebumps!

This is a plant for all seasons; there are no bad traits that I know of; it's slow growing, beautiful, and hardy, fairly drought resistant and non-invasive. It doesn't shed seeds or make a mess (except when the leaves fall off) and it's got multi season interest; all in all, it's been one of my favorite shrubs for a long time.

Hope this helps,

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tulips and ranuculus

by Amjad

Hello Jackie,
a couple of ranunculi i planted late in october(zone 11)
are starting to grow leaves,i keep them outside
lots of light with no direct sunlight
water them every 10 days,
what shall i do next if i want to let them flower indoors
or you recommend to keep them where they are
and enjoy the view??
Secondly,i am planting tulips outdoor in pots
shall i water them right away after planting
or let nature take its coarse ,your recommendations
Thanks a bunch,

Hi Amjad, your garden is burgeoning with color! Ranunculus are one plant I've never grown so I can't speak from personal experience.

My favorite gardening book says that these plants will flower soon after they start to show sprouts - water carefully, especially when they're just planted as tubers, as they will rot quickly if over watered before the growth starts. I would say that in your climate they should be totally happy outdoors while blooming, and the blooms may also last longer outside.

After blooming, the leaves have to be allowed to die down and dry out for their dormant period.

For the tulips, I would water them once, and then let nature take care of them. It's recommended that they receive a cool period while the roots are forming for the best display.

When the weather is right, the leaves and blooms appear - it's hard to imagine that all those leaves and flowers are stored away in the bulb, just waiting for the right time. Tulips originated in Turkey, not far away from you, but have been hybridized into many forms and shapes.


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Worm Castings: Dry or Liquid

by Trina

worms doing what they do best, making worm castings

worms doing what they do best, making worm castings

Hello Jacki. I have read in your site the use of worm castings for most succulent questions sent to you.

I am new to this organic fertilizer and would like to switch.

I found website sources which says worm casting in a bag (looks like soil in the picture) and another they call worm casting tea sold by the gallon.

Which one should I use or do I have to use both?

How do I use it, how often and how much do I use?

Can I use one or both when propagating from leaf or stem cuttings?

Can I use it for container succulents as well as for the ones planted in the ground?

Is it good for all succulents - aeonium, echeverias, aloes, agaves, etc? Hope you can help me again with my never ending questions. Thank you!

Hi Trina - phew! Lots of questions!

I usually use the dry castings, for a couple of reasons; they are easy to store, odorless and dry, so there is no mess to using them. I sprinkle a teaspoon or so close to the stem of established plants in pots, or in ground.

The biggest advantage is that because I use lava rock mulch a lot (which is expensive) the castings find their way through the mulch to the soil surface as you water.

The worm castings can also be mixed with the soil, or sprinkled on once the seedlings or cuttings get to the stage when they stall; usually this will be fairly obvious, because they run out of energy, and maybe look a little pale. This will indicate that they need a pick me up of more dry castings which act as a slow release fertilizer, or use the tea for faster results.

I would certainly try the tea for large container plantings later in the summer perhaps - I make my own, just put some worm castings in a large bucket, and fill it with water. The commercially made tea might be much more expensive, for very little added benefit.

You will have to see if it's a concentrate, in which case must be mixed with water, or already diluted to the right ratio. Don't use this on young plants, or when propagating, because it could be too strong.

I find worm castings are relatively mild, so they are good for all kinds of plants. Keep in mind that succulents in general don't like a rich soil, and they won't appreciate it in the same way as other house plants. All things in moderation!

Hope that helps sort out the fertilizer questions,

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Haworthia is getting old

by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY, U.S.)

I've had this Haworthia attenuata for years now. It was probably the first succulent that I was gifted. Anyway, I was just wondering what, if anything, I should do with it.

As you can see, it has gotten quite tall (albeit lying down) and has developed several offsets (which took years to finally appear). The tall portion has been burned previously, I no longer open the sheers in that room, and I also wasn't sure how big the main part of it would get, it's quite large now.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Ahh, Haworthia - I love these guys, but when they look like yours, it's time for some drastic action!

First of all, I would take the whole thing out of the pot and see what you have.

Gently shake off the soil, and you'll see that the roots if healthy are a pale yellowish colour, but if they're rotten, they will be shriveled and brown.

Cut off any that are really rotten, or obviously dead.

Pull apart the crown of the plant - by the looks of it, you have one really old rosette, and several that have potential.

Separate them so you have one rosette per pot and repot them.

This is important: don't water them!

The roots will rot if you have just done surgery, and then water them, so leave them in dry potting soil (with extra pumice or perlite or small gravel if you have it) and even when they look very sad and shrivel up, wait another couple of days.

This forces them to completely callous, and then the roots will emerge.

In a week or two, you can gently tug on the top part, and see if it's rooted.

Alternatively, simply cut the tall leggy piece off, and allow the other smaller 'pups' to grow as a clump.

Haworthia really prefer a small pot, so even if the plant looks top heavy, leave it to get really good and rootbound.

I use terracotta clay pots due to this, as plastic pots will fall over with the weight of the plant.

See the page on succulent soil for more on potting soils.


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How do I choose the right succulents for a small pot?

by Bronwyn

I've thoroughly enjoyed looking through your site and was hoping you could advise me as to which succulent species stay small and manageable.

I'm asking because I planted a group of baby succulents in a pot and was disappointed to find that some withered and died whilst others completely took over, grew tall and unwieldly and produced yellow flowers!

I chose my plants at random, so have no idea which species they were. Which species are best for succulent crafts and pots with a design made from small succulents that don't grow too big?

Hi Bronwyn - thanks for visiting! Without an idea of how big or deep your planter is, I'm flying blind, but here are a few hardy succulent plants that tend to not mind too much if there isn't much root run that I use exclusively for crafts and tiny hypertufa pinch pots:

Sedum for Containers

Sempervivum, in particular Sempervivum arachnoideum


These are the tender types that will work well in containers:

Crassula - look for the small species like Crassula perforata, C. brevifolia and others, not the larger ones that are the Jade Plant, Crassula argentea, and C. ovata.

Echeveria types to look for that tend to make smaller clustered rosettes: (all Echeveria have small root systems, so any of the small ones will work)

Echeveria pulidonis

Echeveria 'Black Prince'

Other types of succulents that you may be able to find are Portulacaria afra, the elephants food; Graptopetalum and other generic hybrids like x Graptoveria, x Sedeveria (a cross between Sedum and Echeveria) and others. Usually these will be listed with the x in front of the name, which just means that they are a cross between two genus, not two plants of the same genus.

There are so many out there that will work in a small pot, it's a matter of testing them in your conditions. Don't be afraid to prune them if they get out of hand and overgrow their spaces.

Hope this gives you some ideas!

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variegated jade problem

by aga

hi. could you help me with variegated jade? plant arrived to my home about 2 weeks ago, i am worried about this black margins and spots. maybe is sun burn? i keep on sunny window. Plant arrived with this black margins, but every day it develop new one. i don`t water at all at the moment, i use good sandy soil. pls help! aga

Hi Aga, I don't think this is sunburn. That would appear as brown dried patches, which would eventually turn corky and leave a scar. If the patches are squashy black spots this would indicate some kind of rot.

Are you referring to the brown patches on the bottom of the leaves? Those are most likely damage from being handled during shipping, and as those are bottom leaves, they will most likely fall off soon anyway.

Don't panic about this type of damage. As the plant grows, the new leaves (which look fabulously healthy, by the way) will expand and take over the job of providing nutrients for the plant.

As this is a variegated type it won't be as sun hardy as the regular kind, so you will get sunburn if it's suddenly exposed to full sun. Keep in bright filtered light, or in the summer in a semi shaded spot (under a tree possibly?) and it will be happy.

Hope this helps set your mind at ease,

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i have a plant that i have no idea what it could be

by Rachel Anderson
(grand bay,alabama)

i have a little shrub that has a thick bamboo like stalk and short round thick waxy leaves with little pink flowers that look a little like a tiny rose we bought it from a winndixie but it had no identification tag do you have any idea as to what it could be?

Drought Smart Plants replies; not without a picture, sorry!

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by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello Jacki
Any ideas of how can I help my
New hibiscus in the garden to survive frost
In winter?
Thank you

Hi Amjad, without knowing a bit more about exactly which one you have it's hard to give you much advice; some of the Hibiscus are actually quite hardy, and can withstand a lot of cold, snow and frost, and although they'll die back completely, they'll come back from the roots. Others are very tender, and are more evolved for tropical climates.

If you only get a few degrees of cold for a very short time, in most cases you can protect the whole plant with some row cover - don't use plastic, as it can actually cause more damage because it can't breathe, water condenses on the inside and then it freezes - result; black, dead plants. Always use something that is porous and will allow air exchange. The spun bonded fabric row covers are best, or thin sheets like old curtains or similar.

If your winter is longer and you have some idea of when your first frost will be happening, then build a wire cage out of chicken wire or something similar and fill the whole thing with dry leaves. A board or piece of plastic on top will stop rain from getting in. Make sure you keep mice out of this - they'll think you've provided them with the perfect winter abode!

Hope this helps with successfully wintering your Hibiscus!

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Swiss cheese is getting moldy

by Andrew S.
(West Henrietta, NY)

A while ago you helped me identify my Split Leaf Philodendron. But it's not looking too good.

I've had it in a window that gets some decent sun in the morning. I'm not sure if it has been getting too much sun, or too little/much water or what, but it's certainly unhappy.

I wasn't sure if I should try and prune off the parts with root nodes and try to replant them or what.

Please advise :)

Hi Andrew, oh that poor thing - it doesn't look happy, you're right.

What is the type of soil that you have it planted in? These plants don't like or require manure based soils, although as jungle plants they do like thoroughly rotted down leaf mold or something similar (peat based soil), so if you have it in some kind of potting soil that could have a high concentrate of nitrogen, this could certainly cause this type of issue.

I advise that you carefully take it out of the soil, and inspect the roots. Healthy roots will be plump and white or pale yellow. Dead or rotted roots will be darker colored and shriveled. Prune off any that look like that.

Carefully inspect the leaves too, in case of spider mites - look for the webbing or rasped looking surfaces, top and bottom - spray with insecticidal soap according to the directions on the concentrate.

Replant into a lighter mix of peat based soil - I use Sunshine Mix #4 all the time - it's got a polymer to absorb moisture, and it's sterile and pathogen free.

If this treatment doesn't kill your plant, it might recover within the next few months, and hopefully start to make some growth. That will be the sign that it's on the road to recovery.

Best of luck,

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lithops now or later

by Amjad
(Amman,Jordan )

Hello jacki,
well, it's spring time,so we will be banging questions all day,sorry!!!

I have this lithops I brought from germany.

It is in this stage, some say that it should be put in shade with no water, others in full sun, with water.

It's a summer grower isn't it? I put on window sill.

What do you think?

Lithops are odd little creatures; as young plants, they actually prefer more moisture and less light, thinking of their natural habitat, they would most likely germinate in rocky and stony soil, possibly beside a larger rock, or in the shade of a larger plant.

Too bright of light could send them into dormancy and prevent them from growing a bit. They are very slow to grow out of this stage.

I'm worried about the soil that you have used. Lithops are very particular about their drainage.

Again, where they have originated, the soil is extremely well drained, sandy and pebbly. They will not be happy in a rich, highly nutritious or water retaining mix, which it appears the soil in this pot is.

Dave's Garden Website says this about these plants.

Hope that helps,

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Squishy Cactus


I just stumbled into the world of succulents/cacti. I'm still very new and learning by trial and error. Funny, I was told I couldn't kill these guys and I've already lost two! I just got a little cactus with white spines and had it home for two days. I noticed this morning it is falling over and is squishy. I haven't watered it so I'm not sure what I've done wrong so fast! Maybe it needs more light? Any insight on how to save this guy would be great. Ps. this also happened with a hen and chick, it went squishy and then dried up.

I guess 2 out of 12 isn't a bad loss but I don't want to keep repeating this trend!



Hi Kara, you've most likely done what most novice cacti and succulent growers do, and you were too kind!

Depending on where you get them from, in some cases, they are grown in huge quantities, in unsuitable soil mix (ie: peat based soilless mix which doesn't drain quickly enough) and then when they arrive at the box stores they are displayed in what to them is a dark and dingy place. No wonder we get them home and they croak!

Here's my advice; When you buy cacti or succulents, you're better off buying them mail order from a reputable supplier.

Finding them online is getting easier, depending on your location. This way, you can get named species and varieties and research how to best take care of that particular kind.

They all have slightly different preferences, so a blanket approach to growing them will give you some success, as most of the plants you can easily find are not that fussy, but fine tuning their care to their specific needs is important as your collection grows.

For your cactus that has fallen over I'm afraid it's too late to save it. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it sounds as though it was potted in the wrong soil, overwatered, and has rotted.

Keep trying, using the mail order method of acquiring plants, or even better, get them from a friend who is having success. Seeing them happily growing in their conditions may give you some ideas of how they prefer to grow.

Bright light, water in abundance, but then completely drying out especially in winter, and don't overpot into a large pot with the wrong soil and you'll start to discover why they are so popular.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Succulents!

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What happened?!

by Trina
(Lakeland, FL)

What's left of the plant

What's left of the plant

Got this variegated echeveria from one of the box stores.

I made sure I got the perfect shaped rosette before buying.

This was 4 days ago and today, I discovered dark spots on the leaves - they are rotting!

The leaves just kept falling off at the slightest touch especially the ones with the dark spots so that was easy (but painful for me).

I then checked the lower stem to make sure there is no root rot. I think there is none.

I do not know what to do and I do not know the name of the plant to do research on it. Help!

Oh, Trina, that's awful! And in 4 days?

Well, okay start at the bottom; that soil looks like it's mostly peat or manure based, so you're doing the right thing by getting the plant out of it.

Repot into DRY sandy or gravelly potting soil, such as what you can buy pre-packaged for cactus. Don't water it, just let everything dry out.

I'm thinking that you may be able to salvage it, just be aware that the original plant will never look as nice as it did unless you 'behead' the top part of the rosette, and just set that on top of the dry cactus mix too, where it will most likely root - don't water it until you test it by tugging on it; if it doesn't give, then it's rooted enough to water.

However, you have a lot of leaves to work with. Discard any of the discolored leaves, they most likely won't do anything.

The others, that have just recently fallen off are salvageable.

Just set them on top of the same kind of potting soil, the cactus mix, and wait for them to show signs of either rooting (little pink roots) or a tiny little blob of leaves. Then carefully spray a tiny bit of warm water on the surface of the soil to encourage the roots to seek it out.

I don't know the exact kind of Echeveria this is, but it's very pretty and well worth trying to salvage.

So sorry that you've had this experience; box stores buy their plants from suppliers that have no interest in the plants staying alive any longer than a few weeks. They simply grow them as quickly as they possibly can, in completely unsuitable soil.

The staff in the box stores don't have the inclination or the skill required to resist the urge to water succulent plants in the same fashion as other house plants, with the resulting mayhem.

If you insist on buying them, do yourself a favor, repot the main rosette immediately, and then just let it dry out completely.

Good luck with your beautiful plant - I hope it recovers quickly,

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Grapes or Figs

by vic trom
(new york, ny)


Is this Grand Central Terminal artwork of grapes or figs?

I'm going to go with grapes - although the leaves are very similar in shape, the fruit is small, and clustered, not single or in twos like figs produce their fruit.

It also distinctly shows tendrils, which are a trait of Vitis, but not Ficus.

In addition, there is evidently some kind of trellis behind the plant, typical of what you would train grapes on.

The central wreath is probably laurel, what we would call Bay leaves, or otherwise known as Laurus nobilis, so named because in Roman times, the emperor and sometimes other notables would wear a crown made of laurel - hence the phrase 'resting on your laurels' from the practice of sleeping with a laurel wreath beneath your pillow, in hopes of becoming famous or renowned.

That is really a lovely piece of art; it would be really interesting to find out more about it, what kind of material it's made of and so on. Please post back if you find out any other interesting facts.


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Red Leaf Plant in Puerto Rico

by John Giordano
(Roanoke, VA)

Red Leaf Plant

Red Leaf Plant

I have attached a picture of the plant I am interested in.
Can you tell me what it is, what zones it will grow in and where I can purchase it as bulb, root stock or plant?
I want to plant this plant in Zone 7.
Thank you,
John Giordano

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Wow, that colour just rips your eyeballs out! What a treat! The look of this seems familiar, but I've honestly never seen one this colour, so I'm thinking that it must be a new variety of what used to be known as the 'Ti' plant, which originated in Hawaii. The correct botanical name is Cordyline terminalis.

If this is the same plant, it's grown from 'logs' or short bits of stem that are imported from Hawaii, which are placed on top of damp soil, and they produce new shoots which you cut off and grow like a cutting.

As it's native to Hawaii, I'm not sure you would be able to grow it outdoors in your climate, however, it would grow very well as an indoor plant through the winter, and move outdoors for summer as soon as it warms up.

Hope this helps with your plant identification.

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house plants and trees

by Shannon Hartley
(Milw, Wi)

Can you please tell me what kind of plant this is and how I can take better care of it?

Drought Smart Plants reply: Hi Shannon, this poor thing looks like it's possibly on deaths door, unfortunately.

I can't tell what it is, although judging from the pleated leaves it could be some kind of Hibiscus.

These tend towards this type of issue, with a lot of die-back on older wood, if they don't get enough light during the winter. As a tropical forest plant, these prefer to have dappled shade in hot climates, but in northern areas where the daylight is really short during the winter, they can really suffer.

One small detail that is hard to wrap your head around is that near the equator, the daylight is always around 12 hours, with equal night time hours. This means that these types of plants have adapted to that schedule.

Here's my suggestion: cut back all the old growth. This won't grow any more, and in fact might hinder the recovery of the rest of the plant.

Take the old branches right off, down to where the new leaves are. Then, put it outside in your garden, preferably out of full sun in a corner where you can ignore it.

Water it occasionally if the weather is hot, otherwise, don't look at it, just leave it be.

Sometimes plants will make it, but fiddling with them seems to push them over the edge into complete failure to thrive.

Whatever you do, don't fertilize it!

In the fall, or when the nights are getting cooler, re-evaluate it. If the new growth seems strong (ie: the new stems are a couple of inches long, and no more die back has occurred) take it back inside for the winter.

Provide a grow light of some sort on a 12 hour cycle through the winter. Don't depend on winter sunlight to keep it healthy, as it's obviously not regimented enough.

If it survives, it will come back better than ever.

Best of luck,

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white worm pods

by rachel
(duncan bc)

I seem to have a major infestation of white worm like pods on my holly and camellia. on the underside of the leaves but also the branches, twigs and berries. up to 3/8 long, 1/8 wide. Please help, a large beautiful tree on our property, would hate to loose it!

Hi Rachel, without a picture of these things, I'm at a loss to suggest anything; there are many, many insects and even fungus that could create these kinds of structures, and generally, if they're on more than one type of plant they tend to be quite voracious (if insects).

In the case of a fungal infection, if that's what it is, those are pretty much totally dependent on conditions of temperature and humidity.

I lean towards leaving things alone until I am positive that they would be harmful; most plants, unless they're really ill to begin with, can withstand the loss of a few leaves, even complete defoliation, so this probably won't kill the plant.

Can you send me a picture or two? That might help narrow it down a bit.


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Rescued Cactus & Succulents (I hope)

by Trina
(Lakeland, Florida)

Hello Jackie. Our neighbor just sold their house and during the renovation for the new owners, the workers removed a huge cactus tree and trampled on a Kalanchoe plant. I was hoping to rescue them by transplanting or propagating and they most certainly gave us access to the pile.

The cactus (is this a Cactus Pear Tree?) I was able to collect with roots and will simply transplant in our yard but the one with just the branch can wait to form callous. This is my first cactus plant and I want to make sure I can save this plant the right way.

As for the Kalanchoe (Thrysiflora?), with the weather right now at 60F I was thinking of transplanting to a big pot (hopefully it's still worth rescuing despite it being so limp) and move it to the ground in early spring. And would you know what that powdery stuff is on the stem? Am I doing this all right? I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

Hi Trina, these both look like they will be fine - for the cactus tree, as you call it, both parts will form new roots - just put them into dry soil in a pot after callousing, and in time, they will make new roots.

I'm not familiar with this plant, which looks to me to be more like some kind of relative of the Christmas Cactus. Here is a reference to the Dragonfruit, which is an epiphyte. Does this seem the same to you?

For the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, these will root fine without any kind of care, just prune off the damaged parts, and stand back.

The white stuff, called 'bloom' which doesn't refer to flowers, is perfectly normal. Some plants produce this in abundance, some not so much, but it's a way for them to prevent moisture loss from the stem and leaves, not a disease or other issue.

Keep all of these fairly dry until they recover and produce more roots.

Luckily, you're not moving them too far, so the soil (if you plant them in a garden situation), the humidity and the normal rain fall will be very similar.

Happy Succulent Gardening!

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my (maybe?) poor succulent

by Becki

I have an echeveria, and when I bought it, it was normal.

I sometimes go a week and a half to 2 weeks without thorough watering, but I'll mist it and get the soil slightly damp to give it a little 'snack' between waterings.

It's in full sun for about 4 to 6 hours starting about mid afternoon.

Its leaves aren't squishy, and it's growing - but it's getting long and lanky but still fleshly in the stem. Is this normal? What's causing this and can I fix it?

Hi Becki, you're killing your drought tolerant plant with kindness; ie; overwatering it.

I generally will go at least two weeks between waterings, especially at this time of year, and I never 'water' between times, even lightly with a spray.

They much prefer to go almost completely dry between waterings. Stop spraying now. You don't need to do this.

Other things you could be doing wrong; as the plant is leaning, your light source is not bright enough - at this time of year, because we have now passed the equinox (when the day and night hours are the same - which is what they would get around the equator where they originate) the leaning or stretching is saying that the plant is not getting enough light.

Either subsidize with a grow light, or put it somewhere it will get more intensity. Keep in mind that the suns rays can be too much through glass, so watch that it's not getting sunburnt.

You could also turn the plant (and pot) about one quarter a day, so it doesn't stretch towards the light. If the light is directly overhead (in the case of a grow light) then it won't need to stretch.

The pot is too big for this plant too, if you potted it up after you bought it, then keep this in mind. Most of these plants have quite small root systems, and prefer a pot just big enough to keep them from tipping over.

Soil type is important too; this looks more like some kind of regular house plant potting soil. Echeveria like good drainage, so this type of soil generally holds too much moisture.

Mixing it half and half with added aggregate (pumice, small gravel or sand, or perlite) or using a soil specifically for cactus is best. Echeveria do not like any soil with lime in, so avoid this, or at least don't add any extra.

You can see more about succulent care here, and specifically how to grow Echeveria.

Hope that gets you back on track!

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Dog dug up tree and broke it in half

by Wanda Hendrix
(Rome, GA )

Can a Chinese maple tree be saved. My dog dug up the tree this morning and also broke it in half. Can you make this tree root or survive.

Drought Smart Plants reply: If your tree has been dug up in full leaf, it may not survive. Depending on where you are, the size of the tree and if it's hot and dry weather or not, it might stand a chance.

First of all, you will have to trim the cut part. Without pictures of what's happened I can't really advise on that part, but most trees can come back from really severe damage, in time.

So, keep the roots damp, with a damp cloth or burlap if you have it, otherwise, use the hose and spray them periodically. Cut off any roots that are damaged, and take them back the same amount of wood that you cut off the top.

Replant your tree, and water well. You may decide to use this tree in a group or woodland, rather than as a specimen tree, as it will take a long time (years) to recover enough to look nice again.

Alternatively, buy a new tree for that spot, and a fence for the dog, and move on.

Best of luck,

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zinnia leaves in distress

by Nancy
(Ithaca,New York)

We planted zinnias (from pots) into our garden about three weeks ago, early May. We had two cold nights, but we covered all the zinnias well to prevent damage. We are located in central upstate New York. Since that time, the leaves on some of the zinnias have started to brown and wrinkle.
What might have caused this and what can we do to help our flowers continue to grow?

Thank you for your help!

Hi Nancy, the damage seems to have been caused by either frost, from those cold nights, or because the cover was left on after the sun started to warm everything up, and they are scorched.

Luckily, it's still early in the season, but for the plants to completely recover I think the best thing is to cut off the top growth, and display the flowers in your house as a cut flower.

The bottom part of the plant will make fresh new growth and recover quickly and make more leaves and flowers. The leaves that are damaged will never heal, and in fact could just contribute to stress and cause rot to set in, especially if you get much rain in the next few weeks.

Alternatively, you could remove all the damaged leaves, and the flowers, and the plant will shoot out new growth from where the leaves were. I don't recommend this, because it could take longer for them to recover. Cutting them off lower down will give them the best chance of responding with vigor.

Hope this helps,

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Am I doing something wrong?

by Vince Leonardi
(Somerville, MA)

About 1 1/2 years ago I had cataracts done. The clinic gave me a plant each time I had an eye done. The plants were flowered and in a small plastic pot.
I have since re-planted them into a slightly bigger pot. Okay, my question is are these plants ever going to flower again?. They were re-planted in "Miracle-Gro" soil. They are both doing very well but have never "flowered" since I got them.
Thank you for your time and any help you might afford me.

Hi Vince, what a nice thought, to give you a plant and something to look forward to seeing.

Without a picture of the plant, I would have no idea if it will flower again - although most plants of that type are easy going and require relatively simple care.

Some indoor houseplants require a dry period to trigger the bloom cycle, such as Schlumbergera, the Christmas Cactus.

In the case of other flowering plants, the light in our houses isn't bright enough or of the right photoperiod (length of time per day of light and dark) to trigger blooming.

I would contact the clinic who gave them to you, and see if you can get a name of the plant, then post back in the comments.


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Easter cactus cuttings

by Andrew S.
(West Henrietta, NY)

Hello again!

So, I chopped some pieces of this rescued plant off and have put them in some soil.

I have not watered them yet (well, I watered half of them when I first planted them, the other half not at all). And a few of them have some little buds on them. I wasn't sure if it was trying to flower, or just growing new segments, or what.

I think those are new leaves, which are actually modified stems, just for interests sake. The flower buds are quite distinctive; pointed, and larger than what those appear to be. However, those look pink, so it's possible that they are flower buds. Let them get a little bigger before you deal with them one way or another.

I normally won't allow them to get too carried away with blooming; sometimes it's a last ditch effort to reproduce before they keel over for the last time, and it drains them of any energy that they have left.

You can rub them off once you're sure they're not leaves, and hope that there are leaf buds alongside them which the removal of the flower bud will allow to grow.

If you tug on the cuttings, do they resist being pulled out? This will indicate that they're rooted!

The pale color of the cuttings tells me that they're not quite there yet; they're still surviving on the nutrients that they contain in the leaves, and they haven't put out any roots to replace them yet.

Good job, Andrew - those look great!

Isn't propagation exciting?


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Jade plant roots problem (?)

by Eva

root ball of Jade plant

root ball of Jade plant

I bought my Jade plant from eBay around 2 months ago.

My jade plant was doing really well on my south- west window sill but recently leaves turned really soft and some of them got red/ yellow hint (not on edges but whole leaves).

I've tried to search for problem and i decided that soil not drains so well. It had little perlite as well.

Today my perlite arrived so i repotted it as soon as possible. When i took my jade plant out of a pot i've noticed that most of fill. It is so clogged on that i couldn't separate any root.

i wanted also to find out if i have two or one clippings in my pot but it was not possible. I didn't expect it so i potted it in temporary container because i just dont have bigger one.

Also roots have a little bit of yellow/ orange hint, does it mean that it rot?

I've heard that to save jade plant from rotting roots i would need to cut these rotted ones but it is so tangled that it seems impossible to do, do you know how could i save it?

I suppose that drainage was caused half by bad soil and half by clogged roots.

It is my first plant ever and I got really attached to it.

Ps. I am really interested in buying your ebook, is it possible to buy it from amazon or just through your webpage? It would be awesome if you could make succulent identification book with some basic info about them.

Thank you for taking time reading my message and answering it.
Have a good day,

Hi Eva, your plant looks like it can be saved! It's still healthy enough and shows no signs of giving up yet.

The red tips and coloring is normal; it shows that the plant is getting enough light, so that's good.

As the leaves age, they will get soft and turn yellow as the plant discards them. As long as it's only the bottom (oldest) leaves, this isn't a problem.

There are obviously two cuttings in the pot, so take a sharp knife (one that you don't care about, maybe an old bread knife or a serrated blade of some kind) and cut down between the cuttings.

Don't worry about the fact that you're cutting any roots, many of them are actually dead, judging by the close up picture..

Then, cut across the root ball, about halfway down the mass of roots. Discard the part you cut off, the plant will replace the roots.

Repot into a new container - it's crucial that it has good drainage. I recommend terracotta clay pots, just because they're heavy and stop the plant from toppling over.

The book is only available through this website, on this page: Succulent Plant Propagation E-Book

I'll take your suggestion under advisement about a new e-book. Great idea!


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Sick unknown baby cactus or succulant

by Chris

Plant alongside my index finger for scale

Plant alongside my index finger for scale

Hi, I got this little plant from a store in Colorado for free because they received it from a local person and had no idea what it is.

It is very small, about the size of the tip of my index finger.

It has a white, curved main body with pink tentacle-looking things sprouting on top alongside new purple leaf like growth.

It looked healthy when I got it but after about a week the main white part shriveled up and started turning purplish-blue at the bottom while the tentacles and small purple leaves have not changed.

The soil was very wet when I bought it so I have not watered it since I got it, assuming it was a cactus and trying to avoid over-watering.

I have also been keeping it in direct sunlight by the back window of the house.

Once I saw it shriveling I watered it but it only seems to be getting worse.

It has been three days since it started shriveling and I am trying to find out what kind of cactus this is and how I might be able to save it.

Hi Chris, it looks as though it's not too late for this little guy, which looks like it could be some kind of Echeveria or similar succulent.

However, the part that is 'growing' in the soil is actually just a leaf, the tentacle things are roots - and they want to grow down into the soil, but not the soil in your pot.

Use either regular sterilized potting soil with about half and half gravel/grit/sand or pumice, and just leave the leaf on top of DRY soil. Don't water it until it's evident that it's got some new growth (the purple parts).

With any kind of succulent, if it looks like it's shriveling, check the bottom of the stem; if it looks like it's rotting, don't water it.

The leaf in this case looks like it is decaying, so more water, on top of the terrible soil that it's in is the worst thing to do.

Not to worry though, the roots look healthy, and it's already growing into a little plant; once you get it the right way up, it's going to be fine, and you'll be addicted...

Good luck!

Check out my e-book for more information on rooting succulents:

Learn how to root your own succulents:

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Wrinkly leaves on my echeveria?

by black thumb

I have a tiny echeveria in a pot in my office and I've noticed some wrinkles on the leaves (the bottoms of some leaves look like a pug's face) as well as two small brown spots on one leaf.

Do you know what's wrong/happening? I know there's lots of different types of echeverias, it looks kind of like this especially in regards to leaf shape
except it has a long stem with a few leaves, like how flower stems appear in cartoon. Is it too cold? Is it getting not enough sun? Am I watering too much/too little?

Hi, Black Thumb; Without seeing pictures of your plant, it's hard to say what's going on. Some wrinkling of the leaves is normal, and will happen as the plant dries out, or as the leaves age.

In time, they may totally shrivel and dry out completely, and they fall off easily.

Eventually, what tends to happen with many Echeveria is that they get a long stem, with a tuft of leaves on top, like a stubby palm tree.

If this is what's happening, there is nothing you can do about it, except to behead the top rosette and re-root it (it's not as bad as it sounds, honest!).

One thing that can delay this happening is brighter light, so it doesn't have to stretch to get more light.

In an office situation, you may want to get a small grow light that you can direct at the plant, and keep it on a timer of 12 hours daylight, and 12 dark.

This is the ideal schedule, which they have adapted to due to their origins in warm climates close to the equator.

Hope this helps get your plant back on track,

Find out more about how to grow Echeveria and more generalized succulent care here.

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eucalyptus sadness

Why does my eucalyptus drop it's leaves as soon as I bring it in for the winter?

Without knowing a bit more about your growing conditions and how big the plant is, it's hard to say. I'm also not very familiar with Eucalyptus.

There are a few reasons that other plants will drop leaves, mostly revolving around either a change in the conditions such as dryer air, or even being put too close to a heater blowing hot air on them.

The other huge reason that plants will drop leaves is if there is no longer enough light - plants require light to make sugars into energy to grow, so if the light levels drop dramatically, they have no choice but to jettison some cargo and drop a few (or many) leaves.

If you can, provide extra light for the plant with grow lights - it's not enough to just put it in a sunny window in some cases, because the day length or photoperiod will be too short.

Some plants are extremely sensitive to shorter days, which of course they equate with the arrival of winter.

The longer light will ensure that even if the plant does drop a few leaves, it can quickly grow some more to replace them. The optimum day length is about 12 equal hours of day and night, so get a timer to set the lights to come on and turn off on that cycle.

Hope this helps,

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There is a problem with my Kiwi Aeonium

by Talitha
(Bronx, NY)

Closeup of some of the dying leaves

Closeup of some of the dying leaves

I have had my beautiful Kiwi aeonium for about six years now and it's been healthy and thriving. i just moved to my new apartment and there was such a sprout of new growth as i had never seen before, all the old leaves fell off and new bright green leaves and stems grew but now the beautiful new leaves are turning black and falling off! I'm afraid my baby is dying, please help!

Hi Talitha, when this type of damage happens so suddenly, it's usually that the plant has received some kind of shock, a sudden change of one of these factors can cause some of these types of damage; it's possible that just the shock of moving from one type of conditions to another can cause this effect. If it's the new growth only, I would go with frost damage, but on older leaves, this can also be an indication that the situation is less bright than it's used to.

I would start to propagate this plant, as the long leggy stems indicate that it's time. Just behead some of the largest rosettes and re-root them - don't worry, it's not that hard! Buy the e-book below for more details;

Best of luck,

Learn how to root your own succulents:

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Cactus is growing friends

by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY)

So, my friend recently moved and one of her plants is growing a little mold it looks like.

She was very surprised by it so I do believe this is the first time she's ever seen it. Her old apartment got a lot more sun than her new place, so she is learning that she needs to water the plants much less.

Any thoughts as to what this may be, and what to do about it?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Andrew - I would say that anytime you see mold at the base of a cactus, it's never a good thing. Mold needs moisture to grow, so this indicates that the soil is too wet for the cactus to be happy.

The type of mold is actually liverwort, which is worrying, not only because of the name, but because it tends to block off air and moisture to the roots of the plant. These can be scraped off, as their roots are very shallow.

After scraping off the liverwort, I suggest using a mulch of pebbles or my favorite lava rock placed around the base of the plant. I would normally suggest that the cactus be lifted out to check roots so you can try that just to make sure that the soil isn't too damp.

Cactus, like all other succulent plants prefer to be dry, then have a good soaking only two or three times a year. I've heard of an avid cactus collector who watched the weather reports from Tuscon, Arizona, and only watered their collection when it rained there.

Overwatering is the leading cause of death in succulents and cacti, so err on the side of not enough water, rather than too much.

Also, always use tepid or lukewarm water, preferably rainwater rather than out of the tap. I find that tap water from our well for instance, has too much mineral content, and if you're not flushing the soil completely through each time, salts can build up in the soil.

This is not a good thing. Occasionally, if you notice salt or mineral build up, buy some distilled water from the drug store to flush the soil thoroughly, say once a year.

I notice in the pictures that the pots these cacti are in are glazed pottery - I recommend using unglazed terracotta clay pots, as these breathe and allow excess moisture to escape through the porous sides.

Happy Cactus Growing!

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baby toe succulents; matter of life or death

by Meredith C
(Virginia beach, Va)

Hello, I bought baby toes for my succulent window box about a month ago and they died after about a week. I adored them so I promptly went and bought a new plant being sure to transplant it properly and take care of it. It has been doing great but two days ago the toes started dying off one by one and I only have three toes left. They get average direct sunlight and I water the box about once every two weeks. The soil I am using is a moisture control mix from miracle grow. Please help my babies !

Drought Smart Plants reply: So, when you're repotting them, how much room do they have??

I've noticed that a lot of the time, succulents get way over potted, when they actually prefer being a bit cramped and root bound.

I use terracotta clay pots, because they're heavy enough to stay upright even when the soil is quite dry, so this might be something to try. What I do sometimes if I'm displaying them in a larger container, like a window box for instance, I leave them in the terracotta pot, and sink it right into the window box. It's best if you use just some kind of pebbles instead of soil around the pot, so no moisture will soak into it.

I'm not familiar with the soil mix you're using, but if it's meant for regular house plants, this could be the issue.

What does moisture control mean? Does it have some type of water holding polymer in it so it's easy to re-wet? Sometimes they hold too much moisture, so even when you think the soil is quite dry, there is still lots in it.

Succulents don't like wet soil.

So, here's what I suggest; hold off on watering for a bit, like, completely. Give it a couple of weeks, and see what happens.

In most cases, these plants really do not like being fussed over. They thrive on neglect, so if you're one of those types of gardeners that have to fiddle with their plants, maybe succulents aren't your gig.

They have a 'bloom' or waxy coating on them, and if this is disturbed too much, they can end up getting damaged, which, in addition, if you live in an area that is humid at all, this can cause rot to set in.

Hope this helps revive your 'baby toes'!


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Preparing Fertilizer

by Kelsey

IF you are trying to fertilize your house plants with 1000 ppm N:P:K using a 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer and only need 1 gall. To prepare the solution, how much fertilizer should you add?

Dissolve __________oz of 20-20-20 fertilizer in 1 gallon of water.

Would you dissolve 6.4 oz???

Thank you.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Kelsey - this requires mathematics ability!

Does it tell you on the package how much to add? Does it say on there that you should use 6.4oz? This just seems to me to be an odd amount.

I seldom use any kind of chemical fertilizer, as it's so easy to burn sensitive plants with it, but here's what I do if I am using it on plants that I know are not going to be injured.

I use a similar product on some things especially in the spring, but the saying 'weakly, weekly' should always be topmost in your mind.

This means that you can use a very weak solution, pretty much every time you water.

I use about one small teaspoon of the 20-20-20 fertilizer per gallon, and this is the blue coloured crystals that you can get.

I've never actually weighed it, so I don't know what this would translate to. The blue coloring is to give you an indication of the fact that the water has fertilizer in it, and at what strength.

Be careful watering ferns with any kind of fertilizer, they're extremely sensitive to salt, which is what chemical fertilizer is.

For a really safe (and fool proof) type of fertilizer I recommend worm castings - these are dry dark colored worm manure, with no odor, and no way of ever releasing too much fertilizer. You can sprinkle them right on the surface of your houseplant soil, and the plant gets a slow release of nutrients for a long time to come. Natures slow release fertilizer!

Hopefully this will help,

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recyling soil and potting mix

by shane
(brisbane australia)

Compost Bins

Compost Bins

Hi, I don't want to waste my soil and potting mix can I put it in my compost bin instead of grass clippings and such, still using food scraps and such?

Hi Shane, by all means put it in the compost. This sort of depends on what exactly is in the potting soil, and if you're concerned about pests, make sure you sprinkle it in layers so it gets hot enough by the decomposition of the food scraps and other organic matter to kill them off.

I wouldn't use this type of compost in containers again, just put it on the garden - on the lawn or around trees and shrubs are the best uses.

Keep in mind that some potting mixes contain polymers to retain the water, and also perlite, a white volcanic product, which can be somewhat unsightly. Cover it with mulch if this is the case, or scratch it in to the existing soil.
Hope this helps!

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Pink fuzzy stems

by katie
(Asheville, NC)

I have a plant that has pink fuzzy stems that have random flowers that stay for only a day or two. The flowers that bloom are always different colors. The fuzz/hair on the stems is white.

Hi Katie, boy that is one odd looking plant - if it wasn't for the pale fuzz, I think I would say that it's some kind of Portulaca, but as far as I recall, the stems on those are hairless.

Hopefully someone will be along who recognizes it.


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Wrinkling leaves

I have a few jade leaves that are resting on soil but they are getting wrinkled. Is this normal? Should I splash a little water on them? I got them from the main plant less than a week ago.

Please help!


Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi N., this is perfectly normal, in fact you want this. It indicates that the leaves are drying out, which prompts it to produce some new growth from the dormant bud at the broken off end. I don't recommend spraying it, as this can cause it to rot.

Be patient - it can take up to three weeks, and sometimes longer before the tiny little plants and their pink roots emerge. The leaf will serve as a nurse, and as the tiny new plants grow, the leaf will shrivel to nothing. That's its sole function now, so as long as it is not rotting, all is well.

Once the tiny new plants have their own roots, which will wave around in the air for a while before they figure out to grow downwards, then you can move it into its own pot of well drained, sterilized potting soil.

They can survive quite well without much water, as they have adapted to climates without much rainfall, and usually quite warm and dry.

They don't have the ability to shrug off excess moisture as some plants (like ferns or other jungle type plants have) as they try and soak up any drop of moisture that comes their way.

Good luck with your new Jades!

See also these pages:

Succulent Care

Succulent Plant Propagation

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ants and hen and chicks

Someone told me about hen and chick plants drawing ants. My hen and chicks are next to the house and they are covered in ants. Is there any relevance to this?


Drought Smart Plants reply:

Ants will be attracted to aphids, which may be on your plants. Can you check and see if this is the case? In most instances, ants don't do any damage, except that they 'farm' the aphids and milk them for their sundew, a sweet substance that the aphids excrete. If you get rid of the aphids, you'll get rid of or at least knock the ants back from attending their 'herd'. Use a strong spray of water from the garden hose to wash the aphids off.

There is no need to use strong chemicals, but something like Diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the plants will certainly deter the ants. Ant traps are useful too. I've noticed that pests are attracted to plants under stress, so make sure that your growing conditions are suited to your plants. See the pages on how to grow Sempervivum and how to grow Echeveria for more information on the plants known as Hens and Chicks.


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Grape tomato shortage

by Ed Caufield
(NW New Jersey)

I have two potted grape tomato plants which appear healthy and are about 3 feet tall. Each plant, however, has yielded only three grapes. Am I doing something wrong?

Hi Ed, tomatoes are funny creatures. As the flowers are insect pollinated, it's important to have bees or other pollinators that are in the area visiting. Attract them with other flowers that are blooming at the same time so they have more options to choose from.

The flowers of tomatoes open in sequence over a week or more, so it's possible that the first three in the truss were open and got pollinated, then there was possibly some rainy weather, where the bees weren't able to fly.

In this case, I would try to act like a bee, and pollinate them myself with a paint brush, or pluck one flower and dab it into the others. This ensures good transfer of the pollen, which makes the fruit form.

Other things that can cause this is a period of extremely hot weather, which kills the pollen. In this case, there is nothing you can do, except hope that you got indeterminate varieties which will keep on producing more flowers over a long season.

You haven't mentioned if this is what you have; determinate types will reach a certain height and stop growing, to ripen the fruit that is already set, and won't produce any more flowers.

Hopefully, this will give you a couple of options for managing the plants to have a bumper crop later in the season.
Happy Tomato Gardening!

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Citrus Trees

Question 1. I have a lemoncito fruit tree that bore fruit in 2009, by 2010 it only give me 6 fruits, this year it only give 3 fruits. I fertilize all my citrus every 4 months, water it every 2-3 days when dry and even during winter I water it at least weekly when dry, I also added some potting soil and cow manure early spring and mulch them during winter.

Question 2. Another orange tree that I planted in 1991 never ever bear fruit but last year it gave me a lot of flower that just fell off but not a single fruit. What am I doing wrong?


Drought Smart Plants reply:

For the first question (please bear in mind that I'm not an expert in citrus fruit - too cold to grow them where I am!) I'm grasping at straws here, but when a well established fruiting tree does this, it's possible that there is something going on other than cultivation.

Sometimes it's something wrong with the roots.

Check for mealy bugs, scale on the trunk or any other diseases that could be affecting your tree.

See if you can also check for nematodes through your extension office.

There are various treatments for any of these particular pests; I recommend a natural control such as beneficial insects rather than a harsh chemical - especially as these are edible.

For question 2, this almost sounds as though there weren't enough pollinating insects at the time the flowers were open, which means that you won't get any fruit.

In some cases, the fruit will actually start to form even if the pollination didn't take place, but falls off soon after.

Another possibility is that this variety requires another different one to be cross pollinated. See if you can find a similar tree that is of a different clone nearby. In most cases visiting insects will transfer the pollen, but I've heard that in Japan there is such a lack of bees that they now have to pollinate all their fruit trees by hand - one by one, with a small paint brush - now that's dedicated.

I wish you success with your citrus trees, there can be nothing better than going out in the morning and picking your breakfast!


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Tiny black bugs on Echeveria succulent

by Renee
(Laguna Niguel, CA)

I have an older (about 5 years old) Echeveria succulent that is flowering like crazy and I just noticed that some of the shoots have these tiny black bugs all over them.

This plant has never had an issue before. These bugs or whatever they are seem to be stopping the growth of the flowers. The shoots where the bugs are/were most are smaller that the ones where there are less bugs and the flowers are very dry and not opening. Also, once I sprayed it with Neem it seemed like tar fell onto the leaves and I am able to rinse it off with water. Do you have any idea what these pests are?

It's dark right now so I couldn't take a picture.

Thanks, Renee

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Renee, it sounds as though your Echeveria has aphids.

These soft bodied insects cluster in a group on tender growth (such as the flower stalks) and suck out the juices. The black substance could be 'sundew' which they excrete. Usually, this gets mold growing on it, which is harmless to the plant, but unsightly.

The big issue is the damage from the aphids sucking apparatus, and the fact that they can carry and transmit viruses from one plant to another.

Usually, aphids can't survive either an insecticidal soap spray, or simply a sharp blast of plain water from a sprayer or garden hose, depending on the plants.

If the Echeveria is finished blooming, simply cut the flowers off, as most of the aphids will be at the top of the stalks.

Let me know if this is not what you have; in most cases, pests on succulents are temporary and most are easily dealt with by simple methods first.


See also the page on Succulent Plant Pests.

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Sad kalanchoe

by Katie

Hi! Okay, so I have a pretty sad kalanchoe thyrsiflora plant and I'm not sure why. It's getting lots of light and I rarely water it.

It's in a cactus mix in a terra cotta pot with a drainage hole.

It almost seems like it might not be liking the heat in the area it's in. It has no red coloring anymore (maybe the tiniest bit) and is pretty limp and squishy to the touch. What's going on?

It sounds like you're doing everything right, Katie. When you say, lots of light, what does that mean exactly? They need bright light - the best coloration happens in full sun, but when you describe it as limp and squishy, this doesn't sound good at all and I would hesitate to recommend moving it into more sun at this point.

While in active growth, these plants need water; make sure that you're not just teasing it; give it a good drink, water until the excess runs out of the drainage hole, then wait a bit, repeat. Then, allow it to dry out almost completely, before watering again.

The heat shouldn't bother it, unless you are somewhere really humid; they prefer a dry climate, not one with high humidity.

I would maybe take it out of the pot, and look at the roots. There are pathogens that affect the roots of many plants, and generally, the roots will look shriveled, brown or black, and either break easily or they're slimy. Healthy roots are white, pink or beige, sometimes yellow, and thick, not shriveled.

Sorry I can't really give you more to go on, you haven't told me where you are or even which hemisphere, so it's hard to tell you anything more.

Best of luck,

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bell pepper plants

by chris
(cuba, new york)

Last year I grew several types of bell peppers, sweet red, green and yellow, I had very nice looking plants but very few peppers. This is not the first time this has happened. Any ideas why?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Chris,

If your pepper plants are lush and green this means that they are getting lots of nitrogen from the soil. This can also indicate that they are getting less potassium and phosphorous, which promote flowering and fruit production.

Peppers also love warmth, and if your conditions are cooler, or there is a dramatic difference in day and night temperatures, this can prevent flowers from setting.

Oddly enough this can also be a result of extremely warm temperatures as the pollen is damaged when it's too hot.

I've also noted that in rainy conditions, bees and other pollinators won't be flying, and as peppers require pollination by insects, this will also prevent fruit set.

You can't do a lot about the temperatures, except to cover the plants at night if the temperatures dip, but you can manually pollinate the flowers with a small paint brush to transfer the pollen from one flower to another.

In some cases, certain pepper varieties require a longer season to ripen, so even if they can set fruit, you may not get any ripe ones. If you grow your own plants from seed, check for those that only require 60 to 80 days from transplanting so they have time to ripen.

Peppers are one of the most nutritious vegetables, as well as one of the best tasting, so it's well worth figuring out how to grow the best peppers (the fruit) in your conditions.


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Sedum eating bug.

by Bill
(Pittsburgh Pa)

Lightning bug shape and size. Black on top and orange on sides. Eating Sedum plants. Larvae are small and grayish in color. Sorry, no picture.
Hope you can help.

Hi Bill, a picture would definitely help - is this a beetle? A moth?? You say larvae, so I'm thinking that it must be some kind of moth, but from your description, I don't really know what it could be specifically.

You also haven't indicated exactly which Sedum it's eating, and there are a lot of insects that hone in on specifically one kind of plant to lay their eggs - very seldom on Sedum.

I would say, keep an eye on the situation, and if it looks like they're defoliating the whole plant, then you may have to take action - or do what I do, and enjoy the show; it's nature in action, close up and personal.

Generally, it seems as though the defoliation is severe enough to kill the plant, but most plants have the ability to replace them and certainly losing a few leaves isn't a big deal to them in the larger scheme of things.


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My Meyers now has 3rd and 4th generation lemons growing...

by Doug
(Toronto, ON Canada)

But it looks like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It has huge thorns, the leaf turn yellow and fall, and split in the middle.....I do not know what to do....tried letting dry out....was not happy, watered more often, was not happy, just treated it again with a greenhouse/indoor garden spray.

It sits in a North West window in a condo, but all the other plants are doing great including the pineapples and bananas...

I am not certain what to do, I keep getting answers.

Hi Doug, I think what you're experiencing is fairly typical - these are not the most beautiful plants, especially growing indoors. I guess the only thing to do is keep coddling it, because that's about as good as it will ever get. At least it's giving you some fruit! I've had citrus trees that look that bad and never bear a single lemon.

Some things you can try; as these plants are from warmer climates, they need more than just a north window; they need as much sun as you can possibly give them, and if they can't have it, they'll pout.

Consider getting a grow light to supplement what natural light it gets from the window; this might entail a bit more than what I normally recommend (fluorescent tubes), both because of the size of the tree, and because of the genus.

Alternatively, you can keep it pruned back (and remove the thorns!) and even though it's kept smaller, it will still produce lemons.

If this is actually an old fashioned Meyer, it's possible that it was propagated (grafted) onto the old type of stock, which unfortunately was infected with a virus, which of course, was also propagated with each new plant.

If it's got a virus, sorry, there is not much hope for it. Toss it, and start fresh with something that is a bit smaller for one thing, and also doesn't require the maintenance of this one.

I checked in a book that has information about citrus, and there is a variety called 'Improved Meyer' which is available grafted onto a dwarf rootstock so it will stay smaller.

They also suggest that the container should be at least 18" across; in the picture, your pot is much less than that, so that might be part of the issue. They need to be watered fairly often, although they also need good aeration in the soil.

Dave's Garden Website has more about Meyer Lemons here, with lots of varying information in the comments below.

Good luck with your Meyer!

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Tiniest ants make big problem.

by Sandra Woodham
(Perth, Western Australia)

This is an ant and tomato bush in a pot question.

I recently had to dig out a shrub because it was sick. I noticed the soil in that part of the garden looked like it was being turned over underneath with tell tale evidence along the lines of white ant trails, sort of gritty turnings.

Soon after that I planted a tomato bush in a large pot nearby. I was very excited about its lush, rapid development and the first few flowers soon appeared then one morning I was shocked to see the bottom few leaves had turned yellow and gradually as each day went by more leaves began dying off. On close inspection I found the soil to have the same tell tale look so I scratched deeper and found the tiniest ants.

What can I do? I think it is too late for my tomato bush but I am concerned that this may be a bigger subterranean problem in this
section of my garden.
I look forward to your comments.

Hi Sandra, I'm an expert in ants! Around here, I have red ones, black ones, big ones, tiny ones, all kinds of ants - and they are all treated the same in my house - they get a dose of ant killer, which is a mixture of borax and something sweet - Raid puts out one that is super effective - it's liquid, so you just put a few drops on a jar lid or something similar, cover it with a can and let them have it.

The foragers take the sweet death back to the hive, and they all die within a few days to a week. Occasionally, for a really big hive, it takes a couple of attempts, and of course, you have to watch for those first few foragers.

In your situation, you can use this beside or even underneath the pot with the tomato plant in, and they will be dead in a week, and hopefully your plant will recover. Ants don't usually eat the roots, just tunnel around them.

Couple of things to keep in mind: killing the ant colony won't take care of their farm animals - aphids. If your plants have aphids placed there by the ants so they can milk the 'honeydew' from them, you will have to deal with those separately.

Ant bait is poisonous to pets and other animals - keep dogs away.

Ants are beneficial to the garden soil; as you noted, they till it to a fine tilth and they create lots of tunnels for water to drain away quickly even in a rainstorm.

They normally live in damp wood, so if your garden is somewhere near a forest or where branches have been buried during house construction, for instance, this is where they'll set up house.

Hopefully, this will get your situation under control and you'll get tons of tomatoes on the plant.


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Large spikey succulent

by Sandra Feeney
(East quogue L.I new York USA )

I have what I think is a succulent tree with spikes on the trunk about 7 feet tall with leaves at the top and the leaves grow right out of the trunk also when it breaks or a leaf falls off a thick milky sap comes out. I want to transplant but do not want to harm it it is getting to tall for my house

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Hi Sandra, I'm not sure what this plant would be, but the milky sap part concerns me. If it's Euphorbia of some kind, which this is a characteristic trait, then you must be really careful handling it. The sap is poisonous, both in contact with the skin, and in particular can cause blindness.

I probably would carefully cut off the top, rather than repot it, as repotting it will just encourage it to grow even taller. If you prune off the top, then it will bush out more.

Sorry I can't give you more information about this, but without knowing exactly what it is, it's hard to give advice.

Best of luck with your plant!

See these pages for more:


Succulent Care

Pruning Succulent Plants

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plant identification question

I have a plant that looks very much like an aloe but has smooth edges on its dark green hard leaves - grew in a menorah shape for several years but now is starting to twirl - biggest leaf is 12" long - 3" wide at base - some light green spots on leaves - at least 20 years old - just sent up a branch with 3 spikes with flowers that are chili pepper shaped and pastel pink with green tipped - not opposite more like alternate maybe an inch apart going up stems -
any ideas?

You bet I have some ideas - this is most likely some type of Gasteria, based on your description of smooth edges on the leaves.

These relatives of Aloe have some interesting characteristics, one of which is the 'Menorah' type growth habit, at least when young, and longevity.

They can withstand a considerable amount of neglect, and in fact prefer it, especially in winter, when they should be allowed to dry out completely.

They are relatively unknown, and I suspect it's this dislike of water trait that makes them a bit more challenging to grow, especially for conscientious gardeners who actually like watering; it's best to grow these separately from other similar plants that won't mind the odd drink during winter dormancy.

They do well if they routinely get water through the summer - mine do well outdoors in a sheltered sunny and dappled shade area for the summer, pretty much ignored. After a winter under grow lights, in a severely rootbound condition, they thrive.

See more about these uncommon plants here

Happy Succulent Growing!

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Tips of Leaves crispy brown

HI! I have a little hen and chick in a ceramic container. Recently the tips of the leaves turned crispy brown. Is it sunburned? It's an inside plant - on a windowsill in a south facing room. Thanks!

This looks like Sempervivum, which are actually a hardy succulent, and don't really like to be indoors. They like bright light, but they can't take much heat - they originate high on cool mountain tops where the air is thin, so they love ultraviolet light, but the light that comes through a window and is intensified by the magnifying glass effect could definitely cause this type of sunburn.

Even Echeveria, which are not hardy, won't appreciate this kind of heat effect; even though they originate in intensely hot desert conditions they can't take this kind of heat or light.

In either case, move the plant back from the window so it's not getting directly sun through the glass, or let it have a summer vacation outside.

Hope that helps,

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How am I killing the unkillable Sedum?

I apologize about the pond picture before… I’ve attached the actual pictures this time. My sedum leaves are turning yellow and red and falling off, did I over water them, or did they get too much sun? I live in Minneapolis, MN zone 4, the pants are 2 years old and this is the second year they've done this. I did cut them completely back in the Spring.

Oh, those don't look happy at all. These plants shouldn't give you any trouble at all in your zone. They're tough and reliable, and seeing them look like this is a bit puzzling.

First of all, I have no idea if they're overwatered - you will know better how often they're getting any irrigation. One thing I would question is the soil type. If they're in clay soil, or you have some kind of organic mulch, this could be the culprit.

Sedum hate moisture retentive soil or mulch. If you possibly can, start adding gravel or lava rock to the soil, and gradually start lifting them up so that they're above the soil - I would wait for the fall to do this, if it's hot where you are, this could be the death of them.

They can take full sun, so I doubt if that's the problem.

I would also cut them back. Sadly, although the flowers are desirable for the fall garden, it's very stressful for the plant. This might boost them into a new growth spurt, with some healthier foliage. What have you go to lose, right?

Hope this helps,

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Christmas cactus

by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY, U.S.)

I feel very confident that this is a Christmas Cactus. It has been doing very well. I got it 5-6 years ago from a friend and it was just one little tiny 3 segment piece, and this magnificent being is what it has developed into.

This past holiday season it flowered as well, which was awesome, it seemed to flower for a long time as well.

I was just wondering, will I need to give it a makeover and if so, at what point will I need to groom it? What would propagating it from said groomings look like?

Like I said, I'm very happy with how well this plant has done and would either love to have more, or to share it with others. Also, is it normal to plant multiple pieces in one pot, or to keep them separate? I typically plant things one piece per pot, but I am sometimes jealous of plants that I see in stores that can be much fuller.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Andrew, that's definitely a credit to your growing abilities - how satisfying to see a tiny cutting grow into a lovely plant.

Typically, you would groom these by pulling off the longest and most vigorous growths - these pull out easily, which leaves the buds for the flowers intact. They'll branch out more if you do this every year, eventually giving you the full look you're after. Alternatively, several cuttings per pot will make a faster plant. The cuttings will root easily in regular potting soil, and you can use rooting hormone for faster results if you wish. Keep in mind that these are a jungle plant or epiphyte, so they'll take a bit more water than some of the other desert plants.

See the page on Schlumbergera for more on their light requirements and how to get them to set more buds for flowering.

Happy Growing!

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Brown spots on echeveria

I bought an Echeveria 'Ruby' at my local grocery store. It was blooming when I got it but the blooms dried up quickly and have not returned. Now the leaves have acquired a number of brown spots and some of the lower leaves are turning yellowish and falling off.

Do you know what kind of Echeveria this is? I have it sitting on the window sill, so it gets some direct sunlight. I water the plant once a week. Is that too much? Too little for this plant?

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Echeveria pulvinata 'Ruby' is one of the Echeveria hybrids with velvety leaves, with tiny hairs coating every surface.

The brown spots you are seeing could possibly be a result of using cold water, or water that has been run through a water softening unit. I recommend using rain water, as this doesn't have any chemical or mineral residue that can mark the foliage of this type of succulent plant.

As the damage appears to be on the older growth, I suspect that some of it is caused by rough handling from the supplier or in transit. The new growth is free from the spots, so whatever you're doing is the right thing.

The flowering cycle is only once a year, and unfortunately, the conditions that the plant may have been in can make the flowers dry up and fall off - not to worry, next year it will bloom again.

Cold temperatures, fluctuating temperatures, low light levels and certain other factors can make these plants drop leaves to try and survive. If there are long periods of time when the plant is too wet, they will lose leaves too, and generally, they will rot in the roots and lower stem.

It sounds as though you have it in the right conditions as long as it doesn't bake in the hot sun, or get too cold at night right against the window.

In the winter, generally, they will go dormant and not require watering at all - sometimes for as long as several months. See the page on how to grow Echeveria for more information.

See also this page on Daves Garden website to see more.

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Too much dirt!

by Binesh Lodhi
(Brampton, ON)

We recently had to dig up the side of our house for repairs and I'm left with a pile of dirt in my backyard, about a foot high. I don't have a very big yard so its taking up about half of it, while the other half is completely dead grass. I want to fix up my backyard before winter starts. I'm planning to dig it up and sprinkle grass seeds all over. Can I spread this excess dirt around the yard? Or will it prevent the grass from growing? How do I get rid of this excess dirt?

In most cases when houses are built, the contractor scrapes off all the best topsoil, and sells it for a profit, then you have to buy good new topsoil to plant your lawn and gardens. The worst of the soil will be used to back fill the foundation.

You don't want this soil on top of your existing lawn. It will most likely be the type of soil that will choke the plants and prevent rainfall from percolating through it - this can be the cause of mud puddles, which isn't a good thing.

You can however most likely use this for a succulent garden, which like to be raised above the grade for drainage, so if this soil seems to be somewhat sandy or gravely, this might be an option.

Otherwise, put an ad in Kijiji or Craigslist that you have free fill, and someone might be interested in hauling it away for you.

Best of luck whatever you decide!

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Pineappley goodness

by Andrew S.
(Ithaca, NY)

I recently stumbled upon a website about growing a pineapple plant.

I have now started to attempt this.

The website that I found said to cut the top off, stick it in some water, then in a few days plant it. Other sites have said to twist the top off, because the flesh will rot and kill it, and let it sit for a few days.

Have you ever tried this in any way?

Drought Smart Plants reply:
Andrew, it's safe to say that I have no experience with this, but I'll be waiting to see what your results will be. I've heard of it, but never tried it. This will be a valuable experiment, and we will all want to know exactly how it works.

Keep us posted!

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My Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora is ill. Can you help me?

by Bela Nick
(Rio de Janeiro, Brasil)

Hi there!

First I'd like to thank you VERY, VERY much for this website, it is great!
Well, now to my problem. I have a Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora, Which I love and care about very much. This past summer (I live in Brazil, so this means end of December and January this year) I traveled away and my parents moved the Thyrsiflora to another place in the house, along with an Aeonium Haworthii Variegata and another one I thought I had identified (as an abromeitiella scapigera), but now I'm unsure (I thought it looks like a few haworthias). When I got back, my house was absolutely infested with aphids. A lot of plants were dead or dying when I got back.
About that trio, the Aeonium Haworthii was dead, infested with aphids, the a.k.a. Abromeitiella was intact (and is still doing very well), but what happened to the Thrysiflora was weird. It had absolutely no aphid in it. I transplanted it to a vase a bit larger, and there were none on the soil either, but the leaves had their edges brown and dry, and it had very few bloom (the white powder).
When I got home and found her like that I was worried, so I transplanted to see if there were aphids on the soil (as it happened with several other plants), and brought it back to it's original spot. This was about 2 months ago. The edges are still brown, and I want to know what caused that.
Yesterday I went to check it and noticed it was leaning. I am afraid the roots could be rotted, but right now I went to check it again and it just rained a lot, and the leaves that were all pending have straightened up! They turned upward.
So now I am not sure how to deal with it, because if the brownish/dry edges are signs of any disease, I don't want to let it pass unnoticed because of the good sign of the leaves. Can you help me?

I'm really sorry about the huge e-mail! I'm awful at being concise!

Bela Nick

Drought Smart Plants reply: first of all Bela, thank your for all the detail, this helps me come up with some advice for you (thank you also for the nice comment about the site!)

For the edges of the leaves, there is nothing that can be done about that, as these are adult leaves and have finished growing. It could be caused by being too cold, such as if it was near an air conditioner perhaps?

It certainly does look sad. I don't know if it's possible to salvage a plant that is this far gone, but it's worth a try.

My only suggestion would be to try and get a cutting, with as much non-damaged parts as possible, and re-root it. Don't water it! Just set it on the top of some dry potting soil, and see what happens. The roots will hopefully emerge in a few weeks, and then you can carefully put it into the potting soil, and water it with lukewarm water, only a small amount.

If there are bacteria or fungi in the soil of the main plant, you're safer to just get it outside so it can't spread, if this is what caused the problem.

The fact that the drooping leaves have now turned upwards indicates that it's in distress but there is hope for it - it's a fighter!

Good luck with your plant!

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Succulent not doing so well


note holes in leaves and a

note holes in leaves and a

Tall woody stem with offshoots of roots above soil, seems to need a lot of direct light. Beautifull green and purple waxy thick leaves in a rosetta shaped top. I have nursed this plant from worse condition then now and have seen it absolutly gloriouse but have moved and it has not liked the new conditions. I want to know everything I can about caring for this plant. How large of a pot, type of soil, how often to water, and artificial lighting tips as I only have a north facing window that this guy fits in and the light is really dim. The plant is around four feet and the top is probably a foot plus. It has trippled in size since I got it three years ago. I think it is an Aeonium Arboreum but do not know for sure and would like to. Help me bring my baby back to life!

Drought Smart Plants reply:

If this is an Aeonium, it will indeed need bright light - they originate in the Canary Islands and Tenerife, which are very tropical.

Their usual season consists of a warm spring with lots of rain, then a hot dry summer when they go into a dormant period, followed by a warm wet autumn.

They don't experience any frost, so have not adapted to cold at all.

I'm a big fan of Aeonium, but when they reach these kinds of proportions, that's a bit much, especially for a house plant.

Here's what I recommend: Chop the top rosette off, yes, you heard - behead it. Leave the rosette on the top of some DRY soil. In a few weeks, it will grow roots and form a brand new plant, much more compact and beautiful.

Don't throw out the stem - not yet anyway. If you stop watering it, and just ignore it for a while, you'll see tiny sprouts emerge.

Each one of these will turn into a new rosette. You wanted lots, didn't you? You'll get them.

However, this plant needs way more light than what it's getting to prevent it from getting the huge long gangly stem.

Also, something you should know is that once it blooms, that particular rosette will die, so you need some smaller ones to take its place.

Buy my Succulent Plant Propagation E-Book for more useful tips.

See this page for another Aeonium story:
What is this plant in our new home?.

Make sure you look at these pages too:

Succulent Care

Succulent Soil

Succulent Plant Propagation

Grow Lights

Happy Succulent Gardening!

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succulent, top got broken off

by ashley
(el dorado kansas)

It was about 8 inches tall, I recently dropped it and broke most of it off (hoping it survives); it has really thick leaves, some parts were up to 1/2 inch thick. fuzz covers the whole plant.

Hi Ashley, luckily, most succulents can withstand this type of damage, and easily recover.

However, it means that you have to give it exactly the right treatment for it to survive.

If you kept the top part, you can make that into a cutting, and it will grow into a whole new plant.

Let it dry out, yes, I'm not kidding, it has to dry out and callous, so it doesn't rot.

Succulents have an amazing ability to compartmentalize damage, and survive and root in spite of it.

For the bottom part; patience! It will sprout out new growth from the dormant buds that are in the axil of every leave, and you'll get a nice bushy plant.

Just water as normally, and repot it if you like, because that pot will be much too small once the new growth starts.

I recommend terracotta pots because they're heavier than plastic and stay upright even if the plant gets top heavy.

My best guess on the identity of this plant is that it's a member of the Kalanchoe but with only three leaves to go on, it's impossible to tell you more.

Hope that helps,

Still need more? Buy the e-book:

Learn how to root your own succulents:

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Echeveria plant leaves look soft and limp

by Serene Lee


I live in tropical Singapore where it is hot and humid.

I bought a Echeveria, not sure its name, looks like a rose.

It is planted in a plastic pot. I put it in my bedroom near the window.

After 2 days, the leaves are becoming soft and limp.

I put a saucer of water under the pot. It seems the plant isn't taking in water at all. I'm desperate.

Hi Serene, first of all; get the plant out of the water!

Generally, Echeveria will go soft as you describe because of too much water.

In your climate, with it being humid, there is a good chance that it's pretty much doomed already, because it will never dry out enough.

In fact, what I would recommend is that you take the plant right out of the pot, soil and all, and set it onto some newspaper or paper towel, without the pot, and don't water it for at least two weeks.

If the problem is too much water, this might give it a chance.

Succulent plants in general cannot take too much water; they're drought resistant, which means that they can take little or no water, but don't have the ability to soak it up or otherwise get rid of it.

Forget everything you ever learned about jungle type plants as house plants; succulents are a much different type of plant.

Be patient, and hopefully it will recover.
Best of luck,

See more here about succulent care in general and how to grow Echeveria in particular.

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