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January 17, 2017

Kalanchoe bloomsEmily: Is a Kalanchoe a houseplant?

Dear Emily: Is a Kalanchoe a houseplant or an outside plant?

A: That depends on where you live. There is no such thing as a 'real' houseplant. Every plant lives naturally and normally somewhere on this planet. A Kalanchoe is native to subtropical and tropical Africa and Madagascar, and scattering species in Asia. So in these parts of the world they do grow outdoors as a perennial succulent., climbers and sometimes shrubs. However, in cooler zones one can grow this plant as a houseplant and summer outside 'til just about frost.

Kalanchoes requires good bright light if not full sun and not the best of soil nor fertilizing.

Growing them in clay pots and simulating their native habitat makes for a nice 'houseplant'.

November 22, 2015

Emily: My Christmas cactus always flowered for my mother-in-law. Why not for me?

Christmas CactusDear Emily: I have a question about my Christmas cactus. I have had the plant for over a year and my mother in law had the plant for a while before me. It always flowered for her, and It hasn't flowered once while I've had it. What am I doing wrong?

A: The soil must be kept moist during the growing season, but somewhat dry when the plant is resting. Full sunlight and and average room temperatures are recommended. Short days are required to induce blooming. On September 1, the plant should have total darkness from 6:00 pm to 8:00 am until buds form. Or, if the plant is in a cool room (I have read 53 degrees or also I have read below 68 degrees but above 42 degrees) from mid-September to mid-October, flowers will be produced regardless of the day length.

More about Christmas cactus.

Lucky BambooSeptember 19, 2016

Emily: Can I grow my lucky bamboo in dirt?

Dear Emily: Greetings from the beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados. I have a question about lucky bamboo. Can it be grown in soil? If so, what kind of soil? Will the plant do better in soil or water?

A: The lucky bamboo, you might know, is not even a bamboo. It is a Dracaena sanderiana which we used to grow in soil in pots back in the 1970s. The way it is cut and sold as lucky bamboo, it seems to do much better directly in water, but it can be grown in very moist soil.

It is probably native to a tropical area where it is a rainforest plant in soil getting lots of moisture.

July 23, 2016

Hornworm photo submitted by Marlene PollockEmily: Have you ever seen a tomato worm at work? It's scary!

(A north Florida gardener)

A: Rodale's Garden Problem Solver says that the best control strategy is to hand pick them early. They say you can also us Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) spray, or if the infestation gets out of hand, a pyrethrum spray.

Hand pick is best. Then eat them with a little olive oil.

June 23, 2016

Emily: Kudzu is taking over our subdivision!!

Kudzu HouseDear Emily: We are about to have a house built on a lot in a nice subdivision in Alabama, but our lot is now covered in Kudzu (we bought it two January's ago and the Kudzu was dormant of course). Some of our neighbors seem to be keeping a garden of Kudzu.

I am looking for a way to eradicate it from our lot but really hate the thought of 4-10 years of chemicals like I've read on a couple other sites. I wonder, since your site mentions animals grazing will eventually kill it off, could I just keep digging roots and cutting off vines?

A: You probably have a contract with the builder, so moving is out of the question.

Everything you say is correct. The roots go deep and it is a fast grower and will spread quickly.

Even the "Southern Living Garden Problem Solver" says to graze cattle on the kudzu.

Montana looks better all the time.

April 26, 2016


Emily: Does dogfennel repel mosquitos?

Dear Emily: Dogfennel is reputed to be a mosquito repellant here in Florida.

A: Maybe that's why The Universe puts so much of it there.

March 22, 2015

EmilyEmily: Slugs are everywhere!

Dear Emily: Slugs are everywhere. How do I get rid of them?

A: Slugs really do damage plants, especially the leaves. Hand pick the larger ones loose in the evening. Many commercial products will do the trick (for instance dicamateous soil). You may have to switch bait to keep them from getting immune.

The beer bait works. If you will put some beer in a tuna can (or mayonnaise jar top) and set it next to the plant in the evening, in the morning the dead slugs will be floating in it.

February 22, 2016

CaladiumEmily: Will My Caladiums Come Back?

Dear Emily: Are caladiums perennial or do they not come back each year - do you need to take them up in the fall?

A: Caladiums are bulbs. In zones 10 and higher they may winter over in the ground and return each summer season when the ground is well heated up. For lower zones (cooler zones) they need to be taken up for the winter, although it is borderline for zones 8 and sometimes 7. They should be dug stored in a dry cool place no lower than 50 degrees and then replanted in the early spring late fall.

February 08, 2016

Emily: So What Is Composting, Anyway?

Compost BinDear Emily: What's the big deal about composting?

A: Composting is the key to any successful garden. Mother nature has been composting since the beginning of time. But man has not been able to wait on her time schedule. It takes her 100 - 150 years for a single inch of topsoil to be created. Worms can decrease that to one inch a year, but sometimes we are anxious and need to take matters into our own hands. (read all about it)

January 20, 2016

Emily: My Elephant Ear Got Hit by the Cold.

Hit by coldDear Emily: My elephant ear got hit by the recent cold. Will it come back?

A: Even in zone 8 in South Carolina we left our Elephant Ear out for the winter. However, it was in direct sun and a good microclimate. Any freeze will cause the plant to get mushy and the leaves will die. This even happened in Northern Florida when the temperatures would get below freezing just for a few hours at night.

The good news is, that if the freeze did not cause the root ball or bulb to get mushy, the plant will probably come back in the next few weeks.

January 05, 2016

Emily: What are these scabs on my plant leaves?

Scale on ScheffleraDear Emily: My plant has developed white scab-like things on the bottom of the leaves. What are they?

A: Scale infestations have the leaves looking like they have scabs on the leaf. The scale can be white or brown and is actually a crawling insect that has found a happy home.

Scale is difficult to get rid of. Use a cotton ball or paper towel or a towel with either rubbing alcohol or Neem oil. We have actually used an old toothbrush to scrape off the scale. Be sure to hold the leave in one hand while rubbing to protect it as much as possible. (Read more)

December 22, 2015

Emily: What do I do with my Christmas Amaryllis?

Amaryllis - afterDear Emily: Please tell me how to store my Amaryllis bulb until summer and how to get it started again.

A: After you have force bloomed it for Christmas let the bloom normally die back then cut the stem(s) near the top of the bulb. Do not water and let the bulb go dormant. You can summer outside for larger bulb growth.

The "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants" says that bulbs that have been forced into bloom should be planted in the garden once spring arrives or allowed to go dormant in their pots and then planted out in autumn. They will not force well again.

Do not water for at least two months during dormancy.

To try to get them started again, just follow the instructions that you bought with them again starting in, say, mid-October or go to our Amaryllis page.

November 23, 2015

Clay pot with white salt build upEmily: My clay pots are white!

Dear Emily: I have recently planted some houseplants into clay pots. After watering them a couple of times all of the clay pots have a white powdery substance on the outside of them. What does this come from?

A: The white you see is salt build up from the watering. No real problem. Just wipe it off or wash it off. One does not want to let it get too thick and crusty. (more clay pots)

November 01, 2015

Emily: How poisonous is my datura?

Double Purple Datura by Freida WrightDear Emily: Would you tell me what kind of reaction one has when exposed to the datura plant if its so poisonous?

A: Datura contains toxic alkaloids hyoscyamine, atropine, and acopolamine, which make up about 0.3 peer cent of the dry weight of the plant. All parts of the plant, particularity the seeds , are poisonous. Children have been poisoned by eating the fruit or sucking the flowers. It has been called a "cow-killer."

Reaction??? Constriction.

Cats and dogs have a 6th sense to stay away from the plants. Adults should be know better, but children are hard to capture in a garden. So........ being responsible in planting this plant is always recommended.

Amy Stewart has an entire chapter devoted to this plant in her book, "Wicked Plants."

October 20, 2015

EmilyEmily: My Iguana is eating my snake plant.

Dear Emily: I was wondering will snake plants harm my iguana if he eats it ?

A: We do get a lot of poison plant questions.

Here are our favorite websites for poison plants:
http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/index.html http://www.vth.colostate.edu/poisonous_plants/report/search.cfm

ProFlowers has an excellent list of 199 Poisonous Plants here.

As for the iguana, I'm afraid you will have to go to www.EmiliGuana.com

September 23, 2015

Emily: How do I kill it?

Campsis GrandifloraDear Emily: I have a trumpet vine that is out of control. There are new root systems and it is taking over the yard. I have tried to trim it, cut it back and even kill it. It cannot be controlled. I have trumpet vines coming up 20 feet away from the original plant. Is there anyway to kill or get rid of this plant?

A: (sigh) Why do people write and ask us how to kill a plant?

You could let it take over the yard. It's probably very pretty.

Or, you could move.

Just kidding. Out-of-control plants can take all of the fun out of gardening.

I would have said just keep pruning it and cutting it back. Then, dig up the roots and keep pulling up the root system until you get it all. However, you sound like you have already tried this.

Something like Roundup will kill it (and anything else around) so try to use it sparingly.

August 23, 2015

RoseEmily: My rosebuds are malformed!

Dear Emily: My roses seem to be doing well, the leaves are a good color and I am spraying for pests. When they bloom, the blooms are malformed, the buds almost resemble peonies with the round appearance. Any ideas?

A: Rose buds that are malformed may be afflicted with thrips. These are very active tiny, slender. brownish yellow, winged insects that hide in the base of infected flowers. Thrips are very fond of light colored roses. Your best bet is to cut off and dispose of spent blooms and you can use an insecticidal soap or a stronger insecticide that will contain acephate. Apply according to the instructions on the side of the container.

April 27, 2015

Sweet Golden RodEmily: Is ragweed the same as goldenrod?

Dear Emily: In Minnesota we have identified an allergy to rag weed. Is that the same plant as golden rod??

A: No.

Common ragweed is Ambrosia artemisiifolia or some other species of Ambrosia (the daisy or aster family, ASTERACEAE). This is the cause of much allergy and hay fever.

Goldenrod has a much more pronounced yellow flower (see photo) and could be any number of species of Solidago. (Also in the daisy or aster family, though).

April 10, 2015

Morning GloryEmily: Is the potato plant poisonous? What gives!

Dear Emily: I recently purchased what I was told was a Potato Vine. Afterwards I read that the wilted leaves of the Potato bush or Vine are "deadly poisonous". Is it poisonous? I have a 2 year old and do not want a poisonous plant around.

A: Unfortunately, parts of many plants are poisonous. The Morning Glory is poisonous.

The Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie' or Sweet Potato Vine is sometimes called Morning Glory. All the plants that I have seen called the Morning Glory are in the Ipomoea species.

March 30, 2015

Photo by Bill Fine of CaliforniaEmily: My sago plants are dying!

Dear Emily: I am wondering if you are able to take a look at a few photos of 3 sago palms that I think are dying. They are located in the San Diego area about 3 miles east of the ocean. The soil is terrible, sandy, clay, grayish stuff. The plants were planted about 20 months ago and are starting to turn yellow and brown. They have never been fertilized. We had a very wet winter and perhaps they got too much water.

A: A condition called frizzle top is probably the most common problem. This is a manganese deficiency causing the new leaves or upper leaves to turn yellow. This will start as spots and eventually the entire leaf is covered. There is a way to correct this. Spray the leaves with manganese sulfate.

Once a month for three months mix one teaspoon of manganese sulfate per gallon of water. You can also apply one to five pounds (gauging with the size of the plant) of manganese to the soil in the springtime to correct or prevent the problem.

Very common for this plant. In soils that are high pH soils and very acid sandy soils will have this deficiency. (those are juniper type shrubs around the sago in the photo - they love acidic soil.)

Other than that you can get a palm fertilizer and fertilize the sago four times a year during the growing season.

The yellowing and browning leaves can be removed from the plant with no harm to the mother plant.

February 04, 2013

Emily: Do I have to repot in clay pots?

Starfish FlowerDear Emily: I have three starfish plants and I want to repot them because they are so large now. I got them from my mother-in-law, and I need to know if these need a sand/potting soil mixture, or what. Do I "have" to put them in clay pots?? I have way too many plastic pots and would like to use them if I can.

A: Yes you can use plastic pots for the starfish, but be very careful not to over water, since these are succulents they like to be more on the dry side. Plastic tends to keep moisture and wetness in longer. I would use a good potting mixture that is sterile and more on the sand side, or add sand to what you have.

I know everyone is tempted to use just outside "dirt" and once in a while I get lazy and do the same, but this is not sterile and sometimes fungus and bacteria can do your plant in.

I am glad you are enjoying your starfish. I love mine !! And they do grow fast !!

I enjoy the bloom but must admit it is rather stinky.

November 26, 2012

Desert RoseEmily: We moved it into the cold.

Dear Emily: We purchased a Desert Rose plant while on vacation in Florida. We brought it home to Tennessee and re-planted it. Now its leaves are tuning yellow and falling off. It is outside in morning sun and afternoon partial sun. What do we do to keep it from dying??

A: One of our favorite plants. We have it in a pot and bring it in, in the winter. In other words we treat it as a houseplant in SC and in northern FL where it is now. I doubt if it will over winter in Tennessee in the ground.

It may be losing its leaves because of the stress of the move or the stress of replanting it. Many plants do this. Ours does when we move it indoors in the fall or out in the spring.

It also could have too much water. This is a succulent plant and I water it once a month in the winter and about once a week or two weeks in the summer. Well drained, of course. Sitting in water could rot the roots,

Do not give up on this plant. Ours has lost most of its leaves (by turning yellow and falling off) before and has come back.

April 23, 2012

Deer Photo by Ed UtzEmily: The deer ate all of my hawthorns as candy!

Dear Emily: I live in Florida and I'm limited to what I can have in my garden. We have many deer and they ate all of my hawthorns as candy. I'm running out of ideas. What can I plant that deer don't like.....HELP!!!

A: Deer like almost anything, but here is a web site that I found that has dear resistant plant lists. http://www.deerxlandscape.com/

There was also a list in Rodale's "Landscape Problem Solver" and a list in the "Southern Living Gardening Guide".

Many of the landscape and problem books had other suggestions: deer repellent, moth balls sprinkled around the yard, hot peppers sprinkled around (which we have used very successfully but you need a lot of pepper and it will not survive rains), soap on strings hanging from trees, fences (tall or multiple).

When we lived in South Carolina backing up to woods the deer had lots to eat in the woods so only ate our expensive hosta plants which I protected with ground up hot peppers. The fence around our yard (which was not put up to deter deer) was five feet tall and the deer treated it like it was not there.

January 31, 2011


Emily: What do I do with my Christmas Paperwhites?

Dear Emily: Can I save my paperwhites to rebloom in the summer?

A: Paperwhites generally do not re-bloom, and my advice is to discard them. One can try planting them in the flowerbed - but do not be disappointed if they do not produce future blooms. The bulb has "spent" itself on the initial forcing, which takes a lot of energy.

Emily: Dandelions are attacking my daffodils!

Dear Emily: Bunches of these dandelions are attacking the wild daffodils, they won't stop & they don't just come droves, they come in groups, not droves, groups! What the heck do I need to do to destroy them for good?

A: We usually let overlapping plants fight it out. Whichever wins, we plant more of it. We get lot stronger plants that way.

Ok, that may not be that helpful.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) probably arrived in the US in colonial times for its edible greens (if collected early in the spring they are not so bitter) and for its flowers which were used to make dandelion wine. Since then, we have progressed to white zinfandel. The dandelion is a perennial that reproduces by seed and from pieces of taproot.

The best method to get rid of them is to pick them in the spring before they generate much of a tap root. If you leave even a small part of the taproot, it will come back.

According to the "Southern Living Garden Problem Solver", you should maintain a year round mulch to prevent the seeds from germinating. They suggest, for chemical control, "a selective post emergence herbicide like Weed-B-Gone or Weed-Stop." Of course, be careful with herbicides around the dafs.

Emily: My leaves are turning yellow!

Dear Emily: My climbing rose (Coral Dawn) that I planted last summer is doing really well. Only problem I notice is that the leaves on the branches are turning yellow and dropping (proceeding from the lower branches). Is this a nutrient problem or a pH balance problem?

A: Could be insects. Check the undersides of the leaves and see if there are little pin-point type bugs moving around. Could be spider mites. If so (or if it is any other insect) your first line of defense is to spray with insecticidal soap. Buy at your garden shop (Safer makes one brand) or make your own. I usually spray every day or two for a week or so.

Yellow leaves with brown spots is probably Black Spot, the number on rose disease. Remove all infected leaves on the plant and on the ground. (Toss in garbage) Don't get the leaves wet when watering. Spray the infected rose with a fungicide such as triforine (Funginex) or other fungicide you can get at a garden shop. This is most prevalent during hot, humid or wet weather.

Emily: Black Spot. What do I do?

Dear Emily: I have trouble with black spot on my roses. I have a couple of climbers and a bush rose. All have black spot. I removed the diseased leaves and doused all the rest with a powdery spray. I also sprayed the powder on the ground surrounding each bush. We also have a liquid black spot treatment chemical that I haven't yet used.

Is there anything that can be done preventively to avoid it? What causes it to begin with? Whatever it is, it thrives in this environment.

Any words of wisdom would be appreciated.

A: Everyone is affected by black spot....... Sooner or later, but there is help.........
Caused by a fungus
Too much rain
Overhead watering
Ground splashing upward
A fungicide will help

Pick off all affected leaves and bag and throw in trash
A solution of baking soda and water will help.
Does not generally kill the rose plant

Plant native roses or disease resistant roses like ' Bonica', 'Carefree Beauty', 'Flower Carpet', 'Dr W.Van Fleet', or' Mrs. B. R. Cant'. There is also one called 'Nearly Wild' which blooms all summer and quite disease resistant !!

It is the number one rose disease that starts in the fall
Make sure roses have good circulation
Spray dormant plants with lime sulphur
Replace mulch every spring
Spray susceptible roses with triforine ( Funginex), myclobutanil (Immunox), azadirachtin (Neem-MY FAVORITE ) or chlorothalonil (Daconil-if still on the market ) .

There you have it in a nut shell.........
You may have to do more than one application.