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Guide to Growing Satin Grass

Written by Stephanie on January 20th, 2017

Satin Grass (Sisyrinchium striatum) is from Chile and Argentine.  It is also called Spring Bell or Yellow-eyed grass. This perennial is an erect plant growing to about one foot tall.  The foliage is long and sword like.  The creamy yellow flowers are arranged in closely placed spikes of nine to twelve blossoms. They occur in early summer. There is a version with variegated leaves, too.

This member of the Iris family grows in zones five to nine.  It gets up to two feet tall and will spread out up to two feet.  It blooms May to June.  After the blooms are gone, the leaves may turn yellow.  Cut the leaves down to six inches tall and they will grow again and keep a tidy appearance for the rest of the growing season.

Satin grass needs to be in a sunny, rich, well drained soil.  To make sure the drainage is good and satin grass gets all the nutrients it needs, till the new flower bed to a depth of six inches.  Spread three inches of compost over the tilled soil.  Till the compost into the soil so it is well mixed.  Now you can plant the satin grass in the tilled soil.  Each satin grass clump should be planted two feet from its neighbors.

Satin grass requires consistently moist soil.  However, if the soil is soggy, the roots will rot.  Water weekly to prevent the roots from rotting due to over watering, yet keep the soil moist.  Once the satin grass is well rooted, it is somewhat drought tolerant.

Satin grass will spread over time by creeping root stalks.  It may also self seed, forming black seed pods.  Cut the plant stalk off before the seed heads form to keep it from self seeding.

To propagate satin grass, you can sow seeds in a cold frame in the autumn or in early spring.  You will need to transplant them into their regular beds after all danger of frost has passed.

If you all ready have satin grass, you can propagate it by digging it up after it blooms and dividing it.  Cut the foot stalks into two inch pieces and make sure each piece of root has at least one bunch of leaves on it. You can then replant the satin grass, making sure that each piece is two feet or more from any other piece.

Satin grass is vulnerable to aphids, spider mites, and rust.  It is deer and rabbit tolerant.

Rust is a general term for a large group of fungi that infect plants.  One of the conditions that contributes to rust is overcrowding.  If you divide your satin grass when it gets crowded, you can prevent rust altogether.  However, if your satin grass does develop rust, apply a fungicide containing copper.

Aphids and spider mites can be eliminated by using Neem oil on your plants.  Make sure you get both the top and underside of the leaves when spraying the plant.  Always follow label directions.

 

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Tips for Growing Lavender Cotton

Written by Stephanie on January 15th, 2017

Lavender Cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is native to Western and Central Mediterranean. It is also known as Gray Santolina, Holy Herb, Ground Cypress, or Petite Cypress. It is a bushy, aromatic, evergreen shrub.  Lavender cotton leaves are crowded, narrow, and indented with comb-like teeth.  The leaves are grey-green or silvery.  The flower heads are globular, long-staked, yellow, and about one half inch across. The shrub grows to one to two feet tall and spreads from two to three feet wide.  It grows in zones six to nine.

Lavender cotton is most often planted for its aromatic foliage.  Lavender cotton is also used for sunny banks, borders, flowerbeds, and to make short hedges. It blooms from mid-summer to early autumn.  Lavender cotton is often used as an insecticide and moth repellent in its native range.  It can also be used in potpourris.

This shrub needs to be watered the first year it is grown so the roots can develop.  After that, it is very drought resistant.  Lavender cotton does not like much moisture.  It needs to be planted in rocky or sandy soil that drains quickly or it will get root rot. In humid weather, it gets fungal diseases and the center tends to open up.

To plant lavender cotton, simply dig a hole in rocky or sandy soil that is a little larger in diameter than the root ball.  Place the shrub in to the hole, making sure the roots are spread out.  Fill in the hole, making sure that the trunk of the shrub is even with the level it had been planted at in the nursery.  Fill in the hole and water well.

Because it is an evergreen shrub, it provides winter interest.  In colder climates, it can be grown as an annual.  In warmer climates, it can be sheared back to the ground in early spring.  Lavender cotton will grow back the next spring.  It may not produce flowers if sheared back every year. Deadhead flowers as soon as they fade.

This plant is deer resistant.  It is often used as a short hedge around herb gardens.  It used to be brewed in a tonic that was drunk to eliminate intestinal worms.

Lavender cotton is propagated by rooting semi-ripe cuttings.  These should be dipped in rooting hormone and planted in a well drained pot.  Provide bottom heat to help them root.  Water weekly until the shrubs are ready to be planted.  Once the shrubs are planted, water one inch a week for the first year, until the roots are well established.  The shrub will only need to be watered during a drought after that.

This shrub is not long lived and may need to be replaced after five years or so.  However, since it is so easy to care for, replanting should not be a problem.  Seeds can be spread in a cold frame in late winter and then transferred to the landscape after the frosts have stopped, or you can plant the shrubs.

 

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How to Grow Salvia

Written by Stephanie on December 30th, 2016

Salvia (Salvia splendens) is also known as Scarlett Sage. This plant has green leaves and striking red flowers on tall stalks.  Salvia is very fragrant.  This native of Brazil does self seed some, but not enough to cause a problem.  Salvia is considered non-invasive.  It is deer resistant and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Salvia is a perennial in zones ten and eleven, but is treated as an annual in cooler climates.

Salvia grows to between one and two feet high.  It spreads from nine inches to fifteen inches.  It blooms from mid-summer to mid-fall.  In addition to the red color that the species plant grows, the flowers on hybrids come in a variety of colors from white to red.

Salvia needs to be in full sun in cool climates.  In hot climates it appreciates some shade during the heat of day.

Salvia needs well-drained soil.  Before planting salvia, till the earth down to a depth of six inches.  Spread three inches of compost on the tilled soil, then till the compost into the soil.  This will leave you with the fertile, well-drained soil salvia requires.  Salvia is not picky about the soil pH, growing in moderately acid, neutral, or alkaline soils.

Salvia should be watered often enough to keep the soil moist but not often enough to leave it soggy.  It does not like soggy soil and can get root rot if kept too wet.

This plant should be propagated by seed.  About eight weeks before the last frost, start salvia by seed indoors.  Sow the seed over the tray, but do not cover the seeds.  They need light to germinate.  It takes about fourteen days for the seeds to germinate.  The tray they are planted in needs to be warmed from below to between sixty-five to seventy degrees F.  When the plants have two true leaves, replant them in three inch peat pots.  You can transplant them after all danger of frost has passed.

Salvia is most attractive when planted in mass plantings mixed in with other annuals.  It can be used as an edging plant.  Salvia also makes a beautiful cut flower.

Salvias will drop their flowers and leave a ragged spike behind.  When this happens, cut the plant back.  It will emerge again refreshed and ready to grow more flowers.

Slugs and snails love salvia.  The best way to combat them is to use iron phosphate based bait such as Escar-go or Sluggo.  These products are not as toxic to pets and children than the old copper based poison.

Some varieties of salvia and their characteristics:

‘Salsa’ series: 1.5′ tall plants which retain their compact growth habit all summer. Flowers in shades of red, purple, pink and white. Bicolors are also available, with red, rose or salmon colored flowers with white tips.

‘Firecracker’ Series: Dwarf, compact. Flower colors include blue, orange, white, pink and bicolors. Blooms continuously.

‘Sizzler’ series: wide variety of flower colors in bright and pastel shades of pink, red, maroon, purple and white. A salmon and white bicolor is also available.

‘Bonfire’ series: bright red flowers on 2’+ tall plants. Flowers late into the season.

‘Red Arrow’: early blooming 1’ tall plants with spikes of large, brilliant red flowers.

 

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Guide to Growing Statice

Written by Stephanie on December 25th, 2016

Statice (Limonium sinuatum) is also called sea lavender.  It is native in the eastern and southern Mediterranean regions.  While technically a perennial, statice is usually grown as a half hardy annual.  It has winged stems and grows to about sixteen to twenty-four inches.  The leaves are deeply lobed and waxed at the margins.  Flowers come in white, yellow, blue, or red.  They have a papery-texture and occur in comb like clusters.  Individual flowers are tubular and tiny.  Flowers occur in the summer and early autumn.  This plant is often cut and dried so that it can be used in winter flower arrangements.

Statice spreads from nine inches to fifteen inches.  It requires full sun to do well.  Once established, it prefers warm and slightly dry soil.  It will suffer root rot if the soil is not well drained.  One way to help the drainage in your soil is to add organic matter such as compost.  Till the area you are going to plant statice to a depth of six inches.  Cover that with three inches of compost.  Till the compost in well and it will soak up excess water in the soil and then release it gradually as the soil dries out.

Statice is deer resistant and is not invasive or aggressive.  It is propagated from seed.  Sow seed in the prepared flower bed after all danger of frost has passed.  It requires dark to germinate so cover it well with soil.  It germinates in fourteen to twenty-one days.

Statice may also be started indoors eight to ten weeks before the last frost of the season.  Keep the soil at a temperature of 70 degrees while it germinates. Keep the trays or pots in complete darkness until the majority of the seeds have germinated.  You can then remove the cover and place the tray or pots in a sunny location. Thin and transplant the seedlings to pots when the first true leaves have appeared.  You can transplant the plants outside after the last frost.  Remember to space them at least fifteen inches apart so they can spread without crowding one another.  Statice is vulnerable to a variety of fungus so there needs to be plenty of room for air to circulate to prevent the various fungi from getting started.  Water the base of the plant when you do water so you do not get the flowers or leaves wet.

Maintenance of statice is fairly easy.  Pinch back the plants for a bushier plant.  Do not over water.  Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 in mid-August.

Too dry statice, cut them with a stem of twelve to fifteen inches.  Cut them when three fourths of the bracts are open.  The rest of the bracts will open while drying.  Hang the statice upside down in a dark room with good air circulation.  In a week to ten days, you will have dry flowers.  If you keep them out of the direct sun, the colors will remain pretty for years.

 

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How to Grow Strawberry Geranium

Written by Stephanie on December 20th, 2016

Strawberry geranium (Saxifraga stolonifera) is also called Mother of Thousands.  Like its common name, strawberry geraniums put out thin training runners with new plants on them.  However, the strawberry geranium is not related to strawberries or geraniums.  It is from China, south Korea, and Japan.  The strawberry geranium has round, marbled leaves.  The leaves are piled on each other.   The flowers are on tall stalks and bloom in from May to June.  They are white.  This plant is used primarily for its foliage in hanging baskets, indoor in pots, or in a greenhouse.  It also makes an excellent ground cover where hardy over winter. It does not tolerate frost.

Strawberry geraniums grow to be six to eighteen inches tall.  They spread one to two feet.  They need light shade to partial shade to grow well.  Strawberry geraniums need moist soil but cannot tolerate soggy soil without developing root rot.  The soil should be rich in organic matter.  If your soil is not like that, you can add organic matter to it.  Simply till the flower bed where you are going to plant strawberry geraniums to a depth of six inches.  Spread three inches of compost on the tilled area and till it in good.  Now you have a place that is rich in organic matter and is ready to be planted with strawberry geraniums.  Strawberry geraniums should be fertilized each month with half strength liquid soluble fertilizer.

To propagate the strawberry geraniums, just clip one of the plantlets that have grown from the mother plant.  Transplant the plantlet to another pot.  It will continue to grow and to develop roots.

If you are growing your strawberry geraniums in the house, you will need to create a high humidity spot around your plants.  Fill a saucer that is one size up from the one your plant is in with pebbles. Fill that saucer with water.  Place your plant’s pot on top of the pebbles.  Make sure the water in the saucer does not reach the plant.  As the water from the pebble filled saucer evaporates, it will create a high humidity microclimate around your geranium.  Check the water level in the pebble filled saucer and make sure to keep it at the right level.

Strawberry geraniums may have trouble with slugs, aphids, and spider mites. Root rot may occur if the soil is soggy.  Slugs can be dispatched with bait.  Use the newer iron phosphorous bait to kill them.  It is sold under the name Escar Go  or Sluggo.  This bait is not as dangerous to kids or pets as the old copper baits.

Neem oil will kill aphids.  Follow the directions on the label and spray the leaves with the neem oil.  Make sure you get the undersides of the leaves and stems will need to be sprayed.  You may have to re-apply the neem oil if the aphids persist.

Spider mites are also killed by neem oil.  All of the same cautions apply when trying to kill spider mites as did for aphids.  Follow the label’s instructions so you are able to eliminate the spider mites without eliminating you or your pets.

 

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