It is tomato plant time down here

It is after March 1st and the 15 day forecast has no night time temperatures below 50′. That means it should be safe for the tomato plants to be planted outside. It is a good thing too, they were climbing out of their pots.

I have some Mother-in-Law Tongues that were a bit frost damaged. I trimmed off the damaged leaves today. I also moved them to a drier location. They want only slightly more water than do cactus plants. I now have them in a location that is both shady and dry. They are probably my best hope of getting anything to grow there. Time will tell. You can see them on the right side of the webcam image.

Arrowhead Vine ( Syngonium podophyllum )

Arrowhead vine is an unusual plant. It has green leaves with slightly pink coloring on the top. The leaves begin arrow shaped and it has one leaf per stem in a rosette form. Later it will change in to a vine. When it does the leaves will change to a different shape with three to five finger like sections.

This one is growing well in a stained glass south facing window.

It prefers moist soil so water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Water with warm water or keep the water off the leaves, they will spot if the water is too cold.

It is invasive in bogs and wet areas in the warm parts of the US so keep it as an indoor plant.

Southern Living rated it as one of the ten easiest to grow house plants.

Spots that appear in the middle of the leaf with brown centers and yellow rings are bacterial leaf spot. Remove all infected leaves taking care not to spread the bacteria to other parts of the plant. Keep water off the leaves and make sure the plant has some air movement around it.

Watch for mealy bugs.

Nuccio’s Gem Camellia ( Camellia japonica )

Camellia’s generally bloom in the late winter to early spring down here.

They are evergreen, and grow to between 2′-20′ depending on which one you have and the growing conditions. This one should reach 10′. It’s been 10 years and it’s still about the same size it was when I planted it.

They prefer partial shade. This one is planted in a mostly sunny location out front.

Camellias prefer acidic soils and lots of water, but Camellias will not grow in wet or bog like conditions. I find they survive droughts just fine as long as they have been in the ground more than a year, because they like acidic soil and do not need much sun they grow well under pine trees.

They are extremely slow growing so it may take a few years before they are fully established.

While frosts do not bother the plant, they make drop their flower buds depending on when in the cycle the frost hits and how cold and how long it lasts.

Camellias are native to India, China, Japan and Indonesia in the woodlands. In Asia they have been cultivated for over 1,000 years. The golden ( yellow ) one is on the endangered list there. It is easily grown from seed, so consider locating some seeds and giving that one a try. It is considered the most hardy and pretty of them all by many.

Camellia hybrids, like the one here, have been grown in Europe since the 18th century. There are at least 5,000 hybrids, most derived from Camellia japonica. Other common hybrids derive from Camellia retuculata and sasanqua.

Watch for scale and aphids. If found treat with orange oil on underside of leaves for best results.

Leaf gall is a fungus that makes new leaves swell. Usually it only occurs in shady areas with no breeze. Leaves begin green then peel to revel a white powdery substance. Remove infected parts of plant.

Camellia virus starts as yellowing on leaf edges, flowers may have white spots. This is a virus. It is unlikely to spread but there is no cure either.

If newer leaves are yellow with green veins your camellia needs fertilizer and likely iron.

Red brown spots on leaves together with die back is usually from algal leaf spot. Give the plant more iron. Fertilize regularly.

Sections of plant turn brown and it spreads to other sections. This is usually from root rot. Rainy years bring lots of that to our area. There is not much you can do except to plant in a better drained area next time.

Camellias with larger leaves and larger flowers are more prone to scale than smaller leaved, flowered varieties.

If you want to transplant a camellia, January is the best month. Flowering takes place between Jan. and March for most varieties here. Mine was in the ground two years before settling on January as a time to bloom. After the cold winter of ’09-’10 it waited until February to bloom.

When you buy camellias look for a good sized root ball.

Camellias seem to do just fine during extreme drought and heat.

More Information:
American Camellia Society

Mulch time

Mulching your garden helps in many ways:
-Mulch protects the soil from eroding
-Mulch reduces soil compaction
-Mulch conserves water
-Mulch keeps soil temperature more level
-Mulch improves soil as it decomposes
-Mulch prevents weeds
-Mulch keeps you from sinking in the mud
-Mulch looks nice

In the vegetable garden:
Try using grass clippings, newspaper, leaves, hay or straw.

In the flower beds:
Try bark, pine needles which also increase acidity of the soil, and leaves.

Mulches are best applied late spring after soil has had a chance to warm up. They should be 2″-4″ deep, excepting for newspaper which should be no more than a few sheets thick.

Pine bark mulch is a much better choice than hardwood mulches, at least in the Houston area. The hardwood mulches are made from native oaks and scrub brush. Over time they get a white fungus on the chips. This fungus is hard, which makes it hard for the mulch to absorb and hold water. It is also steals nutrients from the soil that should be going to your plants. You can usually identify hardwood from softwood mulches just by looking for the white mold on the chips.


(Golden pothos)

This plant will live through just about anything. Any light level will suit it. The brighter the light the more white coloring the leaves will have. They forgive bad watering habits. They prefer to be dry about a half inch down in the soil before being watered. As with all vines when they get too stringy pinch off the end of the vine and it will branch out and get bushier. In the wild it grows as a ground cover, not a hanging plant.

You can easily root cuttings to make new plants. Just trim a few leaves off the bottom of the cutting. Place it in soil with the leaves above the soil and keep the soil on the moist side until you see new leaves. Then gently taper off to water normally.

( philodendron )

This is another impressive plant that grows in just about any conditions. In the wild it is a ground cover in shady areas beneath trees.

Any light level will work but the more light it gets the faster it will grow. Most people grow this as a hanging plant. Keep the vines trimmed or you will end up with a few long vines and the rest of the plant will do nothing. Cuttings are easily rooted in soil, just remove the bottom leaves and keep the soil slightly moist until you see new leaves.

Water this plant when the top half inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

All philodendron plants contain calcium oxalates which can cause skin irritations, burning sensations in the mouth and more serious stomach pain.

Time to prune the roses

Any time after the last frost is good and the sooner the better. Traditionally Valentine’s Day is considered the day to prune your roses.

{before pruning}

These are young roses. I planted them less than two years ago when we moved down here. They have done very well. I have not pruned them heavy. I wanted to give them a chance to settle in some first.

You need to cut off the dead branches first. Then starting at the bottom remove any branches growing in towards the center. Then the branches that are thin or weak. Then any branches crossing other branches. You should end up with a bowl shape to the plant.

{after pruning}

I also cut the tallest branches back by at least half each year.

If you prune your roses back to about a foot tall you will get fewer but larger roses. If you prune your roses back to about two feet, you’ll get more roses but they won’t be as large.

A good rule of thumb on how far back to cut your roses to cut as low as the first group of 5 leaves. Roses grow out in groups of leaflets. Find the lowest group of 5 and cut to about 6″ above that leaflet.

Flamingo Flower (Anthurium andraeanum)

I found this Anthurium planted in volcanic rock at Smith and Hawkins last evening. I couldn’t resist it.

I have it sitting in a copper pan of water.

Anthurium plants want filtered bright light. Place Anthuriums on a desk or counter where the house lights are on most of the time or a few feet away from a bright window.

They will not flower if the air is too dry or too cold. If the flowers have too much green or you don’t have flowers in them give the Anthurium more light.

It is a tropical plant and will not tolerate cool temperatures. Keep it between 60’F to 90’F if you can. It will tolerate occasional temperatures into the low 40’s, but only occasionally and only if the plant is healthy to start.

It will do much better growing in soil than it will on the volcanic rock. Soils high in peat moss are best.

Water it often, like most peat loving plants it’s a swamp plant and doesn’t like to go dry.

It is native to Columbia and Ecuador. The ones you find in nurseries are most likely hybrids bred in Hawaii

In perfect conditions it can get to be about 3′ high