GARDENING ... AND MORE: Taking care of houseplants
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
May 14, 2014 | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s time to set your houseplants outside but first, put them on a porch or shady spot to harden them to being outside. Also, remember that not all houseplants can stand the sun outside. In fact, most houseplants prefer mostly shade. Ferns in those hanging baskets and big pots are lovely on the porch but be sure they are in a shady spot. The same hold true for peace lilies. Those ferns also like the soil to be slightly acid. I like the idea of placing all those tealeaves that you throw in the garbage in the soil around your ferns. I also put the teabags down into the soil just a bit. Both of these favorite houseplants prefer damp soil. If you fail to water the peace lily, it will remind you by falling over as if in a dead faint. Water soon revives them. While thinking of these ferns and their choice of little sun, I remembered that Ma only had her flowers on one half of the front porch, which extended the length of the house. That shady side is where she also had her swing and several chairs. The other end got full sun in the afternoon. I remember that her houseplants got little or no sun and that is why her ferns were so beautiful. I only have two houseplants now and neither of them like the front porch. One is a huge rubber plant and the other is a Norway pine. Though I have always had big flower gardens, I seldom have more than two or three houseplants.

If you haven’t already planted your tomatoes, try sinking a tin can (both ends cut out, of course) around the stems to keep cutworms from having a picnic on those tender stems. I have also known many gardeners who placed crushed eggshells all around tomato plants. That works too.

Someone mentioned the other day that ants seem to like peonies and there is a good reason. It works both ways. The peonies have a sweet sticky stuff on the buds, which the ants love. And also the buds can’t open with that sticky stuff on them so the ants eat it off, allowing the buds to open. That is a theory and as good as any other. Fertilize your peonies during summer at the same time as all other plants. I always give the peony plants fertilizer at the same time as roses and other perennials. But, and this is important, mulch peonies very lightly to keep grass from growing up to the plant. Though it is too late for this year, next spring put a cage around your peonies to keep the stems from falling to the ground with the heavy blooms. You can buy a cage or, as I did, make your own with some stakes and wire attached to them. As soon as peony blooms have faded and wilted, remove that stem to be sure of more blooms next spring. Never try to move or divide peonies until next September or October.

You have often heard that the sense of smell brings back more memories than any of the other senses. I love the smell of Sweet William pinks and it always reminds me of my grandmother, Ma Lewis, who had two beds of them in front of her front porch. She loved and treasured them because her beloved mother-in-law had planted them and brought the rocks from the creek to place around the beds. But the smell that always reminds me of my mother is the sweet lily-of-the-valley. Since this Sunday is Mother’s Day, I have been thinking of Mama and the perfume she always used, the lily-of-the-valley. A bottle always sat on her dresser. Each year when they bloom, I am reminded of that perfume Mama always loved. If you still have a living mother, I hope you remembered your mother with a special gift of a plant or flowers. My gift to my mother and to my grandmother is that I have shared memories of them with thousands of readers in many states. Since I write mostly about Ma, I always think how amazed she would be to know that her picture in my book and the stories in the book and in my column have given a word picture of her to many people. I am sure she would be amazed. I am always very careful to paint a true picture of her. I think she would say, “Oh, Mercy, Honey”.

May is the time when we just can’t resist those lovely hanging baskets in all the garden centers. Before you get carried away, just remember that most of those plants can’t take direct sun and will only tolerate some filtered sun in the morning. Also those baskets will need to be watered daily and misted often. Also fuchsias draw white flies. If you still want those baskets, be sure there is a hole in the bottom of the container to let water drain.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions.
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