MARCH
2009

 

 

 

By
B. Rosie Lerner
 
Purdue
Extension
Consumer Horticulturist

 

 

 

 

 

03-05-09

Question and Answer

Q. Can you please help my friend to find out what the name of this plant on the picture is? She told me it smelled bad when flowered. I told her this is a kind of insect-eater plant but not sure what the name of it is. 

A. This is not necessarily a carnivorous (insect-eating) plant, but the photo is of a flower belonging to a large family of plants known as the Aroids. This family includes such plants as philodendron, Jack-in-the-pulpit, anthurium and caladium. It might be possible to narrow down to plant genus if I could see the foliage, but I can't tell from just the flower structure alone. It would also help to know if this was something growing outdoors in the garden or if it is grown as a houseplant. In the meantime, you can browse images of Aroid family members at the International Aroid Society Web site http://www.aroid.org/gallery/.

Q. A neighbor has given me some Mimosa tree seeds from 2008. He has several trees, and they bloom every year so they are Indiana hardy. How do I treat these seeds to get them to grow? They are in long pods, so do I bury a whole pod or open and plant just the seeds?

A. Mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) is marginally hardy to Southern Indiana and should survive most winters there, except for those with severe low temperatures. It forms a small tree or large, multi-trunked shrub with large, compound leaves and large clusters of pink flowers in summer, lending a tropical appearance. Mimosa is rather adaptable to poor, droughty soils. Unfortunately, this plant is quite susceptible to a wilt disease and webworm insects, and it also sets large quantities of seed pods where it is hardy. Where these plants are killed to the ground, either by winter cold or disease, they often resprout from root suckers, forming a thicket. It can be invasive where it is hardy.

The seeds require soaking, due to a thick seed coat. Begin with near-boiling water, add seeds removed from ripe pods and allow water to come to room temperature, with seeds continuing to soak for about 24 hours. Then, plant the pre-soaked seeds in potting soil and moisten as needed. Keep the potted seeds warm to speed germination. Additional information on starting trees from seed is available at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/treesfromseed.html.

Q. We are adding on to our garage, and I need to move my peonies. The peonies were my grandmother's, and I have transplanted them twice. They have been in this spot for the last 10 years. They want to start work at the end of the month. Could you please give me advice on how and when to move them?

A. Early spring can be an excellent time to relocate and/or divide perennial flowers. The hard part about doing so at this time of year is precisely locating where the plants are if the tops have completely died back. If you just want to move them intact, carefully lift the roots of the peony plants with a spade, taking as large a soil ball as practical so that there is less disruption to the root system. Use a large tarp to move the clumps to their new site. Be sure to have the new planting site prepared ahead of time so you can drop the clumps into their new home immediately. Aim to place the soil ball at about the same depth as they were previously; peonies do not perform well if planted too deep. Typically, peonies do not flower well the first year of transplanting, so give them a year or so to readapt to their new site. More information about peonies at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-76.pdf.

Q. Please tell me how do you grow grapes, apples and other stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, oranges, etc.) from seed. Also, is it possible to use the seeds from store-bought fruits? I have tried to grow them without success. Please tell me why. Also, I would like to know the best soil to grow them in. Can they be grown outside safely? Do they need protection in cold weather?

A. Most commercial fruit crops are not raised from seeds, but rather from grafted plants, so that the outcome will be more predictable and fruit production realized more quickly. Seedling fruit trees are quite variable in their hardiness, productivity, quality, size, etc. Additionally, seedling trees take many years (7-10 years or longer) to become mature enough to fruit. Citrus trees, such as orange, are not winter hardy in Indiana and, though the other crops you mentioned might be hardy here, it is unlikely that the varieties available in the grocery are well adapted to our climate. So, if fruit production is what you're after, it would be best to start with nursery-grown planting stock rather than seeds. More about this at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/treesfromseed.html and http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garbage.html.

Q. This past summer, a weird thing happened to my squash, zucchini and straight neck. They would sprout, grow to about a foot tall, and then the leaves would regress to veins. Needless to say, they didn't produce many squash. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a farmer and mentioned what was happening to my squash. He got a grin on his face and asked me if I had planted pumpkins in my garden. I told him I did the year before, but they all rotted. He said that a fungus destroyed my pumpkins and that the fungus is now in my soil. My question is, what can I treat my soil with to rid it of this fungus?

A. Generally, I think of insect damage when leaves are skeletonized, leaving tattered blades between the veins, though it is possible for an advanced case of fungal infection to cause similar damage. Animal pests have also been known to leave behind skeletonized foliage. Or perhaps you are referring to leaves that have wilted so severely as to dry up between the veins? That could indeed be a vascular disease. It is hard to know what to recommend without a more definitive diagnosis. First, try rotating your squash to a new area of the garden, or try raising a few plants in containers of quality potting mix. If the problem reoccurs, bring specimens of the plant to your Purdue Extension in your county, where your agriculture educator can help you diagnose the problem and recommend an appropriate course of action. You'll find contact information for your local office at http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extsite/counties.shtml.

 

Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox,