B. Rosie Lerner
Consumer Horticulturist


Check out Rosie's book:Possum in the Pawpaw Tree





Question and Answer

wax vine

Q. We have had the pictured vine above our sink since 1977. It has never bloomed in all that time - until this spring. It bloomed for the very first time. We don't know the name of the vine and would like to know. Our daughter told us it is a common vine. What can you tell us?

 A. Wax plant, known botanically as Hoya carnosa, is a popular, easy-to-grow houseplant. This vigorous, twining vine may take years before it is mature enough to bloom, but once it does, it often continues blooming for months. Wax plant performs best in bright light with a well-drained soil mix that is allowed to dry a bit between waterings. This species seems to prefer being a bit pot-bound, so don't be in too much of a hurry to repot, even if it seems overgrown for its container.

Q. I have a question about cedar and bark and any wood chips for mulch. Will these chips attract termites?

A. Mulch of any kind can create a stable, moist habitat favorable to termites, so if termites are already in the area, or happen to wander into the area, you might see them in or under the mulch while they forage. However, there is no evidence that any type of wood mulch is more attractive to termites than other mulch types or that use of wood mulch will increase or cause termite damage to a house structure. Keep all mulches at least a few inches away from the house foundation and siding.

potato fruit

Q. Pictured is one of my potato plants with "tomatoes" on it. What can you tell me about my "potato-mator" plant? I've never seen anything like this. It just blows my mind. And everyone thinks I am nuts. Can you eat the potatoes or tomatoes? Is there a name for this plant?

A. Potatoes are related to tomatoes; both are members of the Nightshade family. Despite looking like green cherry tomatoes, potato fruits are toxic. Most gardeners rarely see this fruit form on potatoes in Indiana. Cool temperatures during long days tend to promote fruiting in potatoes. Until quite recently, it has been a really hot, dry season, so it's a bit surprising to see potato fruit at all this year. Also, some cultivars seem more prone to fruit formation than others. So some potatoes may be fruiting while others growing nearby may not.

Potato fruits are high in solanine, a substance that is toxic to humans, particularly children. Potato fruits should not be eaten raw or cooked, no matter how much they look like tomatoes.


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox,