Happy Healthy Houseplants

In this discussion we talked about tips for indoor gardening. We shared our favorite houseplant and how to keep them surviving and thriving inside.

April 4, 2019

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Audio Transcript


Hadley Growers: Happy Healthy Houseplants

Presented by Ed Haines

April 4, 2019

Ed: Welcome to Hadley Growers, and happy spring for those of us who are experiencing spring. I think I mentioned already to Irene that I'm sad to report, I still have quite a bit of snow on my garden beds, but I know that lots of you are already planting, or at least planning to plant very soon. So I'm extremely jealous for those of you who're doing that. We all of course are really eager to get the season started.

Before we get started with our discussion today though, I just have a bit of housekeeping to attend to, and those of you who've participated in the past will be familiar with this. There are a lot of folks here in the room, we now have about 30. Everyone is currently muted. That's just to minimize the background noise that happens with a lot of people in the room. But normally we have a pretty lively discussion and I really love it when everybody feels free to participate.

So just to help things run smoothly a little bit, let me give you some information about this Zoom format that we're using today, it hopefully will be helpful. For those of you who've heard this before, my apologies, but we do always have a bunch of new folks and I like to go through this. So everyone is muted but when you'd like to speak, if you need to unmute yourself you press *6 if you called in from your phone, ALT + A if you're on your PC, or Command + Shift + A if you're on a Mac. So that's *6 to unmute yourself, ALT + A from your PC, and Command + Shift + A from your Mac.

If you're using the app on your smartphone, different smartphones have different configurations, you might have to do a little research to find your mute button. Additionally, if you can adjust it first, it helps to keep things from getting too chaotic. If you raise your hand to indicate you'd like to speak, then I can call on you and I can either use your first name or if you've called in from a telephone I can call you out by reciting the last digits of your phone number, so be aware of that. If you want to raise your hand, that's *9 on your telephone. On your PC it's ALT + Y and on the Mac, it's Command + Shift + Y. So again, for raising your hand, it's *9 on your phone, on the PC, ALT + Y, on the Mac, Command + Shift + Y. Then if I call on you, go ahead and unmute yourself by pressing *6.

If you would folks, if you could keep yourself muted until you're ready to ask a question or make a comment, that would be a huge help. Then please don't forget to mute yourself again once you're done, and again that's with *6 if you're on the phone, and just don't forget to mute yourself again that way we don't get a lot of background noise. It's not a big deal, I can always mute everybody all over again if folks forget. But if you can remember, that would be a huge help.

So with all that out of the way, let's get started with today's topic, and this is by popular request by the way. I had a lot of emails requesting this particular topic, and the title is Happy Healthy Houseplants. We have a lot of beginning gardeners with us, they often have questions about growing indoors, so today I thought we'd let them ask those questions and those of us with a bit more experience can perhaps lend them a hand. So that being said, by the way those of you who've been with our group know that we start with a topic and we often diverge a whole lot of other topics, so don't let this confine you to your discussion of gardening, but it's nice to have a topic to get things started. But I'm sure we'll digress into a whole lot of other subjects as well.

Alright folks, feel free to speak up, ask questions about house plants or recommendations for houseplants, advice for beginning gardeners who want to grow house plants, questions, and let's open up the floor, go head.

Okay, I've got 076 has their hand up, go ahead.

Speaker 2: Hi, I was wondering if anyone knows some tips how to get African Violets to bloom?

Ed: Great question, anybody out there have some advice?

Speaker 3: I have an African Violet, and it seems like it likes the window, the light from the window and then having dark and not having light on it during night. It seems like it blooms very well then.

Ed: And we have, let's see, hand up 689, was that you who just spoke?

Speaker 3: No I'm sorry, I should have rose my hand. I'm sorry.

Ed: No, that's fine. Okay so you're recommending definite, defined hours of light, daylight in the day but then make sure everything's dark at night?

Speaker 3: That's correct, yes.

Ed: Alright, anybody else? Well my wife grows African Violets and she likes them because they grow very well under artificial light too. They're a great indoors plant and they seem to do really well under florescent light in offices, so that's why she enjoys them in her office. So that's her secret, she gets them to bloom all the time, she doesn't have them actually in direct sunlight, it's mostly just florescent light. Anybody else have some African Violet advice? Come on Irene.

Mary: I do.

Ed: Okay, sure, 827, go ahead.

Mary: My name is Mary, I've raised African Violets before also, one thing they don't like is they don't like direct sun, so make sure that it's indirect sunlight that you're using. They also do not like gas heat so you'll want to keep them away from like your regular gas heating system. But to get them to bloom you do need water, I use African Violet fertilizer on mine and then also if somebody's never grown African Violets they need to be in an African Violet pot and watered from underneath. You don't ever want to have water touch the leaves.

Mary: Then they'll bloom as long as you keep enough water to them, they will automatically bloom.

Ed: Thanks for that. What about the moisture level for African Violets? Do you recommending keeping them slightly dry or do they have to stay moist all the time?

Mary: I keep the reservoir underneath them, in an African Violet pot it's a pot inside a pot, so as long as you keep water in that outer pot they'll do fine. They'll soak up what they need. But they do not like to be dry.

Ed: Okay, and what you said makes sense with my wife's success with African Violets, they don't receive direct sunlight, they're just always under office lights, so it makes sense.

Mary: Mine are actually in a north window which is the first time I've truly done that, and they're blooming so they liked it. The only time I've really had bad luck is when I had a gas furnace and they didn't like that at all.

Ed: That makes perfect sense, they didn't like the dry heat.

Mary: No.

Ed: Okay. So does that help you with your African Violet question? About how to get them to bloom?

Speaker 2: Yes, I do have gas heat though and I don't know what to do about that. Also, especially in the winter time but at night it gets pretty cool in here, they don't seem to like that either.

Mary: How cold is cold?

Speaker 2: Like in the 50s I'd say.

Mary: Hm, that's a little bit cold for them, they tend to like more in the 60s is the minimum.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Mary: At least in my experience. Then as long as they're not right next to the vents, you'll be okay.

Speaker 2: Okay. Alright, thanks.

Mary: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ed: Great, anybody else have a house plant question? Let's see, I see 036, have you had a chance to talk yet? 036, you've got your hand up? Okay. Anybody else with a houseplant question.

Mary: That might have been me, I don't know my number.

Ed: Oh okay. Folks when you do raise your hand and you've had a chance to speak, you can always put your hand back down again by hitting *9 or ALT + Y on your PC. That helps me keep track of who's had a chance to speak and who hasn't yet. Not that it's a big problem but it makes it a bit more organized, but no big deal.

Alright, well since this was a topic of houseplants, I was just going to put in a plug for orchids. Orchids are one of those things that maybe beginner gardeners don't consider very often because they sound exotic and they sound fussy, but in the past ten years there are certain varieties of orchids that have become widely available, particular an orchid called phalaenopsis which again, that's an intimidating name but it's what the orchid is called. There's lots of hybrids of it, they have a lovely flower on a long stem that's usually supported by a stick of bamboo, nice round leaves. They're really a lovely decorative flower.

The nice thing about orchids is I find them to be kind of low maintenance, particularly that variety of orchid and you just keep the growing medium moist, and the flower lasts for months and months, and the nice thing about this variety of orchid is they're now called the "Grocery store orchid" because at least in the states, most big box stores and grocery stores have these available and they're not that expensive. So if you're a beginning gardener and you're looking for something really exotic that's going to look fantastic in your home, try one of these orchids. Again, they're available in places like Walmart or those kinds of places usually, and they're not that expensive and they're really beautiful.

So that was my little contribution and my comment about houseplants for today. Anybody else have any recommendations for folks who want to grow houseplants indoors? Or plants that are easy or fun to grow?

Speaker 5: I have a comment and a question, my comment is just for anybody who has a service dog or a pet or anything, be sure and check, I brought in a plant that I was planning to put somewhere that my dog could have gotten to it and then I looked online and it turns out it's poisonous to pets, so I had to relocate it to where I knew she wouldn't get to it. So that's important to know.

My other question has to do with when you buy plants at the store and you come home to transplant it, I bought a container of beautiful lavender at Whole Foods, then when I went to pot it I discovered that it was extremely root bound and I gently tried to untangle the roots because I thought you were supposed to try to untangle them and kind of spread out into the soil, and as soon as I did that a bunch of the lavender plant started falling over. And I carefully potted it but that whole beautiful container of lavender was dead within like a day or two and I don't know what I did wrong.

Ed: Anybody have any help?

Alice: Hello, this is Alice and I've had very good luck with lavender. I've only purchased some from the grocery store that's within walking distance from where I live the last two years. I purchase it around Mother’s Day because that's when it's available here in Milwaukee, and fortunately in May it has survived here because generally I don't put plants outside until around Memorial weekend. But I've had very good luck with lavender, I know what you mean, it did appear root bound to a certain extent to me also.

I did try to do what you just described when I repotted the plant, but mine did last and it lasted until it was really even fairly nice in early November. I have had a couple on my front porch with the south facing front porch that gets some of the east morning sun as well. What I generally do though when I go to the store to purchase any plant, I ask for the florist to help me usually and I ask her to pick out the one that she feels is the best one. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, they know I'm a steady customer there, and it seems as if that may be key to finding one that is a good one to take home and repot in such.

There were some that were in a more decorative container this past year, and then some in a more typical container that one's going to transplant outside, and I got that type. Not the one so much in a decorative container as it would be for giving as a Mother's Day gift. They are lovely plants, and the ones I've had have gotten a lot of praise from other people who've come to visit, especially the second year ones that I've had this past year. They became absolutely huge and just lovely plants. So I wish you good luck with them, try them again because they're lovely and fun to grow, and other people like them too. Thank you.

Ed: Thank you so much, that was really, really helpful, and lavender is a wonderful plant. People do purchase transplants and repot them successfully, so you may have just had bad luck with that one particular plant, or it was just so pot bound it might have been dying anyway. There're also different varieties of lavender, some are hardier than others which can affect your success with them. Anybody else have comments about lavender?

Mary: I also grow lavender. This is Mary again. I'm down in the south so I'm Alabama, and I've actually have one that's wintered over outside down here past frost. But they don't like to be over watered and if where you get them from has abused them before you get them from a store, they won't grow. I've done the same thing, bought them from the store and had them not work. But a lot of mine I get now from a nursery and I just get the little tiny pots. And I've been experimenting with all the varieties of lavender because it's one of my favorite plants.

Mary: If you find it, there's one that's really pretty, it's a really lacy, delicate kind that grows well in the summer and they do well outside if it's warm enough. They're a lot of fun.

Ed: That's great, and do you have any success growing lavender inside?

Mary: I tend to not grow my lavender inside. I do bring them in in the winter. I have been able to winter them over, but I have a sunroom so I'm able to keep them warm enough with enough light that they do okay. And like the other lady, I don't buy the ones that are in fancy pots, I tend to buy the ones that are ready to be transplanted. They're usually healthier.

Ed: Great advice, thanks. I actually have one lavender plant my mother planted 30 years ago, and it's outside, and it's a hardy variety and it lives under the snow all winter long and I live in a pretty cold place. But the snow insulates it and it's big, the main trunk is almost like a shrub at this point.

Mary: Wow.

Ed: And it seems to thrive in really harsh conditions, so lavender can take a lot of abuse, I know from personal experience.

Mary: Right, my mother also had lavender in western Washington and kept it out year round. It did well, and I have a relative that grows it in her home flower bed and then sells the lavender commercially. Hers grows all over the place in western Washington, so.

Ed: Yeah I actually think western Washington is like the lavender capital of the United States, isn't it? There are places that are just acres and acres of lavender as far as you can see.

Mary: Wow. I haven't seen that but I've been away for a while. I know that it's one of the tulip places, daffodils and tulips.

Ed: Oh okay.

Mary: A lot of them come from western Washington.

Ed: Okay. My brother in law lived in Sequim I think, which is west of Seattle along the coast there, and that was a big commercial lavender growing place.

Mary: Oh, like "CQ"?

Ed: SEQUIM I think it's spelled.

Mary: Yeah, it's Sequim. It's an Indian [inaudible]

Ed: Okay.

Mary: And you're right, I know I took it for granted when I grew up on the west coast, I'm not surprised. You can just stick a stick in the ground in western Washington and it'll grow.

Ed: Wow. That's lucky.

Mary: Yup.

Nancy: This is Nancy.

Ed: Hi Nancy.

Nancy: I have an aloe plant that I like and we've had it a long time and basically we just put it in the pot and occasionally water it like once a week, don't over water it and it does fine. And it's great to cut a piece off if you burn yourself.

Ed: Thanks Nancy, great suggestion. Aloe's low maintenance. A lot of the succulents are low maintenance, which are great plants for indoors. Anybody else got a houseplant question or a comment or suggestion?

Speaker 8: Hi, I had a question.

Ed: Sure.

Speaker 8: I was wondering if by growing plants indoors if that will kind of extend your hardiness zone? Like say I live in zone 9, if I grow indoors can I grow them maybe in what might grow in warmer weather?

Ed: That's a complicated question because it depends on the plant. That would be my instant answer. Some plants just don't do well indoors. What kinds of plants were you thinking about moving in?

Speaker 8: I've been wanting to grow more medicinal herbs like ashwagandha, can't think of any other names right now, but they're native to India, areas like that which is obviously a lot warmer than where I live. I was trying to see if I could get away with that.

Ed: You know it's possible, and someone else chime in here, I'm just thinking out loud. One of the things about a lot of herbs is that a lot of them require a lot of direct sunlight. So if you have a sun room or a really sunny window, south facing bay window, you might be able to pull it off.

Speaker 8: Okay. I don't, but I just bought a grow light and I'm trying to investigate what I can do with that too.

Ed: Well that would help, definitely.

Speaker 8: Yeah.

Ed: But herbs do like a lot of sun and if you're talking about herbs from places like India, they might require a lot of humidity as well. I'm not familiar with the plant you mentioned, but if they are more tropical plants you might have to mist them also quite a bit to make sure they stay healthy.

Speaker 8: Alright, well I'll have to experiment with that.

Ed: It's always fun to experiment, I do lots of experimenting and I do it with the knowledge that probably half of my experiments will be failures. So just be aware that sometimes beginning gardeners, they think everything they plant is going to work out great and it's going to look like the pictures and catalogs, but if you temper your expectations you end up having a much more positive experience.

Speaker 8: Yeah, it was interesting, I just started trying the ashwagandha about two months ago and nothing was growing and I was just about to give up on it and literally two months later, it's just started sprouting, so we'll see how that goes.

Ed: Wonderful.

Speaker 8: And another thing, I know I have both cats and a dog in our house, and I found a little greenhouse box at IKEA so I'm able to put them in there and then the cats can't get to any of the plants, so that's been helpful for pets. Just a suggestion.

Ed: That's a great idea, and you know, someone else earlier, I forgot to thank them for this, mentioned about pets. There are lists of houseplants that are toxic to pets, I think the Humane Society has a list. If you have a dog guide, they'll provide you with a list, so that's a really valid point. Make sure that your plants, if you're bringing them indoors are safe if you have pets or service animals. Absolutely.

Anyone else want to chime in with houseplants or gardening suggestions for growing indoors?

Speaker 9: Can I ask a question about the African Violet?

Ed: Sure, of course.

Speaker 9: How do you divide them? Mine has gotten pretty big and I was just wondering how do I divide it without killing it?

Ed: You know, I've never tried to do that. Anybody else have any ideas?

Mary: This is Mary again, I have divided mine, it's been years ago. I know I did it very carefully. You don't divide them if they're just large and a single center, but if they do develop a second cluster, like two centers, you can divide it that way.

Speaker 9: Okay.

Mary: You can have one and the other, otherwise you can propagate them by taking a leaf off and putting it in the soil at an angle.

Speaker 9: Okay. This just has one big stem so it's not two, it's just really big. I didn't know if I should just let it keep going or not.

Mary: Yeah, just let it keep going, it's probably very healthy.

Speaker 9: Okay, thank you.

Mary: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ed: I have a question-

Mary: I have-

Ed: Oh go ahead.

Mary: I'm sorry, I've been talking a lot. But I have a question on the orchids. If anybody has any information on how to get one to bloom again.

Ed: I grow some orchids inside and they tend to have a cycle. They bloom about once a year, but the blooms last for many months. If they're not blooming it's possible that they have outgrown their growing medium. I'm not expert on orchids, but I have at times had to more or less repot them even though they're not in soil. They may have outgrown their pot, so that could be a problem. Orchids also like to be misted, they like a humid environment so maybe your environment's not humid enough too.

Mary: Oh okay, thank you.

Ed: Anybody else grow orchids or have any experience with that? No? No more orchid growers among us? Well if you're not growing them, I recommend them although you don't want to get too fussy with them for a while, and they can get infected with white fly sometimes, it depends where you buy them so be careful when you buy them. Make sure they're a nice clean plant, they don't have bugs on them.

But that applies to anything, that brings me to another question, I had an email today from someone saying they would love to grow houseplants but they're afraid of insects invading their home when they bring houseplants in. Does anyone have any experience with houseplant pests?

Irene: Comment, Irene.

Ed: Yeah, sure.

Irene: My favorite one, you'll just love this. Talk about getting into trouble. I have three horses, so probably the most effective growing medium I have is aged horse manure.

Ed: Okay.

Irene: So being very unwise, I brought it into the house.

Ed: Into the house.

Irene: The walls were black, I couldn't ... If I was running my computer at 2:00 in the morning, I couldn't even get my hand on the computer, the flies were so black. Like it was just absolutely wicked. So the important thing to remember you've got all this lovely growing stuff is go to the store and buy potting soil. Is that good advice?

Ed: Yeah, I would think so. So like, sterilized potting mix, it sounds like-

Irene: Uh, yeah. We don't need that kind of a mess. So to deal with the flies, all the blind people have dealt with this, you know those long string things, fly stickers that hang from the ceilings and you wrap your head around them and you try to touch anything and you're wrapped in? Well, they now have fly stickers that are sort of an 8 X 4 piece of fly sticker that one side has a little strip that you glue it on your window. That is how I managed to control the massive influx of horseflies in the house.

Ed: Well that makes sense.

Irene: And buy sterilized potting soil.

Ed: Yeah, buy sterilized, that makes sense. And those fly strips are a pain, they're easy to get your hand in and your hair, whatever. So that's a great idea, to buy them that they're enclosed in a box that can stick on the window to avoid touching them, that's fantastic.

Ed: Irene, you always have something amazing to share. Anybody else have any experience with houseplant pests and what they do to prevent them or deal with them once they've arrived?

Mary: I have an interesting story that happened to one of my customers that's blind. This happened in the south and I have no idea what the creature was, but she brought in one of her outside plants in a large pot and she also had two macaw parrots and whatever was in the pot came out of the dirt and killed one of her parrots.

Ed: Oh my god, I shouldn't laugh, but that had to be something pretty big.

Mary: Yeah, I'm not sure and she wasn't sure what it was because she was blind. She did tell me, she was from up around Tennessee and she took the pot back outside and it didn't happen to her other parrot, but she lost one of them because of some animal that lived in the dirt.

Ed: oh my gosh.

Mary: That's the most unusual thing I think I've ever heard.

Ed: I think so, that's the most unusual houseplant pest story, definitely that I've ever heard. Well, Irene's comes pretty darn close. Oh my. Anybody else with a fun story about houseplant pests? This is getting better and better, this subject.

Nancy: This is Nancy.

Ed: Hi Nancy.

Nancy: We had an infestation of some kind of soil gnat, and they told us it was because we over watered our plants and we only had like four plants. We ended up having to go to the grocery store and buy insecticide and put it on the soil in order to kill them and it didn't bother the plants. But my husband realized it because like he'd sit down to use his iPad in the evening and they were attracted to the light of the iPad. We had all these little bugs, so he had to investigate where they were they coming from and so we talked to the extension office and they told us what to do, and it solved the problem and it hasn't come back.

Ed: Good to know.

Nancy: The other thing I wanted to say is I've got chamomile growing. I've planted it probably a month ago now, it's still pretty tiny but it's still alive, so I'm pretty thrilled with that. Eventually I'll put it outside.

Ed: Correct me if I'm wrong, chamomile’s in the mint family too, isn't it?

Nancy: It may be, I'm not 100% sure of that. I know the seeds were incredibly tiny. My husband had a real hard time that they weren't in one big clump because they were so small.

Ed: I'm imagining that you're going to be looking at making tea once this plant returns?

Nancy: Yeah. And we've done that before.

Ed: Nice. Anybody else have houseplant comments, tips, or tricks? Or since we've actually spent 30 minutes or so discussing houseplants, why don't we open the floor up to any discussion about any gardening question or tip or trick. So anyone wants to talk about their garden, now's your chance.

Speaker 5: I asked about the lavender earlier and I was kind of just using lavender as an example because that's the worst time it's happened, but I need tips for like I say, I try not to buy plants that are root bound but sometimes you get them home and you open them up and it's like "Good grief, these roots, they've already circled around the pot and I didn't realize it." I'm just wondering, are there any tips for how to gently separate the roots a little bit without killing the poor plant?

Ed: Anybody have any tips? I normally use my fingers if I can, people in nurseries actually use knives and things to cut the root balls open if they have to. What you described is your plant just going into shock, it was so severe that it just died and that definitely happens in root bound plants. If you can eliminate some of the other factors that contribute to shock maybe that would help.

So for instance, before I transplant my plants that I buy in the store, if I'm going to be transplanting them outside I leave them outside in their pots that I've purchased them in for maybe four or five days, not in direct sunlight but just to get them used to the outdoor environment and the place where they're going to be at. That tends to reduce, I find, reduce a little bit of transplant shock. So maybe that's something you could do, try to eliminate some of the other factors that might be disturbing the plant.

Make sure the soil is really moist before you take it out of its original pot, make sure the roots are good and wet too, that might help.

Speaker 5: That's also a good way to avoid flies, putting them outside, because one time I bought a bunch of seedlings and I brought them in, and I didn't put them outside as soon as I intended to and we had fruit flies everywhere. And since I can't seem them to swat them, I would just as a reflex I would yell at them when they would start to get on my face and everything, and I can vouch for the fact that that does not help.

Ed: Well, it's an organic form of pest control, it just doesn't work that well I guess.

Speaker 5: No, it does not.

Ed: And if your family members are around, it's probably not really helpful either.

Speaker 5: But I haven't run into trouble with indoor plants that I intended to keep indoors, but those little seedlings, I guess because, now that I think about it, they've got them outside, like Lowe's and stuff. They're already outside, so don't make the mistake I did and have them sitting around your house for a few days.

Ed: That's great advice, and I like the yelling bit too. Anybody else have any insights on how to make sure plants don't undergo transplant shock and if you have root bound plants, how to minimize damage when you do transplant them and undo that root ball?

Mary: One of the things that I learned from one of the TV shows I was watching, this is an English gardener, and he said if you could not pick the plant out of the pot in the store, don't buy it. It's too root bound.

Ed: Ah, so that's a way of telling without even purchasing it.

Mary: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ed: Okay, great.

Mary: Also regarding the fruit flies, there are traps for them. [inaudible] has them and then the Gardener, that's another catalog. I've had to buy the fruit fly traps before too.

Ed: You might be talking, there's a catalog called Gardens Alive? I think that's more or less of an organic gardening solution catalog and they have fruit fly traps in there and also other traps for moths and the kinds of little flies that hang around your flower and that kind of thing too.

Speaker 11: I have a question.

Ed: Sure.

Speaker 11: Back to houseplants, I'm wondering how to make a hoya plant bloom, and also the best conditions for a china doll plant.

Rhonda: Hi, this is Rhonda in Wisconsin.

Ed: Hi Rhonda.

Rhonda: Hi, I've had a hoya for decades, I got it as a couple of leaves in a pot on the curb and it survived several moves among all my houseplants, and I keep a plant light on it in the winter. It will not bloom then. I keep it fairly watered, but not really wet. I water it pretty well maybe once a week. The sun doesn't shine on it from October to March. Probably next month it's going to start blooming when the sun is on it, because I come in this time of year and I can smell it as soon as I open the door.

Have you had it bloom before?

Speaker 11: No I haven't.

Rhonda: It's a really sweet smelling cluster of little pink star shaped flowers that hang down and they each have a little drop of nectar at the end, so I'm sad that there're no pollinators in my house, but it's really a nice thing to come home to.

Ed: That sounds wonderful.

Speaker 11: What kind of window do you have it in?

Rhonda: It's facing north east, so that's why it doesn't get sun from October to March.

Speaker 11: Okay. Thanks.

Rhonda: It's like three windows side by side, so it does get a nice full sun for several hours in the morning.

Speaker 11: Okay.

Ed: Your other question was about a china doll and I'm very grateful for the reply on hoyas, which gave me a chance to Google it because I didn't know what a china doll plant was. So now I do. What was your question about the plant? I can't remember.

Speaker 11: Just the best conditions. I've had one and I don't know, sometimes part of the top kind of gets dry and falls off and whatever, and then of course it doesn't look that nice. Just to keep it real nice what would be the best thing for it?

Ed: I'm looking, I'm no expert so I'm looking now at Google. It does say that china doll plants don't like change. They like very constant temperatures around 65 - 75 degrees, they don't tolerate drafts, so your plant should be free from drafts and wind. And they need at least 4 to 5 hours of light a day.

Speaker 11: Hm, okay.

Ed: Also they need regular pruning apparently, so it's not the end of the world if you have some die back, to go ahead and prune that off.

Speaker 11: Okay.

Ed: Thanks goodness for Google.

Speaker 11: Thanks.

Ed: I always envy those, if you folks, like me, if you watch gardening shows, I watch a lot of gardening shows, and those people seem to have all the answers about everything. Anybody can call in and they seem to know what to say. So I envy those people but that's why we have the internet, I can always look up the answers. Makes it easy.

Anybody else have any comments, questions, or want to talk about their garden or anything related to gardening?

Alice: This is Alice again and I would like to give a couple of mentions about zinnias. When I was young, all four of my grandparents came from Italy and one of my grandmothers had quite a zinnia garden. She didn't do any other gardening except zinnias. And just recently I read something about zinnias in a mystery book, and the gardener character in the book said that zinnias were called [inaudible] and that they were originally from Mexico, and then from Mexico they went to Germany and Holland and Italy.

And they came back to the United States around the time, in the early 1900s when my grandparents came to the United States. So I began to wonder if my grandmother happened to bring some zinnia seeds with her and that's why she only had this large garden of zinnias. And I wonder if anybody else has heard anything else about the history of zinnias? There's also the connection of course with vision because centuries ago there was thought to be some connection with zinnias and the eye and so forth. And then "zinn" membrane of the eye is named after the same man in Germany who developed the zinnias for I guess what we could call more commercial production.

But I just find that sort of history of flowers quite interesting. So I have that question, and then my other question is we had where I grew up in Indiana, quite a large patch of lilies of the valley, and I never thought about growing those then, and I am sort of determined this summer to try to grow lilies of the valley, and I wonder if anyone else has had any luck or information about planting, starting a patch of lilies of the valley. Thank you.

Ed: Anybody have any info on lilies of the valley? I think I have some suggestions but go ahead if folks have some ideas.

Mary: Well if you know of anybody that has a patch and they give you a little start, they'll just take off and go everywhere.

Ed: That's exactly what I was gonna say.

Irene: A comment, Irene.

Ed: Yeah.

Irene: Yeah, apparently that's where my lily of the valley came. They bloom in eastern Ontario about the same time as lilacs, and what an absolutely lovely fragrance in the front yard with lilacs and lily of the valley, and would it be Ed that they do prefer shade because I guess they grow in sun everywhere, but they're in amongst the hostas and the cedar trees and what's those other things, I'm not good on flowers, hydrangeas. So they're a lovely ground cover, but as you say, if you want a lawn you've got to keep the lawn mower working. Go ahead Ed.

Ed: Yeah, I agree with all those comments. I think generally they thrive in shade, but I have spots where they're in more or less direct sunlight as well and they do just fine. If you want to grow them, definitely find somebody that has them because they will have plenty to give away. You can buy, they're actually called a "Corm", that's the small little bulb. It's not technically a bulb I guess that they grow from, but it's much better to find someone with a big patch of them, and they'll get out a shovel and dig up a big bunch, and you can put them in your garden and they'll take off.

They're so hardy and the smell is absolutely wonderful. And they do make a terrific ground cover. So great idea to find some lily of the valley. And Alice, your comment about zinnias was really fascinating too. The history of plants is such an interesting thing and in fact, I just ordered some Italian zinnia seeds from an Italian supplier because it was a variety I wasn't familiar with, so perhaps that's the same kind that your parents brought back years ago.

Alice: Do you think the lilies of the valley would grow in a container?

Ed: Yeah I think they would, I don't see why they wouldn't. But make sure it's big enough to accommodate their root system. I've seen them growing in containers, I don't grow them in containers myself but I don't see why not.

Alice: Okay, thank you very much.

Ed: Anybody else?

Lynn: Hi, this is Lynn from Delaware.

Ed: Hi Lynn.

Lynn: I have a couple things that I wanted to say. I had a devil of a time finding the unmute button on this. I'm using the iPhone app, so I'm learning the ropes here. All of a sudden everything got real slow and sluggish and I'm like, oh boy. Anyway, I wanted to say that I'm ashamed to admit this with all the knowledge on this forum here, but I'm a person who really enjoys growing chia pet. I know people-

Ed: That's great.

Lynn: ... think that they're not real or that they're silly or whatever, but I do have an aphid story. I had started to get into plants and the chia people used to have an herb garden and it was awesome. It came with the growing medium and pots and seeds and the tags, I had everything in braille and I did so well with it, and loved it. It grew all sorts of different herbs.

Then what happened was we had gone to a farmers market and I had picked up some herbs that I thought smelled really nice and I wanted them in my collection, and it was funny, I was holding one in my hand, I can't even remember what it was now. But I noticed it was real sticky in the middle.

Ed: Ah.

Lynn: And I didn't know at the time, I didn't know anything, so I just brought it home and put it with my poor helpless, defenseless herbs in my house. Unfortunately for me, I had gotten a really bad case of aphids through all my plants and I didn't know what to do, so silly me, I actually threw them away and I had lost confidence for a long time in my ability to grow houseplants. But then somebody gave me a chia pet as a gag gift for Christmas or my birthday or whatever, and I said "Well to heck with this, I'll just give it a try."

Well, I just think they're really interesting. They don't mind being touched, and once the coat starts growing on them, the chia coat, they have a very, very interesting feel.

Ed: Ah, okay.

Lynn: And they're fairly hardy. Mine grew, got really out of control, foliage wise and I didn't know what to do with the chia, or what I could do with it. But yeah, I know that sounds kind of weird and people don't take the chia pets seriously, but I just think it's a fun plant to grow, especially for a blind kid.

Ed: Sure.

Lynn: The only thing is if you have to spill wet chia seeds, do not try to get them up. Just leave them there and let them dry, then they come up very easily. But they are sticky.

Ed: Oh good advice.

Lynn: Yeah, they have a sticky coating to them and they're very good to eat as well. They're very nutritious to eat, chia.

Ed: I think that's a great suggestion. If you're growing something and you're having fun with it and it's rewarding, why not? So that begs the question, what's your favorite chia growing structure? The head, the hedgehog, which one?

Lynn: I had a Christmas tree with a star-

Ed: Oh nice.

Lynn: ... that was pretty cool. And the star actually lit up, I didn't realize that. Somebody told me, "Yeah, there's a little switch on this thing and it actually lights up." My room doesn't get a whole lot of sun 'til just about now, so I think now I might start getting them together. I think there was a Santa Claus, I forget what the other things were, rabbit, several things. But anyway, when I listen to you guys I think "Oh my gosh, I need to really branch out and try the herbs again." I want to try them again because I loved growing them.

Ed: Well you definitely should try them, and aphids you can wash off with water, so no worries. If you get them again, it's not the end of the world.

Lynn: And one more question that's totally unrelated, but we have cats in the neighborhood and they are using our garden plot as a litter box. So we were wondering, is there any humane thing that we can do to discourage them from doing this?

Ed: That's a great question, anybody have any ideas? It's not an easy problem to fix. No? Irene?

Irene: Comment, Irene.

Ed: Yes, please.

Irene: My favorite one is cayenne pepper. Unfortunately I'm horrendously allergic to cayenne pepper, so apparently it's supposed to deter squirrels and cats and all that kind of stuff, and apparently they're smart enough that if they touch it once, they don't come back. But if I could handle the cayenne pepper I'd probably use it on all the varmints that are in my garden.

Irene: I wonder if that'd work against chickens? The neighbors' hens are going to tear my garden apart this spring, I can just feel it coming.

Lynn: Oh my gosh.

Irene: But they wouldn't be happy to see their chickens coming home with burnt feet. Go ahead Ed.

Ed: Well, cayenne pepper spray works, you can buy sprays at the garden centers that are supposed to deter cats and squirrels and stuff. They generally smell awful, but cats smell awful too and the problem with cats using your garden bed as a bathroom is you could be exposed to parasites like, what is it, toxoplasmosis, so it's not a good thing. I use loading row covers on my garden beds. They're cheap to buy and they keep everything off including deer as a matter of fact. But they're kind of a pain because you can't see your garden, they're just sort of white drapery all over all of your plants and it's less aesthetically pleasing, but it's a cheap fix.

Anybody else have any ideas on cat deterrents?

Mary: This is Mary in Alabama, I don't know about a huge garden, but I know that cats do not like orange. So like orange peel and stuff like that, they cannot stand anything orange. I keep my cat out of my Christmas tree by putting on a sachet of orange peel in the tree.

Ed: Oh great to know.

Lynn: That's a great idea because I love oranges and I eat oranges every day, and I always think "What can I do with the peels from these oranges?" You know, when I throw them away and I think "There must be something I can do with these peels." Okay, so I will try that and the cayenne pepper. I just didn't want to really hurt the cat but if I can make their stay unpleasant, it would be good. Without hurting them, I don't want to hurt them or the birds.

Speaker 8: Also mint. They don't like mint either.

Lynn: Oh okay.

Ed: Another alternative is talk to their owners. I mean cats, if you know anybody who likes birds or is a birder, a lot of gardeners are also birders, cats that are allowed to roam free are really, really predatory and they're really bad for local bird populations. And it's actually unhealthy for the cat to be roaming free, they can get into a lot of trouble and get hurt. So cats who are allowed to roam definitely have shorter life spans than house cats. So if you know the owners and you're friends with them you can always ... it's hard, but you can maybe mention that their cat is using your garden as a bathroom and could they please keep it restrained. You might not have any success but it might be worth a try.

So we've got just two minutes left, does anyone want to finish off our conversation with a comment or just anything about gardening whatsoever?

Lynn: So you guys, give me some homework. What should I try? When I get off this meeting, what would you suggest I try to get back into the growing herbs again? Because I want to do this, I had just kind of gotten discouraged before.

Irene: Comment, Irene.

Lynn: Yes.

Irene: My first choice would always be parsley.

Lynn: Oh yes. Okay.

Irene: You can do everything with it, and another comment on the orange peel, if you've got lots of orange peel, when I peel the orange I wash it and mix the orange peel with mint to make tea, it's a lovely flavor.

Lynn: Oh okay.

Irene: Yeah. And mint and parsley are really good starters. Go ahead Ed.

Alice: You could do chives right now from the grocery store.

Ed: Yup, great idea. I was going to say definitely try herbs again, but I would buy them as transplants. Don't try to start them from seed. You can, but it just takes a long time and there's such a huge pay off by buying transplants. And don't be afraid to try thyme and oregano, parsley's fantastic, chives are fantastic, you can eat the flowers as well as the stems.

Mary: [inaudible] oregano, sage, basil [inaudible]

Ed: Yeah absolutely, go with herbs and go with transplants, and you can't go wrong, and tell us how it goes next month.

Lynn: Great, thank you so much.

Ed: Alright, we are at 3:00, we've had a fun hour. I always tell everyone this is my most fun hour of the month here at Hadley, and it was again, so thanks so much everybody for all your comments. Irene, I look forward to hearing another story from you next month. I'm not sure how you can top the last one, but anyway, everyone it's so lovely to chat with you all and hear familiar voices and also have new folks participate as well, so thank you very much. This recording will be available on our website.

Also we will have an opportunity on our website to put any other resources that you folks might ... might be appropriate, so don't hesitate to also email me any suggestions you have for a topic for next month. We'll talk next month, thanks so much!

Nancy: Thank you.

Mary: Thank you.

Lynn: This was fun.

Ed: Bye now.

Irene: Thank you Ed.

Ed: Bye.