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  • Caring for Your Amaryllis
  • Forcing Branches
  • Poinsettia Re-blooming
  • Orchid Care
  • How to Re-pot Your Houseplant
  • How to Plant a Terrarium
  • More Tips and Resources in Our Garden Center

Your amaryllis bulb has just invested all its energy in producing flowers. It now needs plenty of water, fertilizer, and sunshine to allow its leaves to carry on the process of photosynthesis and replenish the bulb’s food supply. Pinch off spent blossoms so the plant doesn’t waste energy forming seeds. Don’t remove any foliage yet. Move the plant to a sunny window, continue to water as needed, and fertilize twice a month to promote healthy leaves. The more leaves the plant grows in summer, the more flower stalks it will be able to produce the following winter. If you wish, move the pot outside once spring has truly arrived, or put it in a greenhouse or on an indoor windowsill. Try to find a spot where it will receive at least four hours of sunshine each day.

Dormancy and Storage: To some extent, each amaryllis bulb seems to set its own timetable for going dormant and then re-blooming. Usually, however, the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back by late August (sometimes later, sometimes earlier), signaling the beginning of the plant’s dormant stage. When this happens, stop watering and fertilizing. If you had set the pot outside over spring and summer, lay it on its side so that rain won’t moisten the soil and bring it in before the first hard frost. Cut off the dead foliage and store the bulb, still in its pot, in a dark, cool (about 55 degrees) spot such as a basement for about two months.

Revival: Begin awakening your amaryllis bulb from its rest six to eight weeks before you want it to bloom again. Gently remove the top inch of soil with a spoon and replace it with fresh potting soil. Then water the plant well and fertilize. Follow the same schedule of care as last year to bring the plant into bloom and through the summer again.

An Amaryllis may refuse to bloom again if its roots have been disturbed too often, so don’t re-pot unless the bulb looks really crowded (once every three or four years is usually enough). You’ll disrupt the plant least if you re-pot it at the start of the revival, or new-growth period.

Occasionally miniature plants (called “pups”) appear around the mother bulb. If you want a clump of amaryllis in one pot, leave them be. If not, you can remove them and pot them separately at the beginning of the new-growth stage. Pups develop slowly but should bloom once they are three years old.

Sometimes despite your best efforts a revived amaryllis bulb sends up new leaves but no flowers. Don’t despair! If the plant seems healthy and strong, give it another chance by carrying it through another growing season – it may just need more time to gather the strength to rebloom.

To force branches of your favorite trees and shrubs, select and prune 1-2 year old stems, which usually have the most flower buds. Branches should be 1-2 feet long, and the cut should be flush with a larger branch or the trunk so as not to deform the plant or provide easy access for insects and disease. Try to select branches with many flower buds, but also keep in mind the overall shape of the tree or shrub when making your cuts. Generally, flower buds are fatter and more rounded than leaf buds. If you can’t tell which is which, dissect a few buds and look for the flower parts inside.

Bring the cut branches indoors and submerge them overnight in room-temperature water. This helps the branches and buds take up water they need to force the flowers to open. The next morning, recut the bottoms and make inch long vertical slits in the cut ends to help the branches take up water. Place branches in a vase of warm water in a bright room away from heaters and direct sun. In general, the brighter the room, the truer the colors and stronger the fragrance, though blossoms will never look and smell exactly the same as they do outdoors. Depending on the kinds of branches and when you cut them, flowers will begin appearing in a few weeks. The closer to their natural flowering time the branches are forced, the sooner the blooms will appear. Once open, misted flowers can last for a week if kept in a cool room, and some branches with leaves will last up to two weeks.

*Most trees and shrubs force best when pruned about six weeks before their natural bloom time.

The traditionally red leaves of this plant are called bracts, and the flowers are actually their yellow centers. The bracts will usually maintain their color until the beginning of spring. In March, cut off the remaining colored bracts. Prune your poinsettia to about 7 inches to jump-start new growth. Feed weekly with an all-purpose, water soluble fertilizer and keep your plant moist.

After temperatures remain above 55 degrees Fahrenheit each evening, leave the poinsettia outside to soak up warm spring and summer rays. In June, it will be time to accommodate new growth. Transplant your poinsettia to a bigger container that is no more than four inches larger in diameter than the last one. Water the newly potted plant until water runs out the bottom.

For a bushier plant when the holiday season arrives, prune away all new growth in midsummer so that only two or three bracts remain on each stalk. And to make sure that your plant is getting the same amount of sun and growing evenly on all sides give it a quarter turn once a week.

Controlling light: Poinsettias need very specific maintenance at this stage to make sure they re-bloom, so follow these steps carefully.

As of October 1, poinsettias need 14 continuous hours of complete darkness each day to turn the bracts bright colors. At 6:00 every evening, store the poinsettia in an area that receives no light at all, such as a closet, cupboard or pantry. Even the light from an outside street lamp could ruin this process, so cover the plant with a large box as well, if necessary. Keep the temperature surrounding the plant between 60 and 70 degrees.

At 8:00 every morning, uncover the poinsettia and move it into sunlight. The bracts need this exposure to bright light and warmth to help them re-bloom. (A south, draft-less window is a good spot.) At 6 pm, place the plant in complete darkness again.

Continue this cycle until early December, when the bracts have completely expanded and begun to show bright color again. Then remove your poinsettia plant from darkness for the season. Display and care for your plant in indirect sunlight just as you did the year before, and enjoy it once more!

Phalaenopsis, the moth orchid, is perhaps the best orchid for growing in the home, and is also a favorite with greenhouse growers. Well-grown plants can flower often, sometimes with a few flowers throughout the year, though the main season is late winter into spring. Average home temperatures and conditions are usually sufficient. Flower stems on certain hybrids can be forced to re-bloom by cutting the tip off after the initial flowering. Only healthy plants should be induced to flower repeatedly.

Light is easy to provide for Phalaenopsis. They grow easily in a bright window, with little or no sun. An east window is ideal in the home; shaded south or west windows are acceptable. In overcast, northern winter climates, a full south exposure may be needed. Artificial lighting can easily be provided. Four fluorescent tubes in one fixture supplemented by incandescent bulbs are placed 6-12” above the leaves, 12-16 hours a day, following natural day length.

Temperature for Phalaenopsis should usually be above 60 F and 75-85 F or more during the day. Although higher temperatures force faster vegetative growth, higher humidity and air movement must accompany higher temperatures, the recommended maximum being 90-95 F. Night temperatures to 55 F are desirable for several weeks in the autumn to initiate flower spikes. Fluctuating temperatures can cause bud drop on plants with buds ready to open.

Water is especially critical for Phalaenopsis. Because they have no major water-storage organs other than their leaves, they must never completely dry out. Plants should be thoroughly watered and not watered again until nearly dry. In the heat of summer in a dry climate, this may be every other day, in the winter in a cool northern greenhouse; it may be every 10 days. Water only in the morning, so that the leaves dry by nightfall, to prevent rot.

Fertilize on a regular schedule, especially if the weather is warm, when the plants are most often growing. Twice-a-month applications of high-nitrogen fertilizer (30-10-10) are appropriate where bark-based media are used. Otherwise, a balanced fertilizer is best. When flowering is desired, a high-phosphorus fertilizer (10-30-20) can be applied to promote blooming. Some growers apply fertilizer at one-quarter strength with every watering; this is best for warm, humid conditions. When cooler, or under overcast conditions, fertilizer should be applied twice per month at weak strength.

Potting is best done in the spring, immediately after flowering. Phalaenopsis plants must be potted in a porous mix. Potting is usually done every one to three years. Mature plants can grow in the same container until the potting medium starts to decompose, usually in two years. Root rot occurs if plants are left in a soggy medium. Mature plants are potted in a medium-grade mix. To re-pot, remove the entire old medium from the roots, trim soft, rotted roots and spread the remaining roots over a handful of medium in the bottom of a new pot. Fill the rest of the pot with medium, working it among the roots, so that the junction of the roots and the stem is at the top of the medium.

It is best to repot houseplants in late winter through spring if they are showing signs that their roots are being crowded. Re-potting prevents plants from becoming pot-bound and improves water retention. By repotting in late-winter you are giving your plant room to expand its roots just as they are becoming more active. Some signs that indicate it is time to repot are frequently wilting leaves, yellowing leaves near the bottom of the plant, roots visible near the surface or coming out of the drainage holes.

Following are easy steps that can help rejuvenate a stressed or overgrown plant:

  • Remove the plant from its pot and gently shake or loosen the soil from the root ball. If the roots are too tightly woven together use a knife and score the root ball in a few areas to loosen the roots.
  • Choose to repot your plant in a pot no larger than 2or 3 inches larger in diameter than the pot it was in and preferably with a drainage hole. Pots too large may make it difficult for a plant to adjust to a new pot and could also prevent flowering.
  • Place a small piece of moss, newspaper or anything porous over the drainage hole to prevent the soil from washing out when your plant is watered but will still allow water to drain.
  • Select a lightweight potting mix for your plant. Place dry potting mix in the bottom of your container so that when you place the root ball on top of the soil the root ball is 1” from the top of your container.
  • Continue to fill soil around the root ball until it reaches the level it was originally on the root ball before repotting. Gently press soil down and around plant with your fingers.
  • Water well until water drains from the bottom of the pot. Pour out any excess water if there is any in the pots saucer.

Select a container

  • The container must be glass or another clear substance through which light can pass.
  • It must be large enough opening to allow for the emplacement of soil and plants.
  • The plants should have similar environmental needs.
  • The terrarium must be thoroughly cleaned before use (to prevent bacteria from growing).
  • Two categories:
    • Open: can tolerate indirect sun but too much can burn leaves that are touching sides of glass.
    • Closed: a closed terrarium can also be an open terrarium to which a cover has been added. Indirect light is best. A closed one should never be placed in direct sunlight. (The temperature inside the container will rise considerably and literally cook the plants.)

Planting:

Drainage: a terrarium does not have drainage holes. Therefore you must supply a drainage layer to prevent damage to plant roots. Crushed river gravel or small stones work well. You want to use 1 to 2 inches depending on the height of your container. Generally the depth of drainage rock, charcoal and soil should equal about 1/3 the height of the container.

Charcoal: on top of the rock-thin layer to help keep the soil fresh.

Soil: use enough potting mix so that you can create a “hole” where you want to place the root ball of the plant. Example: 3” pot add 3” soil to terrarium.

Landscaping and planting: place tallest plant in center then add the smaller plants around if the Terrarium will be viewed from all sides or in back if placed against the wall. Ground cover should be added last. Leave ample space for plants to grow. You can add moss and stones around them, Remember it’s a miniature landscape, so don’t forget to have fun with it and add a miniature animal or a special miniature ornament.

Water: water container lightly with a spray bottle.

Maintenance:

Closed glass containers trap and hold heat and excess heat may cause death in terrariums.

Light: a newly planted terrarium should be placed in shade for about a week. Then adjust light according to the requirements of plants. (Most do better in diffused or filtered light.) Too little light they develop thin stems that are weak and unable to hold up leaves.

Water: Open terrarium-test before you add water. They should feel barely moist before you add water. Closed terrarium: these should rarely if ever need water. if walls have too much condensation remove the cover until walls clear.

Plant growth: Terrarium plants should be scaled to the size of the container. As plants grow prune back those that show signs of overcrowding. Clip and remove dead leaves. Remove plants that become to big. Don’t fertilize because you want your plants to stay small.

Molds and mildews: The presence of mold or mildew indicates that one of three things is wrong. The terrarium may contain too much water, air circulation may be poor, or you’ve chosen the wrong plants for a closed terrarium. Remove infected plants immediately and correct the environment by letting it dry out or increasing air circulation.

Insects and pests: cut out infected area and spray with insecticide.

Cleanliness: Keep the container clean. Remove moisture or dust from the glass. Remove algae, which may form a green coating on the glass. Clean leaves and remove dead leaves and blossoms promptly to prevent the growth of fungi.

Recommended plants:

Low light terrariums: ferns, mosses, baby tears, Hypoestes, fitonia, ivy, peperomia, sanserveria, schefflera, and miniature orchids.

Closed jars or cloche: mosses, ferns, rhizomatous begonia, pitcher plant, miniature orchids, venus fly traps, or peperomias

Wardian case with glass panels: Due to the air spaces between the glass frames they aren’t airtight. As a result humidity may not be as high as an airtight terrarium. Some plants are best to exhibit just set in their own containers. Some are: Rhizomatous begonias, ferns, carnivorous plants, mosses, orchids, peperomias and pilea.

High light: open terrariums only, because desert plants require dry soil and low humidity.

Long periods of bright light: cacti, succulents, including jade, aloe, burros tail echeveria, haworthia and sedum.