Planting Spring Blooming Bulbs

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In the early spring, you’ll see beautiful displays of tulips, daffodils, irises and crocus dotting the landscapes around town. These bulb-based plants are the promise of the beautiful growing season to come, the first flowers after the chill and gray of winter.

But to enjoy this future beauty, you’ve got to plant them now.

Spring bulbs are a fantastic option for Flagstaff gardeners, because they need the cold weather of winter to bloom. And they are pretty good sports about the occasional frost (or even late season snow) after they bloom.

And when it comes to bang-for-your-buck, you cannot beat bulbs. For a very modest investment, you’ll get a plant that gets bigger and produces more blooms in the years to come.

Here in Flagstaff, late September to late October is the perfect time to plant spring bulbs for optimum spring color. Here’s our guide to giving your spring bulbs a boost now to ensure gorgeous blooms next year.

Planting
Spring blooming bulbs need well-drained soil and at least partial sun to bloom their best. If you live in an area of Flagstaff where clay is prevalent, amend your soil to a depth of about 12 inches to create a loose, well-drained soil texture. When planting, place the bulb facing upward in a hole about twice as deep as the bulb is tall, measured from the bottom on the bulb. (The top of the bulb is the pointed side, called the nose, and the flat side is the bottom, referred to as the root plate.)

Fertilize
Your spring blooming bulbs will need to be fertilized when planted with bone meal or phosphate, both of which are high in phosphorous. Either one can be added to the bottom of the hole and mixed with a small scoop of mulch before placing the bulb and filling up the hole. (Pro tip: Top dressing with fertilizer after planting will not have the same positive effects, however you might want to sprinkle a bit on top to ward off pesky animals looking to make a meal out of your freshly planted bulbs.)

Watering
Give your newly planted bulbs a good soaking right after planting. If we receive at least two inches of snow every ten days, your bulbs won’t need additional watering. When the shoots start to appear in spring, start watering bulbs about once a week with a nice deep soaking, but take care not to overwater as this can cause bulb rot.

Spring Fertilizing
As soon as you see growth on your bulbs in the spring, fertilize the area monthly until the bulbs flower. After the bulbs begin to flower, just stop and enjoy the show.

Maintenance
After your bulbs’ flowers fade, you can be left with the leaves which many consider messy and unattractive. Resist the temptation to cut them off. They are necessary for the plant to photosynthesize and produce the stored energy needed for the following year.

One easy solution to hiding the mess is to layer planting beds so that the remaining bulb foliage is hidden by emerging spring perennials. Another solution is to trim back the flower stems and leave the foliage as a green accent. Once that foliage has turned yellow or brown and died back, it can be removed.

Our days are still warm and it is still a great time to be outside. Enjoy the weather and add a beautiful spring accent to your garden by planting bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus and irises now. You will be glad you did next spring!

If you have any questions about bulbs – or any other gardening issues – please feel free to ask our experts here at Warner’s Nursery. We are happy to help.

Happy Gardening,
Misti Warner-Andersen

Houseplant of the Week: The Money Tree

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Money Tree

Pachira aquatica, a tropical wetland plant from Central and South America, got its common name “the Money Tree” from a bit of mythology about its origins: a poor man prayed for money and discovered this “odd” plant. After he took it home, he became rich selling the plants he grew from its seeds. Variations of this theme said he was able to make money because the plant wasn’t just one tree – it was five.

Pachira aquatica, the "money tree"And that’s typically what you’ll see in nurseries – a plant that looks like its trunk is braided; it’s actually the five or sometimes even seven plants that are woven together to make one Money Tree.

This is a statement plant, bold and eye-catching that deserves a dedicated spot in your home. In fact, you aren’t going to want to move your Money Tree around a lot, as it will start to drop its leaves. If that happens however, please don’t fret; it will recover.

Here are a few more tips on keeping your Money Tree happy:

  • Go with medium to bright indirect light.
  • Water when this plant is 50-70% dry. They do not have a lot of root mass, so they prefer a dryer pot.
  • Be sure to turn your Money Tree each time you water to allow for even growth and leaf development. 
  • It likes a good misting now and again (remember, it’s a native of the tropics)
  • Feed once a month during spring and summer while new leaves are being produced.
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Houseplant of the Week: Ficus Audrey

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Banner featuring image of the Ficus Audrey

We understand why you might be a little nervous about adopting a plant named “Audrey,” particularly if you are a fan of Little Shop of Horrors. But we promise our Ficus Benghalensis is not a bloodthirsty alien looking to take over the world.

Although now that we think about it…

In the wilds of India and Pakistan, where they are known as Banyan Trees, the Ficus Audrey can soar to 100 feet tall and grow several acres wide. They have roots that easily overtake other roots, which allows them to form a forest’s worth of canopy with just a single tree. In fact, the Thimmamma Marrimanu or Thimmamma’s Banyon Tree located in Anantapur, India, is thought to have the world’s largest canopy from a single tree, covering almost 5 acres.

So maybe not world domination, but forest domination – sure! 

Your indoor version of Audrey won’t be this expansive, but it still might grow as tall as 10 feet! In appearance, it’s very similar to the Fiddle Leaf Fig, although it’s actually easier to grow.

Here are a few tips on raising your Ficus Audrey:

  • This ficus thrives in indirect bright light. No direct sun or low light.
  • They don’t like drafts or low temperatures.
  • Make sure the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry before you water.

Fall Tree Planting

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We’re often asked at Warner’s when is the best time to plant a tree. The short answer, of course, is any time the ground is not frozen, because trees are awesome and the more of them we can get the better.

But, in looking at this topic a little more closely, we’d have to give fall a slight edge. And by fall we mean when the worst of the summer heat is over, the nights are cooler and the ground is wetter. This is particularly true in places like northern Arizona where we get the bulk of our rain during the monsoon season in July and August. 

So why do trees planted in the autumn flourish? There are a few reasons:

Planting in fall gives your tree an extra season (and some extra energy) to establish its roots. During the spring, a lot of a tree’s energy is spent on its foliage and producing fruit or leaves. As the summer fades, that energy can be spent on the tree’s network of roots before it goes dormant for the winter.

Pair that with the fact that the soil is warmer in fall than spring, which means that your tree is less likely to go into transplant “shock.”

There’s also an argument that you don’t have to water as much when your tree is planted in the fall and while that’s somewhat true, you really can’t ignore good watering. Water regularly and if you have any questions about how frequently to water your trees, just ask of our Warner’s associates.

Are there any downsides to planting trees in fall? Yes – the variety available. Smaller trees, including Apsens and some shade and fruit trees are available for planting during the fall. Many larger trees (the ones you get wrapped in burlap and not in containers) aren’t available until the spring. 

Regardless of when you plant your tree, however, your home and life will benefit. Trees mean more oxygen, increased value to your home, reduced energy costs depending on where you plant your tree, and the calming affect trees have shown to have in numerous studies.

Plus you’ll be creating another home for birds and other critters to enjoy, so you’ll be adding to the natural ecosystem of your neighborhood.

If you have any questions about trees – or any other gardening issues – please feel free to ask our experts here at Warner’s Nursery. We are happy to help.

Happy Gardening,
Misti Warner-Andersen

Houseplant of the Week: Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen)

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Not only are aglaonema plants beautiful, there are very easy to grow, even if you are a novice gardener.

This tropical foliage plant, also known as the Chinese evergreen,  is one of the most durable houseplants you can have. As long as they are warm enough, they will tolerate poor light, dry air and drought.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make your home hospitable to this lovely plant. If those leaves could talk, they’d tell you that they prefer bright, indirect light, some nice cozy temperatures and a bit of humidity (they are originally from the tropics of Asia, after all).

Caring for Your Aglaonema

  • Light: Your Chinese evergreen does well in anything from low to bright, indirect light. The pink-veined variety is one of the few pink plants that can tolerate low light.
  • Water: Let your plant dry out about 50% before watering again as too much liquid can lead to root rot. And keep this rule of thumb in mind: the less light your plant has, the less water it will need.
  • Temperature: They do not like the cold. Keep temperatures in the 70- to 85-degree level, and make sure wherever they are the temperatures don’t drop by more than 10 degrees at night.
  • Fertilizer: Feed older Chinese evergreens a couple of times a year with water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
  • Pests: Chinese evergreens are susceptible to spider mites, scale, mealybugs and aphids. Check the leaves routinely for signs of pests.

Houseplant of the Week: Aralia

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Sometimes you look at two plants and you are amazed that they come from the same family. Take the Aralia, which can range from indoor plants that are about 20 inches high to trees that soar more than 60 feet in the air.

Even among the species most commonly indoors, there are several distinctive features. The Fabian Aralia has large, scalloped, dark green leaves. As it grows it eventually develops a very woody trunk. Then there’s the Ming Aralia that has a totally different look with feathery fronds. Other variations have leaves that are serrated or variegated. 

Despite the different looks of all these plants, they tend to have similar needs in terms of water, light and general care.

Aralias do best in bright indirect light, but will also tolerate low to medium light. They will grow faster – and much lusher – in brighter conditions. 

Make sure your Aralia is planted in high quality potting soil with enough drainage. 

Water when the top half of the soil is dry and keep watering until liquid flows through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. Discard any water that accumulates in the saucer.

Finally, your Aralias enjoy their fertilizer but are modest eaters. You only need to feed them about twice a year during the spring and summer months.

Propogating Indoor Plants

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One of the joys of houseplants is that often if you have one, you can easily turn it into two. It’s the magic of propagation.

There are three basic ways to propagate your houseplants – by literally dividing them at the root, by cutting off a stem, or by transforming a single leaf from your “parent” plant and using it to grow a whole new one.

Dividing

The best time to divide your houseplants is spring because that’s when plants emerge from their winter rest and start growing again.

You’ll start by gently removing your plant from its pot and taking a look at the root ball. Determine the best area to divide – essentially an area with a nice, healthy section of roots.

With a sharp, clean knife, cut a section off the original plant. Make sure that the roots stay intact during this process.

Replant the divided plant as soon as possible into new potting soil and make sure to water and place the plants in a warm location with bright, indirect light.

Good plants to propagate by dividing: Sansevieria, ZZ Plant and Peace Lily.

Leaf Cutting

Rooting a new plant from a leaf requires that you get a clean cut from the parent plant. You’ll need to let the leaf dry out and scab over, otherwise it will absorb too much moisture, leading to root rot.

Take the leaf and dip the “raw” tip of it – where you separated it from the main plant – in a rooting hormone. You’ll want to place about two thirds of the leaf into fresh potting soil. You’ll also want to make sure you are planting it in the same direction it was growing in before it was cut.

Again, keep your new plant warm and water according to the plant’s normal requirements.

Good plants to propagate by leaf cutting: Jade, Snake Plant and Pepermonia.

Stem Cuttings

You can typically grow a new plant from stem cuttings in either soil or water. You’ll see the progress your plant is making more easily if you propagate in water and that can be fun!

This is probably the most common method of propagation, using a healthy shoot of new growth about five to 10 inches long as the starting point of your new plant.

You can cut it off with shears or scissors at an angle, preferably just below a leaf joint. Clear away young foliage at the bottom that could inhibit the stem from actually developing roots. If you are propagating succulents, let them dry for a few hours to seal off the edge and reduce the likelihood of rotting.

After your cutting(s) have grown an adequate root system (usually a couple of months) you can repot.

Good plants to propagate by stem rooting: Dracaena, Pothos, Monstera

If you have any questions about caring for your houseplants, or using propagation to increase how many you have, please stop by and ask – we’d be glad to help.

Happy Gardening!
Misti

Houseplant of the Week: Blue Star Fern

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We continue our tour of exotic looking ferns (we recently wrote about Staghorn Ferns) with the Blue Star Fern, a plant once again featuring unique looking fronds, but an easy-going manner.

In fact, Blue Stars will do well in topiaries without much growing material and in pots, as long as there’s good drainage.

It’s wavy fronds grow from rhizomes and can range in color from silver to blue-grey to green. Unlike most ferns, Blue Stars are more tolerant of drier climates and can take a little more sun than the typical fern plant. Park them where they can enjoy bright, but indirect light and they should be happy.

If your fern is going to be in a pot, make sure the planting material drains well. We’ve gotten mixed reports about using something like orchid mix, but a houseplant specific soil with a little perlite to increase drainage seems to work well. Also, avoid terra cotta pots as they tend to dry out too fast.

Water your plant generously once you notice the pot drying out, letting water runs out of drainage holes at the bottom. You might want to do this in your sink, because you want it to fully drain before putting it back on a saucer. In fact, don’t let your plant sit in a saucer full of water, as it could lead to root rot.

Blue stars don’t require much food – the nutrients in your soil will hold it for a few months, then only feed a small amount during the growing season and none at all in the winter months.

Houseplant of the Week: Staghorn Ferns

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Staghorn ferns are different from most other common houseplants – even other ferns.

The plants have not just one, but two types of leaves, one of which resembles antlers when it matures (in fact, other common names for this plant are elk horn or antelope ear ferns). These are the fertile leaves that produce the spores that allow the plant to reproduce.

The other leaves, which are flat and broad, are sterile. Sometimes they will look brown, but don’t remove them thinking they are dead leaves; they are essential for getting the plant nutrients and making it stable. 

Although you might buy your young staghorn fern in a pot, they are epiphytes, meaning that they do not grow in soil but instead use their roots to anchor themselves to host trees. Most staghorn ferns are grown on a plank of wood (and even hung from walls as a bit of plant art), or you can grow them in a basket with moss, peat or other organic material as the growing medium.

They enjoy bright, indirect light and absorb water through their fronds as well as their roots, so they love humid places or a good misting. A good rule of thumb is to water your plant once a week in dry and hot weather and then reduce to every two or three weeks as temperatures cool.