Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
There are some white blotches on my African violet leaves. What are they and how can the problem be controlled?
Answer:

The white material on the foliage of your African violets is probably powdery mildew.  Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is common on indoor plants, such as African violets, begonias, and poinsettias.  Outbreaks of powdery mildew...

Question:
I recently purchased a ZZ plant. How do I care for it?
Answer:

 The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is a tough, easy to grow houseplant.  It tolerates low levels of light, prolonged dry periods, and neglect.  Plants have few insect or disease problems. Zamioculcas zamiifolia...

Question:
Should houseplants be fertilized in winter?
Answer:

Fertilization is generally not necessary during the winter months as most houseplants are not growing during this time.  Indoor gardeners should fertilize their houseplants on a regular basis in spring and summer when plants are actively...

Question:
Is it advisable to paint pruning wounds when pruning trees?
Answer:

Do not apply a pruning paint or wound dressing to pruning wounds.  The application of a pruning paint or wound dressing does not prevent wood decay and may actually interfere with the tree’s natural wound responses.

Oak trees are an...

Question:
I have several small evergreens in my yard. Do I need to uncover the evergreens if they get buried in snow?
Answer:

No, there is no need to uncover the evergreens.  The snow will not suffocate the evergreens.  The snow acts like an insulating blanket and protects the evergreens from desiccating winter winds. 

Question:
How can I propagate an African violet?
Answer:

African violets are easily propagated by leaf cuttings.  Select a firm, healthy leaf and cut it off with a sharp knife.  Leave 1 to 1½ inches of the leaf stem (petiole) attached to the leaf blade.  Fill a pot with a moistened 50:50...

Question:
How do I care for a ponytail palm?
Answer:

The ponytail palm or elephant-foot tree (Beaucarnea recurvata) is an easy to grow, low maintenance houseplant.  Plant characteristics include a swollen, bulb-like base and long, strap-like leaves which arch out from the stem...

Question:
Dust has accumulated on the foliage of my houseplants. How can I clean the plants?
Answer:

Cleaning houseplants improves their appearance, stimulates growth, and may help control insects and mites.  Large-leaved plants may be cleaned with a mild dishwashing soap solution (add a few drops of dishwashing soap to lukewarm water) and...

Question:
When is the best time to prune oak trees?
Answer:

Winter (December through February) is the best time to prune oak trees in Iowa.  Pruning oak trees in winter greatly reduces the risk of an oak wilt infection. 

Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many oaks.  It...

Question:
Which trees and shrubs provide food for birds during the winter months?
Answer:

When attempting to attract birds to the landscape, trees and shrubs that provide food during the winter months are extremely important as natural foods are most limited at this time of year.

Trees that provide food for birds in winter...

Question:
How do I pot up an amaryllis bulb?
Answer:

When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot which is approximately 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb.  The container may be clay, ceramic or plastic, but should have drainage holes in the bottom.  Plant the bulb in...

Question:
How do I care for a Norfolk Island Pine?
Answer:

The Norfolk Island pine is a popular houseplant.  During the holiday season, many individuals turn their plants into living Christmas trees by decorating them with miniature lights, ribbons, and ornaments.  The Norfolk Island pine...

Question:
Are there any bulbs that don't need a cold period when forcing them indoors?
Answer:

Forcing flower bulbs indoors is an excellent way to brighten the cold, gray days of winter.  Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, and other spring-flowering bulbs can be forced indoors.  After planting, spring-flowering bulbs need to...

Question:
How can I germinate buckeye seeds?
Answer:

Gather the fruit (capsules) of the buckeyes as soon as they fall to the ground.  Dry the fruit for 1 or 2 days at room temperature until the capsules split, then remove the shiny, brown seeds. 

The seeds of buckeyes and many tree...

Question:
Which trees and shrubs have colorful fruit in winter?
Answer:

The drab winter landscape can be brightened with several trees and shrubs with colorful, persistent fruit.

Trees and shrubs with colorful fruit in winter.

...
Common Name
Question:
What should I do with my amaryllis after it is done blooming?
Answer:

Some individuals discard their amaryllis after it is done blooming.  However, it’s possible to save the amaryllis and force it to flower again next year. 

Faded Blooms

Proper cultural practices must be followed to...

Question:
How does one care for a Venus flytrap?
Answer:

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), pitcher plant, and sundew are carnivorous plants that are occasionally grown as houseplants.  Carnivorous plants don’t survive solely by “eating” insects and other prey.  Carnivorous...

Question:
Can you list some varieties of paperwhite narcissus?
Answer:

Paperwhite narcissus varieties include:

  • ‘Bethlehem’ (creamy white petals, yellow cup, mild musky fragrance)
  • ‘Chinese Sacred Lily’ (white petals, yellow cup, citrus-like fragrance)
  • ‘Galilee’ (pure white flowers,...
Question:
What are the brown growths in my ash tree?
Answer:

The brown growths in your ash tree are probably ash flower galls.  Galls are abnormal plant growths induced to form by small insects, mites, or other organisms.  On ash trees, a tiny mite causes the male flowers to develop into roundish...

Question:
Which shrubs have attractive bark in winter?
Answer:

One of the most beautiful sights in winter is the bright red twigs of redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea) set against a backdrop of newly fallen snow. Native to Iowa, the redosier dogwood grows 6 to 10 feet tall. Several colorful varieties...

Question:
What is the proper way to germinate pawpaw seeds?
Answer:

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) seeds germinate slowly because they possess dormant embryos and slowly permeable seedcoats.  Germination can be improved by placing the seeds in a cool, moist environment for 80 to 100 days.  The cool, moist...

Question:
How can I propagate a Christmas cactus?
Answer:

Christmas cacti are easy to propagate.  Remove sections of the plant consisting of 2 to 5 flattened stem segments.  Cut or pinch off each section at a joint.  Allow the cut/pinched ends of the cuttings to callus overnight. ...

Question:
A recently purchased schefflera has begun to drop leaves. Why?
Answer:

Most houseplants, including the schefflera, experience stress when moved from one location to another.  Environmental conditions in the average home are dramatically different (less favorable) than those in a greenhouse.  The less...

Question:
What types of amaryllis are available for forcing indoors?
Answer:

Amaryllis are available in a wide range of colors.  Flower colors include red, pink, orange, salmon, white, and bicolors.  Single-flowering, double-flowering, and miniature amaryllis varieties are available. 

Single-...

Question:
After the holidays, can I burn my Christmas tree in the fireplace?
Answer:

Don’t burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove.  Dry, evergreen branches literally explode when burned and could cause a house fire.  Also, burning the tree may contribute to the buildup of creosote and lead to a flue fire...

Pages