Frequently Asked Questions

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:
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:
How can I determine the freshness of a cut Christmas tree?
Answer:

The freshness of cut Christmas trees can be determined with a few simple tests. Gently run your hand over a branch. The needles on a fresh tree will be pliable. Those on a dry tree will be brittle. Another test is to lift the tree by the trunk...

Question:
Can hollies be successfully grown in Iowa?
Answer:

American holly (Ilex opaca) and English holly (Ilex aquifolium) are prized for their glossy, green leaves and brightly colored fruit. Sprigs of both hollies are often used in wreaths, centerpieces, and other Christmas...

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 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:
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:
What is the best way to store a cut Christmas tree?
Answer:

If you don’t intend to set up the Christmas tree immediately, place the tree in a cool, sheltered location. An unheated garage or shed is often a suitable storage site. (The sun and wind dries out trees stored outdoors.) Put the butt of the tree...

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:
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:
How do I control mealybugs on a houseplant?
Answer:

Mealybugs on houseplants are difficult to control.  Unless the plant is particularly valuable, it’s often best to throw away the infested plant before the insects spread to other houseplants.  The standard remedies for houseplant pests...

Question:
Should I add any material to the water to prolong the freshness of my Christmas tree?
Answer:

Do not add molasses, sugar, soft drinks, aspirin, or commercial products to the water. Additives provide no real benefit. The keys to keeping a Christmas tree fresh are to place the tree away from any heat source (fireplace, heater, radiator, etc...

Question:
Last summer the leaves on my peach tree were puckered and reddish in color. What was the problem?
Answer:

The symptoms are those of peach leaf curl.  Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease.  The disease is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans.  Infections occur as the peach tree buds begin to swell in spring. 

A...

Question:
My Christmas cactus doesn't bloom well. Why?
Answer:

The Christmas cactus requires proper environmental conditions to flower.  Critical factors in flower initiation are day-length and temperature.  The Christmas cactus is a short-day plant.  Short-day plants grow vegetatively during...

Question:
How can I propagate a rubber tree?
Answer:

The common rubber tree (Ficus elastica) can be propagated by air layering.  Air layering is a procedure used to induce roots to form on a plant stem while it is still attached to the parent plant.  Complete or partial girdling...

Question:
How can I determine if my houseplant has spider mites?
Answer:

Spider mites are tiny (about 1/50 inch long when mature).  As a result, they are difficult to see with the naked eye.  A convenient detection technique is to hold a sheet of white paper under a stem and then shake or tap the stem...

Question:
How long can a cut Christmas tree remain in the house?
Answer:

The length of time a cut Christmas tree can remain in the home is determined by the tree species, the freshness of the tree at purchase, and its placement and care in the home. In general, a fresh, well-cared-for Christmas tree should be able to...

Question:
Can I prune my red raspberries back to the ground in late fall?
Answer:

The growth and fruiting characteristics of raspberries are unique.  The plant’s roots and crown are perennial, while the stems or canes are biennial.  A raspberry plant may survive and produce fruit for many years.  However,...

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:
How can I propagate an English ivy?
Answer:

An English ivy (Hedera helix) can be propagated by stem cuttings.  Using a sharp knife, cut off 4- to 5-inch-long shoots.  Pinch off the leaves on the bottom portion of the cuttings.  Dip the cut ends in a rooting hormone...

Question:
How do I control spider mites on houseplants?
Answer:

Spider mites are a common pest of houseplants.  Spider mites use piercing-sucking mouthparts to puncture the plant tissue and feed on the liquid within the cells.  In light infestations, the foliage appears to be speckled with very tiny...

Question:
Is it possible to purchase a small evergreen, use it as an indoor Christmas tree, and then plant it outdoors?
Answer:

Iowa’s harsh, winter weather (extreme cold, rapid temperature changes, and strong winds) makes it difficult to successfully plant an evergreen in winter.  Successful efforts require proper site preparation in fall and good tree care. ...

Question:
Are leaves a suitable mulch for strawberries?
Answer:

Leaves are not a good winter mulch for strawberries.  Leaves can mat together in layers, trapping air and creating space for ice to form.  The leaf, air, and ice layers do not provide adequate protection.  A leaf mulch may actually...

Question:
How should I care for my Easter lily?
Answer:

In the home, Easter lilies prefer daytime temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit with slightly cooler night temperatures.  Avoid drafty locations.  Place the Easter lily in bright light, but out of direct sunlight. 

...

Question:
I have a beautiful rex begonia. Would it be helpful to mist the plant during the winter months?
Answer:

While rex begonias and many other houseplants prefer high relative humidities, misting is ineffective unless you’re prepared to mist the plants several times a day.  Also, rex begonias are not fond of water on their foliage. 

The...

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