Frequently Asked Questions

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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
There are some tiny bugs on my Christmas tree. What should I do?
Answer:

Aphids and spiders are the two most commonly found pests on fresh-cut Christmas trees.  In both cases, adults that were on the trees back in late summer or fall laid eggs on the stems or needles.  These eggs normally remain dormant...

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...

Question:
How do I control whiteflies on houseplants?
Answer:

Whiteflies are common insect pests of hibiscus, poinsettia, chrysanthemum, and a number of other indoor plants.  They are most often noticed when watering or handling a plant.  When disturbed, whiteflies flutter about the plant for a...

Question:
What are some good ways to dispose of a Christmas tree after the holidays?
Answer:

After the holidays, there are several ways to dispose of or recycle your tree.  (Before recycling your Christmas tree, remove all tinsel and ornaments.) 

Place the tree in the yard or garden for use by birds and other wildlife....

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:
What should I look for when buying a poinsettia?
Answer:

Poinsettias are available in a wide range of colors.  Red is the most popular color.  However, poinsettias are also available in burgundy, pink, salmon, white, cream, and gold.  There are also bicolored, marbled, and speckled...

Question:
How do you sprout an avocado seed?
Answer:

Remove the seed from the center of the fruit and wash it in water.  For propagation purposes, the broad end of the seed is the bottom.  The pointed end is the top.  Insert 3 or 4 toothpicks into the sides of the seed.  They...

Question:
Do houseplants actually improve indoor air quality?
Answer:

Houseplants are attractive additions to homes and offices.  They can also improve indoor air quality by removing formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, ammonia, and other harmful chemicals.

Plants that have been shown to improve Indoor Air...

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...

Question:
What are winter onions?
Answer:

"Winter onion" is a general term used to describe onions that can survive the winter outdoors in the ground.  The Egyptian onion (also called tree onion and walking onion) produces clusters of small bulbs (called bulblets) at the tops of...

Question:
How do I care for a poinsettia?
Answer:

Place the poinsettia in a plant sleeve or carefully wrap it before transporting the plant home.  Exposing the poinsettia to freezing temperatures, even for a few minutes, may cause its bracts and leaves to blacken and drop.  As soon as...

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