Frequently Asked Questions

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 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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 often should houseplants be watered during the winter months?
Answer:

In general, houseplants require less frequent watering during the winter months than in spring and summer.  Watering frequency depends upon the plant species, the composition of the potting mix, environmental conditions (temperature, light,...

Question:
One of my houseplants has several small, yellow mushrooms on the surface of the potting soil. Will the mushrooms harm the plant?
Answer:

The small, yellow mushroom is probably Leucocoprinus birnbaumii.  The fungus is sometimes referred to as yellow houseplant mushroom, yellow parasol, or flower pot parasol.  This species can be found outside in summer, but is...

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...

Question:
What is the proper temperature for houseplants during the winter months?
Answer:

Most houseplants grow well with daytime temperatures of 65 to 75°F and night temperatures of 60 to 65°F.  Temperatures below 50°F or rapid temperature fluctuations may harm some plants.  Keep houseplants away from cold drafts, radiators...

Question:
What is cat grass?
Answer:

“Cat grass” is grown by cat owners to satisfy their cat’s desire to graze on green plants.  Cat grass is usually common oats or a blend of oats, wheat, and rye grass.  It is sold at pet supply stores and garden centers. 

Cat...

Question:
What are some good sources of flower and vegetable seeds?
Answer:

Flower and vegetable seeds can be purchased at local garden centers and other retailers. They’re also available from mail-order/internet companies.

Mail-order/internet sources include:

  • Park Seed Company |...

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