Revive the houseplants, “clean” the yard, and stop stiltgrass: This Weekend in the Garden – pennlive.com

revive-the-houseplants,-“clean”-the-yard,-and-stop-stiltgrass:-this-weekend-in-the-garden-–-pennlive.com

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How to rejuvenate a “leggy” houseplantSome of your houseplants and overwintering tropicals might be looking a little sad by now after months of low light and dry air inside.A common malady is “legginess,” or plants that have grown tall and lanky with a lot of open space between the leaves.This is an easy fix for most plants, and March is the best time to take action.The idea is to prune back this long growth, which in most plants encourages new and bushier growth.March is a good time to do this because it’s the beginning of their fast-growth time. Roots, stems, and leaves all slow their growth during winter months and pick back up as daylight lengthens in spring.A good rule of thumb is to shorten leggy branches and shoots by about one third. Always cut just above a “node” on the shoots. Nodes are little bumps or raised areas where buds and side shoots emerge.When you cut just above these nodes, that stimulates growth to emerge from those nodes and often from other nodes lower on the same shoot.Within a few weeks, the result is a compact and denser plant.Nodes often face different directions on a shoot, so by picking which nodes you cut above, you can also control the shape and direction of the new growth.If your plants are dry, water them a day before pruning.This kind of pruning works especially well with vining plants and bushy plants that arm themselves with lots of inner and lower dormant buds. (Dormant buds spring into action when something happens to the growth on the shoot ends.)House plants that respond well to end-of-winter cutbacks include spider plant, rubber plant (Ficus), umbrella plant (Schefflera), peace lily, croton, wandering jew, tropical hibiscus, flowering maple, kalanchoe, hoya, philodendron, pothos, purple passion vine, begonia, aluminum plant, jasmine, and copperleaf.A side benefit of pruning leggy houseplants is that many of the cut-off tips can be rooted to create free new plants.Take four- to six-inch pieces of the cut tips, pinch off all leaves except for the top set or two, then stick the ends into damp potting mix.Keep the soil consistently damp and within a few weeks, many of them will push roots from the dormant, buried nodes. When that happens, you now have a baby plant.Dipping the cut ends into a rooting-hormone powder can help encourage rooting. Small containers of these powders are available for a few dollars at most garden centers and through most garden catalogs.Now’s a good time to trim last year’s dead foliage from perennial flowers, such as this coralbells plant.Yard cleanup timeTomorrow is the first day of spring, and that’s a good trigger to think about “spring cleaning” the yard to make way for the new season’s growth.Most perennial flowers, such as daylilies, black-eyed susans, coneflowers, and sedum, die back to the ground when a killing frost occurs in fall (or soon after). If you didn’t remove that browned-out growth then or over winter, clear it away so as not to impede new growth that soon will be starting.Some foliage will come off easily and can be pulled or raked. Others will need to be clipped off with pruners or shears.If you’re cutting, remove just the dead leaves and stems at or just above ground level; don’t gouge into the roots or crowns below the ground where new shoots will emerge.Add healthy but frost-killed foliage to your compost pile. Bag and toss diseased or pest-bug-containing foliage to discourage reintroducing last year’s trouble.Some perennials, such as Lenten rose, dianthus, and coralbells, are “evergreen” perennials that hold their leaves all winter. These can be clipped or neatened as needed as opposed to being cut to the ground.You might also need to rake away matted leaves that are covering perennials. Leaves make good insulation over winter, but once the growing season arrives, excess quantities can hinder new shoots.There’s a difference, though, between selectively cleaning garden beds and “sanitizing” the whole landscape by getting rid of every last spent leaf.Until recently, the going advice on spring cleanup was to get rid of as many fallen leaves and as much browned-out perennial foliage and other organic duff ASAP.However, pollinators and beneficial insects over-winter in this dead foliage along with disease spores and pest bugs.One compromise – especially if you’re more nature-lover than neatnik – is to delay cleanups until after the beneficials have hatched.That timing varies from year to year and from species to species, but in general, the majority of beneficials are up and around by mid to late April.If you can’t wait that long to whip the yard back into shape, another option is to temporarily stash stems and leaves with unhatched beneficial chrysalises, spider egg sacs, mantid cases, and the like in an out-of-the-way area.Do you have a wooded area nearby, for example? How about an out-of-the-way corner where you can make a shallow pile? Or maybe you can tuck some of it underneath trees and shrubs instead of bagging it or shredding it?A third option is placing plant parts with unhatched sacs and cases on the top of your compost pile. The idea is to avoid burying egg-laden material so deep that you’ll impede hatch.The more you’re familiar with what these beneficials look like, the better. A beneficial-insect guide book or Internet search can help with that. One good bug-ID site is BugGuide.net.Turfgrass is more susceptible than landscape plants to early-spring molds and smothering when covered by leaves or other winter scatterings.Late March is a good time to rake matted leaves, fallen sticks, and any other winter debris from the lawn.If voles have carved surface tunnels in the lawn over winter, that dead grass can also be raked and composted.Lawns often repair this damage as surrounding grass fills in, but you can speed up the process by raking off dead grass and scattering fresh grass seed into the tunnels.After you’ve clipped and raked, make a sharp cut around the perimeter of your garden beds. This “edging” work stops grass from migrating into the beds, gives a neat look to the gardens, and makes a “lip” to keep mulch from spilling into the grass.Some say stiltgrass reminds them of miniature bamboo.Preventing Japanese stiltgrassBe on the lookout for a worsening grass-like weed that’s increasingly infesting our lawns and popping up in garden beds.Japanese stiltgrass has been around for more than 100 years, but it’s only lately rivaling crabgrass as a widespread problem throughout Pennsylvania and 25 other eastern states.Like crabgrass, stiltgrass is an annual weed that sprouts from seed in very early spring – usually a few weeks earlier than crabgrass, which typically starts appearing around the end of March.It quickly grows into mats of medium-green, wiry-stemmed plants that have skinny, pointed leaves with silvery streaks down the middle. When not being mowed (i.e. in garden beds vs. lawns), stiltgrass can grow 12 to even 24 inches tall.Some people say stiltgrass looks like miniature bamboo. Others confuse it with nimblewill – another common grassy lawn weed that comes back year after year instead of dying off with each fall’s frost, as does crabgrass and stiltgrass.The way to control stiltgrass is to stop it early, and especially before plants have a chance to produce mature seeds. A single plant of it can produce up to 1,000 seeds that can stay viable in the soil for at least three years, according to Penn State Extension.Stiltgrass produces tiny flower heads in summer, followed by seeds that mature in late August to early September.Since stiltgrass is an annual weed, plants don’t have elaborate root systems and pull out easily.Thickly grassed lawns prevent it, while tight planting and/or mulch is a good defense against stiltgrass (and any weed) in garden beds.If you’re a chemical-leaning gardener, the same granular preventers that discourage the sprouting of crabgrass are also effective against stiltgrass – i.e. pendimethalin, prodiamine, and dithiopyr.For stiltgrass, though, these should go down most years by mid-March or even a week or two sooner in a warm winter, according to Penn State Extension.Penn State adds that quizalofop and fenoxaprop are among the chemicals that control stiltgrass when it’s already sprouted but young.Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
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