XJ0001. Learning how to develop an ideal environment for houseplants will create lasting enjoyment. Increasing humidity during winter when air indoors tends to be drier, or fertilizing during the warmer months when plants are actively growing are some of the small steps necessary to keep a plant healthy and pleasing to look at. If you ever notice that your houseplants aren’t performing as expected or look less than desirable, start by making small changes to their environment and observe whether the plant is responding before making drastic alterations.
XJ0002. Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow because they tolerate a variety of soil types and have relatively few insect and disease pests. Herbs can be incorporated into any garden, planted in spaces between shrubs and trees, or be grown formally in a garden of their own.
XJ0004. Over the years, plant breeders have developed some plant varieties that are compact, with strong stems that do not require support to hold them upright such as dwarf bedding Dahlias (Dahlia pinnata). There are, however, plants with heavy flowers (Paeonia lactifolar, Chinese Peony) or tall stems (Hollyhock, Althaea rosea) that are top heavy and will require some assistance. Other examples include weak stemmed plants, plants in high wind or heavy rain areas, or plants grown in areas with less than optimum light levels. Many methods have been devised for supporting plants.
XJ0005. When seedlings grow their first pair of identifiable true leaves, they are ready for transplanting. At this time, you can transplant plants either into small individual containers with more space per plant or, if temperatures allow, directly into the garden.
XJ0006. Are you experiencing one of those “oops!” moments when you realize that a large shrub or tree was planted in the wrong spot in your landscape? The best way to avoid these moments is to plan from the start. Before planting anything, we suggest you try to take a look into the future of your landscape and install plants that fit your future needs.
XJ0007. High tunnels offer plants protection from wet, saturated soils and low temperatures in the spring and fall, thereby extending the gardening season. This can translate into earlier maturing fruits and vegetables. For centuries gardeners have been extending the gardening season using glass jars, hot caps, cold frames, and various types of greenhouses. High tunnels are a recent addition to this list in the United States.
XJ0009. Flowering plants are always welcome gifts that help make the holiday season more festive and meaningful. Many of these plants have superb flowers that last for days or even weeks if given proper care. The longlasting qualities of many of these plants make them excellent choices for offices, public buildings, and homes.
XJ0011. Edible flowers can be used to add color, fragrance, and flavor to salads, soups, entrees, desserts, and drinks. Since the late 1980s, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of edible flowers used by chefs and people entertaining at home. With the variety of edible flowers available, selections of size, shape, and color suitable for any occasion are easy to find.
XJ0012. Though the process of creating a colonial-style garden may seem intimidating, certain design elements found in modern gardens have been adapted from these gardens of the past. Even if gardeners decide not to create an entire colonial garden, they can still incorporate certain colonial attributes that appeal to them.
XJ0013. Proper soil fertility is the foundation for plant health. Turfgrass, woody landscape plants, fruits, vegetables, and annual flowers all have specific nutritional requirements. Soil pH and nutrient levels vary greatly from site to site, so guessing about nutritional needs often misses the mark. Soil tests often reveal that adequate quantities of soil nutrients are present, thus preventing unnecessary or harmful fertilizer applications.
XJ0014. The term “organic” is regulated in the United States. In order to sell products as organic, farmers and processors must use production and handling practices contained in the National Organic Standard, a set of rules developed by the United States Department of Agriculture as part of the Organic Foods Protection Act of 1990.
XJ0015. Before learning about the history of herbs and spices, it is necessary to define these terms. Herbs are the fresh and dried leaves generally of temperate plants and are usually green in color. In Pennsylvania, we live in a temperate climate characterized by summers and winters of similar length. Spices are the flowers, fruit, seeds, bark, and roots typically of tropical plants and range from brown to black to red in color.
XJ0016. Many cost conscious home gardeners and do-it-yourselfers are often looking for cheaper ways of growing plants for home and garden use. One way to achieve this may be by making homemade potting media rather than purchasing pre-made materials at garden centers and home supply stores. Although purchasing the base ingredients and developing your own mix may not result in a cheaper mix, it does offer the opportunity to be creative and to modify mixes for specific goals or plants that you feel would make a media better for your situation.
XJ0017. Seeds need adequate moisture and optimum temperatures for germination, but these conditions also encourage the spread of disease. To increase the survival rate for seedlings during germination, containers and tools should be sterilized and pasteurized or sterile soilless mixes should be used as growing medium.
XJ0018. When deciding what to plant this year, consider starting your plants from seed. Seeds offer a low cost opportunity to establish old favorites and try out new cultivars. In addition, there are typically more plant options when using seeds than purchasing plants. When considering seeds, it is useful to know what information is found on the seed packet.
XJ0019. Although common names are often easier to pronounce, using them is not the best way to refer to specific plants. Plants may be known by different common names throughout the country, and one name may refer to various plants within several species. A good example is the common name daisy, which refers to at least 18 different species. For this reason, it is necessary to use scientific or botanical names to properly identify plant material.
XJ0020. Many homeowners, golf course superintendents, landscape maintenance firms, and public and private park facility managers express frustration toward the prevalence of deer and the damage they cause through browsing and rubbing their antlers on prized landscape ornamentals throughout the year. Unfortunately, there are few simple solutions to preventing deer damage without eliminating deer completely, which is not an option.
XJ0021. Herbaceous (nonwoody) perennial plants add year round interest to any landscape and are a popular choice of plants among gardeners. Though thousands of perennials are available, native perennials have a special role in the garden.
XJ0022. What can gardeners do when they admire a plant in a neighbor’s garden and want to purchase one of their own, but don’t know its name? Or if a gardener finds that a weed has “taken over the yard” and needs to identify it before properly applying an herbicide? This can be difficult, especially if gardeners don’t recognize the plant and don’t know how to identify it. Gardeners, however, do have some resources that can help with this task.
XJ0023. Plants are classified by the number of growing seasons required to complete their life cycle. Generally, these groups are annuals, biennials, and perennials. Annuals will provide continuous blooms throughout the growing season, while biennials provide blooms during their second year of growth. Perennials will bloom for 2 to 8 weeks or longer, however, bloom time will vary and can occur during the beginning, middle, or end of the growing season.
XJ0024. Houseplants bring a bit of nature to indoor spaces. They add color, texture, and fragrance, and are visually appealing. Properly selecting houseplants for purchase at a garden center or other retailer is essential if you want to take home a good, healthy plant and avoid potential problems.
XJ0025. Propagating houseplants is an easy and affordable way to increase the number of plants in your home. Propagating plants means to create new plants by both sexual (seeds) and asexual (vegetative) means. Although collecting seeds for many plants is easy, this is not always the most practical or quickest way to propagate plants. Sometimes plants propagated from seeds will look different from the parent plant.
XJ0026. Plants can be classified by the temperatures which produce optimum growth. The two broadest categories of plants based on temperature are cool-season and warm-season crops. Knowing these classifications can be useful in producing and managing crops.
XJ0028. Most plants grow best in full sunlight and all plants need some light to survive. The amount of shade a plant is growing under will directly affect the density of the foliage, as well as the flowering and fruiting characteristics. In choosing plants, the level of light the plant will receive should be taken into consideration. To properly select plants suitable to your site, defining the level of shade or sun the plant will receive is helpful.
XJ0029. Dry soil can exist when there is simply not enough water to supply plant roots in a growing area. A wide building overhang or large areas of pavement near shrub beds will reduce the total amount of water entering the soil. Other dry situations include planting areas with insufficient soil volumes to accommodate the plant’s root system, compacted soils, and sites that are commonly windy and experience regular high temperatures (e.g., near parking lots, southern and western exposures).
XJ0030. Very few plants will grow when soil is constantly saturated; however, some trees, shrubs, and ground covers are more tolerant of wet sites than others. The list shown below includes such plants.
XJ0031. Residences benefit from trees and shrubs planted specifically to block unwanted views or prevailing winds. The first inclination of many homeowners is to plan a formal planting of one row of all the same kind of tree in a straight line, evenly spaced.
XJ0033. A perennial plant will live for more than two growing seasons; a true herbaceous perennial will completely die back in the winter, while its roots remain persistent, with clumps of stems or buds at or below ground level. Some perennials can be short-lived and may last only three years, while others may last for decades.
XJ0034. A certain amount of time and energy is required to create and maintain a well-kept and visually appealing perennial garden. Results obtained from dividing perennials are well worth the time invested. By dividing perennials, a gardener can control a plant’s size, rejuvenate plant growth, and increase the number of desired plants.
XJ0035. The Ericaceae family consists of more than 70 genera and over 1,900 species. The genera within this family are grouped together based on similar reproductive structures (e.g., flower, fruit, and seed), general appearance, and preferred growing conditions. Generally, the ericaceous plants are woody and range in size from low ground covers to small trees over 20 feet tall.
XJ0036. Herbs make a great addition to a garden, but they can also be grown indoors as year-round houseplants or just during the winter months to protect tender herbs such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or basil (Ocimum basilicum). Herbs grown indoors offer many benefits including fragrant foliage, various foliage colors and shapes, a constant supply of herb leaves for cooking, and continual leaf production after the outdoor growing season has ended.
XJ0037. Cooks realize that most recipes will require herbs and spices as ingredients to flavor dishes. Instead of relying on herbs and spices purchased from the grocery store, gardeners can grow, harvest, and preserve their own. The method used for harvesting herbs and spices is dependent on the plant part desired. Separate fact sheets have been written on each commonly used herb with detailed descriptions of the plant part used as well instructions for their use in a recipe.
XJ0038. Compost is a term for organic matter that has decomposed into a form that plants can use. Compost can be used in potting mixes or mixed in with garden soil. It has many benefits for your plants and recycles materials that may otherwise be thrown into landfills. Though composting bins are available for purchase, methods described in this fact sheet rely on materials from your garden, kitchen, and, if needed, a few items from your garden center.
XJ0039. Walnuts and hickories produce the chemical juglone (5 hydroxy-1,4- napthoquinone), which is exuded from all parts of the plant. The greatest concentration of juglone and hydroxyjuglone (a nontoxic, colorless precursor that is converted into the toxic form juglone by sensitive plants and through oxidation) is found in the vegetative buds, leaves, stems, nut hulls, and roots of the plants.
XJ0040. A certain amount of maintenance is needed to keep a garden looking its best. This minimal effort may mean all the difference between a garden that is mediocre and one that evokes compliments from neighbors. Deadheading, disbudding, pinching back, heading back, cutting back and thinning are all necessary pruning techniques. These chores will encourage plants to bloom for longer periods of time and improve overall plant appearance and health.
XJ0042. As your houseplant grows larger and the roots either begin to grow through the drainage holes or become pot bound, repotting the plant into a larger pot will become necessary. After deciding to repot, following a few steps is all that’s needed to complete this task successfully. First though, have fun looking for and choosing a container that will really complement your houseplants.