Using Epsom Salts in your Garden

Using Epsom Salts in your Garden

Epsom salt – also known as magnesium sulfate – helps seeds germinate, makes plants grow bushier, produces more flowers, and deters pests, such as slugs and voles. It also provides vital nutrients to supplement your regular fertilizer.

Plants will have visible signs that they are starved for a particular nutrient. If a plant’s leaves turn yellow all over the plant, it can be a sign they need more sulfate. If lower leaves turn yellow between the veins (and the veins stay green), they may need more magnesium.

Epsom Salt is recommended by Master Gardeners and used regularly by commercial growers around the world. Tests by the National Gardening Association confirm that roses fertilized with Epsom Salt grow bushier and produce more flowers, and it also makes pepper plants grow larger than those treated only with commercial fertilizer.

Here are some other tips for using Epsom salt in the garden:

Houseplants: 

– 2 tablespoons per gallon of water; feed plants monthly.

– Frequent watering for indoor plants can cause a buildup of salts in their pot. A tablespoon of Epsom Salt sprinkled on top can aid in flushing the salt buildup out.

– Spray leaves of houseplants to increase their green color, just combine 2 tablespoons of Epsom Salt and a gallon of warm water in a spray bottle and spray directly onto the leaves of the plant.

Roses: 

– 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every two weeks. Also scratch 1/2 cup into soil at base to encourage flowering canes and healthy new canes. Soak unplanted rose bushes in 1 cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water to help roots recover. Add a tablespoon of Epsom Salt to each hole at planting time.

Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron): 

– 1 tablespoon per 9 square feet. Apply over root zone every 2-4 weeks.

Lawns: 

– Apply 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet with a spreader or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.

Trees:

– Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet. Apply over the root zone 3 times annually.

Garden Startup:

– Sprinkle 1 cup per 100 square feet. Mix into soil before planting.

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Hydrangeas

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Hydrangeas

As Fall turns to Winter our trees and shrubs become dormant and we naturally think “it’s time to prune”.  CAUTION!  You are entering a DANGER ZONE!  Pruning improperly can destroy what nature has taken years to create. 
Cutting dead looking stems off shrubs can eliminate all flowers the following year.  Pruning the wrong branches from trees can negatively affect their structure, overall beauty and decrease fruit production.
Ask questions, do a bit of research before grabbing the clippers or pruning saw.
This is the first of several articles offering “easy to follow” suggestions on pruning popular shrubs and trees.  Following these instructions will reward you with healthy, blooming trees and shrubs for years to come.

Let’s talk Hydrangeas

These beautiful shrubs brighten up the shady spots in our yards with multiple blooms on each plant during the spring, summer and into fall.  But if pruned incorrectly they will flower very little or not at all.
First step is to identify what type of Hydrangea you have.  Most hydrangea varieties bloom on last year’s growth – stems or branches that grew this year, will bear flowers next year.  This is common for mophead, lacecap and oakleaf hydrangeas.
Mopheads are known for their round balls of either white, pink or blue blooms.
Lacecaps are a flatter, multi-blooming flower resembling flat caps with frilly edges. 
Oakleaf are recognized by their distinctive leaves shaped like those of an oak tree.
These 3 types should be pruned after blooming (late summer/early fall).  These bloom for several months so you may need to selectively prune shoots that have already bloomed while leaving others to finish blooming through the season. 
If you prune these types of hydrangeas back to the ground in winter, you will not have flowers the following year.
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Reblooming Varieties:  If your hydrangea is one of the newer reblooming varieties (Endless Summer series, Forever & Ever series) they bloom on both current season’s growth as well as previous years branches.  These varieties should not be cut to the ground either – this will delay blooms.

How to Prune

1. Start by removing dead or damaged stems first.
2. If the plant is too large, cut the oldest shoots to the ground, giving the younger, smaller shoots more room to grow.  This will shorten and thin out the plant.
3. Cut back stems to just above a pair of healthy buds.
4. Varieties that bloom on old wood should be pruned immediately after they flower
Tip:  We suggest planting hydrangeas with non-deciduous shrubs in your landscape.  This will allow the focus to shift from the hydrangeas to these other shrubs during the winter months. 
By pruning at the correct time of year and using the correct pruning methods your Hydrangeas should reward you with a bounty of colorful blooms from spring through early fall.
Fall is for PLANTING!

Fall is for PLANTING!

NOW is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and vines.  Winter is the second best – so get to digging!

Summer’s heat is over, the soil is still warm – actually warmer than in the spring – and the soaking rains of winter will soon arrive.  This means deep root growth will occur quickly on shrubs and trees planted in the cooler months of the year.

Why is deep root growth important? 

Roots gather nutrients and water for plants and trees, so the better the root system the more nutrients and water the plant receives – thus appearing lusher and healthier.   Plants planted now get a head start since they are able to concentrate their energy mostly on root growth during the cooler months.

Healthier plants are the result of planting in the fall.

The same plant planted in spring gets a slower start due to spending energy on both root growth, foliage and flower growth. Also, the cool weather planted plants are better established when summer arrives and can better deal with the heat, largely due to the well-established root system.

5 Succulents That Are Hardy to East Texas

5 Succulents That Are Hardy to East Texas

With winter coming up quickly, most succulents will need some sort of protection against the chilly air, or just brought inside where temperatures aren’t so low. However, these 5 succulents are ‘cool’ with the cool air and will be just fine when Jack Frost pays East Texas a visit!


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Euphorbia

With colorful pink, green, or white modified leaves (that look like flowers!) and its blue-green foliage, this low-maintenance perennial is perfect for your beds, borders, or containers. Euphorbia is tough and offers outstanding heat and drought resistance. Instead of showy flower petals, euphorbia has modified leaves, called bracts. This plant is a vigorous grower, reaching 1-3 feet in height and 2 feet in width at maturity, so it can quickly fill a garden space.


Hens & Chicks

Sempervivum are succulent, rosette forming plants belonging to the Crassulaceae family. They are commonly known as Hens & Chicks, and are called this because of the high number of offspring they produce — thus, a Hen and all her Chicks! The main attraction of these plants is their colorful rosettes of leaves. The rosettes are most striking in the spring and summer but even in the winter when growth stops, many varieties remain attractively colored.


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‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum

Sedums have become one of the most popular hardy plants in our area. What’s not to like? They are easy to grow; their thick, succulent leaves make them drought tolerant and they grow in full sun to light shade. Tall, upright sedums form clumps of foliage with massive flower heads which develop in summer and bloom in the fall and then provide food for the birds during the winter.


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Delosperma (Also known as Ice Plant)

Best grown in FULL SUN, Delosperma is an easy-to-grow herbaceous perennial. It can tolerate dry soil, shallow-rocky soil, and even full-on droughts. Glossy red-purple flowers bloom continuously from early summer until fall, and stand out against its fleshy, emerald-green leaves. The bright flower color paired with the long-blooming season and evergreen foliage makes ‘Ice Plant’ an easy choice as a groundcover or for a rock garden. A vigorous grower, Delosperma can reach 3-6 inches in height and a spread of 24 inches (or more!) at maturity.


‘Ogon’ Stonecrop Sedum

A small mass of brilliant, evergreen, solid yellow-gold, succulent foliage flushed with pink provides a bold color accent in rock gardens, along rock walls, or in mixed succulent containers. Makes an excellent pathway filler or ground cover. Does BEST in partial sun, reaching a spread of 8-12 inches at maturity.


Overwintering Elephant Ears and Banana Trees

Overwintering Elephant Ears and Banana Trees

Elephant Ear Plants and Banana Trees with their large leaves add a tropical or coastal feel to our landscape.  Grown in ground or in containers these perennials can be enjoyed year after year in our yards. 

Their foliage is affected by freezing temps and heavy frost turning their leaves dark brown to black almost overnight, but the underground tuber is not affected on many species – so they are still very much alive!

Only the foliage has died back, the tubers (bulb and root ball underground) are still kickin’.  In our climate, the tubers are winter hardy, so removing them from the garden in fall or early winter and replanting them in the spring is not necessary.

Over the past 30 years our area has experienced 2 periods of prolonged excessive cold (consistent low temps in the 20s and teens) that caused serious damage to most Elephant Ears and Banana Trees, resulting in some to not come back.  No one can control or guess what Mother Nature will do, but under normal conditions these plants overwinter well.

Overwintering Elephant Ears Tips

– You can prepare them for winter prior to inclement weather when it is more pleasant to work outdoors, or you can wait and cut them back after the foliage turns black. 

– Some gardeners believe it is best to let the stems die back naturally versus cutting them which could lead to rot. I’ve done this both ways and have not noticed a difference. 

– When cutting the stems off be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant.  My husband discovered this the hard way, he had itchy skin for several days where the sap came in to contact with his skin, whereas it didn’t have that effect on me.

– After cutting or allowing them to die back cover the plant with a small mound of mulch, leaves, grass cuttings – something to help protect it from the cold.

– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil.  Once our soil is 60 to 65 degrees you should see new growth emerging.

Overwintering Banana Tree Tips

– Just like the Elephant Ears you can prepare them for winter prior to the arrival of inclement weather or wait until the foliage turns black.

– Again, like the Elephant Ears, be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant.

– You can cut each leaf frond from the trunk and then remove the trunk itself or cut the whole tree down fronds intact.  (I suggest removing the fronds first if it is a large tree, they can be quite heavy and bulky to move otherwise.)

– Cut the trunk down close to the ground and cover the plant with a small mound of much, leaves or grass cuttings to help protect it from the cold.

– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil.  You will see a new plant emerge from the edge of the tuber once the ground temperature has warmed up to 60 – 65 degrees.

Houseplant Care Series: Repotting

Houseplant Care Series: Repotting

Is your plant drying out every few days? Has it stopped growing completely? It may be time for a new container! Check the roots of the plant by GENTLY removing its existing pot.

You can tell if the plant needs repotting if the roots are:

1) crowded,

2) growing together, OR

3) circling the pot.

The new container should be 2-4 inches larger in diameter than the original.

Here’s how you repot:

– Loosen the plant roots carefully but thoroughly.

– Set the plant into the new pot so that the base of the plant (where plant meets soil) is at least one inch below the rim, and then add soil all around it.

– Make sure not to add soil above the base of the plant.

– Water thoroughly.

Camellias: Sasanqua vs. Japonica

Camellias: Sasanqua vs. Japonica

Camellias are showy plants, offering long lasting blooms during the late fall and winter, lasting well into the spring.  Their large flowers brighten up your landscape during those winter months when little else is blooming.  The blooms are profuse and cover the entire bush making it the superstar of any landscape. 

There are numerous species of Camellias but the most popular varieties grown are Camellia Sasasanqua and Camellia Japonica.   These 2 varieties have similarities in their flower color but bloom at different times of the season.  Camellia Sasanqua will bloom from late Fall through early January and Camellia Japonica will bloom January through early Spring.

Camellias are known as a shade loving plants, but the Sasanqua can handle some sun.  It’s smaller than the Japonica in overall size (6’ tall and wide to 10’ tall and 6’ wide) and has smaller leaves and flowers.  Blooms are 3” – 4” in diameter, are sweet smelling and usually have ruffled edges with a burst of yellow color in their center. 

Japonicas prefer shade and are taller (12’+ for old mature plants) than Sasanquas.  Their flowers boast more petals, are often 5” wide and are stunning.  A single bush can have well over 100 flowers for weeks, blooming consistently from January through early spring.    

Both varieties offer striation or multicolored blooms, but most camellias bloom in one of three colors – white, pink or red, – in many shades from the palest shell pink to rose pink to bright red. 

These slow growing evergreens are relatively care-free.  They should only require pruning after they finish blooming.  Fertilize at the same time and again in mid-summer.  Camellias are prone to Scale and treating yearly with a horticultural spray or drench will help control these pests.

Consider adding camellias to your landscape if you haven’t already.  By planting both varieties you can enjoy the “Queen of winter flowers” from late fall through Spring.