I have received a couple of questions this week that I thought might interest you.
First QUESTION: When one refers to a plant as hardy in Zones 5-8 what does that really mean? I am grateful for an answer. Thanks.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has adopted a map which shows the expected high and low temperatures for a given area. The zones are divided on this map and numbered. It is based on the coldest climate in which a plant will survive.
If a plant is listed as hardy in zones 5-8, it means that it will withstand the cold temps up to zone 5 but will most likely freeze out in lower zones such as 2, 3, 4. It also shows that it will withstand the heat up to zone 8 but will probably die out in a hotter climate of 9, 10, 11. The best growing conditions for this plant would be between and including zones 5-8.
It isn't a perfect system but it does give gardeners an idea of where a plant will grow and thrive. For instance, the canna pictured here can be left in the ground in zones 7-11 but the rhizomes need to be dug and stored indoors in the colder zones of 3-6. It would be listed as hardy in USDA Zones 7-11.
Second QUESTION: Can you tell me how best to get cuttings of house plant begonias to root? I have 2 lovely plants, but they have gotten long, lanky and thin. I think I should prune them back, but I'm not sure of details. Thank you.
ANSWER: Begonias are some of the easiest to root from cuttings. You can start them in a glass of water. It is better if you don't wait until the stems are so long and thin, but it won't hurt to try. Cut the plant back to just a few inches high and you will get new growth from the roots. Or, you can cut it to the size you want, or a little below, and it should branch from there.
Remove all of the leaves from the cut off stems you want to root. Also cut off the floppy tips and any flowers. You want as strong a piece of stem as you can find. Be sure you know which way is "UP" after you cut them. They will not root if you put the tops down in the water.
Put the trimmed stems, bottoms down, in a clear glass of water on a windowsill that gets good light, even sunlight. I like to use a Kitchen window so that I remember to add water as it evaporates.
At least weekly, dump out the water and add fresh. When you add or put in new water, let the faucet spray it into the glass. This helps to aerate the water, which the cuttings need. Be careful not to use too much water force on the newly emerging roots. After roots form and are at least a couple inches long, pot them into good potting soil and keep them a little wetter than usual, letting them dry slowly so they transition to the soil from the water.
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Every year, I challenge myself as a gardener to grow something I've never grown before and this year was no exception. As a professional garden writer, I was privileged to be given several exciting new varieties to trial. Additionally, in my travels this year, I had the chance to evaluate many more new plants in trial gardens across the country. The following new annuals, which will be new at retail in Spring 2017, received top ratings in my book.
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