Helping a reader identify this beautiful, but unknown, houseplant
In today's "Fielding Questions" column, Don Kinzler also answers questions about killing moss in lawns and raised gardening.
Q: We received this plant a couple years ago when it was very small. We don't know what type of plant it is and neither does the person who gave it. It’s done amazing and is extremely strong. It didn't get flowers this summer but is starting to get them while we have the plant inside this winter. We’re hoping you can help us with the name. — Bryce and Linda R.
A: Congratulations on raising a healthy kalanchoe! They’re frequently found in floral shops and given as gifts, and besides your white, there are red, pink, yellow and orange kalanchoes.
Kalanchoes are considered a succulent, with thick waxy leaves. Like other succulents, they grow best in a well-drained potting mix and appreciate less-frequent watering.
Unlike some blooming florist-type plants, kalanchoes grow nicely in home conditions as a houseplant. They do require a sunny window for best bloom, and appreciate a summer vacation outdoors in a sheltered location on deck or patio. A gradual acclimation to outdoors in late May is necessary, or leaves will burn if transition from indoors is too rapid.
Kalanchoes are triggered into best bloom by short days and long, dark nights, similar to poinsettias. The shortened days of autumn will sometimes supply the requirements naturally, but to ensure full bloom indoors, locate the plant in a room where electric lights are not turned on in the evening, which can disrupt the plant’s internal light sensor.
Q: We’ve had a large area of moss growing in our lawn on the north side of our house the past several summers. Regular lawn weed killer didn’t seem to kill it. Is there anything that can be sprayed to kill it? — Ben S.
A: Moss thrives in shady areas having soil that’s compacted, poorly aerated and often poorly drained. Lawn areas invaded by moss are often low in fertility.
Moss invasions are best remedied through lawn management techniques instead of chemical products, which often prove ineffective. Begin by core aerating the lawn in May, after the turf is green and growing, to increase air circulation in the soil profile. Go over moss infested areas twice, once in each direction.
Next, overseed the affected area with a grass seed mix containing 50 percent or more creeping red fescue cultivars, which is a grass type that thrives in shade. Fertilize around Memorial Day and maintain a mowing height of 3 inches. Water deeply and infrequently. Moss has difficulty existing where turf is thick, deeply rooted, well-fed and vigorous.
Q: I’d like to start a vegetable garden in our backyard this spring, but I’m not sure whether we should build raised beds or just plant into the ground. Any thoughts? — Deb L.
A: Whether to grow vegetables in raised beds or plant a traditional in-ground garden depends greatly on how much space you have, and how large you’d like the garden to be.
In smaller yards, the production in raised beds can be phenomenal. Raised beds are best constructed in widths of 4 feet, which makes it comfortable to reach in from both sides when planting, weeding and harvesting. Handiest raised garden sizes are 4 feet square or 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. Make as many of these units as desired to fill your space, being sure to leave walkways between units for handy access.
Raise gardening allows you to fill the bed with an improved soil mix, creating a designer blend of topsoil, organic material and aggregate like sand, perlite or vermiculite. Such amended soil is easy to work, compacts less, and is great for growing crops like long, straight carrots. Search online for Square Foot Gardening, which is an awesome concept for maximizing production in small spaces and raised gardens.
If your yard is relatively big, and you envision larger garden spaces than the raised garden dimensions mentioned, then an in-ground vegetable garden probably suits your needs better.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.