Gardeners have been contacting me with questions about winter tasks they would like to accomplish.
I live in a small apartment and taking care of plants is new to me. Some houseplants that I bought last year have grown well and I’m thinking of taking cuttings and sharing them with friends. Do you have any tips on doing this without hurting the original plants? I have an ivy, a Philodendron, and an Arrowhead plant. (Rose H., Bluffton)
These plants root readily when started in water, and you can do all the work at the kitchen sink. Fill a pitcher with tap water and let the water sit overnight to dissipate additives such as chlorine. As for the container, glass or plastic bottles will do. The mouth of the container shouldn’t be too narrow or tight-fitting around the cuttings. A bright location out of direct sunlight is best. Use colored bottles if you have them. This will help prevent the growth of algae on the sides of the container and on the surface of the new roots. Algae do not affect plant growth, but many people don’t like the look.
You don’t need to use any rooting hormones. The ivy (Hedera helix), Philodendron, and Arrowhead (Syngonium) are all handled the same way. Take four or five cuttings, 6-8 inches long, from each plant and remove the lower three sets of leaves close to the stem. Within a month, new roots should start growing from the nodes where the leaves were removed. After roots are formed, plants can be transferred to small individual pots or grouped together in a larger container.
In your last article you wrote about pruning Crape Myrtles and Camellias at this time of the year. I have quite a few Mexican Heather that are now looking a little scraggly and the leaves on my Liriope plants are also not attractive . Can I prune them now? (Stan R., HHI)
These perennial plants can be pruned now through early March. Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) is a popular plant among many Lowcountry gardeners because of its very long blooming period. Pruning of the old growth is generally not done until there is noticeable fresh growth at the base of the stems. At that time, you can cut them back to about three inches high. The stems are strong, so use sharp hand pruners. Homeowners who are considering buying this plant need to know that bees love it.
Also called Lily-turf and Monkey Grass, Liriope comes in both clump-forming (L. muscari) and creeping forms (L. spicata) and is available in solid green and variegated varieties and in different sizes. Use sharp scissors to cut these plants back and to generate new lush growth. Tall Liriope can be cut back to within two inches of the ground; other varieties, to within one inch.
I was longing to have some pretty plants in my home for the holiday season, so I bought six each of Amaryllis and Paperwhite narcissus bulbs. Can I plant these bulbs outside when winter is over? (Caroline E., HHI)
After the flowers have faded, cut back the blossom stalks to the top of the bulb, but allow the leaves to continue growing. When the danger of frost is over (generally around the middle of February) plant the bulbs outside in a sunny, well-drained bed. Plant each Paperwhite bulb with the pointed top two inches beneath the soil surface and space the bulbs three to four inches apart. Amaryllis does best in light shade such as that found under pine trees. Plant the Amaryllis so that the neck of the bulb is exposed and leave six to eight inches between bulbs. Neither plant requires any special care during summer and winter dormancy, but will require regular watering once they send up new growth in the spring.
Update: Garden Gate Nursery
Gardening Tip: Use empty prescription bottles to save seeds of favorite plants.
Plant questions? Feel free to contact me via email about your gardening concerns.
Frank Edgerton is a Hilton Head Island resident, garden consultant and plantsman. He can be reached at email@example.com.