Gardening Blog

Jukofsky: Let's make some babies

This colorful coleus is a new variety
This colorful coleus is a new variety Submitted photo

Do you have a favorite plant now growing outdoors that you'd like to bring inside before a fall freeze burns the foliage?

Is the container its growing in too large to bring indoors?

The month of September is prime time for plant propagation. If the plant is grown for its attractive foliage, your job is easy. Cut some stems, remove lower leaves and place in water in a glass or clear plastic container. Place container where it gets light but not direct sun. If you've a root stimulator, add a pinch to the water. The time it takes for rooting depends on the cutting you've chosen.

Woody stems may take weeks. Fibrous cuttings root in a few days if containers are kept outside in a warm and shady spot. You can use a root stimulator while the plant is in water, or wait on this until it's planted.

If you, like me, are a coleus fan and you went a bit overboard this spring on this plant -- what with all of the varieties -- you'll want to have a few of these plants growing indoors.

Here's how: cut a foot long coleus stem, remove lower leaves and cut two or more inches from top of stem. This maneuver hurts; the top is so pretty. Soldier on and place in room temperature water. I find those squatty glass containers used to force daffodils are perfect for this step; and you won't need the containers for months unless you want your daffodils and hyacinths blooming for Halloween. Much better to have them flowering indoors in January when they'll perk you right up on a gloomy, rainy day.

WATCHING THE WEATHER

Those of us living along the Carolina coast can be found this month paying close attention to the South Florida weather reports. September marks the beginning of the hurricane season and each September I think of how it was trying to leave Hilton Head Island when the bridge to the mainland was a draw bridge. Mostly I think of our now sophisticated weather reports that have proven to be accurate the last couple of decades.

Many years ago I read a geological report that had found that our weather was marked this way: seven years dry; seven years wet. I'm loving the wet. I've not had to water shrubs or trees this summer and I've placed buckets outside in strategic places to catch rain water for my indoor plants..

Predicting the weather for any given season has become impossible.

The plants are confused, too. I'm holding off on the planting traditional spring flowering bulbs. Last year, I planted daffodils and hyacinths in autumn as usual, only to see them flower during the end of the year holidays. Daffodils with holly looked strange and lilies of the valley proved too delicate to stand up to Christmas holly.

Many traditional spring flowers came out of the ground and had set flower buds in February. I checked in with a friend who lives in Ocala, Fla., where there's a similar climate. Her garden was also looking like springtime.

I'm thinking I'll forget the growers guide as to when to plant what. I'll plant spring flowering bulbs when the spirit moves me and let them decide when to bloom

In the meantime, I'm planting more Begonias grandis. A prominent garden magazine calls this hardy begonia unusual. It has proven to be one of the hardiest plants in my garden.

Vegetable plants in the winter garden?

I can't do it; I've not got enough sun.

But I can grow a few in pots on the back sunny deck, and I do. Last week I was surprised to see that a volunteer cabbage had appeared. Salad greens, kale and spinach grow happily in containers and all herbs thrive. To me, one of the best reasons to live in a temperate garden hardiness zone is that you can grow edible plants all year long and with the knowledge that nothing has been sprayed on them to keep away insects, butterflies or humming birds.

HERBAL NOTE

This is the first summer that I've not lost any of my herb plants

My secret? Grow them in the shade. There may be a few rays of late afternoon sun that comes through the trees and that's it for the sunshine. I grew pineapple sage, Turmeric, sage, parsley, chives, lemon balm and lemon verbena in containers. It's the first summer I've been able to keep lemon verbena going. These are all perennials.

Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of coastal Lowcountry gardening.

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