All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"Growing Miniature House Plants"

Growing house plants is a rewarding hobby, but unfortunately oftentimes windowsill space is limited. There are many house plants that are simply too large for the windowsill, but there are many miniature house plants that fit just perfectly. In fact, when growing miniature house plants it's possible to have an entire garden in the same space that would fit just a couple of standard-sized house plants.

Semi-mini,  Mini, &Trailer CollectionIf there was ever a popularity contest held for flowering houseplants, the gesneriad family of plants would win hands down. This family includes both the all-time, most-popular house plant, the African violet and the tiny plants of miniature sinningias barely bigger than a dime. Semi-miniature and miniature African violets are small plants with tiny leaves. The smallest varieties often have leaves less than a half inch long. The small plants are topped with clusters of miniature flowers in a wide range of colors.

One of the smallest gesneriads is miniature sinningia. Entire plants are often no larger than a dime. This diminutive house plant has tiny, rounded leaves and a small cluster of miniature, trumpet-shaped flowers held on short, wiry flower stems that rise just above the foliage.

Begonias are also popular house plants and while many begonias can get quite large, there are also miniature types that seldom grow larger than a foot high. Begonia fuchsiodes has small, one-inch-wide rounded foliage that is glossy green. Its small leaves are held on upright stems arch gracefully outward and downward. Tiny pink flowers that resemble fuchsia blooms dangle from its stems and bloom nearly all year long. Like most all begonias, it grows well in medium to low light.

Baby's tears is an interesting miniature house plant that is often used in terrariums. It forms a dense mat of very small, rounded foliage. Its mature leaves are less than a quarter of an inch wide and new leaves are less than an eighth of an inch wide. It's a creeping plant that eventually flows over the edge of its pot and it's a good choice for a small hanging basket.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Stargazer Lilies Don't Need Winter Protection"

Q. I have some of the 'Stargazer' lilies you recommended and enjoyed their display this summer. How do I take care of them now to get them through the winter?

A. Lilies are regal flowers. Their large, brightly-colored flowers are a focal point in the summer flower bed. There are many different types of lilies.

'Stargazer' is a type of Oriental lily. It's one of my favorites. It bears large flowers that are easily six inches wide. The rosy-red flowers are edged with white and have prominent, dark red freckles on the flower petals. What I like about 'Stargazer' is its incredible fragrance. When in full bloom, it perfumes the garden with a spicy-sweet aroma. 'Stargazer' grows to 30 inches tall.

'Stargazer,' like most lilies, is a hardy bulb. In the ground, it needs no special winter protection. All you need to do now is cut away the dead stalks.

If you have them growing in a container, it's possible to overwinter them right in the container. Simply put the container into a shed, cold frame, or unheated garage. Next spring, bring it outdoors again and water it thoroughly. When you bring it out, you'll probably see evidence of new growth already. Because it's growing in a pot, it will bloom earlier than those planted in the garden. I overwinter many pots of these lilies in my cold frame each winter and every spring the bulbs increase in numbers. What started as three bulbs in each pot is now over a dozen bulbs per pot.

If you'd rather plant the lilies in the ground, first take them out of their pot. Dig a hole at least eight inches deep. Because lilies form roots along their underground stems, planting them deeply results in a stronger plant. To keep burrowing pests from damaging the bulbs, spray the bulbs in the hole with Underground Animal Repellent. Backfill the hole with soil, water, then spray the surface with Underground Animal Repellent.

Click here to read more about Underground Animal Repellent and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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