Hibiscus Care|Space Gardening

Hibiscus flowers are one of the most spectacular blossoms a container gardener can grow. The blooms are large, colorful and incredibly graceful. The foliage of the hibiscus plant is also beautiful – the dark green, glossy leaves, provide a wonderful contrast with the extravagant blooms.

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Caring for hibiscus is easy and can make any container garden feel luxurious and exotic. Here are some important information to care your hibiscus the best way:

  • Sun Requirements – While most plant tags will tell you that hibiscus takes full sun to partial sun, in reality, if you live somewhere hot and light, you should go more towards partial sun. In Northern climes, your hibiscus will probably be happier in full sun.
  • Drainage and Watering are Key – Hibiscus are thirsty plants and will only thrive and produce blossoms if they are given enough water. Depending on heat, wind and humidity, your plant may need to be watered daily – in extremely dry conditions – twice a day. These are tropical plants, so they don’t like to dry out. They also don’t like to be soaking wet, so you have to be careful not to drown your plants. Keep the soil moist, watering your plant slowly and deeply. If your hibiscus is dropping leaves, or you’re seeing yellowing leaves at the top of the hibiscus, chances are it’s not getting enough water. If your hibiscus has yellowing leaves in the middle or towards the bottom of the plant, chances are it’s suffocating from too much water.
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  • Pot Size – For consistent production of hibiscus flowers, you don’t want to transplant your hibiscus in too deep a container. If you do, your plant will be healthy, but will spend more energy producing roots than flowers and top growth, so you may see fewer flowers until the roots have hit the bottom of the pot. However, if you are doing a mixed container, you will want to put the hibiscus in a larger pot, so optimally, look for one that is wider than the nursery pot, but not much deeper.
  • Fertilizer – Chances are good that when you buy your hibiscus, it has a slow release fertilizer mixed into to the soil so you probably don’t have to worry about feeding your plant for the first few months you own it. After that feed it regularly. I use a diluted, liquid fish emulsion, seaweed combination every other week.
  • Overwintering Hibiscus – If you live in a northern climate, it is possible to overwinter hibiscus indoors, though it’s not easy. Your hibiscus will need at least 2-3 hours of direct sunlight. Try putting your hibiscus in an East, West or South facing window. Though your hibiscus will need less water in the winter, be aware that once you turn on your heat, your air will be dry, which can be hard on tropical plants, so you will need to water more often. If you see any buds remove them – you don’t want your hibiscus to flower in the winter. In the spring, cut the plant back and put it back outside, once the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F.
  • Happy Hibiscus – If your plant is consistently producing hibiscus flowers, it is happy, so keep doing what you’re doing. If your plant is not producing buds and flowers, try moving it into an area that has either more or less sunlight.
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Smoke Bush|Space Gardening

Growing Smoke Trees In Your Garden

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Have you ever seen a smoke tree (European, Cotinus coggygria/American, Cotinus obovatus)? Growing smoke trees is something people do to make great looking shrub borders or even just as a pretty patio or accent tree in a front yard garden. When in full bloom, they have gorgeous reddish brown or dark mauve feathery flowers that make the tree look like a puff of smoke.

Planting smoke trees is easy enough. These trees make a great landscaping addition to most front yards. A lot of people prefer to use them as accent trees similar to the Japanese maple. When the smoke tree blooms, it makes a great accent.

Planting smoke trees throughout the border of your yard is another excellent idea for a pretty border that separates your yard from your neighbor’s that both you and your neighbor will enjoy.

Tips for Growing Smoke Trees

If you are planting smoke trees in your yard, you will want to know how to grow a smoke tree. This is simple enough. Purchase a good tree from your local garden center. They grow well in a high pH soil and should be located where they can get full sun or partial shade; however, they do prefer full sun and will bloom at their best in full sun.

When the smoke tree blooms, it is a beautiful tree. The puff of smoke that is the flowers will last most of the summer before it starts to fall off and fade for fall foliage. Again, the smoke tree blooms are like feathery, fuzzy flowers and look like a beautiful cloud of smoke.

Growing smoke trees is easy but you should be careful not to damage the bark. The bark is thin and easily damaged. Therefore, be careful not to hit it with a lawnmower or other gardening equipment while gardening. Weed whackers can also do harm, so again, use caution.

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Pruning a Smoke Tree

The plant will also droop as it gets larger, so pruning your growing smoke trees is very important. Wait until late fall or early spring to do so after the tree is done blooming. You don’t want to stop the tree from blooming as the smoke tree blooms are the best part of the tree.

Pruning your smoke tree will make sure it grows up strong. Further, keeping the soil alkaline should help your tree be healthy as well. You can get food for the tree or treatments for the soil if you feel you need them from your local garden center.

 

Protecting Plants|Space Gardening

Chicken wire, also known as poultry netting, is galvanized-steel fencing material originally used to secure poultry coops and enclosures. When you need an inexpensive material to protect your vegetables or ornamental trees in the garden, chicken wire can play an important role in several plant-protection projects. It is easy to work with and safe around children if you bend back the cut ends of fencing to prevent scratches from the sharp wire. Here are some ideas on how to use wires for plant protection:

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1. Cages: Hungry animals such as deer will eat practically any plant in sight, but the tender foliage of young trees and shrubs is like a delicacy. Without protecting new plants, deer might eat all the leaves, strip away the bark and kill the plants. A chicken wire cage installed around the plant blocks animals’ access, giving young plants a fighting chance at survival. The thin, flexible wire can be trampled easily if you build a free-standing cage, so drive a few stakes spaced evenly around the plant. The stakes form a more rigid frame to support the chicken wire, which you can attach to the stakes using wire fence ties, plastic zip ties or wood staples.

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2. Fencing: An entire flower bed or garden might require a fence made from stakes and chicken wire to protect the plants, particularly if you have trouble with burrowing animals, such as rabbits and groundhogs. The fence should measure about 36 inches tall, but use 1-inch mesh chicken wire that measures about 18 inches longer so you can bury a portion of the fencing to prevent the animals from burrowing under the fence. For the best defense against burrowing animals, dig a 12-inch-wide, 6-inch-deep trench so you can bury 6 inches of the fence vertically and bend the bottom of the fencing horizontally so persistent animals can’t burrow under the fence.

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3. Crop Cover: Whether you grow in raised beds or directly in the soil, young plants can benefit from a chicken wire crop cover to keep birds and other animals away and protect the plants from foot traffic. If you have a raised bed with sides that are taller than the plants, you can simply stretch the chicken wire across the plants and staple it to the sides of the raised bed. As an alternative, you can assemble a box frame from thin pieces of wood and staple chicken wire to the frame. When individual plants or a bed require protection, simply place the box over the plants and remove it when plants reach 6 to 12 inches tall.