Q. Our association would like to have a plant sale in the spring. What are some houseplants we could propagate easily and quickly from cuttings in water?
A. Several common houseplants can be propagated from stem cuttings placed in clean, plain tap water. Some good choices are:
Cut a 3-to-5 inch stem from an existing healthy plant, leaving at least one node (the point at which a leaf emerges from the stem) and some leaves at the tip. Place the cutting in a clean container with fresh tap water, making sure there are no leaves submerged under the water. Set the container in a location where it will receive bright light but not direct sunlight. Keep cuttings away from cold drafts. Room temperature of about 70ᵒF is ideal.
A wound to a plant organ (such as a stem or leaf) initiates a series of processes at the cellular level which, under optimal conditions, will lead to the formation of adventitious roots. These are roots that arise out of any plant organ other than the original root system – such as along a stem. This process can take several weeks. While you wait, it is important to change the water in your container periodically so that it stays clean and provides oxygen. Bacterial growth in the water can lead to rotting. Change water at least twice a week or when it starts to look cloudy.
Two additional tips:
Once you see roots form on your stems, let them develop in water for another week or two and then plant them into a small, well-draining container with potting medium. Keep the medium moist until you begin to see signs of new leaf initiation on the plants, and then cut back on watering to about once each week. Learn about the care needs of your particular plant. (See Maintenance of Houseplants on the Home & Garden Information Center website for general plant care tips.)
In addition to rooting cuttings in water, there are a variety of plants you can root easily in soil from leaf or stem cuttings, such as Christmas cactus, Jade plant, and African violets. Making new plants from cuttings can be a fun winter project!
By Christa Carignan, Coordinator, Digital Horticulture Education, Home & Garden Information Center
I enjoy the variety and versatility of winter squashes but don’t consider myself a big enthusiast for these dependable garden staples. However, one cultivar that I’ve come across over the years in seed catalogs and the heirloom gardening world has always intrigued me: ‘North Georgia Candy Roaster.’ I’ll refer to it as Candy Roaster. There was something about the name, look, and description that stayed with me. I decided that 2017 would be the year to give it a try.
Candy Roaster is a member of Cucurbita maxima, which includes turban, hubbard, banana, and buttercup winter squash plus several pumpkin varieties (including ‘Atlantic Giant’ grown by giant pumpkin growers). Vines are long, leaves are large, and fruit stems are round and get corky at maturity. Candy Roaster fruits are 18–24 inches in length, are shaped like a fat banana, and weigh 10-12 lbs. Fruit start off light yellow and mature to an orangey-beige color with interesting blue-green streaks at the flower end.
This unusual squash is well-known in the mountains of Western North Carolina, East Tennessee, and North Georgia and was originally selected, grown, and improved by the Cherokee people. The Cherokee Nation continues to grow it and distribute seed to help preserve their culture and foodways. Slow Food USA includes Candy Roaster in its “Ark of Taste.”
Several companies offer seed and judging by the various variety names, descriptions, and days to harvest (95-110) that one finds, it’s likely that there are one or more strains of Candy Roaster out there. I decided to go with seeds from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a Virginia company that specializes in Southern heirlooms. In late June I planted four hills spaced about 4 ½ ft. apart, in a 20 ft. x 7 ft. bed. I thinned the hills to one plant each and watched in awe at the rapid plant growth.
The plants had some squash beetle adults that I picked off, and powdery mildew showed up a few weeks before harvest. Planting late helped me avoid cucumber beetles and squash bugs. I had to work a bit to keep the vines from climbing up the deer fence. I was concerned the vine and fruit weight would damage it.
I harvested all the fruits on Sept. 24th and laid them on my porch floor for two weeks to allow the skin to toughen and wounds to heal. I’ve been giving them away to friends, family, and co-workers to spread the joy. I’ll store the rest in my basement and see how long they keep. I’m also looking forward to roasting the seeds!
The rind is noticeably thinner than the rind of butternut or acorn squash, and easy to peel. The meat is dense but soft and easy to cut through. In addition to making pies I roasted small cubes. The texture is creamy, the flavor very good, and the sugar content relatively high even after just one month in storage.
I enjoyed growing this squash very much. Yes, it takes up some room, but I think this unique, tasty, and productive squash has earned a place in my garden. Thank you, Cherokee Nation.
By Jon Traunfeld, Director, Home and Garden Information Center
Dave Clement details how to effectively care for your orchid houseplants.
Dr. Dave Clement, Principal Agent, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center
The sound of buzzing insects is so loud that it stops you in your tracks during a walk in the woods. Looking around, you find a tree laden with large, 10-12” clusters of small creamy white flowers with every bee, wasp, and fly in the neighborhood buzzing around. Then you notice that there are more trees and more bees, wasps, and flies. The noise is deafening. What is this tree that is so popular with pollinators?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, the University of Maryland Extension (UME) Master Gardener Program might be for you!
The UME Master Gardener Program is designed to train participants as volunteer horticultural educators to support the UME mission by educating residents about safe, effective, and sustainable horticultural practices that build healthy gardens, landscapes, and communities. Our vision is to grow a healthier world through environmental stewardship.
Q: A friend has offered me a sapling of a burning bush. I am a little concerned about it being invasive. Could you please tell me if this is a true concern? Thanks.
A: Yes, the burning bush shrub, also called winged burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is considered invasive in Maryland (and many other places) and deserves concern. In fact, this particular species is now regulated by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) as a Tier 2 invasive plant. This classification means that retail stores that offer this plant for sale must display a required sign indicating that it is an invasive plant. Landscapers may not supply burning bushes unless they provide the customer with a list of Tier 2 invasive plants.
Winter is coming! And the months when we’re less active planting and harvesting are a great time to strategize for next year’s garden. One of the tasks you might plan over the winter (or actually complete, if the weather is forgiving enough) is improving the vertical structures in your vegetable garden.
Growing vertically has a number of advantages, including:
It can also add visual interest to your garden. Many plants benefit from (or can be persuaded to appreciate) vertical support, including pole beans, cucumbers, melons, squash, tomatoes, and any other crop that has a vine or floppy stem.