What’s Wrong With My Lavender?

What’s Wrong With My Lavender?

Gardens are incomplete without at least one lavender plant. These popular perennials add a touch of purple to flower beds, borders, and everywhere in between. They are also incredibly resilient and low-maintenance, perfect for gardeners with little time on their hands for tedious or fussy plants.

However, that doesn’t mean they are without problems. Like any plant, incorrect conditions and care can lead to issues that, if not resolved in time, will lead to the demise of your plant. If your lavender isn’t looking as good as you’d hoped, take a look at these potential causes to fix it at the source.

Wilting

Originating from the Mediterranean, lavender plants are accustomed to dry summers and rainy winters. They are also drought-tolerant, making them ideal for hot South African weather. They prefer their soil on the drier side and don’t often require additional watering, except in regions without winter rainfall.

If your plant is left to sit in waterlogged soil, either due to excessive rainfall, compacted soil or simply overwatering, it will start to show signs of struggle. The new herbaceous growth may droop over and become soft, while foliage on the woody base growth turns brown.

Make sure the planting area is in full sun, away from any areas where water pools. The soil should be loose and well-draining to prevent any moisture from sticking around in the soil for too long. Lavender rarely, if ever, requires additional watering once established as excessive water will only do more harm than good.

No Flowers or Fragrance

If you’ve ever dreamt of summery fields of lavender in the Mediterranean sunshine, you’ll already know these plants are fans of full sun. They need as much bright light as they can get and certainly aren’t suitable for shaded areas.

If your lavender gets less than six hours of direct sunlight every day, it won’t perform as expected. Firstly, you likely won’t see many flowers, or any at all if the shade is severe. The leaves can also start to become duller in color, losing their vigor. Finally, a sign you may not notice straight away is a change in fragrance. Lavenders in low light can also lose their scent slightly – not something potpourri lovers will be happy with.

Always plant in full sun areas – the more sunlight these perennials get, the better. Those with smaller gardens can also plant in containers, allowing you to move the plant to a sunnier spot as needed throughout the seasons.

Leaf Loss

Many regions of South Africa have moderate temperatures. However, gardeners are not strangers to occasional bouts of frost which can completely ruin entire beds if not protected.

Your lavender’s response to cold temperatures will depend on the type. English lavender doesn’t mind temperature dips and frosty evenings, but French and Spanish lavender cannot tolerate the cold as well. Frost damage can cause these types to turn brown and drop all of their foliage, with degree depending on the length of the exposure.

Choose the right type of lavender for your region or protect your plants from the cold with a frost blanket when any signs of temperature dips emerge.

5 Houseplant Watering Mistakes To Avoid

5 Houseplant Watering Mistakes To Avoid

Watering is one of the most frequent care tasks in indoor gardening. Unfortunately, it is also the area where most new houseplant owners go wrong. From overwatering to lack of drainage, there are many common mistakes that can lead to the demise of your plants. Avoid these 5 mistakes to keep your houseplants happy and healthy year-round.

#1: Watering Too Often

Overwatering is one of the greatest houseplant killers. Most plants (and especially houseplants) don’t like to sit in overly moist, soggy soil. This leads to a condition known as root rot, causing the roots to become soft and mushy. Once severe root rot sets in, it is incredibly difficult to save the plant, so this is one of the most vital mistakes to avoid.

Never water when the top layer of soil is still moist. Rather test it with your finger and add water when it begins to dry out, with the amount depending on the specific houseplants you have.  

#2: Waiting Till The Plant Is Wilting To Water

On the other end of the watering spectrum, we have underwatering. For those who tend to forget about their houseplants, it’s quite common to wait until the plant is showing signs of struggle before watering again. Wilting and curling leaves are often used as an indicator of when to water. Unfortunately, if the plant has started wilting, it is likely facing water stress and should have been watered several days prior.

Again, testing the soil is the easiest way to avoid this mistake. Make it a habit to check the soil of your houseplants every couple of days to prevent over or underwatering.

#3: Watering Inside A Pot Cover

Pot covers are wonderful decorative additions to indoor gardens. Not only do they elevate your overall design by hiding unsightly plastic pots, but they can also be swapped and changed frequently – perfect for those indecisive designers that always feel the itch to change it up.

However, if you’re using pot covers for your houseplants, it’s vital to never water them inside this cover. Water quickly collects at the bottom and waterlogs the soil. The stagnant water also attracts bacteria that can harm your plants.

Always remove the plant from the pot cover before watering. Only return it to its original home once all the excess water has drained from the drainage holes. Alternatively, water inside the pot cover and pour the excess out after about 10 minutes.

#4: Watering On A Strict Schedule

The conditions around our houseplants change daily. From light levels to temperature and even humidity, there are several factors that can change how quickly the soil dries out week to week.

Watering on a strict schedule – say once per week as an example – ignores these factors, opening your plants up to stress from over or underwatering. Watering times are only a guideline and shouldn’t be followed strictly if you want to consistently water at the right time.

Always keep an eye on the soil and the performance of your plants to determine the best time to water. If you tend to forget, set a reminder to check the soil every few days and only water as needed.

#5: Lack Of Drainage Holes

Finally, the last mistake is using a pot with bad drainage or no drainage holes. When recycling containers, we may feel tempted to use ones without drainage holes to avoid the hassle of creating drainage holes ourselves. Often we find decorative pots that we desperately want to plant in for aesthetic value, ignoring their lack of drainage holes. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, this will eventually end up killing your houseplants. To resolve this issue, drill drainage holes into your chosen pot or simply use it as a pot cover, resting a plastic pot inside.

The Best Mulch Materials For Your Garden

The Best Mulch Materials For Your Garden

Although mulching can be time-consuming and tedious, it is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Mulch retains moisture in the soil, helping the plants and saving water at the same time. Some mulches are also excellent weed suppressors and make beds look neat and tidy. When choosing organic mulches, you also have the benefit of improving the soil at the same time.

There are many materials you can use as mulch, either recycled from the garden or purchased, and organic or inorganic. Take a look at their pros and cons to determine which is right for you.

Straw or Hay

Straw mulch is a great choice for vegetable gardens. While it can look untidy, it conserves moisture incredibly well, making it perfect for moisture-loving veggies that need plenty of water to produce fruits. It is also great for keeping weeds down and is often very cheap (or completely free if you have a farmer or stable owner willing to share nearby). Hay can also be used for the same purpose, but often contains seeds that can fill your veggie garden with weeds. Straw and hay are organic materials that will break down over time to improve the quality of the soil.

Compost

If you have a consistent supply of compost from your own compost heap, consider using it as a mulch. Compost retains tons of moisture and also contains nutrients and organic materials to improve the soil. Compost keeps the soil cool, especially during the hotter months when high temperatures can cause stress. But, if you’re looking to suppress weeds, compost is not the most effective. It also needs to be kept moist to be effective and so is not ideal for those who often forget to water their plants.

Grass Cuttings

In the spring and summer months when lawn mowing becomes an almost weekly task, you may be looking for ways to use the piles and piles of grass clippings you collect. The same can be said for the raked-up fallen leaves in autumn and winter. While these are great for compost, you can also use dried clippings as a wonderful mulching material. This is completely free and makes use of garden waste, but does come with a few caveats. You shouldn’t use any grass clippings that have been treated to avoid damaging the plants they are used on. And, if placed in a thick layer and allowed to dry out, the grass can form a dense mat that actually repels moisture, having the opposite effect.

Wood Chips

Wood chips are a preferred mulch for those that like to keep their garden uniform and tidy. They look great when spread over beds and conserve moisture well. They are also one of the best options for suppressing weeds, especially when placed in a thick layer. You can find hardwood or softwood wood chips that each serve slightly different purposes. Pine chips (softwood) change the acidity of the soil and are great for use around acid-loving plants like azaleas. Hardwood chips take longer to break down but generally remain neutral while doing so.

Landscape Fabric

If you’re looking for a way to suppress weeds, landscaping fabric is your answer. These materials are designed to keep weeds down while still allowing air to flow through the soil, unlike plastic sheeting. In tough-to-manage areas where weeds are really taking over, this option is your best bet. However, it doesn’t look great in the garden, meaning you’ll need to cover it with something else (like stones) to hide it. They also don’t contribute to overall soil health like other mulching materials and make changing up the plants in your garden incredibly difficult.

Each of these materials is great in its own way. Choose the one that best suits the needs of your garden and your plants.

Best Hoya Species For Indoor Gardens

Best Hoya Species For Indoor Gardens

Hoyas are beloved houseplants that have gained massive popularity in recent years. Their thick, waxy leaves and adorable scented flowers make them unlike any other houseplants around. Plus, there is so much variety within this genus, from different species to the many cultivars, that there is bound to be something for everyone.

Hoya carnosa

The most common Hoya species you’ll come across is H. carnosa, popular for its low maintenance nature and ability to flower prolifically indoors. It is also the species with the most cultivars, hybridized and cultivated for over 100 years. If you come across any Hoya in the houseplant section of your local nursery, it is more than likely H. carnosa ‘Jade’, with thick and waxy elongated leaves. These climbers are often found twisting around a trellis or central support. Compacta is another favorite you may have seen on your social media feeds. The thick leaves are twisted and look wonderful cascading from hanging baskets.

Hoya australis

H. australis is another common Hoya species native to Australia and the South of Asia. When compared to the popular Jade Hoya, it looks quite similar, but has a bit more volume in the leaves. Their shape is slightly more rounded (depending on the cultivar) and is usually deep green, although there are some interesting and rare variegated cultivars on the market. They have been compared to Peperomias due to the similar shape in the leaves and they are equally as easy to care for. During spring and summer, you can look forward to adorable clusters of white flowers with bright pink centres.

Hoya kerrii

This species is unique in that it is often sold as a single leaf rather than an entire plant. That’s because the leaves of this Hoya are almost perfectly heart-shaped and large, filling out smaller pots and making a wonderfully unique Valentine’s Day gift. It is commonly known as the sweetheart vine after these interesting leaves that grow on long vines. The leaves are typically a solid green colour, but there are also variegated types with stripes around the edges of the heart. If you find one in stores or online, make sure to snatch it up quickly as these plants sell out fast.

Hoya bella

This compact species has slightly smaller leaves when compared to the other types. You may find them labeled as the miniature wax plant or, to get technical, H. lanceolata ssp. bella. These leaves are arrow shaped and grow densely along the vines, making the plant look full and abundant. Bella translates to beautiful, aptly describing this wonderful species and its scented blooms. If you’re looking to fill space above your head in your home with dense foliage overflowing from a hanging basket, Hoya bella is the perfect option.

Hoya linearis

H. linearis is unlike any other Hoya on this list. The leaves are narrow, long, and incredibly delicate, creating a stunning indoor feature. They look great in hanging baskets or trailing from bookshelves, producing their interesting flowers when given enough bright light during the flowering season. This type is certainly more understated, taking up less space than other Hoyas. But, that’s what makes it perfect for smaller areas that you’re struggling to fill in kitchens or bathrooms. Or, hang them from the ceiling to turn your living room into a Himalayan indoor jungle.

Brighten Up Your Winter Garden With Colourful Plants

Brighten Up Your Winter Garden With Colourful Plants

Winter is not typically a gardener’s favourite season. A previously bright and happy garden can start to look run down as some plants lose their leaves and others stop flowering. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Whether you’re choosing annuals for a quick fix of colour or perennials for a more long-term solution, you don’t have to be deprived of colour over the winter season with these plants.

Aloes

Aloe blooms add a wonderful warmth to an otherwise chilly season.

Aloes are the backbone of South African winter gardens. Their fiery flowers instantly stand out in the winter sunshine and are appreciated by birds and other pollinators when blooms are scarce. These plants need to be established before they can flower prolifically, but they will reward your early efforts with winter colour year after year.

Snapdragons

Snapdragons are available in a wide range of heights, useful in many areas of your garden.

Antirrhinums are the perfect way to add a pop of colour to your beds in winter. With so many colours available, from soft blush and cream to bright pink and purple, you can tailor your choices to any area of your garden. They also make great cut flowers, allowing you to bring their stunning colours indoors too.

Ornamental Kale

Ornamental kale not only adds colour to a winter garden, but also a wonderful ruffled texture.

This is one plant that not only grows in cold winter weather, but thrives in it. Ornamental kale comes in a stunning range of cool colours from purple to cream that intensify when temperatures drop. Their textured leaves add continual interest throughout the winter months, interspersed with other leafy plants or even grown in containers.

Pansies & Violas

Use colours like reds and oranges to match indigenous blooms in the garden and create warmth.

Pansies and violas are go-to annuals for winter colour. They are incredibly easy to grow and complement any bed or pot they are planted in. Choose one colour for a more harmonious look, or combine multiple different colours for a bright and happy display.

Petunias

Petunias are great container plants for large pots or hanging baskets in winter.

If you’re looking for larger winter blooms that will instantly attract attention, look no further than petunias. These classic garden plants have stunning colourful flowers that look great in beds and even better in containers. Choose Grandiflora petunias for the best performance over the winter season in most of South Africa.

Alyssum

Alyssum can be paired with other colourful annuals to finish off beds.

The cute clusters of blooms on the popular Sweet Alyssum are a wonderful addition to any winter garden. White is one of the more popular colours, but there are also other choices for more adventurous winter gardeners. Remaining low and compact, they are ideal ground covers or filler plants for bright winter containers.

How To Care For Carnivorous Plants

How To Care For Carnivorous Plants

When it comes to carnivorous plants, following the same care routine as you would for the rest of your house or garden plants will quickly end in their demise. These unique plants have specialized requirements, based on their natural habitats and how they have evolved, that need to be followed if you want to keep your plants around long term. Whether it’s light, water, soil or nutrients, getting care right is key to keeping your carnivorous friend alive.

Light

There are more than 500 species of carnivorous plants, each with its own requirements. Some prefer full sun, while others can survive in partial shade. However, most popular species, such as Venus Flytraps and Pitcher Plants, need full sun for a large part of the day to truly thrive. This translates to at least 6 hours of sunlight when planted outdoors.

When grown indoors as they often are, the situation is slightly different. As light intensity is far lower inside, most carnivorous plants need to be placed in front of a sunny window where they can receive as much direct light as possible.

Those that prefer partial shade are susceptible to burning, and some carnivorous plants that have been accustomed to grow in lower lighting conditions may struggle when thrust into full sun. Check the requirements of your specific plant and slowly introduce them to changes in lighting conditions to avoid any potential damage.

Water

Carnivorous plants evolved in acidic swamps and bogs where nutrients were scarce, causing them to develop their traps in order to survive. Due to these native habitats, it follows that these plants are major water lovers. Their soil needs to be kept moist consistently and some species can even grow mostly in water with just a little soil to keep them anchored.

Again, how often you water will depend on the species, but most prefer consistently moist but not soggy soil. Outdoors and in a sunny spot, this means watering a couple of times a day in hot weather. In these cases, it’s best to place these plants near a water source or where rain naturally collects around the garden to let nature do the work for you. Indoors, you’ll need to water once every few days and more often if the top layer of soil ever appears dry. Only water with collected rainwater or distilled water.

Soil

Unlike most of our garden plants, carnivorous plants prefer soil with little to no nutrients. The poorer the quality, the better it is. The soil should also retain lots of moisture to keep the roots consistently saturated and to recreate the environment these plants love.

When planting in containers, it’s best to make your own soil mix as many potting soil mixtures come with nutrients and added fertilizers that can burn the roots of your plants. A mixture of palm peat and river sand is best, adjusted according to how much water your chosen species prefers. Some can even grow in water alone, so make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you get to planting.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is a part of many gardener’s routines. However, when growing carnivorous plants, you can cut this step from your schedule altogether. When placed in the right spot, your plants will get all the nutrients they need from the bugs they digest. As they as used to low-nutrient soil, any standard added fertilizer will only end up burning the roots and potentially killing the plant.

If your plant is not getting enough nutrients from bugs naturally, some choose to drop insects from pet stores into the traps to help the plant along. Alternatively, there are specialized fertilizers you can place inside the traps to provide any nutrients that may be missing. Avoid using your standard garden fertilizer and always read the instructions on any product before feeding your plant to avoid doing more harm than good.

Carnivorous Plants To Add To Your Garden

Carnivorous Plants To Add To Your Garden

If you’ve exhausted your ‘to buy’ plant list and are looking for something a little different, you can’t get much more unique or out there than carnivorous plants. Shrouded in drama and mystery, these interesting beauties have evolved over hundreds and thousands of years to absorb nutrients from insects, rather than through the soil. Developing a range of interesting traps with different shapes, colours and scents, these plants feed on flies, mosquitos, and even small animals, making them great garden friends and wonderful house or patio plants.

Venus Flytrap

When we think of carnivorous plants, the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is likely the first to come to mind. The mouth-like shape of the modified leaf traps have made this plant the star of cartoons and horror movies everywhere.

These traps remain open, lined by trigger hairs that look just like little teeth to give these plants their menacing appearance. Lined with nectar, these traps attract prey and snap shut when the hairs are touched. The plant produces enzymes that slowly digest the prey over a couple of days (and as long as a week), opening up again when they have absorbed all the nutrients possible.

Pitcher Plants

Pitcher Plant refers to a larger group of species that all have one thing in common – pitcher traps. These tube-shaped modified leaves vary in size based on the species, usually sporting interesting colours and patterns that help attract nearby prey. They also produce a smell that draws a number of insects and even small animals, depending on the plant.

These traps are lined with a sticky substance and small hairs on the sides. Similar to quicksand, anyone that struggles to leave the trap will only be pulled down further. Combined with their depth, anything that enters the trap won’t be able to get out without a fight. These traps also fill with water after the rain, drowning any unfortunate victims that succumb to their curiosity. Stuck at the bottom of the pitcher, the prey is slowly digested to give the plant the nutrients it requires.

Sundews

These plants are on the prettier side when compared to some of the more dramatic plants on this list. The traps are what set Sundews apart from the rest, featuring cute sticky leaves that attract and capture small insects like flies and mosquitos. These modified leaves are surrounded by small hairs, each with a glob of sticky substance on the end that stops flying insects from escaping.

The tiny hairs wrap around the central pad when they catch something, ensuring there is absolutely no way to escape. Once digested after about a week, they will unravel again and produce more sticky nectar to attract another victim. Try the Cape Sundew, a South African native that also produces cute pink flowers.

Bladderworts

While the previous carnivorous plants have relatively simple trapping systems, the Bladderwort goes far beyond the call of duty to capture its food. These traps are not actually visible at first glance. Instead, they remain hidden under the soil. Some grow in soil and others prefer water, but the mechanisms are the same.

The small bladder traps open up below the surface, lined with tiny trigger hairs that snap the bladder shut as soon as any prey comes through. Attracted to their sticky nectar, bugs below the soil or water are drawn into these bladders and closed in, slowly digested to produce the leaves and flowers above the soil that gardeners love.

Essential Tools, Gadgets & Items For Propagation

Essential Tools, Gadgets & Items For Propagation

While all gardeners love a long trip to the nursery, we don’t always have the time or money to buy the masses of plants our heart’s desire. Luckily, there is one essential gardening skill that eliminates that problem altogether – propagating.

Although it may sound tricky, growing new and healthy plants from scratch is easier than many think, taking only a couple of minutes out of your afternoon. With the right tools and gadgets, the process is made even easier. Invest in these essential tools to grow more plants than you know what to do with.

Clean and Sharp Secateurs

One of the first tools any gardener needs in their arsenal is a high-quality, sharp pair of secateurs. Whether trimming herbaceous houseplant cuttings or hardwood cuttings, or even just pruning plants around the garden, this is one tool on the must-have list.

The Tramontina Bypass Pruner is made of durable materials, including Chrome Vanadium alloy and die-cast aluminum, that ensure they will last for many years of propagating. They do require some upkeep, including regular cleaning and oiling, but they will reward you by making the process of propagation as smooth as possible.

Propagating Mix

As any gardener knows, soil is a vital foundation for growth that has a huge impact on the success of your plants. Newly propagated cuttings require a light and well-draining soil mixture to provide little resistance to root growth while holding enough moisture to encourage root growth.

A combination of perlite, vermiculite and palm peat is perfect for this purpose. While the palm peat retains enough moisture without weighing the mixture down, the perlite and vermiculite improve drainage and aeration to deliver oxygen to the roots.

Mix them together in a ratio of two parts palm peat to one part perlite and one part vermiculite for the ideal propagating mix for a range of plants.

Rooting Hormone

Whether you’re growing softwood or hardwood cuttings, rooting hormone is guaranteed to increase your chances of success. The active ingredient 4-Indole-3lbutyric Acid (IBA) stimulates root growth and speeds up the process of propagating.

There is a specific rooting hormone for each type of cutting:

Make sure you use the right type for your chosen cutting. Simply place some of the powder into a separate container (to avoid contamination of the main container) and dip the end of the cutting into it before planting.

Propagator

Cuttings require certain environmental conditions to grow roots – usually warm and humid. Since no one wants to stand next to their cuttings misting every 5 minutes to increase the humidity until roots develop, there is a handy gadget that does all the work for you – a propagator.

This Garland Small High Dome Propagator is perfect for growing cuttings or sowing seeds. With built-in drainage and a deep container, simply lay your propagating mix inside, pop in the cuttings, and cover with the lid. The hole at the top opens and closes as needed, providing airflow and preventing fungal growth.

With these wonderful gardening goodies, it will be hard to go wrong on your next propagating adventure.

How To Propagate Pilea peperomioides

How To Propagate Pilea peperomioides

Pilea peperomioides is an incredibly popular houseplant, beloved for its compact growth and interesting leaves that lend it many common names, including UFO plant and Pancake plant. However, it is most commonly known as the Chinese Money Plant after its native region and appearance.

If these indoor plants have become one of your favorites, there is an easy way to get many more of them at no cost – propagation. Pilea peperomioides is incredibly easy to propagate as it produces small offsets that simply need to be replanted whenever they appear.

Follow these easy steps to grow more Chinese Money Plants for free.

Step 1: Check for Offsets

Before you start propagating, you’ll need to determine whether there are any suitable offsets to propagate. This isn’t a difficult task – simply check for any new growth of gathered leaves that looks like a tiny version of the parent plant. They will typically pop up from the soil in spring and summer but they can also grow directly from the stem.

Suitable offsets should be about 5cm in length or larger. This ensures they have received enough nutrients from the main plant to survive on their own without additional support.

Step 2: Prepare the Soil

Pileas have succulent-like leaves that hold plenty of water. They prefer their soil to dry out before the next watering and can’t stand waterlogged soil. The soil mix should therefore be airy and well-draining to prevent rot and deliver oxygen to the roots.

Make your own specialized houseplant soil mix by amending potting soil with perlite and palm peat. The palm peat lightens the mixture and retains moisture while the perlite increases the spaces between soil particles, improving drainage.

Step 3: Expose the Roots

With all preparation done, you’re ready to start propagating. As your offset will more than likely start underneath the soil, you’ll need to expose the connection between it and the main plant for removal.

Gently pull away the top layer of soil, following the bottom of the offsets to where the roots are. This will give you a clear view of where to remove the offset without impacting the rest of the roots. Alternatively, you can check for offsets while repotting and remove them when the soil is completely gone before moving to the new pot.

Step 4: Remove the Offset

Using a knife, remove the offset from the main plant at root level. Make sure your knife is sharpened and cleaned with soap and water to prevent damage and the spread of disease. The cut should be as clean as possible to give your offset the best start at new growth.

Step 5: Replant

Fill a small pot with the pre-made potting mix up to a few centimeters below the rim. This will stop any soil from spilling out when watering. Make a small hole in the centre and bury the base of the offset, ensuring the stems are above the soil line to prevent rotting. Gently firm down around the soil to anchor the offset in place.

Step 6: Water

Once planted, water the soil to remove any large air pockets and encourage root growth. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged until the roots have established, then limit your watering.

Place the pot in a warm spot with bright indirect light. Once you spot new growth, you’re on your way to a mature, fully-fledged Pilea peperomioides.