[an error occurred while processing this directive] Gardening with Ed Lawrence - Steven and Chris

Gardening with Ed Lawrence

If you have a reputation for killing houseplants, it's time to change that! We had gardening guru Ed Lawrence on the show to tell us what houseplants are fool-proof and how to care for them.

Watch this segment in Episode 107.

Ed Says:
These plants are all relatively easy to grow in a home and are relatively easy to find and virtually take care of themselves. It doesn't require a lot of knowledge, experience or effort to take care of these plants. Many of these can even grow in hostile environments like a shopping mall and these plants are easy to find at nurseries and gardening centers.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)
This plant is extremely common and well-known to clean your indoor air. Especially in the winter when you can have poor quality air.

How do you water a houseplant?

  • They generally need to be watered well and then let them "dry down." The plant drinks the water available and then you pick up the plant pot to see the weight of the plant-if it's light, then it needs water.
  • This cycle is essential - if you over water it, it drowns the root system, the system suffers and
    It will exhibit the exact same symptoms as those if it has too little water: browning tips or the leaves flagging and wilting-that means it's on the verge of something happening.
  • You need to let it dry out, recover and reproduce itself, then re-establish the watering regimen.
  • They're ideal for hanging baskets or a long window or something trailing out of containers in your garden-it's ideal to put out in the summer time.
  • They sprout babies: they produce a small, white flower first and then there's a baby. You can cut them off, or let them keep growing. When they are in a container, you are completely in charge of their requirements for moisture and food - the more you give it, the more it will grow.

Common Enemies? Insect pests will come to them, but generally bugs show up when plants are under stress. If they get problems, it's usually aphids, red spider mites, mealy bugs, which can be taken care of soap and water (40 parts water, 1 part liquid soap) 20 ounce spray bottle (20 ounces water, 1/2 ounce OR 1 Tbsp of liquid soap). If you have mealy bug or scale (they have waxy coatings), then add 8 parts rubbing alcohol to the 40:1 mixture, which breaks down the waxy cover of the bugs.

White Peace Lily (Spathophylum)
People will see this plant flowering in malls. It's one of the few tropicals that can get away with low light levels and flower successfully indoors.

If you live in a basement apartment or north facing windows, it's tough and it will flower for you.
This plant is also good at cleaning indoor air. They do remove some of the minor pollutants from the air-plants are generally good for people with allergies-maybe from pollen, but this plant doesn't produce high levels of pollen.
You can CLEAN this plant too with mild soap and then that gets rid of any chemical residues the plants were treated with by a greenhouse producer.

Signs of ailments:
Typically the leaves would be flagging and that would be more noticeable because the leaves are vertical. The leaves would be yellowing and mottled...the yellowing can be a symptom of over watering and he keeps coming back to this because people are just too generous with watering. You CAN'T water plants on a schedule. Sometimes plants are thirstier than at other times.

Transferring to a large pot:
If you see roots heading out the bottom of the pot or trying to push their way out, then you know it's time to move it into a larger pot. You have to decide if you want the plant to grow to a larger size, then by all means move it, but if you don't have the room in your home, then you can control its size.  You still have to provide all the moisture and nutrients to a plant regardless of the size.

How do you keep it small?

  • Don't over feed it, do very little feeding. And keep it in a small container to contain its root system. It self-regulates its size.
  • There are various fertilizers, but they are listed in the same order as: NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium): this is a 3 number formulation like 7-7-7, 7% nitrogen, 7% phosphorous, 7% potassium, that means 21% of the product is made with these active ingredients. The other 79% of the product is filler-so that it flows easily to the plant.
  • There are also organic fertilizers that have lower numbers to start with, which means you won't have the potential of literally burning your plant. If you improperly mix the fertilizer in, or using it at the wrong time of year, you could burn the root system.
  • Generally speaking all houseplants should have a rest from fertilizing from early October to mid-February.

How do you transfer it to a big pot?
You generally go to the next size pot up. Most plants will suffer from shock if you try and transfer it to a pot that's too large... you'll kill it. Let the plant acclimatize.

Jade Plant (Crassula)
Most people get impatient with them. The key to success is patience. It won't flower until 10 to 15 years old. It can sometimes happen more quickly, but it's usually around 12 years that they flower. They are beautiful to look at, easy to trim and shape and get something that looks like a small tree rather than a bushy shrub. It's like producing a bonsai without the hassle. It protects you from over watering them.

What are the signs you're over watering it?
The roots start to show up on the stems or the base of the leaves. It's so humid and the plant thinks the conditions are ideal for reproducing, so they drop their leaves to root them up and grow new plants.  The plant is reacting to too much water to save itself and save its species by growing   It's pretty tough to under water this plant - it would shrivel up. It can sit for a long time before it needs water because it's from a region that is dry.  When you think it's time to water, then wait another week and it sure won't hurt the plant.

How do you know how much water to give it?
Water it thoroughly, let it run through the plant, run through the pot, let the plant sit in the water for half an hour to an hour to let the plant drink, then lift it out and drain thoroughly and then put it back on the saucer and don't water it until it gets light again.  In some cases let the pot sit immersed and just watch the air bubbles.

NEVER leave plants standing in water.

Fall is a good time to trim; make your plants fit into your home. This is ornamental horticulture - it's about control and making it fit in the size and space you've got for it.

Mother-in-law's Tongue (Sanseveri)
It needs virtually nothing - it can sit without much care, and transfer it into a bigger pot when necessary. You won't kill it by neglecting it... you should feel good about the fact that you don't have to take care of it.

KIS rule: keep it simple. If your plants are dying you get discouraged... so to keep you interested in maintaining plants don't go with something so challenging.

Where did the name come from?
Long and pointed and kind of sharp - the name probably came from one of those chaps in the Victorian era who came up with a great name for it.

About Ed:
Recently retired after 30 years of outstanding achievement in the field of Canadian horticulture, Ed Lawrence's tenure as Chief Horticultural Specialist to six consecutive Governors General spanned a period of vice-regal history dating from Jules Leger in the 1970s to Adrienne Clarkson in 2005. During that same period, Ed's gardening expertise gained popular recognition through CBC Radio's "Ontario Today" noon-time gardening phone-in show heard every Monday. After more than two decades, enthusiasm for Ed's down-to-earth practical advice shows no sign of waning, making the Monday gardening hour one of the longest-running and most successful features in the annals of Canadian broadcast history.

Visit Ed online at:


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