If you do not know much about this tree yet be prepared to be incredibly impressed! Follow this link to watch the video now. Just scroll down the page a bit and you will find the video.
Alright, let’s take a look at the questions for this week!
A. This is a great question; how do you know if a plant that you see in a magazine or while on vacation will grow in your area? You need to become a bit of a plant detective, first off, forget 'weather' and instead think 'climate'. All plants originated from somewhere, and once you know where that somewhere is, you can find out what the prevailing climate is somewhere. Hence, you can find out just what conditions each plant prefers, and you can do your best to emulate those conditions.
For example, you asked about lemongrass:
Lemongrass is native mainly to South Asia. The climate in South Asia is tropical or nearly so. Tropical climate means hot and humid all year long, with frequent (often daily) rains. Rain runs off quickly except in monsoonal seasons where flooding can occur.
From that, you can deduce the following: lemongrass likes the heat - that means HEAT. It likes a lot of water, but prefers that water to drain away quickly. You can also deduce that: it doesn't take kindly to frost, and may not survive a severe winter. It may need to be brought indoors if you want to keep it alive, but it must have plenty of water. From the fact that it's called lemon GRASS, you can deduce that it likes plenty of sunlight, and that it can be cut down heavily and still grow. Cut, grow, cut, grow, etc.
Take a look, while you're researching, at the temperatures the plant prefers to germinate from seed. That will tell you a lot, too. If it lives at high altitudes, it's probably accustomed to cooler temps, and its seeds might like refrigerating or freezing (stratifying) before they'll germinate. So, botany and geography can't really be separated, when it comes to plants!
I have one blog subscribers who writes me almost every week, she lives in the subtropics, so most anything will grow for her. But, as much as she wants to, she simply cannot grow things like French Tarragon or Meadowsweet, and coriander is a winter-only crop for her, because even in the shade the temperatures most of the year are just too hot for them.
The link below is a good starting point for finding out the native habitat of a plant.
Q. Alice W. of Tucson, AZ also wants help with herbs, “I often hear people say that they grow herbs inside in their kitchen during the winter. Is this very difficult?”
A. Great questions! I’ll be glad to offer some help and tips for growing herbs indoors anytime. It is not at all difficult to grow a wonderful selection of herbs indoors any time of the year, including the winter months! Many gardeners like to start their herbs from seed but I think that the simplest thing to do is to purchase 4-inch transplants and re-pot them into larger containers, say 8-inch pots. I find that the 8-inch terracotta pots are not only the perfect size for my indoor herbs but the color contrast is both beautiful and traditional, but you can use any pots you wish.
Herbs that are easy to grow in pots indoors include: anise, basil, bergamot, borage, caraway, chamomile, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, lemon balm, lemon grass, marigold, marjoram, nasturtium, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, sage, summer savory, and thyme.
Annual herbs can be started fresh from seed in fall. Sow the seed in 3- to 4-inch pots so they will have room to grow through the winter. Annual herbs include: anise, basil, borage, chamomile, chervil, coriander, dill, fennel, pot marigold, sweet marjoram, and summer savory.
Perennial herbs like sage, chives, and rosemary can be started from cuttings or division. Take 4-inch long cuttings and root them individually in 4-inch pots. Cuttings should be taken from new growth areas for best results. The most important thing to remember here, is to keep those cuttings moist. That way you really encourage its roots to grow.
Perennial or annual herbs growing in garden soil in the summer can be potted up for winter indoors. Leave the plants in their new pots outdoors in a shady spot for at least a week before bringing them indoors; this will allow them to adjust to the change in light. Be sure to pot up herbs into containers large enough to accommodate their root system and any potential growth you may want from them.
Herbs growing in containers all year long can easily be moved indoors when winter comes. Again, be sure to help them adjust to the change in light by setting them in the shade for a week before bring them indoors. This is great for me because in my area we will have several winter days each year that are incredibly mild and I can sneak my herb pots outside and treat them to a dose of direct sun!
- Light: Herbs need plenty of light each and every day. A sunny window sill that gets about 3 hours of morning light is best but the sunniest location you can find will work too. No sunny spots? In that case, you should know that herbs can also be set out under a set of fluorescent lights. You will need to set the tops of the plants very close to the fluorescent bulbs - about 6 to 8 inches away from the lights!
- Temperature: Most herbs want daytime temperatures between 60 and 70°F with cooler temperatures of 50 to 65°F at night. However, most herbs will survive at the constant temperatures that we humans like to have in our homes.
- Water: Water herbs thoroughly then allow the soil to nearly completely dry before watering again. Don’t over water. If humidity is low, spray plants with a light mist every morning or even a couple of times a day if the humidity is exceptionally low.
- Also, keep in mind that when planting in containers, you must be sure to use a lightweight potting soil. Containers must also have good drainage. Water before plants wilt, which can mean daily for small containers.
- Once again a note about light. I cannot stress enough that these herbs require three to four hours of direct morning sun and consistent moisture. Filtered light in the afternoon prolongs their life and flavor.
Many herbs can be overwintered outside, mints, oregano, and tarragon are hardy perennial herbs that can survive outdoors in winter—even under snow. However, if you want to use them fresh through the winter, divide them and pot them up. Remember to leave the newly potted herbs in a shady outdoor location for a week, then you can bring the pots indoors. Bay, rosemary, lavender, pineapple sage, and lemon verbena are tender perennials that will take some frost but their roots will be killed off outdoors if the temperature dips below 15°F.
The best protection for herbs outdoors in winter is a plant blanket or a blanket of snow. Plant blankets are made from spun poly material and can be purchased at most garden shops. Personally, I provide my outdoor herbs with a 4-inch thick blanket of mulch in the late fall December, which is when my night time temps begin to hover in the mid to low 40s. The perennial herbs that you keep outdoors in winter need protection from the drying effects of cold winter winds more than from frost and snow. Besides plant blankets you can completely cover herbs with evergreen boughs or surround them with burlap-covered frames. Small herbs can be covered with straw or leaves when the soil freezes, just be sure to remove the mulch gradually in spring.