Stokes’ Aster, Stokesia laevis, is native to the Southern US, from North Carolina to Louisiana, where they grow in wetlands, bottomlands, and ditches. The Stokesia Blue Frills in the photo is in its third year in our garden, without winter protection.
Stokesia laevis plants are cold hardy in zones 5 to 9 and a light winter mulch will ensure their return the following spring.
The blue flower varieties are the most commonly grown by gardens and gardeners although there are pink, purple and white varieties available. Stokes’ Asters bloom in June and July in full sun. Since they spread only to one or one-and-a-half feet wide, they are ideal for the front of a shrub bed.
Stokes’ Asters are easy to grow in average soil with medium moisture. They will tolerate part sun but have more flowers and stronger stems when grown in full sun (6 hours a day).
Drought tolerance is one of the advantages of Stokes’ Asters. They prefer the good drainage of a container, a hillside bed or sandy soil. An area where the roots stay wet and cold all winter will cause their early demise.
To keep them blooming, deadhead (cut off) the faded flowers and remove stems that look spent. They may have a fall re-bloom. After plants stop flowering the stems can be cut back to the base.
Stokes’ Asters have no insect or disease problems; deer and rabbits do not eat them. They have to be divided every 4 to 6 years. They were named for the botanist Dr. Jonathan Stokes, a friend of Carl Linnaeus. Dr. Stokes also discovered the heart-healing digitalis in Foxglove plants.
To grow Stokesia, plant seeds directly in the garden in fall or early spring. Seeds can be purchased or collected from existing plants. Plant roots can be divided in October to propagate indoors this winter.
Moldy tulip bulbs are a big disappointment when you are hoping to fill a bed or some pots. It is not that unusual for their skins to have a bit of penicillin mold but these are beyond that tad bit stage. Mold penetrating tulip bulb Mold on emerging tulip bulb growth So, what to do? The plant references say to throw them out and buy new ones but I already spent $22 for 50 of these white tulip beauties. First, they got a soak in 1% bleach solution in the kitchen sink in the hope that the bleach would stop the mold from continuing to grow without killing the life force in the bulb itself. After a good slosh around, I wiped them off to see how much damage was beneath the blue and black. This tulip bulb is soft to the touch and there is little chance it will thrive in the soil. This basal root on these have been ruined by mold. The final step I took to try to salvage part of them was to spray them thoroughly with fungicide. They are all planted in the
Propagating by stem cuttings is just about the easiest way to make more begonias for next summer's garden. During the fall, I regularly trim off 3-node long cuttings and put them into the growing pots where they take root. Now that cold weather has arrived, I root the stem cuttings in a vase of water. It's a great way to produce more pots of Begonias for next summer's garden. Water the plant well the day before. Take a cutting about 4-inches long, with 3 nodes, from a healthy stem. Use a perfectly clean container. Rinse the container with a drop of bleach if you are uncertain about its spotlessness. Remove all but the top leaf or two. There should be no leaves in the water. The cutting should have a healthy leaf node at the bottom. Don't leave a stub below the node. Place the cutting into the water, and place the container out of the sun. In a couple of weeks, you will see new roots beginning to form. Check the water periodically to make sure it is still f
Beefsteak Begonia Every two years Beefsteak Begonias, Begonia erythrophylla, benefit from being pruned and propagated. This is a very easy plant to take care of and the worst you can do to it is to keep a water filled saucer under it. These plants enjoy being dry. In two years, the stems become long and move out over the edge of the pot, making the plant's mass too large for most environments. Ours live on the screened front porch in the summer which has a western exposure. In the cold months, they live under full spectrum lights in the living room. They flower their hears out in either location, adding delicate pink bouquets wherever they are growing. My original, single, leaf came from a leaf I plucked from an office dweller's plant that was 4 feet across and hung 3 feet down on those long stems. I grew that plant in a clear plastic to go box on moist vermiculite. The stem you'll prune is the leggy part that has dropped its leaves. Make 4 to 6 inch long