YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


New Guinea Impatiens Need Plenty of Light for Extra-Large Flowers


QUESTION: We saw some New Guinea impatiens that had unusually large flowers. How does one get such large flowers? Do they need full sun?

ANSWER: Some varieties have larger flowers than others. For example the newly introduced "Bull Series" produces more vigorous growth than older varieties, and their flowers are much larger, continuously produced.

New Guinea varieties need bright light for flower formation. Insufficient light means more foliage and less flowers. The regular impatiens will flower in shade or semi-shade, and too much light can burn plants. Both types tend to get a bit leggy and will need nipping back occasionally.

Wants to Know If Holly Male or Female

Q: My holly bush is nice and green but it never gets any berries. I have been told that there are male and female bushes, and that I must have one of each in order to get the flowers. How can I tell if I have a male or a female? With the human race I have no problem, but with hollies it's different.

A: You can tell male and female plants by taking a peek at the flowers. Female flowers are borne singly and have a prominent green knob in the center. Male flowers appear in clusters and have yellow stamens (male or pollen producers). One male holly is macho enough to accommodate 10 female plants.

Sometimes the blooms of one holly come on at a different time than the other. You can chemically make a female bush set, using naphthaleneacetic acid hormone sold in garden stores.

Use aerosol cans, or mix a solution of one-quarter teaspoonful of the hormone to a quart of water. Spray at least once a day for several days when blossoms open. A week or two after the flowers fade, green berries begin to form. Note: This works only when the female blooms are sprayed. You can't make a male flower give birth to baby berries. By the way, for the holidays, some gardeners use hair spray on cut holly to keep berries from dropping.

Getting Rid of Worm on Cabbage Simple

Q: Last year our neighbor tried a few plants of ornamental kale and flowering cabbage. They were beautiful and we want to grow some. His got a certain kind of worm which riddled the foliage. Please tell me if these plants are difficult to grow?

A: Glad you liked the ornamental cabbage and kale your neighbor grew. We think there is a strong place in the future of the bedding plant business for these newcomers. Botanically, cabbage and kale are the same thing--although classified as different groups of plants. Both are edible and both get the cabbage looper, a caterpillar that comes from a yellow butterfly you see flitting around.

Control is safe and simple: Sprinkle some chili powder or cayenne on the foliage and heads of the kale and cabbage. Start when you see the worms and only one application is needed. Also, you can use any of the products containing bacillus thuringiensis.

Plants Suffer From Softened Water Use

Q: My house plants haven't done as well as they did before we put in a water softener. Does softened water harm plants?

A: Some people have good luck using water from a softener, others have difficulty getting good growth. A softener replaces the calcium with sodium, which causes the soil to puddle or pack together. Calcium is a nutrient needed by plants, while only a small amount of sodium is necessary. It would be nice if you could run a special line to water your plants with unsoftened water only.

Horse Manure Can Be Used If Weathered

Q: I have some riding horses and wonder if the manure can be used around trees and shrubs or in the garden?

A: No reason why you cannot compost it and let it weather awhile to get the odor out. Then you can use it on your garden or as a mulch around trees and shrubs. Anyone who can get cheap manure should use it liberally in the garden, whether the soil is heavy clay or sand.

The humus loosens up a tight soil and tightens up a loose, sandy soil, and increases the water-holding ability as well. The organic material supplied by manure can be augmented by adding sawdust, wood chips, peat moss, ground cornstalks, leaves and grass clippings. No form or organic matter should be discarded.

Thyme Needs Dividing to Remain Full, Bushy

Q: We have a patch of thyme which is getting woody and sparse in the centers. What can be done to get a good crop? We love thyme.

A: Thyme tends to become very woody and sparse in the center as it agea. Divide every three to four years to maintain a full, bushy appearance. Sprigs of thyme can be harvested during the growing season or a once-over harvest can be done just before bloom. Thyme can be air dried in sun and stored in plastic bags.

Chile Recipe Used in Fight on Insects

Q: Please tell us your formula for using chile peppers to cope with insects.

A: Here's one Dave Dewitt, editor of Whole Chile Pepper magazine, uses for fighting insects. He uses 8 ounces of the hottest pepper pods he can get, a small onion, six cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of non-detergent soap, three tablespoons of pyrethrum powder and two cups or more of water. All liquefied in a blender, strained, diluted with water and sprayed on plants. This brew controls most pests in short order. Be sure to clean the blender afterward!

Note: We use liquid dishwasher detergent in the above mix and it doesn't seem to harm the plants one bit.

Los Angeles Times Articles