“Our Eucalyptus tree is at least 25 feet tall with no sign of slowing down. Could we lovingly remove it to maybe a better area? It is cold outside, and she just grows in all weather and doesn’t intend to be stopped. She is as high as our two-story home, and can’t support her upper branches.” Question from Philip of Lancaster, Alabama
You have two options. First, you can try finding a beautiful spot where it can be planted. It should be a beautiful tree if it will survive in your climate, and it sounds as though it will. Many eucalypts will grow well down South. Clearly yours is one. In general, they are tolerant of many different types of soil as long as they drain well. Full sun is a requirement.
Another option is to cut it back severely to encourage shrubby growth to reduce its size and upgrade its pot. This will allow it to remain as a container plant for a while longer. We recommend a very large pot because these trees need space. Fill the pot with a quality, fast-draining mix, such as Black Gold Natural & Organic Garden Soil or Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix combined with quality topsoil at a 1:1 ratio. Cut back the dominant branches to the base of the trunk to lighten the branch load, and cut medium branches back by half. The best time to prune Eucalyptus is in the summer. They will drip some sap, but they heal faster when it is warm. I hope that these tips help!
“My succulent house plants have dry leaves in the middle of the stem and black spots. Why is this happening?” Question from Karina of Wenatchee, Washington
Answer: Succulent plants can develop dry leaves when they are being either overwatered or underwatered. The black spots and the fact that leaves are drying and dying in the center of the stem indicates stem and root rot, which is caused by a fungal infection that develops when plants are being overwatered. (Click here for some great images of overwatered succulents.) Sadly, central spotting and leaf death is an indication that your plant is dying and will not recover.
With gorgeous thick leaves and sparsely spiny edges, the aloe vera plant (Aloe vera, USDA Hardiness Zone 9-11) is renowned for its healing properties. Native to eastern and southern Africa, it is one of the oldest-known healing plants used by humans. Aloe grows wonderfully in dry regions because its succulent leaves hold moisture and make it incredibly drought-tolerant.
In temperate regions, many households, including mine, contain potted aloe vera as a house plant. It’s attractive as an indoor plant and very handy for the quick topical skin treatment of burns and scrapes. During the warm months, it is nice to bring it outdoors in a partially sunny spot where it can thrive in the fresh air and brighten a porch or patio. Southwestern gardeners have the advantage of being able to grow it outdoors as a landscape specimen. In warmer climates, the plants form robust clumps that produce spikes of reddish-orange, tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds.
One of the best things about the plant is how easy it is to grow and use medicinally. Aloe’s healing, anti-inflammatory properties are most potent when they come directly from the plant. No need to make a tincture or steep some tea in order to get treatment.
How to Care for Aloe Vera Plants
Aloe vera is a succulent in the lily family (Liliaceae) that is easy to maintain. In fact, too much attention and watering will result in an unhappy aloe. Imagine the spare water that they receive in arid, tropical Africa. They don’t need too much. (Pro growing tip: only water your Aloe vera when the soil is completely dried out. I recommend watering every two weeks or so, but this can change based on the season and growing conditions. Outdoor plants typically need more water, especially in dry climates.)
When planting, pot them up in very well-drained soil–Black Gold Cactus Mix is an ideal choice. Good pot drainage is also a necessity. Place your potted plant in a spot where it can receive bright, indirect sunlight. Aloe is one of the more low-light tolerant succulents out there, but it should still get some sunshine to keep the leaves strong and robust. Plants receiving too much sunlight tend to take on a purplish color. Too little light results in thin, floppy leaves.
Aloe Vera Benefits
The anti-inflammatory properties of Aloe vera are especially helpful for healing skin. Most know it for treating sunburns, but it also can help with frostbite, wounds, dermatitis, and other skin issues. It will also reduce redness, inflammation, and even itchiness caused by bug bites and poison ivy. (Cautionary note: It is very rare, but some people can be allergic to aloe. Test a little on your skin, and wait an hour or so to check for a reaction if you have never used it before.)
Aloe vera contains antiseptics and anti-bacterial properties, making it beneficial for treating small wounds. You can also apply it after a wound has healed to promote skin tissue repair and prevent scarring.
Outside of the skin, Aloe can be digested and work as a laxative. (Fair warning: it’s a strong laxative so use it sparingly.) Some new drinks on the market even contain Aloe vera juice, which can aid with digestion. Some studies even show the juice can help to prevent and reduce the size of kidney stones.
How to Treat a Sunburn with Aloe Vera
As a child, I loved playing outside and was very prone to sunburns. Obviously, it was not a great combination for summer fun. In those days, sunscreen was not available like it is today. My sunburns oftentimes kept me cooped up inside when I would rather be out playing. That was until the day my grandmother brought out the Aloe vera plant.
Placed on my sunburnt and freckled shoulders, the aloe brought my sunburn quick relief. I also saw the sunburns fade much quicker. Here are four steps to getting sunburn relief from an Aloe plant.
Using a sharp knife, remove a portion of an aloe leaf. Depending on how much you need, this can be as big as a whole leaf or as small as the tip of the plant.
Place the leaf on a paper towel and let it sit for ten minutes. This helps the dark, yellow latex to drain from the leaves. The latex can stain clothes or rarely cause reactions for people with sensitive skin.
Wipe the sides of the cut to remove the remaining latex. Next, take your knife and cut the leaf down the center to get more gel.
Apply the leaf directly to the skin. If your sunburn is hot and irritating, you can place the leaf in the fridge beforehand. The cold gel is extra soothing! Once you’re all done, compost the leaves.
Recipes for Using Aloe Vera in Homemade Skin Care Products
If you have healthy Aloe vera plants, then these recipes are a great way to use some of the wonderful properties on your skin.
Aloe vera liquid soap:With hand washing being essential around the globe these days, this healing aloe soap will also help repair skin.
“Can I use black gold fertilizer on my houseplants? ( 5 5 5 ) Any plants I should feed like ferns, orchids, African violets, etc?” Question from Gayle of New York
Answer: Black Gold Fertilizers are only available in Canada. You can certainly use our granular, Black Gold All-Purpose Fertilizer on house plants if you can find it in the states. Otherwise, we recommend that you try Proven Winners Premium Continuous-Release Plant Food and Proven Winners Premium Water Soluble Plant Food as an all-purpose fertilizer for feeding house plants. They are particularly recommended for flowering house plants. Our parent company, Sun Gro Horticulture, makes these products, so we can vouch for its quality and performance. Follow the product directions for application rates. From there, here are further resources for house plant care.
“I was wondering if you could help me with my Monstera deliciosa. I was wondering what the best type of pot and the best type of soil is for it. Thank you in advance!” Question from Angela of Fort Myers, Florida
Answer: Monstera (Monstera deliciosa) is naturally a rain forest trailer and climber with very large leaves that have decorative holes. Place the plant in a pot with drainage holes and a saucer at the bottom to catch water. I recommend using a ceramic container that is heavy enough to support the plant. Be sure that the new pot is at least 3 to 4 inches larger than the root ball before transplanting. Choose a fertile, potting mix with good drainage and water-holding ability, like Black Gold Natural & Organic Ultra Coir. Keep the soil moderately moist and allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between watering. Monstera grows best in bright, indirect light and prefers warm ambient temperatures and moderate to high humidity. (Click here for more house plant potting tips.)
Be aware that they send out aerial roots that can become attached to walls or floors. Do not allow them to become attached or they might leave marks when removed. Keep their long, heavy, twining stems supported as they grow upwards. A strong stake will work well.
What makes a holiday house plant great? It should be bright, colorful, and embody the spirit of the season. Here are our top ten favorite holiday house plants. Some continue to look good through much of winter!
My Plumeria needs repotting. What is the best soil and pot type? What amount of sunlight is best – morning, noon? Watering schedule? Question from Jean of Diamond Bar, California
Answer: Frangipani or Plumeria (Plumeria species) shrubs are tropicals that are native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. There are many species that have been bred to create a fine array of colorful varieties–nearly 400 garden varieties are registered.
Plumeria Growing Needs
There are several things that plumerias need to grow well. They grow and flower best with full sun (6 hours or more per day) and warm temperatures (60 to 90 degrees F). Because they are susceptible to root rot, they require contains and potting soil that is slightly acid (6.4 to 6.8 pH) and drains well. Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix with a little added Black Gold Perlite would be ideal. There are specialty plumeria flower fertilizers on the market or you can choose, or you can simply use a fertilizer formulated for flowering shrubs.
How to Repot a Plumaria
Repot your plumeria every two to three years. A new pot should be at least three inches larger than the last. Plumerias emit a milky latex when damaged, which can be irritating to the skin and eyes, so wear garden gloves and long sleeves when repotting them.
Cover the bottom of the pot with a shallow layer of mix. Then gently lift your plumeria out of its old pot. Adjust and center the root ball in the new pot. Add new soil to the base as needed. Once planted, there should be 2 inches of headspace at the top for watering. If the roots are intertwined, or pot-bound, then gently tease them apart along the bottom and sides to increase establishment and water and nutrient uptake.
Add fresh mix along the sides and work it down firmly to increase soil-to-root contact and remove air pockets. Water in your new plant until water runs from the bottom of the pot. Fill in any receded spots along the sides and water in again. Begin to fertilize a week or two after planting. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
“What are good, low maintenance, indoor house plants for beginners?” Question from Chelsea of Alpena, Michigan
Answer: We created a video for you to see some of Black Gold Horticulturist Jessie Keith’s top nine easy house plants for beginners. Each is attractive, easy to grow, and tolerates a series of different light and growing conditions. We hope that it helps!
“I hung an avocado pit in a cup of water, and it grew roots, and now has a crazy height of like 3-4 feet. I’ve read that I can keep them in a large pot outside, and they won’t outgrow it. Do you agree, and again, what should I use as dirt? Will an avocado tree in a planter actually produce avocados? Be kind since that would be a lot of dirt for a big planter!” Question from Joseph
Answer: Congratulations! Avocado trees can make nice house or patio plants if you have space. You have already discovered that they grow quickly, so planting yours in a large container with drainage is recommended–18 inches is a good starting size. Good potting soil for the job is Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix, which is OMRI Listed for organic gardening. Indoor trees require lots of sunlight to grow well. Feed yours with a fertilizer formulated for avocados, and water evenly from spring to fall. Allow the pot to become somewhat dry before each watering. In winter, water a little less as growth slows. To keep your tree at a manageable size, prune off extra- long branches in spring.
In general, you need more than one avocado tree for cross-pollination. So, even if your tree blooms as it matures, it will likely not fruit, but if you start another avocado tree, you could get lucky.
“I recently purchased this Creeping Charlie for indoors, and again, received not so great information (let it dry fully before adding water, etc.). It was fine one morning (there had been some brown leaves, which I was told was because I was overwatering it), but when I got home, it looked like this (image below). Water brought it back somewhat. Now only two of the groups of leaves you can see above remain. I am assuming that putting it in a larger pot will help keep more consistency in the moisture, but need to know what of your products should I use (and if possible, again, recommendations for pot size, methods, etc.). It gets mostly filtered sunlight here, with a few minutes a day of direct sunlight.” Question from Joseph
Answer: Creeping Charlie (Pilea nummulariifolia) is a tropical groundcover native to the Caribbean and areas of South America that grows beautifully as a trailing house plant. Yours needs a new home and a little care to bring it back to glory, but it is not beyond hope. It is quite easy to grow once you know what it needs.
Creeping Charlie Care
Choose a larger well-drained pot with holes at the bottom and a saucer to catch water. A 6-8” pot would suffice. Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix would be perfect for its needs. Creeping Charlie (Pilea nummulariifolia) likes even moisture, but allow it to dry out somewhat between watering, and water it less in winter–maybe once a week or so. Give it bright, indirect light, and feed it lightly with a slow-release fertilizer formulated for house plants. When it outgrows its pot, repot in spring. Like most tropicals, it likes some ambient humidity, so avoid planting it near vents or fans where it will be subjected to dry air.