“We will be planting roses on the north side of the house this summer. We have clay soil. What do you recommend mixing into the soil?” question from Roseanne of Rockford, Illinois
Answer: Roses grow and resist disease best when grown in full sun. The north side of your home may not be the best spot for roses unless you plant them far enough from the foundation to get enough full sun. Hydrangeas, fothergilla, glossy abelia, summersweet, and sweetspire are better flowering foundation shrubs for the north side of a home. I recommend that you calculate what garden areas along that side of your home get at least six hours of sun per day. (Eight hours is better.) Roses won’t perform well with less.
When it comes to the soil for roses, good drainage and good fertility are essential. If your soil is heavy clay, it will require lots of amendments to get it in shape for roses. Please read the following articles to learn how.
Roses prefer soil with a slightly acid pH of 6.5, so peat moss is a recommended amendment. You also have the option of building your soils up and berming along your foundation to lift your soils to facilitate better drainage. We also suggest that you fortify your newly planted roses with alfalfa meal (3-1-2), a natural fertilizer that’s great for roses.
I also encourage you to watch the video below about growing roses organically.
“I start my seedlings indoors. How do I keep them from shooting up 6 inches with a weak stem before I can get them outdoors?” Question from Jerry of Lead, South Dakota
Answer: This is all about providing lots of high-quality light from start to finish. When light is insufficient, seedlings will reach and stretch towards the source, which results in elongated, leggy shoots and poor overall color and growth.
If you start your seeds along a sunny windowsill, make sure that it is south-facing. Place your seedlings as close to the pane as possible and consider fortifying their light with high-spectrum bulbs for plant growing.
“I just fell in love with the ponytail palm plant. I would like it in my dining room that gets some afternoon light. How much light does it need?” Question from Ann of Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
Answer: I have a ponytail palm, too, and just love it! Ponytail palm (Beucarnia recurvata) is native to arid regions of Mexico and needs low water, especially in the winter months, and high sunlight. It can withstand partial sun in winter, if necessary, but if you want your specimen to really thrive, I recommend bringing it outdoors in summer.
Don’t take it outdoors in spring until the threat of frost has passed and days have warmed up. Then let it soak up the sun in a slightly covered area that won’t get inundated with heavy rain. It is fine to give it moderate water outdoors in the summer, especially when days are very hot and dry. To ensure fast soil drainage and protect roots from rotting, I recommend planting it in Black Gold Cactus Mix.
“How much sun (if any) do indoor succulents need?” Question from Diane of Palmyra, New Jersey
Answer: Most popular indoor succulents originate from semi-desert to desert environments where they experience hot sun during the day and cool temperatures at night. That means they tend to grow best if provided bright sunlight. In some instances, certain succulents also grow well in partial sun or bright, filtered light. One of the best able to withstand lower light is Sanseveria (Click here to learn more about growing Sansevieria). Foxtail agave (Agave attenuata, photo above), giant gasteria (Gasteria acinacifolia), and torch aloe (Aloe aristata) are three more succulents that will grow well in lower light.
Indoor succulents also tend to require little to no water during the winter months. This mimics the winter dry season that they experience in their natural habitats, so be sure to water them very sparingly during the cold season. It also pays to plant them in a premium, fast-draining mix, like Black Gold Cactus Mix!