Ask the Gardening Expert



I have heard that certain plants are helpful in filtering air in a home. Do you think it would work? Do you know what they are?

I have read that NASA scientists found that certain plants filter contaminants from the air better than others. It takes 15 to 20 plants to clean a 1,500-square-foot area, they say. Here are three of the best, according to NASA: Boston fern, dracaena fragrans ‘Janet Craig’ and rubber plant ficus elastica.

Some weeks ago, I visited our medical providers’ urgent care office, and counted 15 huge ‘Janet Craig’ dracaena plants in the room. I guess they feel it works for them.

We expect to move in about five years as we retire. My friend suggested we do a landscape ‘remodel’ as some of the plants are overgrown and the yard appears a bit too shady. Do you think we should so something now? I think we should wait and do some changes as we are about to put it on the market, so it appears freshly updated.

There are studies that suggest that good landscaping adds 5 to 11 percent to the value of your home. One study said location is still the most important determiner of price, but adding shade trees or shrubs help cut down on energy costs, as well as adding to your property value as they mature. So no matter when you sell, investing in your landscape makes good sense.

You have time to remove the overgrown plants, and begin a new and well-designed landscape. It will be well-established, with no obvious gaps or revisions in the time before you place the home on the market. It could be well worth the cost in the long run to hire a capable landscape professional now to create an appealing yard that will be inviting to future homebuyers .

What does it mean when a tomato plant says it is determinate? Are there other kinds?

There is the determinate, which are short and compact, tand bear all their fruit at about the same time. That’s good if you are processing them. The indeterminate variety will continue to grow taller and bear fruit until frost and need to be staked.

It would be nice to grow both if you like to can some, then have a nice supply for the table all late summer and fall. You’ll stand a better chance of harvesting a crop if you look for varieties that have the shortest amount of days to maturity.

It seem that so many flowers go away so fast in my garden. Is there a way to make my shasta daisies, and cone flowers last longer?

There are a few little strategies that might help somewhat, but in reality they do go by fast. The thing you might do is look for plants that bloom at different times during the season. There are so many books and garden magazines addressing this issue. You might also ask a garden professional to help you find a list of plants that bloom in spring, summer and fall. As for the ones you have now, such as shasta daisies and echinea, you might cut them by half right now and another one-third before the first of July. I also cut my tall phlox. They will bloom later, and into fall. Some may bloom smaller flowers, but that’s an OK trade-off for me since they last a little longer toward fall.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to