Ask the gardening expert
Thursday, January 3, 2013
I've had two rosemary plants for several years in pots. I've been bringing them indoors over winter. I've learned I need to water them very little and keep them cool in winter for dormancy. I've read that folklore says a blooming rosemary brings good luck to the household. My problem is that I can never get any of my rosemary plants to bloom at all. Do you know what I should do to make them bloom in summer? I read that too somewhere — about good luck in the home; I'm still waiting.
Rosemary Rosemarinus officnalis (meaning 'dew of the sea') can be very difficult as a houseplant. The soil needs to be kept evenly and lightly moist but not wet. Watering frequency will depend on how warm and humid the room is, and how much air circulation there is, the type of potting soil used and whether or not the pot is porous (terra cotta is a good choice), so you will need to check the soil with your finger and see. Indoors, the plant does best in a cool, bright location with both fairly high humidity and good air circulation. Over winter, I keep mine in my cool greenhouse (keep about 50 degrees in winter) and run a fan to keep the air moving year-round. Most plants do not need fertilizer in winter. (The only exception are blooming plants such as African violets, or maybe a gift plant in bloom). During spring and summer, however, fertilize the rosemary with a water-soluble fertilizer for foliage plants according to the label instructions after you see signs of new growth. They will also need more water during the times they are in active growth. It sounds as if you are taking good care of your potted rosemary, bringing it indoors in the winter, keeping it cool indoors is a good idea. If possible, keep the room at about 55 degrees or so. If your plants are getting large and growing unevenly, you might try taking some cuttings — use them in your kitchen or perhaps try rooting them for new plants.
I wonder if the lack of bloom might be that it's not getting enough light in the spring and summer months. When you bring it outdoors, be sure the plants are getting full sunshine — they thrive in sunlight. In this area, you should strive for a spot that gets at least eight hours of sunlight or at least bright light daily along with good air circulation.
Maybe you'll decide you want to try planting one outside in a good, sunny location that drains well. It prefers well-drained, sandy, alkaline soil of 6.0 to 7.5. In our acid soil, you might throw in a handful of lime. Make sure it gets lots of sun all spring and summer. If you can achieve that, you might see blooms soon.
My neighbors gave me a plant. The tag says Euonymus fortunei "Moonshadow." Does this plant survive the winter and come back each year? Should I cover it in winter months? Does it have an easier common name?
Nice gift. This plant is very winter-hardy, surviving temperatures of -20 to -30 degrees; it is rated hardy to USDA winter hardiness Zone 4. (Most of Clark County is Zone 7 or near it). It should not be a problem with winter conditions. This is a nice, well-behaved plant that matures to about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It has bright yellow leaves with dark green margins. A year-round layer of several inches of organic mulch would be helpful in retaining moisture. Place the mulch on the soil beneath and around the plant but not touching the trunk or over top of the foliage. This is one of the plants that really does not have a specific common name. There are several E. fortunei varieties that are commonly called "Winter Creepers," but that covers three or more varieties of this plant, so we need to rely on the botanical and variety names in this case.
Every year I feel so blue after the holidays. A friend said I should start some garden seeds and I will feel better. She said you wrote it in your column a couple years ago. Can you tell me how to go about it, and how long does it take?
I don't remember saying that but it is sort of true, or at least the idea of something to anticipate is nice in my opinion. Many people feel the reward of doing volunteer work in the community; knowing your needed is a great feeling. Others might start a new, fun in-door project and relish the long, dark days to have time to work on it. I do a little of both those things, but my favorite is my passion for my garden. As a young mother, I used to feel a depression each dark, long winter until a friend suggested I go out and look into my yard. When I looked closely, I saw the tops of daffodils beginning to peak out of the soil. I was amazed. A few days after Christmas Day? Just wonderful. I looked around further and saw plants that were beginning to form buds, and signs they were about to grow. The worst of winter weather was yet to come, but still I had seen that spring was just waiting to come. What a turning point for me. That notion lifted my spirits so much that I have never have felt that winter depression again. Gardening! Now, my greatest joy is that I was able to encourage my daughter to go take a peek for daffodil tops in January. She's now become my greatest garden buddy.
You don't really need to be a gardener. Try buying a few winter pansies, or a primrose or two. Replant them in a pot where you can see and care for them each day. You'll find it's fun and exciting, plus you'll find yourself looking forward to increasing your tiny garden, and you'll be on your way to being a gardener and a new happy life.
Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.