Monday, May 11, 2009

Garden Tips: Lavender and Caladiums

Once we become interested in the progress of the plants in our care, their development becomes a part of the rhythm of our own lives and we are refreshed by it. ~Thalassa Cruso

It's 9:00 A.M. here and I've already been out weeding after my daughter's school bus picked her up. It's always stress relieving to yank those weeds out! Today I have tips on two popular garden plants: lavender and caladiums. Both are easy to grow IF you plant them in the right location and give them the care they need.

Lavender benefits from some lime mixed in to the soil, but it really doesn't need fertilizer. If your soil is extremely poor try adding a little compost and lime, but most of the time you won't need any additions. If you notice older plants looking a bit poor, that would be a good time to add some nitrogen- you could use blood meal or bone meal in the spring--but again, not too much. One other method is to finely crush eggshells and work them into the soil around the plant.

Young lavender plants need more water than established plants. Never soak them completely, or keep them moist, but water during dry periods. Once they are about a year old they shouldn't need extra water. Don't fertilize the young plants though-- just be patient and leave them alone to get settled. You can mulch with pea sized gravel--not with a standard mulch that may mildew or keep moisture against the plant. Lavender needs hot, full sun. Anything less and it will not do as well.

Another important aspect to growing lavender is finding the variety that is right for your area. If you are in Zone 6 and lower you should go for the angustifolia and x-intermedia lavenders, which are hardy. If you are in a warmer climate try the multifida and stoechas which are tender and will do better in humid climates. Clay soil is a bad thing for lavender. If you have clay you really need to create a special raised bed for lavender with a well drained topsoil and sand mixed in or grow it in large pots. It also cannot tolerate wet feet at any time.

Caladiums are a nice shade plant with interesting colors and texture. They don't do as well in full shade, and need protection from full sun if you opt for that. A light to medium shaded location works well. The plants also need a warm, moist soil. I've planted them in porch boxes, but really had to watch so they didn't dry out. I water on a regular basis. Caladiums also need a fairly loose soil to grow properly. If you are starting with a tuber instead of a plant it should be
placed about 2 inches deep. They do well with a 2 inch or thicker layer of mulch. When preparing the soil for planting make sure it's worked up well, add some potash if you have it, and water well. One other key to growing caladiums is NOT allowing them to bloom! Check frequently and snip off any flowers that begin to form. They aren't attractive, and it's important to remove them so the plant will direct it's energy to the foliage and the tuber.

Dogs and cats bothering your garden? Check out these tips:

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