Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lucky Bamboo Care

If your lucky bamboo is healthy, you'll notice that it quickly outgrows its original shape. Instead of maintaining the nice, twisted corkscrews or interlocking patterns, the new shoots tend to grow straight up. Attractive at first, they will quickly result in an unbalanced plant. Fortunately, lucky bamboo is easily propagated.

Taking cuttings. The first step is to take a healthy cutting. I usually take cuttings after I've trimmed the mother plant. Make sure the cuttings have at least one leaf joint, and preferably more. Trim excess leaves away to expose the growth node. Lucky bamboo can be rooted bare, or you can use a rooting hormone. Under normal circumstances, rooting hormone shouldn't be necessary because the plant readily roots. However, if you have several failed attempts, a rooting hormone might increase your chances.
Rooting lucky bamboo in water. This is the preferred method. Take trimmings that include at least one leaf joint and put them into distilled water. New, slightly reddish roots should emerge from the bottom of the stalk. Keep the water clean. Once the roots have emerged, you can either put the plant in a vase with decorative pebbles or pot it up in regular soil.
Rooting lucky bamboo in soil. Lucky bamboo will also readily root in soil. To root a new plant, gently push the trimmed stalk down into fresh potting soil, making sure that at least one root node is beneath the soil level. Keep the plant moist and warm until new growth begins to emerge.

When rooting lucky bamboo, however, remember that the new plant will not have the same distinctive stalks and growth habit of the parent. It'll still be a pretty and resilient houseplant, with narrow green leaves and straight stems, but it won't look like a professionally shaped and grown lucky bamboo.

Cortaderia selloana

Impressive size, graceful aspect, durable toughness, and spectacular flowers all combine to make pampas grass one of the most recognized plants in the landscape. The leaves are narrow, 1/2 to 3/4 in (1.3-1.9 cm) wide, and up to 10 ft (3 m) long. They are arranged in dense fountainlike clumps that are up to 12 ft (3.7 m) high and 6 ft (1.8 m) wide. The real show starts in midsummer when the flowers, spectacular 1 ft (0.3 m) tall white plumes, suddenly erupt above the foliage. The show continues well into winter as the feathery plumes persist and the foliage turns golden brown when touched by frost and cold weather (see photo below). When using the species you'll probably want to select female plants as they have prettier flowers - the males' are thinner, more elongated and not as full. This garden beauty commands attention wherever it is used.

Many varieties of pampas grass are available for use in the landscape. There are dwarf varieties (C. selloana 'Pumila') that are perfect for smaller spaces. Others have pastel colored flowers, while others provide an assortment of leaf variegations ('Silver Stripe', 'Gold Band').


Pampas grass is native to the South American countries of Chile, Brazil and Argentina. This grass acquired its common name from that of Argentina's grasslands which are called thepampas. This grand green goliath is grown around the world and just might be the most popular of all ornamental grass species.

Like many plants, pampas grass prefers fertile well-drained loamy soils. It is a survivor however, and will tolerate everything from poor, dry, sandy soils to heavy, damp clays. It will even tolerate flooding and wet soils if not persistent. Expect slow growth and scraggly looks when grown under extreme conditions.
Light: Give pampas grass full sun. Will also grow in light shade.
Moisture: Provide occasional water during times of drought to keep plant looking good. Very drought tolerant.
Propagation: By division (which is a huge chore!)in spring or fall Seed is occasionally available for the species but the selected varieties must be propagated by division to preserve their unique characteristics.

Pampas grass has long been a popular lawn highlight in the south where it looks great alone or arranged in groups of several clumps. Because it is inexpensive and fast growing it also makes a great screen for hiding unsightly views. Pampas grass is armed with razor sharp leaves. Planted in a hedge, it makes a formidable barrier. It looks great used with palms, pines and other grasses. The flowers become even more dramatic when grown in front of dark backgrounds, such as juniper trees, Leyland cypress or podocarpus.

Tough, beautiful and inexpensive, pampas grass has everything going for it. A plant can be purchased for a few dollars at a garden center, stuck in the ground, given minimal care, and within a year or two it will be transformed into a striking specimen. For dried arrangements there is nothing better than the beautiful plumes of pampas grass. Cut the plumes as soon as possible after they blossom for more durable dried specimens.
Dried plumes, dyed flamboyant colors and often sprinkled with glitter, can be purchased at better discount and souvenir stores throughout the country - especially in areas frequented by tourists. Always in good taste, these can be used fearlessly in even the most sophisticated interior designs. So versatile are these prodigious plumes that no matter what color you select rest assured they will combine effectively with pink flamingos, Elvis-on-black-velvet art and lava lamps.
Due to the sharp leaf edges do not use pampas grass near walkways, swimming pools, benches, play areas, etc. Even light brushes with the leaves can result in cuts that have a tendency to become inflamed - wash immediately and apply antibiotic salve.
Pampa grass is highly invasive in certain dry frost free climates like California where it invades natural habitats and displaces native species. In these environments pampas grass must not be planted and existing plants removed if possible. Also beware of related species sometimes sold as "purple pampas grass" (C. jubata) which is also invasive.

Callistemon Tree

Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Callistemon

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Bloom Color:
Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer
Grown for foliage
Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
Patent Information:
Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow after last frost
Seed Collecting:
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

Gypsum & Lawn

Garden centers and lawncare services often advise applyinggypsum (calcium sulfate) to your lawn to “decompact” a hard soil. This is supposed to accomplish softening by improving the structure of the compacted clay soil. With the exception of the arid western United States and our coastal areas (where sodium can be high and clay soils may be common), adding gypsum as a soil-softening amendment is not necessary in nonagricultural areas.

Urban soils are generally mixtures of subsoils plus native and nonnative topsoils. In home landscapes, high levels of organic and inorganic chemical additives are common. They may also be highly compacted and layered, and gypsum does not work well on layered soils. In such landscapes it is pointless to add yet more chemicals in the form of gypsum unless you need to increase soil calcium. Adding gypsum to sandy or nonsodic soils ( low in sodium) is a waste of money and natural resources and can have negative impacts on plant, soil and ecosystem health. Excessive soil calcium may release cations like aluminum or tie up nutrients like phosphorus. In our noncoastal soils, the soil calcium (Ca++) concentration is much higher than the sodium (Na+).

Really want to know why gypsum doesn’t work here? In arid parts of the country, sodium occupies many of the cation exchange sites in the soil. And since it is only a +1 charge, soil colloids tend to disperse and can be easily compacted together causing a poor soil structure. Adding gypsum (CaSO4) allows the Ca++ to release and replace the soil-bound Na+.The released Na+ is leached out as Na2SO4, and the soil tends to granulate due to flocculation (fluffing up and colloidally glued together on the microscopic level) with more Ca++ on the exchange sites. This granulated condition improves soil structure, and soil is then less prone to compaction. Since there is far more calcium than sodium on exchange sites in our Louisiana soils, adding calcium via gypsum has little or no effect on most of our soils.
Instead of gypsum, consider core aerifying in spring, summer or early fall to reduce the compaction and improve plant health. Aerifying with large half-inch hollow tines and punching about 25 holes/square foot will produce good results. Very compacted soil can benefit from several corings each year (common with sport fields). This does not minimize the benefit of have a high Ca and Mg level reading in your soil test, but coring does physically reverse a physical compaction of soil particles. Yes, coring is an expensive service to buy, and most lawns really don’t need it; but it won’t hurt. And if the soil is compacted, it’s usually the best solution to the stifled growth.