Q: I have some passionflower seeds I collected this fall from a wild vine not far away. They are in various colors from reddish brown to almost black. Do you suppose some are more mature than others? Do the seeds need some special treatment before planting them? I have put a few out already to "winter over" and put a mix of colors in each spot — just in case. I was going to try germinating some inside soon. Any advice you might have would be greatly appreciated.
A: Seed color can vary by maturity of the seed, but there is some variability. There are gardeners out there who would tell you that every seed germinates, because the passionflower plant can become aggressive in a garden; but the fact is the longer the seed is held after harvest, the slower it will be to germinate. Fresh seeds can germinate in two or three weeks, but germination can take longer, so be patient. To speed up germination, you can treat the seeds by soaking them in water overnight or through scarification (abrading the seed with sandpaper to weaken the hard outer shell).
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Q: We took a trip this past fall to Jamaica where we saw flowering plants called ginger lilies. The flowers were in many different colors and had a fabulous fragrance. I know we are not a tropical environment, but are there any of them we could grow in Arkansas? If so, how do I get some?
A: Ginger lilies are beautiful plants, and as you noticed, can be quite diverse. We have a quite a few that are hardy in our state, and they are a beautiful addition to the garden. Hedychium species are your best bet. The white butterfly ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium) is probably the most common of those in Arkansas; but orange, salmon and yellow varieties are also available. They grow best with full sun to partial shade — afternoon shade can be ideal to keep them from drying out. If they get too dry in the summer, they won't bloom well. Some nurseries do carry them in the perennial section, but Arkansas Master Gardener plant sales in the spring are a great place to find them. Gardeners often have offshoots to sell since they do multiply. There are also many mail-order sources.
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Q: I had daffodil foliage up in the yard sooner than ever this year, and when that bad cold snap came, I just knew they would be killed. Needless to say, I was gob smacked to find them blooming this week. Normally I don't see flowers on these until late February or early March. Will they bloom again? Is there anything I should do to help them now?
A: You are not alone. There are a lot of confused plants (and people) with our roller-coaster weather. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to stop the plants once they start to bloom. Enjoy them as long as they last. Spring-flowering bulbs are quite cold tolerant, but open blooms will not take hard freezes well. After they flower, allow the foliage to grow for 6-8 more weeks so they can manufacture enough food to set flowers for next spring. Hopefully you have other bulbs that have not gotten as far along in their growth and will still have some flowers in the spring. The bulbs only contain one set of blooms per season, so the blooming bulbs will not have more flowers later.
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Q: You recently talked about a houseplant blooming. Well, here is a picture from a few years ago (2012) when my alligator jaws plant bloomed in my sun room.
A: Wow! Alligator jaws or mother of millions plant (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) is an old-fashioned houseplant that is most commonly grown for its unusual habit of bearing little baby plants along the edges of the leaves. It propagates quite easily. I have never seen the showy blooms in person — such effusive flowering makes it really worth growing. Probably not surprising for its propensity to propagate, it is considered an invasive plant where it can survive outdoor winters — in its native Africa and Australia, but also in warm, tropical climates. Thanks for sharing.
Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org