Cosmos

Scientific Name: Cosmos, or Mexican Aster

Height: Depending on the varieties; 18 to 60 inches

Width: 12 to 24 inches

Spacing: 12 to 36 inches

Sun: Full, but can tolerate partial

Bloom Time: Early summer to early fall

Water: Once a day unless temperatures rise

Soil Type: Loose, rich, fertile soil

Soil pH: 6.0 – 6.8

Zones: 2 to 11

Uses/Styles: Beds and borders, cottage, backdrop, accent

Flower Colors: White, pink, yellow, red, orange, and blends

Attracts: Bees, butterflies, and birds

Special Features: Whimsical appearance, cut flowers, drought tolerant, attracts pollinators, and great for containers

Basic Information

Cosmos have over 20 different varieties and an array of colors thatโ€™ll attract bees, butterflies, and birds. They can deal with poor soil conditions, and once established, they can become drought-tolerant. Though they are considered annuals, they are still highly sought after due to their self-sowing attributes that allow for a longer bloom period.

Versailles Red.

Planting and Care

Sowing cosmos is fairly easy and quick to do. Use a packet of seeds (or last year’s seeds that you’ve sown yourself), scatter in a full sun and well-draining location, place a thin layer of soil on top, and water. Before you scatter your seeds, add a balanced fertilizer into the soil so that they are able to become full, healthy plants. Make sure to come back and water at least once a day depending on the temperature. Seeds should sprout through within 7 to 14 days. From there, keep an eye out on pests and critters who may want to take a nibble or two. You can use chicken wire or shade cloth to cover or surround the area.

Depending on the variety and size of the plant, you may need to use stakes to help support both the root system and the stem of the plant(s). Anything that grows 4 feet or taller should have support systems in place so that they don’t run the risk of falling over and snapping.

Once your cosmos have started to flower and are getting their second or third flowers, start deadheading your first flowers. This will help promote more flowers but will also allow for the stem to focus on becoming more structurally sound. You can either use those flowers and place them in your house for decoration or you can allow for the flowers to dry out and use the seeds for either this year’s crop or next year’s crop.

Cosmos bippanatus and Cosmos sulphureus

Cosmos bippanatus: Native to Mexico. The distinguishing features include a bright yellow center with daisy-like petals. You may see them in semi-double or double-petalled form. They range from 2 to 5 feet but can sustain upwards to 8 feet. Anything above 4 feet should have a support system.

Two popular varieties include:

Seashell: The petals are rolled around and somewhat resembles a seashell. They come in shades of white, pink, and rose, and can grow to be 3 to 4 feet tall with the flowers being 3 inches in diameter.

Sonata: The petals are frilly towards the edges and have fern-like foliage. They grow to be 18 to 24 inches tall and have colors from pure white to shades of rose, pink, and cherry.

Two popular varieties include:

Cosmos sulphureus: Native to Mexico. Thrives wonderfully in dry, poor soil, and can become weak if they are placed in rich, fertile soil. Most grow between 1 to 3 feet but can go up 6 feet. They too have semi-double or double-petalled form but usually range in yellows, oranges, and vibrant reds.

The Diablo: The petals are semi-doubled and are scarlet/orange that looks like a flame. They grow to 4 to 5 feet tall and are excellent for cut flowers.

Dwarf Gold Sulphur: They grow to be 18 to 24 inches tall and produces semi-double gold-yellow flowers. The petals are about 2 inches in length.

Cosmos atrosanguineus

Cosmos atrosanguineus: Known as the Chocolate cosmos. Semi-double petals smell like chocolate and have a deep crimson color. The flowers grow to be 3 inches in diameter. They grow from 15 to 19 inches tall. It’s reported to be extinct but some claims say it’s in very remote, select areas. They are a perennial if you dig up the bulbs before the danger of frost. Place the bulb(s) in a cool, dry, dark area until spring.

Lilium (Lily)

Stargazer, well-known for their fragrance

Scientific Name: Lilium, or Liliaceae

Height: Depending on the varieties; 1 to 3 feet and 3 to 8 feet.

Width: 12+ inches

Spacing: 12 to 36 inches

Sun: Full, but can tolerate partial

Bloom Time: Early summer to early fall

Water: Once a day unless temperatures rise

Soil Type: Loose, rich, fertile soil

Soil pH: 6.5 to 7.0

Zones: 4 to 9

Uses/Styles: Beds and borders, cottage

Flower Colors: White, pink, yellow, red, orange, and blends

Attracts: Pollinators, hummingbirds, butterflies

Special Features: Medicinal, fragrant flowers, bright and vibrant colors

Basic Information

Liliums are native to the Northern Hemisphere and have between 80 to 100 varying species. Many lilies are prized as ornamental plants, and they have been extensively hybridized1. The name “lily” is commonly used for different species such as Lily-of-the-Valley, Daylilies, and Lilytuff. To recognize a true lily, look for single stems with lots of leaves and six-petalled trumpet-shaped flowers. Many of the petals are 3 to 6 inches in length. A vast majority of the varieties grow between 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90cm) however some do exceed 6 feet (2.5 meters). The flowering periods depend on the variety, some bloom in the spring, some in July or August, and others bloom in late summer to early fall. Easter lilies (L. longiflorum) are usually forced to bloom in the spring but if they overwinter and come back successfully the following spring, they will revert to blooming in the late summer.

During 2 BCE, the Madonna lily was cultivated for medicinal treatments, and the bulb of certain varieties was and still is, used as food. They have very aromatic flowers that will stop anyone in their tracks. Their flowers are about 3 to 4 inches in width.

Madonna Lily, cultivated for over 2,000 years.

Lilies are bulbs so make sure to choose an area that doesn’t get any standing water; whether naturally (underground) or when it rains too heavily. Loose, fertile, loamy soil is preferred but they can also handle sand and clay. Make sure to bury them 8 to 10 inches down.

Lilies love full sun but they will tolerate some shade, especially on extremely hot and bright days. Make sure to check the soil moisture level when temperatures reach 90F and higher. You will most likely have to water twice a day until daytime temperatures are below 85F consistently. Fertilize in the spring-like you would your other perennials and wait until early fall to fertilize again.

There are several types of lilies and they all have their special features.

Asiatic Lilies: they offer an array of colors and typically bloom early to midsummer and can produce up to 12 flowers per bulb.

Oriental Lilies: they are known for their fragrance and large flowers (6 to 9 inches) that bloom mid to late summer.

Border Lilies: they are the shortest of the lilies, growing between 14 to 18 inches in height with varying bloom times from early to late summer.

Orienpet Lilies: they are the largest of the lilies, growing between 32 to 72 inches in height and blooming from early to midsummer.

Double Lilies: unlike the other lilies, these ones offer double, layered petals that are pollen-free and bloom at various times from early to late summer.

Longiflorium lilies (Easter Lilies): they are forced to bloom in the spring and have white trumpet-shaped flowers, and are associated with the Virgin Mary and purity.

Planting

To prepare the ground for lily bulbs, dig up holes 8″x10″, add in a few tablespoons of Biotone, push 4″ of soil in and mix it around, then place one bulb, pointy side up and bury it with the rest of the soil. Biotone will help produce healthier, fast-growing roots. Immediately water once all bulbs have been planted. It’ll take a little time for them to start to surface so be patient and do not overwater. If you are unsure whether the soil is moistened enough, use a hand spade to make a small hole to feel the soil 3″ down. If the soil feels moist, do not water. If feels like it’s starting to dry out, then give a small watering. Overwatering can cause rot and that may lead to the death of the plant.

Companion Plants

Companion plants are a fun way to add attraction to your garden and can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Since lilies come in a vast array of vibrant and powerful colors, the combinations are endless. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Columbine’s
  • Veronica’s
  • Gaillardia
  • Silver Mound
  • Low growing grasses
  • and some annuals like zinnia’s, cosmos, marigolds.

It can be difficult to know if two plants look good together so if you are close to a greenhouse, nursery, or garden center, find a plant that you enjoy and walk around with it, putting it next to other plants and seeing how they complement one another. Your plant companionship can be totally different from the next person, and that is okay. We each have our own tastes and that’s what makes gardening so unique and amazing!

Up next… Pests, Disease, and How to treat them!

Nepeta (Catmint)

Scientific Name: Nepeta

Height: 10 to 24 inches, some varieties will grow 3 to 4 feet

Width: 12 to 24 inches

Spacing: 12 to 36 inches

Sun: Full, but can tolerate partial

Bloom Time: Early to Late Summer

Water: Once a day unless temperatures rise

Soil Type: Loose, rich, fertile soil

Soil pH: 5.0 to 8.0

Zones: 3 to 8

Uses/Styles: Borders, Backdrop, containers (if in a warmer climate)

Flower Colors: Blue, purple, white, pink, yellow

Attracts: Pollinators, hummingbirds, butterflies, hummingbird moths

Special Features: Medicinal, bug repellant, deer resistant, and drought tolerate

Nepeta is native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and imported to North America. The name comes Nepete, an ancient Etruscan city (an old civilization from the northwestern portion of Italy). There are over 250 varieties with a wide range of blues and purples mostly, though you can find pink, white, and yellow. They can handle drought weather, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. If the weather is consistently over 85F for several days, make sure to keep an eye out on your Nepeta. They will start to wilt when they are extremely desperate for water, which is a good indicator to give a well-deserved watering.

Just like Agastache, they help deter deer and have medicinal uses such as aid in digestive problems and respiratory issues. Using catmint as a tea can help with a pesky cough or a stuffy nose. Check out HerbWisdom for more information.

Nepeta govaniana

When planting Nepeta, make sure they have a sunny location with soil that is loose, rich in nutrients, and relatively moist, never soaking. Adding Biotone into your soil will help the plant produce roots much faster and allow for your plant to have a higher chance of survival within its first year. Many gardeners make the mistake of planting their plants, then neglecting to fertilize or keeping basic maintenance on the plant and that could lead to slow decline or death. It’s easy to do this, especially if you are just starting out or life gets too hectic. It’s all a learning curve.

Once the plant(s) are in the ground, give a deep watering to make sure the Biotone is immediately released into the already made roots. Give Biotone, and the plant, time to adjust to its new (and hopefully permanent) location. Depending on the weather (85F+, water twice daily or until wilting starts to occur) you may only need to water once or twice daily. Though, there are some days where you must water 3 times a day, mainly when the temperatures are consistently over 95F for two or more days. At this point, water evaporates rather quickly and doesn’t allow for the roots to swallow up what they need. Do NOT under any circumstances get water on the leaves or stems of the plant, this goes for hot and cooler weather. In hotter weather, the sun will magnify within the water droplets and cause burning which will lead to disease and other problems that may not be reversible. If you get rain in the morning and it’ll be sunny the rest of the day, try to go out and shake off the water as much as possible so you can lessen the amount of damage to your plants. In cooler weather, the water doesn’t evaporate as rapidly and thus sticks to the plant longer which could cause disease and fungus as well. A common problem is powdery mildew. This is why watering at the base of the plant is highly recommended by many gardeners and greehouses. Watering at the base will help prevent countless different issues that could arise from overhead watering.

Now, you may be worried about disease and fungus problems, yes? Well, you don’t need to worry. The sooner you notice a change in your plant(s), the quicker they will recover. Firstly, let’s talk about disease and fungus issues. They are the lucky few to have little to no problems except for crown and root rot. This only happens when conditions are overly wet, like standing water or overwatering. They prefer drier conditions so overwatering will cause the plant to start to die from the roots up. One issue you may see is powdery mildew and this occurs when conditions are heavily humid, hot (can happen when temperatures are cooler), and wet weather. The summer of 2021 was extremely hot, humid, and wet in Michigan, and at the greenhouse, we saw countless customers return with saddened faces that their plant has died. Upon reviewing all the plants we received, 9 out of 10 of those plants had root rot or severe powdery mildew. It was a rough summer with returns but what can we do? Mother Nature does what she wants and we must work around it. We all win and lose some.

When it comes to insect problems, this is a little more extensive but can be taken care of easily. Nepeta will attract snails, slugs, spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, and leafhoppers. They all can be extremely destructive to not only the leaves but to the stems and roots. For treatments, you can go several ways. An organic route or harsh, dangerous route. For an organic route, you can either purchase or make your own insecticidal soap. To make your own, mix 4 tablespoons of dish soap (Dawn), 1 gallon of water, and 1 tablespoon of pure neem oil. Shake in a clean spray bottle and use immediately. Please note that the contents will separate over time in the bottle so remember to shake vigorously before using. Neem oil helps to kill off the reproductive systems of the adult insects, thus lessening the spread of eggs. Another option you can use for killing off insects is Diatomaceous Earth. I prefer this method more, but mostly for indoor houseplants, though you can use this as a quicker method than the insecticidal soap. Do be cautious when using DE, allows wear a mask and apply with your back against the wind. DE is compressed of microscopic single-cell aquatic lifeforms that have been killed off millions of years ago and ground to dust. Inhaling DE will cause lung and eye problems, but getting it on your skin or clothes has no harm. DE, to insects, are like thousands of razor blades, and they slowly get cut up until they perish. It may sound harsh but we must keep control of insect infestations and their population in order to maintain a balanced ecosystem. They reproduce like rabbits so they are not in limited supply.

Leafhopper, Kentucky Pest News

Nepeta pairs well with many different plants but here are a few:

  • Yarrow (Achillea)
  • Coreopsis
  • Lamb’s Ear
  • Red Juniper’s Beard (Valerian)
  • and Salvia

Also, a little unknown fact: Nepeta is popular among cats. Catmint and Catnip are both stimulators for cats and are used to get them “high.” Pinch off some of the flowers and leaves, give to your cat and see what they do. Not all cats will enjoy it. Some may rub their bodies against it or eat it. Both are ways for the oils to get distributed into their bodies.

Agastache (Hyssop)

Terra Nove Nurseries ‘Blue Boa’

Scientific Name: Agastache

Height: 2 to 4 ft

Width: 2 to 3 ft

Spacing: 12 to 15 in

Sun: Grows best in Full Sun, but will tolerate partial sun

Bloom Time: Early summer thru Fall

Water: When first 2-3 inches are dry (Summertime, 85+, requires 2x daily watering)

Soil Type: Rich, loose, moist soil

Soil pH: 6.0 to 7.5

Zones: 4 to 10

Uses/Styles: Middle-ground planting, edging of woodlands

Flower Colors: Purple to lavender, pink, rose, blue, white, and orange

Attracts: Pollinators; butterflies, hummingbirds, bumblebees, honey bees, moths

Special Features: Deer repellant, medical uses, pollinator attractor!

Agastache’s come from all over the world. Many are native to North America while many are from Asia. With more than 30 species, there are countless uses both medicinally and in the garden. Most of the zones within North America allow for Agastaches to become perennials but in the regions where it gets below 10F consecutively, they become annuals. They are fairly hardy and can tolerate drought conditions as long as the plant has had a year or two to become fully established.

Many are dealing with a growing population of deer in their neighborhoods, which means damage to your plants. Using deer repellant plants, including Agastache, can help with their nibbling. Deer do not like strong scents like mint, lavender, bee balm, catmint, and others. Line your beds with strongly scented plants and it will help prevent damage from them and other pesky critters.

If you are new to Agastache and have never planted one, don’t fret. Make sure you have a sunny location where the soil isn’t dense like clay. Clay soil will hinder the root growth and may eventually kill off your plant. To loosen up clay soil, add in either some loamy or sandy soil until the consistency is loose and airy. You want to make sure air can still flow through the soil because oxygen is also an important factor in healthy roots. When the soil is loose and airy, make sure the hole is 4 inches wider and deeper than the root ball of the plant. Add Biotone into the mixture; make sure to read the instructions! With one hand, hold the plant in place as you scoop the soil mixture around the root ball. Once the soil is to the top, give it a gentle pat down and water immediately.

Now that you have made an attachment to this plant, make sure to care for it. That includes checking it for diseases and pests. Depending on the weather and planting conditions, you may, or may not, have the appearance of:

  • Aphids
  • Mites
  • And Thrips

Using insecticidal soaps can help greatly. It will usually take several different applications for it to kill off everything but you can also use Neem Oil in conjunction with the soap. It’ll help kill off the reproductive systems of the adults. Do make sure to isolate all of the plants that have been infected until the pests have been fully eradicated.

With pests come diseases. Look out for:

  • Botrytis Blight
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Leaf Spot
  • Rust
  • and Downy Mildew

With Botrytis Blight and Leaf Spot, use Neem Oil. Powdery and Downy Mildew, use a fungicide spray that targets mildew as it occurs due to lack of air circulation and hot and humid conditions. Rust can be treated with Copper sprays or sulfur powders; make sure to read the instructions! Make sure when you are watering to get water at the base of the plant. When water lands on the leaves and the sun dries it, it eventually will burn the leave and allow for diseases and fungi into the pores of the leaves.

Agastache grows well with many different plants:

  • Coneflowers
  • Russian Sage
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Rudbeckia
  • and blue tinged grasses like Blue Eijah or Blue Oats.

Mandevilla – Rocktrumpet

Scientific Name: Mandevilla

Height: 3 to 20 ft (91 to 609 cm)

Width: 1 to 3 ft (30 to 91 cm)

Spacing: 3 to 6 ft (91 to 150 cm)

Sun: Full to partial

Bloom Time: Late spring through early Fall

Water: When first 2-3 inches are dry

Soil Type: Rich, loose, moist soil, but never damp

Soil pH: 6.6 to 7.8

Zones: 4 – 11 patio/ 8 – 11 outdoors

Uses/Styles: Containers, trellis’, ground cover

Flower Colors: Red, pink, yellow and whites

Attracts: Hummingbirds, butterflies, and pollinator bees, which is highly important for our environment!

Special Features: Deer and rabbit resistant, extremely long bloom time, incredibly large trumpet shaped flowers

Mandevilla’s were first discovered in the mid-1800s and named after the British diplomat and gardener Henry Mandeville. They thrive in tropical and subtropical locations but given the right conditions, they can do fairly well indoors. They are a nice addition to the garden or indoor jungle. If you choose the garden (and your zone fits in the year round schedule for them) then you have the option to either have a mounding or trellis climbing variety. If you choose indoors, consider the amount of space you have. Mounding will spread outward, whereas climbing generally goes upward. Most people tend to choose the climbing route as you can use 3M hooks to hang the vines up the wall.

Fertilize once in the spring and then once every two weeks during the summer. This will help ensure a large, lush, and bloom filled vine or ground cover. A typical 20-20-20 fertilizer can be used but if you wish to have more blooms, add in a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus .

Though mandevillas are stunning and an eye-catcher, they do have their problems. There are several kinds of pests they attract, such as:

  • Mealybugs
  • Scale
  • Spider Mites
  • and Whiteflies

Do not fret. There are ways to treat and potentially prevent further infestations. Mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies can be sprayed regularly with insecticidal soap. Remember to read the products labels. When it comes to scale, depending on the severity of the infestation, neem oil can work wonders. In severe cases (most of the plant is infested), it is best to bury or burn the plant. It isn’t something I like doing but sometimes its better to let go instead of let the plant suffer any longer.

There are some diseases to look out for too:

  • Botrytis Blight
  • Crown Galls
  • Fusarium Rot
  • Leaf Spots
  • and Southern Wilt (Southern Blight)

Botrytis Blight and Leaf Spots can be treated with neem oil. Crown Galls and Southern Wilt has no cure so the effected plants must be destroyed. With Fusarium Rot, once the symptoms start showing drench the plant(s) with a fungicide that contains one of these ingredients: propiconazole, myclobutanil or triadimefon.

BUT with those in mind, there are some positives to having mandevilla in your garden. They are both deer and rabbit resistant. They love heat and humidity, so the warmer the climate you are in, the healthier and happier it will be. Some varieties have a strong fragrance which is a nice addition. If the plant becomes too large, they can be pruned back to a desired height and width.

Plant mandevilla’s with other plants that bring in hummingbirds, butterflies, and pollinator bees. Suggested companion plants:

  • Double Impatiens and Impatiens
  • Coleus
  • Tropical Hibiscus
  • Lantana
  • Sweet alyssum
  • Verbena

Lungwort

“Twinkle Toes”, Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Scientific Name: Pulmonaria

Exposure: Partial, at least 4/5 hours

Soil Type: Rich, moist soil, can handle moisture but not soaking, and very tolerate of clay soil

Soil pH: Neutral to alkaline soil

Fertilize: Once in spring, such as 10-10-10

Height: 6-16 inches (15-41cm)

Width: 12-24 inches (30-61cm)

Spacing: 18-24 inches (46-61cm) *This depends on if you want a clean, landscaped look or Victorian, woodland look*

Hardiness: 2-8 (depending on variety/hardiness)

Bloom Time: Spring

Flower Colors: Blues, purples, whites, and pinks

Special Features: Perennial, semi-evergreen, Deer and Rabbit resistant, low maintenance

High Contrast”

Pulmonaria is a deer and rabbit resistant herbaceous, semi-evergreen perennial that works well in partial sunny areas. Whether you place them under a large tree or in a woodland area, they prefer rich, moist soil that keeps it moisture but isn’t soaking wet. They can tolerate clay soil so hurray for those who have strictly clay soil! Do keep in mind that during dry spells, make sure to keep the soil moist. On 85F+ degree weather, water twice if possible. Dry spells can cause damage to the leaves and make them brown and crispy. When handling lungwort, wear gloves to touch the leaves due to having hair-like needles all over. They can become stuck in your skin and cause pain and irritation.

Garden Uses

  • Banks and Slopes
  • Beds
  • Borders
  • Edging
  • or Ground Covers

Garden Styles

  • City and Courtyard
  • Coast Gardens
  • Rock Gardens
  • Cottage Gardens
  • or Prairie and Meadow Gardens
“Raspberry Splash”

Though they are fairly versatile and hardy, there is a possibility of powdery mildew and slug damage. To prevent powdery mildew, which has a white/grey powdery appearance, spray the plant in the early spring to get ahead of the game. If you have it available near you, find a sulfur-containing organic fungicide to help both the prevention and treatment for current infections. Whenever you notice the leaves and/or stems getting infected, start trimming off those pieces and immediately throw it into the trash. If you throw it into a fire pit or compost pile, there is a change of the spores spreading into the air and infecting other plants.

Bonide Sulfur Plant Fungicide for Powdery Mildew

Don’t let those two issues keep you from trying Pulmonaria out. Even after they have bloomed, they continue to show off their vibrant and broad leaves. In some (warmer) areas they will keep there foliage even during the winter. The bell-shaped flowers do attract hummingbirds which is major plus in my book! Anything for the pollinators. Below are some companion plants:

  • Hostas
  • Ferns
  • Bleeding Hearts
  • Ornamental grasses like Carex and Hanoke
  • Foam Flowers
  • Hellebores (Lenten Rose)
  • and more!

Achillea (Yarrow)

Scientific name: Achillea

Exposure: Full sun but can tolerant some partial sun, though the lesser amount of sun, the more leggy it becomes

Soil Type: Well-draining (loamy soil, is best but it will still grow in clay soil) NOTE: they do NOT like wet soil

Soil pH: Varies, they aren’t particularly picky

Water: Rarely, but if you receive less than 1in of water a week during the summer, do water more frequently

Height: 2-4ft (60-122cm)

Width: 2-3ft (60-90cm)

Spacing: 1-2ft (30-60cm)

Uses: Borders, ground cover, and open meadows

Hardiness Zones: 3-9

Bloom Time: Summer

Flower Color(s): Pink, Red, White, Yellow and a tonal range in-between

Special Features: Drought- and Heat-tolerant, attracts butterflies and other pollinators, pest-resistant, medicinal uses

Pea-sized flowers.

Yarrow is a pest-resistant, drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and disease-resistant medicinal and aromatic herb that has been used by the Native Americans for thousands of years. They bloom is various shades of pinks, reds, whites, and yellows ranging in height and width. But do keep in mind that in the right conditions, yarrow can become very invasive if not dealt with. It is recommended to divide every 3-5 years depending on the size of the plant. If you are looking to fill up a space then yarrow (amongst other plants) is a great way to do that, especially if you want that natural meadow/prairie look.

Since yarrow is such a low maintenance plant that doesn’t mean to completely ignore it. Each spring make sure to place a layer of compost around the base of the plant to give it some food. They don’t need fertilizer throughout the season but applying that single layer in the spring will suffice until next spring. A few other problems can occur:

  • Aphids
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Rust
  • and Stem Rot

There are ways to both prevent (as best as possible) and stop these issues. When the presence of aphids, powdery mildew, and rust happens, it can be alarming. All three of those issues can be fixed with a variety of different ways, whether you go the greenhouse product route or a natural homemade spray. With a greenhouse product, stay alert on the various kinds available because some may be safer than others so read the labeling carefully when browsing/buying. Below is a spray for organic gardening. Neem oil. Neem oil is great for when you have a current infestation or fungal/bacteria problem.

Neem oil insecticide works as a systemic in many plants when applied as a soil drench. This means it is absorbed by the plant and distributed throughout the tissue. Once the product is in the plantโ€™s vascular system, insects intake it during feeding. The compound causes insects to reduce or cease feeding, can prevent larvae from maturing, reduces or interrupts mating behavior and, in some cases, the oil coats the breathing holes of insects and kills them.โ€ 

– Heather Rhoades, Gardening Know How
Bonide – Neem oil, 3-n-1 spray, Fungicide, Miticide, Insecticide.

When using sprays, of any kind, make sure to apply in the early morning or late in the evening when the sun is low enough to not shine on the leaves. Allowing the sun to shine on leaves with sprays can cause damage as the sun cooks the spray into the leaves, killing off healthy production. This even applies to natural, DIY sprays.


Above, it was mentioned that Yarrow was and is being used for medicinal purposes. There are many ways that yarrow can be used: tea, chewing of fresh leaves, infused in oils, preserved in tinctures, and so much more. The medical benefits is a large list but here are a few: fever, loss of appetite, common cold, and GI discomfort. It has a bitter flavor which may make some resist drinking it, but the positive benefits may outweigh the flavor. If you are curious on how to make tea and home remedies, check out Azure’s Standard of Healthy & Abundant Living.

Winterize Asters

When it comes to Asters, depending on your location there are annuals and perennials. Annual Asters have a 50/50 chance of coming back if planted in the ground. This also applies to all annuals in general. Perennial Asters will come back for many years. Some areas will have hardy perennial Asters that grow wild. Any perennial Aster from a greenhouse or big box store will essentially do the same thing.

But I digress. When it comes to winterizing the perennial Asters, not much effort is needed. Newly planted (first winter) plants will need time to become established and get familiar with their surroundings. But it is always safe to apply your favorite kind of coverings (mulch, shredded leaves, straw/hay) during its first winter to ensure the roots donโ€™t become damaged and stunt the growing in the spring/summer.

They are late bloomers and the last bit of food for both the butterflies and pollinating insects. Keeping the plant up for as long as possible is a must. Even keeping it up during the winter is better. Always for the sugars and nutrients to go back into the roots and aid in a larger growth next season. It may also help wildlife to have a bit of food.

Acanthus – Bears Breech Spinosa

Scientific name: Acanthus Spinosus

Height: 1-4′

Width: 2-3′

Spacing: 24-36″

Hardiness: zone 5 to 9

Water: Average (drought tolerant)

Soil: Loamy, chalky, sandy – well draining

Soil pH: Acid, Alkaline, Neutral

Exposure: Full to part sun, best in part sun to hide away from the hot summer heat

Bloom Time: Summer (Early, Mid, and Late)

Attracts: Butterflies

Uses: Beds or borders

Styles: Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Gard

Acanthus is a deer resistant, butterfly attracting summer long bloomer that produces an array of whites, pinks, burgundy’s, and purples. It is best in part sun and more successful when it is shielded from the harsh summer heat. They are known for their pokey leaves, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is a weed. Once summer arrives, the stunning snapdragon-shaped flowers will surprise you.

Having a strong root system, make sure you choose its spot wisely or else it may be difficult to remove, which may cause damage to the roots and stunting or killing the plant. Think of an area where you would like to deter deers as the plant is also an evergreen (depending on your area), which means it will keep its leaves during the cold weather. If you MUST remove the plant, make sure to completely remove ALL roots or else those roots will create new plants and spread.

A downside to Acanthus is that they can be aggressive when it comes to spreading. They create underground runners that will produce new plants, so keep this in mind when you are planting near other plants.

They are fairly drought tolerant (after they have been established and survive at least one winter) so they are a plus for another looking for a low maintenance plant, and can be spared with other part to full sun plants that too requires low water and can handle days of being forgotten (but not completely neglected). A few flowering species you can pair it with are:

  • Balloon Flower
  • Spurge (or Euphorbia
  • Coral Bells
  • Lady’s Mantle
  • and more….

Winterize Amsonia

February 7th, 2021 – By J. L. Wells

In the late fall, before your first average frost, make sure the base of the plant is covered; especially when newly planted (sometime that summer). You can use mulch, chopped leaves, or straw/hay, whichever you are most comfortable with.

In other posts I have talked about watering. This goes for all of the plants you have outdoors (perennials and shrubs). Mild winters may require watering ONCE or TWICE, but it is not required. Cold winters require zero watering as the plant(s) are now in a dormancy state.

When the late winter approaches and the threat for frost has subsided, now is the time cut back the plant, leaving 8 inches. The coverings can also be moved, but leave a very loose amount just in case there is an unexpected frost, which could very well happen!

Amsonia is a smaller growing bush plant, spreading in weight 2-3ft and climbing up to 3ft. They are perfect for gardens where you want a lower laying design and 3ft is your maximum height. Their baby blue flowers will certainly grab many eyes!