What to do when houseplants outgrow your house!


    Can a massive philodendron possibly survive winter outdoors? Mike McGrath discusses what to do when houseplants get bigger than your house. Plus: Answers to all your growing questions.

    Question of the Week

    “First, I want to tell you that we have marvelous gardens thanks to all we’ve learned listening to you—FAITHFULLY—on WTEB, Public Radio East. Our concern is an Elephant Ear philodendron we purchased more than 35 years ago. It thrived in the window of our record shop for 20 years, but when Mom & Pop record stores closed all across the country in the early 2000’s, we took it home, bringing it inside for the winter and outside during warm weather. We’ve re-potted it a few times and it’s now an eight foot tall MONSTER.

    We know that you have to bring your tropical plants in for the winter, but YOU live up north. We have plenty of room, either under giant pines and magnolias or out in full sun. It can get cold here—last year was awful!—but our neighbor’s banana trees come back every spring. Can our Elephant Ear Philodendron do the same? We’re getting up in years and the thought of lugging this heavy, beautiful creature up and down the stairs is becoming overwhelming!”

    Tom & Rebecca in eastern North Carolina

    Learn what to do when your houseplants outgrow your house »

    Highlights from show for November 8, 2014:

    Wild wisteria

    Amanda in Tuckerton, NJ, near the shore, recently moved in to a house that was poorly taken care of and there are stumps everywhere from trees that were taken down. But that’s not even their biggest problem. They have a huge infestation of wisteria. They have two pigs that like to dig the wisteria out of the ground. They are mini pigs that are good rooters. Mike warns that wisteria can be as invasive as running bamboo and can damage the foundation of homes. One of his recommendations is the “rope a dope” method, instead of attacking it directly what Amanda should do is allow the new shoots to come up and then cut them back to the ground. If you continually do this over the course of a couple seasons faithfully it will use up all the energy and nutrients in the root system and you will notice that the sprouts are much smaller. But Mike also suggests utilizing the natural enemy, her pigs! Mike reminds Amanda to ask about getting the massive root system pulled out of the ground when they pull the stumps. To keep the wisteria from coming back the landscaper should install a rhizome barrier to keep it at bay.

    Starting strawberries

    Spencer in San Tan Valley, Arizona near the metro area of Phoenix, has no winter and in the summer it’s tough to handle the heat. However, Spencer loves to garden and has strawberries with armies of runners the he wants to plant in a bed this Spring. Mike says they are going dormant during his off season, so Mike’s advice is to put each of the “daughter” plants into little seed starting cups and once they sprout replant them in a prepared bed right near by. Spencer says the runners are hanging over the bed right now. Mike warns that is not good for them, because of the low humidity. Mike says to replant them as quickly as possible. Mike does suggest that he gets ever baring strawberries, because he could harvest ten months out of the year.

    Rehabilitating a Japanese maple tree

    Donna in Nashville, TN has some really sick Japanese maple trees that she inherited when she bought her house. She’s been there 2.5 years and mentions there are juniper shrubs very near thee trees. Donna pulled mulch away from the tree two weeks ago, but noticed some dark spots. Mike suggests taking out those junipers and putting them somewhere else in the yard and thinks the mulch is to blame along with the plantings at the base. At this time of year their leaves are turning and dropping. Donna says there are a lot of leaves on the trees, which is good, but there is a white silver coating covering the leaves. Mike wants Donna to get out there and tie ribbons on the dead branches so that she knows in the dead of winter which one is dead and can prune off those branches and open up the rest of the tree. He thinks all of these measures will get the trees back in shape.

    How to get your fig tree to produce

    Bobbie in Middletown, Delaware has a beautiful fig tree, but over last winter it got very damaged and she didn’t get any figs this year. Bobbie has had it six or seven years and it has been baring great fruit. Mike reminds Bobbie that last winter was extreme and many people had similar issues with their fig trees. Mike explains that figs are Mediterranean plants, but are very Winter hardy toward the ground level. The roots don’t care where they are and can re-grow the whole plant again even after a frigid winter. Mike says it’s a good idea to prune it every spring and look for any winter damage and prune it off. In addition, Mike says,”All you need to do is drive a couple of stakes in the ground around the tree and wrap the burlap around the stakes”. Bobbie should not put the burlap around the plant, just the stakes, and this will protect it from winter winds.

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