Ask a Horticulturist: How do I get rid of Fungus Gnats in My Houseplants?

Q: I was recently inspired by some work you did for the office I work in, and decided to create my own succulent arrangement at home. Within a few weeks, my arrangement started attracting these little fruit fly type gnats.  What are they? How do I get rid of them without using a chemical spray? A: I'm so happy you were inspired to get your hands in the dirt! I get asked this all the time: I love houseplants, but how do I prevent the gnats that come with them? The short answer is, you can't. I'm sorry, but for as long as there are house plants there will be fungus gnats that come with them. And that's what they are, by the way. Not fruit flies, but fungus gnats. Fungus gnat larvae lives in planting medium just below the surface. As the larvae matures into a fungus gnat it pushes it's way up through the surface of the soil and begins flying around your home.

As I said, you cannot prevent the larvae from occurring in planting medium. You can however, prevent the fungus gnats from leaving the earth and flying around your home. The easiest, eco-friendliest way to do this is to sprinkle the surface of the soil your houseplants are planted in with diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a soft powder that is made from crumbled rock. What makes diatomaceous earth so effective is the structure of the individual grains. Since they are microscopic crumbled rock, they are very sharp around the edges. As the larvae pushes through the surface of the soil, it shreds the little guys before they have a chance to leave the plant.

If even this method seems to harsh, you can simply choose to ignore it. It won't go away, but the gnats are not harmful to you, pets or plants. They are just obnoxious.

Do you have a plant question or horticulture issue you'd like to chat about? Contact me for free advice about your gardening needs. La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora is committed to providingTucsonwith the greenest plant care for home, office, and events.

A Jade Plant Brings Life to Indoor Gardens

I am often asked what is my favorite houseplant to use when creating indoor plantscapes and gardens for clients. While there are many plants that I love to work with, and do very well in indoor plantscaping, one of my favorite house plants is the Jade Plant. Sometimes called a "money tree," the Jade Plant is a deep green succulent that loves full sun and low water content in its soil. With proper care, a Jade Plant can reach heights of four feet, developing a woody, almost shrub-like, base. The Jade Plant hails from South Africa; so it is an ideal houseplant for our climate in Tucson. It is one of those plants that brings interest to an arrangement or can carry a look off all by itself. It's low-care, hearty disposition make this plant perfect for offices or for those who travel often. Jade Plants are easily found at local nurseries or any store that has a home and garden section. I encourage you to create some space for a Jade Plant in your home. You will enjoy its beauty and the priceless optimism it brings into any room. La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora specializes in creating environmentally friendly, low-maintenance indoor plantscaping for your home or office. Contact me today for a free consultation. Let me show you what the beauty of plants can do for you!

February Plant of the Month: Lisianthus

This month's featured plant gives a nod to the month of love with special meaning that celebrates passion and romance. The Lisianthus flower is an herbaceous annual that loves the warm sunny regions of the southwestern United States, Mexico, and northern regions of South America. This flower resembles a peony or rose and ranges in color from deep purple to pale pink to pure white. For hundreds of years, this flower was given as a gift between lovers to show a deep admiration and physical desire. With such an intense message attached, it's no wonder that it is a favorite flower of those with the sign Sagittarius - especially those with intense, outgoing personalities. Lisianthus make a great addition to bouquets for late spring and early summer weddings. Their leaves have a velvety, succulent-like look; and the petals of the flower are delicate and open like a full mouth waiting to be kissed. Because of the wide range of colors and extreme heat tolerance, Lisianthus can easily be incorporated into any design for a unique touch that communicates so much more than meets the eye!

Contact me today to find out more about how La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora can help you design unique, colorful floral arrangements for all your event needs. I look forward to working with you!

Happy Valentine's Day!

My heart shall be your garden. -- Alice Meynell As Valentine's Day is right around the corner, let me encourage you one more time to make time to cultivate love in your life. Just like a garden, the process of cultivating love requires time, some effort and attention, and a generous amount of room to grow. In fact, the more room you make for love in your life, the more spaces love will find to fill it! And while we're thinking of cultivating love like a garden, don't forget that a freshly planted bed of annuals and succulents, a beautiful flowering tree, or a patch of zen rock garden are all fabulous ways to say, "I love you" and show that you plan on cultivating love for a life time.

Happy Valentine's Day from La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora! Contact me for more ideas on creating intimate green spaces in your home.

Sweet Dreams, Valentine

I recently ran across an article that talked about a popular Valentine's Day tradition from eighteenth centuryEngland. Single young women would put bay leaves under their pillows at night, believing they would dream of their true love. This is just the kind of folklore I love. It also inspired me to think of another great way to express love with plants and flora this Valentine's Day. Combing things like bay leaves (laurel) or rosemary (traditional English symbol of fidelity) with traditional Valentine's Day flowers like roses brings a twist of tradition and fun superstition to the holiday. I personally prefer creating arrangements with flowers, plants, and herbs that are full of meaning. I like to attach a card to the arrangement explaining what each plant is and what it represents. It gives so much meaning to the gift. Tell your sweetheart she is the woman of your dreams with a bouquet of bay leaves and roses. Promise your unswerving devotion with a bunch of fresh rosemary. An arrangement of hyacinth tells him you will love him for as long as time endures. How beautiful that we can express the most beautiful of emotions with some of the most beautiful creations in nature.

La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora will create a memorable, meaningful Valentine's Day arrangement for your true love. Contact me today to order your custom designed arrangement in time for Valentine's Day.

Ask A Horticulturist: Orchids

A client of mine recently sent me this question. It's a good one, and one I get asked frequently: Q: I have an orchid question, when it stops blooming at the very end and then starts sprouting lower on the side, do I cut where it stopped growing?

A: If the stalk is completely yellow/brown and the blossoms are spent, you can cut it back to about an inch from where the blossom stalk originated from the plant. If there's still some green in the stalk then cut it back to the branching sprout, but leave about 1/4 inch above the node( which is indicated by a small leaf-like bract clinging to the stalk).

Do you have a plant problem that needs diagnosis? Are you curious about finding out what herbs love to grow in the desert? How about setting up a drip irrigation system to keep plantscaping and flora in the garden fresh all year long? I'd love to help! Tweet, post on Facebook, leave me a comment, or contact me with a gardening question (or two) that has been puzzling you. I will post your question, along with my answer, in the coming weeks on my blog.

My gardening brain is ready and waiting to help you with all your plantscaping questions. Want to learn more about La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora? Check out my website or contact me for a free consultation. I look forward to hearing from you.

Winter Garden (part 3): Flowering Annuals

Now that we've covered what edible annuals will flourish against a hardy backdrop of winter perennials, let's discuss what flowering annuals work well in the Tucson winter garden. There is one flowering annuals I would like to focus on, although there are many other flowering annuals that will do well in our climate for winter growing: Pansies. Pansies are exceptionally colorful, cold hardy, can tolerate varied levels of sun without stress, and require minimal care to thrive. Though all pansies are technically violas, not all violas are pansies. It is common to hear the names "pansy," "viola" and "violet" interchanged in the world of gardening. True pansies are derived from the Viola family, Viola tricolor to be exact. Pansies are planted the world over, but have done particularly well in North America. Said to resemble a thoughtful human face, pansies come in a variety of colors such as gold, red, purple, white, and yellow. Normally, a pansy takes two years to bloom and produce seeds, but because of mass cultivation of this favorite flower, most pansies purchased at your local nursery will bloom the first year planted - some in as little as nine weeks! Pansies will tolerate freezing temperatures, but need well-drained soil and at least partial sun to thrive. Pansies are a perfect border for garden spaces, and fill gaps in container gardens with a pop of color quite nicely. And since there are multiple colors and varieties of pansies to chooses from, you can plant this beautiful flower for years and enjoy a new effect each time you plant it.

Have you had success planting pansies in your garden? What other winter flowers do you cultivate in your yard? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a post in the comments section or contact me. I'd love to give you a complimentary consultation to help you design the winter garden space of your dreams. Check out La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora for more information.