Dear Master Gardener: I have a beautiful pot that I cannot get a plant to live in. Could there be something wrong with the pot?
Dear Rosemary: Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon question. My first reaction is to ask you if the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. If it does not, you should plant your plant in another pot and put something in the bottom so there will be sufficient space for the water to drain. You could also drill a hole in the bottom of the ceramic pot to allow drainage but be very careful; not just any drill will work without breaking the pot. We all love terracotta pots, but even they have their faults. Plants in a terracotta pot need more water because the pot, itself, is very porous. Terracotta also cannot stand extreme cold and will crack if the temperature drops too low. In my opinion, ceramic pots are not made to actually plant in because rarely do they come with a hole in the bottom. They get a salt residue around the edges over a period of time, so in that case you need to do as I just said -- plant in something else and set it inside the ceramic container. The average plastic pot is not very attractive. However, there are many on the market now that I believe you would like and they are lightweight so they can be carried to and from the outside. Concrete will crack over time. I do have a concrete pot that belonged to my grandmother, who would be about 150 years old if she were still living. I know her old pot is an exception. Old whiskey barrels are attractive. Some people feel that they need to be painted with a tar based paint on the inside before using them. I understand the logic of preserving the barrel, but how it affects the plants themselves I can’t say for certain. The pots in downtown St. Matthews have been painted on the inside and the plants appear to be thriving even in this extreme heat. In summary, try planting your plant in a different pot. Setting it on some stones in the ceramic pot, add a little slow-release fertilizer in the potting soil. Be sure the plant has adequate light. If it still dies, that’s why someone created the compost pile and someone else created silk flowers!
Dear Master Gardener: I have a very thorny vine that comes up in my flower bed and grows up very high in the trees. It is very difficult to get down. I keep cutting it at ground level but it keeps coming back. I have even tried Roundup but it still persists. Do you know what this is and how to get rid of it?
Dear Exasperated: The vine is a weed from Asia, not unlike the dreaded kudzu. Kudzu can at least be eradicated with an herbicide or even eaten, but smilax is only good for decorating at weddings and Christmas. Florists love to use smilax at Christmas and on wedding pews, but getting it out of the trees is not easy. When you do harvest the leaves, you are still not killing the root. If you dig down -- not very deep at that -- you will find an enormous root that looks much like a huge turnip. There is nothing known to man that will kill this monster. You have to dig it out! If you don’t get all of it, it will continue to come back. Actually, it is fun to find one of these roots. They are always more and bigger than you expect. If you can catch them when they are small and you can pull them out, the root is like a pearl. Frankly, most of mine just break off and the root remains to grow another day. I have read that if you persevere and keep cutting the vine, the roots will eventually die. If you ever see one of the mammoth roots, you won’t believe it any more than I did.