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ASK THE GARDENERS. Q & A

By Doc and Katy Abraham / March 4, 1986



Q My mother's garden of years ago was not only filled with colorful flowers, but abounded with heavenly fragrance. I've tried the same types of flowers . . . sweet peas, dianthus, snapdragons, Nicotiana, and more, but the fragrance is no longer in the new varieties. I long to have some ``smell'' to my garden. Is there any left in today's annual flowers? V. K. Athens, Ohio Unfortunately, plant breeders have concentrated on flower color and size and neglected fragrance, whether it be roses, annuals, or perennials. We have found one annual which still retains its heavenly fragrance and that is stock. Whether you grow the new Trysomic seven-weeks stock or the 10-weeks double and single mixture, you'll be delighted with the colors and scent. Q Last fall I was given a zebra plant, which was in bloom at the time. After the bloom faded, leaves began to drop from the bottom part of the stem. I was told to keep it moist at all times, but am wondering if it is too wet. Would you mention the botanical name, please? J. S. Walla Walla, Wash.

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After zebra plants (Aphelandra squarrosa) bloom (which is in fall), they should be kept on the dry side until March. Do not let them get bone dry, but permit soil to dry a bit between waterings. Leaf drops is a natural occurrence, and plants are liable to get a skinny look after blooming. Drastic measures are practiced by ardent Aphelandra lovers. Cut stem off just above the second node (where leaves dropped). New growth will come out. Pinch it after it is 6 inches tall. It will branch out, and you should pinch it again. You'll have a bushy, blooming plant by fall. You can root sections of the top which you cut off, either in water or moist perlite or vermiculite.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.