Aerial roots on orchid are normal
Q: My mom has an orchid plant that has bloomed continuously, but the plant is growing up out of the dirt, exposing the roots. The plant is so healthy we hesitate to repot it but wonder if that's what we should do. — Sue and Arlene Gibson, Lisbon, N.D.
A: Orchid roots that are growing from the plant outside the potting mix are called aerial roots, or air roots, and are completely natural, used in their native tropical habitats to absorb moisture and nutrients. Aerial roots are a sign the plant is happy, and it's best to allow them to develop undisturbed.
As long as the plant is healthy, there's little reason to repot. Orchids prefer to be 'potbound' with a preference for potting mixes composed mainly of bark chunks, as found in specially packaged orchid mixes.
Q: I recently read your article in which a reader shared amaryllis tips. My brother, Clint Converse, Pillager, Minn., also grows amaryllis and likes to transplant them outside after they are done blooming when the soil is warm enough in the spring. He started with a single plant several years ago and is now up to about 400 bulbs. Each spring he gives 50 to 100 potted amaryllis to friends and elderly to enjoy the blooms. Then they give them back, so he can plant the bulbs outside for the summer.
By planting them outside at the same depth as in the pot, the bulbs rejuvenate themselves and grow bigger and store more energy for the next blossoming season.
At season's end, he stores the bulbs without soil in a cool, dark place until the next spring, when he pots each bulb only about halfway deep into potting soil, and immediately waters to help them get growing. — Chad Converse, Motley, Minn.
A: Thanks, Clint and Chad for promoting amaryllis, and thanks to all who are proving that amaryllis bulbs can be enjoyed for many years of beauty with your successful techniques.
Q: My husband said years ago as a child they planted lots of potatoes which they cut up and removed all existing sprouts. He didn't know why they removed the sprouts, and it seems to me the potatoes had to start all over again. What are your thoughts? — Carolyn Gaarder, Fargo.
A: We did similarly when I was young, when planting leftover potatoes from our root cellar, which had usually begun to sprout. Long, spindly sprouts were too weak to leave, so we always removed them. Small, stocky, newly-developing sprouts were best left intact, as they gave the potatoes a head start after planting.
The practice hasn't changed much, except we're encouraged to begin each year with certified seed potatoes for best disease prevention. Even seed potatoes from the garden center commonly have small, compact sprouts forming, which is perfectly fine. Avoid seed potatoes with long, gangly white sprouts that are too easily damaged when planting.
A great way to jump-start potatoes is called 'green-sprouting.' Place cut-up potato chunks containing several eyes or whole egg-sized tubers in a shallow tray in a sunny spot for five to seven days before anticipated planting. Stocky, green sprouts will form, after which the potatoes can be planted in the garden, about three inches deep.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.