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Sharing an angel wing begonia, carrot-growing tips and a tipsy jade plant

Don Kinzler, Growing Together and Fielding Questions columnist. The Forum1 / 2
A reader asks for advice on how to share an angel wing begonia. iStock / Special to The Forum2 / 2

Q: A year ago in fall I rescued an ailing angel wing begonia that did itself proud by growing to be a huge ball of blossoms this summer. I'm wondering how to go about taking slips, as I’d like to share it with others. I’ve nipped off all the blossoms. Should I cut it way back for the winter months? Your interesting columns take away the dismal doldrums. We need sunshine! — Diane Hurner, Moorhead.

A: I love angel wing begonias, and they make a nice houseplant. Thanks for asking about their care.

Cuttings, also called slips, root fairly easily in a glass of water, or better yet, in perlite, vermiculite or high-quality potting mix, where the roots become more fibrous than in water. When rooted in other material as mentioned, cuttings also transition into potting mix more readily than when rooted in water.

The best cuttings are about 4 inches long from the tips of branches. Remove the lower leaves so one or two of the jointlike "nodes" are below water or the materials mentioned. Then once you've taken tip cuttings, you can cut the mother plant back quite severely to between 4 and 6 inches above soil level, and repot if necessary. It will sprout nicely from the base.

One of my favorite methods for rooting cuttings is called the “ice cream bucket method,” and can be found on my blog at https://growingtogetherwithdonkinzler.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/successful-way-to-root-cuttings/.

Q: I read your past discussions about carrots with interest. We had trouble with them germinating in the spring until we read that they needed to be kept wet until they sprout. We have sandy soil so we started watering them every day after planting, and now we’ve had great success doing it this way! —JoAnn Steeke.

A: Thanks for sharing. You're right; carrot seed does require uniform, consistent moisture until it sprouts. If soil develops a dry crust, carrot seed can have difficulty penetrating the surface.

Coaxing a strong stand of carrots can be challenging, often depending on weather conditions at the time of germination. Some old-timers used to lay boards over the carrot rows to keep the soil moist and protected. After watching carefully, they’d remove the boards as soon as the carrot seedlings broke through the soil surface.

In fact, Cornell University still recommends it: “To improve germination in dry weather, make a small furrow, about two inches deep, plant the seed and cover with about one-half inch of soil. Cover furrow with a board to retain soil moisture until seeds germinate.”

Cornell continues with carrot-growing tips: “Carrots are slow to germinate, requiring one to three weeks, and often germinate unevenly over a period of several weeks. To speed germination, water lightly daily if soil is dry. Thinning is critical to reduce competition between plants. Thin carrots to one or two inches apart or more, depending on size of root desired, before plants are two inches tall. Cutting rather than pulling reduces disturbance of the remaining plants.”

Q: I have a jade plant that keeps tipping over at the slightest movement. Any ideas? — A. Johnson, Argusville, N.D.

A: I can relate. Jade plants tend to become like small trees, with a high center of gravity that easily makes them top-heavy and unbalanced. The succulent leaves at the end of treelike branches carry a fair amount of weight, and tipping is a common occurrence.

The best way to compensate for a top-heavy jade plant is to increase the weight of the pot, which can be accomplished by selecting a pot of heavier material, such as heavy clay or ceramic. Weight can also be added by incorporating heavy sand into the potting mix. Succulents like jade plants appreciate the well-drained nature of sand and it helps keep the pot from tipping as easily.

Now I need to follow my own advice, since we also have a tipsy jade plant.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at kinzlerd@casscountynd.gov or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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