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March Mania

Coaxing a plant to bloom, local availability of plants and tomato start date

Don Kinzler, Growing Together and Fielding Questions columnist. The Forum1 / 2
A reader asks what they can do to make this hoya plant bloom. Special to the Forum2 / 2

Q: I have a beautiful hoya plant that has never bloomed. I started it from a cutting about four years ago. It always has new leaves but never a bud or flower. It’s near a window that has blinds that are sometimes open and sometimes not. Could it be that I'm giving it too much sunlight? Any help would be appreciated. — Andrea Rud.

A: Your plant looks healthy, which is encouraging, so you’re well on your way. There are several reasons hoya plants don’t flower.

First, hoya, which is also called porcelain flower and wax plant, is a native of the tropics, and won’t bloom until it reaches a certain stage of maturity, which takes a while, commonly five to seven years. Hoya also fails to bloom if its pot is too large. Because it has a small root system, a 5- or 6-inch diameter pot is large enough, and being pot-bound encourages flowering. A larger pot will require additional time until flowering.

Flowering can also be encouraged by letting the plant dry out between thorough waterings. Even though hoya is a tropical plant, it should be watered only after the top inch or two of soil has dried out. Its waxy leaves retain moisture well.

If a hoya that is mature still hasn't bloomed, it’s usually because it isn't getting enough light, an assessment echoed by the International Hoya Association. If too much light were the problem, the leaves would develop burn spots, or become sun-bleached. Given a little more time and a little more light, your hoya will likely bloom. Please keep us posted.

Q: Regarding your recent article about the new All-America Selections winners, are all of the flowers and vegetables described able to be grown in our local region? I’m particularly interested in the Main Street Beale Street Coleus. If so, would I need to go to a local nursery to find it? — Mary Gnahn.

A: Although All-America Selections does have some region-specific categories, the list of award winners I publish are widely adapted nationally or at least for our Upper Midwest region. However, I keep a close eye on some plant types like tomatoes, because they might be later ripening than we prefer. For example, two award-winning tomatoes, Apple Yellow and Early Resilience, are quite late for our region, which I noted in my original article.

Main Street Beale Street Coleus is described as having outstanding deep red foliage that holds its rich color without fading or bleaching and the plant doesn’t produce seed heads until very late in the season. Uniquely, it can be successfully grown from full sun to full shade in the flower garden or large containers.

Most of the AAS winners are grown from seed, which you can do yourself, or purchase starter plants from a garden center that has grown them for you. Some AAS winners, however, are grown from cuttings, not seed, which is the case with Beale Street Coleus, meaning there’s no seed available for us to grow them ourselves. Plants will need to be purchased from garden centers that have grown them from cuttings supplied by the originator. Your best bet is to call your locally owned garden center soon, to see if they will have it available.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Don Kinzler's Fielding Questions columns

Q: I know it’s way too early, but what is the best date to start tomato seeds indoors? Each year it seems I jump the gun and my tomato seedlings are tall and spindly by the time they’re ready to go outside. — Tom M., Fargo.

A: April 1 is the target date to start tomatoes from seed indoors. If started on a germination heat mat, or other warm place, the seedlings emerge quick, grow rapidly and will be ready to transplant out of the seed tray and into cell packs or pots in about two weeks. Place in all-day full sun immediately upon germination, or better yet, place seedlings 2 to 4 inches under fluorescent or LED lights.

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