Tips for a Successful Garden – Crown of Thorns

The Crown of Thorns or some refer to it as the Christ Plant is thought by many to be a succulent, but it is not a succulent at all.

More accurately it is a woody perennial or subshrub, for many the Crown of Thorns is considered  a house plant but can be and is an outdoor plant that grows in zones 9 & 10, refer to our climate map on our website  for these areas. Outdoors they make a great container plant or plant along a pathway for an accent plant.

The Crown of Thorns will grow 3 to 4 feet high, the stems are 1/2 inch thick and armed with sharp thorns up to 1 inch long.  The stems may need some support as they are flexible and can become quite lengthy. It has thin rounded leaves that are green in color , and last for several months before falling off.

Flowers are tiny but striking , they come in a few different colors, red ,white, pink, and yellow  , they bloom in clusters . If your Crown of Thorns gets at least 3 hours of sunlight a day they seem to bloom best .   

One of the most common issues with growing the Crown of Thorns is overwatering and underwatering , you will be able to tell by yellowing leaves. So just water moderately and less after the flowering season.

As we stated earlier Crown of Thorns loves the sunlight ,the more the better, it does great in a warm room or outside in dry air.

If you are so inclined you can propagate the Crown of Thorns plant, use seeds or cuttings . Cuttings should be taken in the spring or early part of summer, let the cuttings dry out for a couple of days and use a sandy well draining soil for best results. Do not let the milky latex that will flow from the plant after cutting come in contact with your eyes or skin, it is an irritant .It’s not fatal but some are more allergic to it than others. If you have any swelling or discomfort

after contact consult a doctor.


Remember to feed your Crown of Thorns plant with a diluted solution of liquid plant food spring through fall. We recommend  Watch Us Grow all purpose liquid plant food for best results.                                                                             


Japanese Maple – Tips for a Successful Garden

Lets talk a bit about trees , The Japanese Maple  or Acer palmatum , Has brilliant ,delicate foliage that can come in reds or greens. Many don’t realize that many of the maple tree varieties come from Asia. There are well over 200 different varieties, all are great hardwood trees that are valuable for shade , wood and ornament .

The Japanese Maple has many varieties itself , some are small , you can grow them in pots and prune them into beautiful specimens, most are considered average size for trees, 15 to 25 feet.

If left to grow on there own they will grow into an umbrella like shape.

Many of the Japanese Maples cannot withstand severely cold winters without help. They do best in zones 3-10 ,Refer to our climate map in the blog section of our  website ,

They like the sunlight but prefer to have a location that has some shade especially during the midday hours, also shelter from strong winds is recommended .

They also can tolerate average soil but prefer fertile soil, if the soil is not very fertile it is helpful to top dress around the base yearly with compost and some bonemeal in the fall. When planting a new balled and burlapped  Japanese Maple , be sure to dig the hole twice as wide and half again as deep as the ball, mix in some compost and peat moss with the soil and tamp down well. You may want to help the freshly planted tree by supporting the trunk with lines that are parallel and attached to stakes. We also recommend watering in the fresh planting with a mixture of 1 ounce of  Watch Us Grow all purpose liquid plant food to 1 gallon of water . And be sure to keep the tree watered in its first year after planting

Iceland Poppy – Tips for a Successful Garden

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The Iceland Poppy or Papaver Nudicaule  is a biennial that will give you a long lasting show of flowers all summer long..  The Iceland Poppy was first discovered in Iceland as you would expect by it’s name, so it is native to the northern climates. They can be grown in all climates.

Relatives of the Iceland Poppy are Oriental Poppy and the infamous Opium Poppy.

The Poppy plant thrives in a sunny location and likes a nutrient rich well drained soil, you may have issues with your poppy plants if the soil is not well draining ,as they are susceptible  to fungal disease.

Poppies  are a great for boarder plantings, along a rock wall or any boarder of a garden, use one of the many varieties  and wonderful color choices  usually  white , yellow, red, pink and orange for the desired affect. Be ready for all of the beneficial insects to come calling, butterflies and honey bees love the poppy plant because of its abundant nectar and pollen, the birds also feast on the oily seeds that they produce.


They are also great for cut flowers for in the house , pick them just as the buds are ready to open and they will last for 4 or 5 days.


Balloon Flower – Tips for a Successful Garden Series

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Balloon Flower or Platycodon Grandiflorus  is a hardy perennial, that will have your summer garden popping with large blossoms in a number of pastel shades. They come in violets , blues, white and soft pinks. The Balloon Flower is native to Northeastern Asia, the name comes from the Greek word “platys” meaning ” broad” and “codon” for “bell”.

The Balloon Flower comes in several interesting varieties. One such variety is the “Mariesii” this variety grows 1 to 1 1/2 feet high and is often used in rock gardens. Also the “Apoyama”  this one is a dwarf variety that does well in pots, and the variety that the flower perhaps gets it’s name from the “Komachi”  has the balloon shaped flower that never fully opens.

Balloon Flowers prefer a sunny location , but if you are in a warmer climate see that they get some shade during the day. They also prefer a rich soil that is well drained but will do surprisingly well in many different soil conditions. They can be grown in  zones  3 – 10 , refer to our climate map on the blog page of our website

Unless you are very patient, I would suggest buying seedlings as the plants grown from seed can take up to 2 to 3 years before they will bloom.

Castor Bean – Tips for a Successful Garden Series

Todays writing is on the Castor Bean plant, a very showy and majestic plant that in tropical and subtropical regions can grow to be up to 40 feet tall. Where we are located here in Wisconsin it will grow to be 10 to 15 feet tall , and it will grow fast. It has been referred to the “Wonder Tree”

As with most plants there are different varieties , heights , colors and so on. Choose the one that will work best for your situation. You can grow Castor Beans in containers , but if you choose the larger variety you best have a big container. The Castor Bean likes a sunny spot that is out of the heavy wind areas and a loose , rich soil , that is where you will have the best result. Whether you grow your Castor Bean in a container or decide to plant directly in the ground it needs to be watered regularly and fed with a all purpose liquid plant food an a regular basis, We recommend  “Watch Us Grow” all purpose liquid plant food every 10 to 14 days at a rate of 1 ounce to 1 gallon of water.

If you are one to propagate your own plants, one good tip for growing Castor Beans is to file the thick end of the seed before planting. This will help the seed get moisture more quickly and sprout.

As beautiful as the Castor Bean plant is it’s seeds are very poisonous, each capsule has 3 bean shaped seeds which contain a highly toxic chemical called “Ricin”.  Keep your children away from these seeds. But there is away to prevent these seeds from appearing. Simply pinch off the seed capsules when they are small and they won’t grow to maturity where they are dangerous.

This plant will be quite a showpiece in your yard , enjoy it during the growing season because the first frost will kill it, and after that dig it up and add it to your compost pile.



Strawflower – Tips for a Successful Garden Series

This article subject is the Strawflower, the Strawflower is a gardeners favorite for many reasons,

1. It does not matter what your favorite color may be because the Strawflower comes in just about every color you can think of.

2. They are easy to cultivate… even for the inexperienced gardener , start them in a cold frame in early spring. plant them in rows and after they germinate and get a little size to them  transplant into small pots. this will give you stronger and healthier plants when you set them out after danger of frost is gone.

3. Plant them in a sunny warm location, southern exposure is great, they also enjoy a sandy , loose soil, they actually prefer a poor soil condition, and here is the part a lot of gardeners really like about the Strawflower. They can be grown in virtually any climate ,and if you forget to water that’s a good thing as they prefer to be on the dry side .

If mother nature gives you a wet growing season there is a chance it may be to much for the Strawflower, they may develop powdery mildew, you will be able to see this as a whitish floury coating on the underside of the leaves. They will wither and turn a yellow color, the best thing to do in this case is to destroy the plant.

The Strawflower is also a great flower for drying, use your imagination with this, so many things you can do , it’s always fun to have the kids out in the garden picking their favorite color and flattening them in a book.

As we said earlier the Strawflower does not need a lot of water to thrive, but when you do water them remember to mix 1 ounce of “Watch Us Grow ” all purpose liquid plant food in 1 gallon of water and watch the blossoms multiply


Feather Grass – Tips for a Successful Garden Series

Feather Grass is a perennial that will dress up any garden or area you just don’t know what to do with, certain varieties can grow to be up to six feet tall when it gets to full maturity during the growing season.  Its long feathery appendages which give it an unmistakable appearance look so cool flowing in the wind.

Some of the taller varieties originate from Spain and Portugal, and will need a little help in surviving the winter in the colder zones, we suggest cutting the grass back to half its height ,loosely tying them together, and then covering them with evergreen branches. When spring rolls around uncover them and cut back to approximately  2 to 3 inches above the ground.

Go to your local Greenhouse or Garden Center for the best selection of different varieties of ornamental grasses. Bring them home and plant in a sunny area , the Feather Grass prefers sandy , humusy soil , but will do fine in any well drained soil. Always remember to water in your fresh plantings with “Watch Us Grow” all purpose liquid plant food, mix 1 ounce of Watch Us Grow in 1 gallon of water and saturate your fresh plantings, this will spur on root growth and help the plant get established in its new home


Hibiscus – Tips for a Successful Garden Series

The “Hibiscus” is our next topic of discussion , Less widely known as ” Rose Mallow ” it is considered a tropical plant. Therefore if you want to have it survive year round outside you need to be in zones 8 to 10 , refer to our “Climate Zone Map” on our website     But for the rest of us, we can enjoy these beauties during the summer months outside and bring them in during the winter months. During the winter months I personally have had great success with my Hibiscus in a north facing window. It has bloomed throughout the winter, there is  nothing like coming in from out in the snow and seeing a hibiscus blooming.

Known for its beautiful large showy  blossoms the Hibiscus can really add a splash of color and excitement to your garden area.  There are endless colors of Hibiscus flowers to choose from, I’m sure all can find one they love.

Hibiscus can grow to 30 feet in tropical areas , in North America it can reach heights of 5 to 15 feet, you can prune and shape your Hibiscus into any shape or form you want. The best time for pruning is early in the season. You can also pinch off new growth to encourage branching and flowering.

The Hibiscus prefers full sun, but also likes to be partially shaded during the hottest part of the day , try to protect them from strong winds. they like well draining fertile soil, its good to keep the soil moist as they always seem to be thirsty. The Hibiscus also reacts well to a well balanced all purpose liquid plant food, we recommend “Watch Us Grow” mix 1 ounce in 1 gallon of water, feed them every 10 to 14 days to keep them blooming throughout the growing season.


Marigold – Tips for a Successful Garden Series

In this article we will talk about and old favorite of many gardeners the ” Marigold ”

This flower is great for most gardeners that are looking for lots of blossoms and ease of care.

Marigolds are easy for the Do it yourself crowd , sow them yourself indoors approximately 3 to 4 weeks before the soil has warmed up and chance of frost is gone. Seeds generally germinate in 4 to 5 days , place your flats or pots in a warm location with diffused sunlight, after about a week the new seedlings can be moved to a sunny location, move them outside and transplant after the weather warms up. Of course you can always avoid the work and go to your local Garden Center or Greenhouse and pick up a flat or 2.

There has been so much hybridizing of the Marigold over the years it may make the decision of which ones to get difficult,  So many colors and types of flowers , shapes , sizes  its endless , their all pretty great.

If your a vegetable gardener, Marigolds have been known to be a natural pest repellent  , the foliage of the Marigold is many times not so nice smelling . You can plant them around the boarder of your garden to act as a wall of defense or comingle them with all your plantings.

Whether your thinking of doing Marigolds directly in the ground or in a container , they really can do well in average to poor soil conditions, they do like full sun the best , moderate watering ,  don’t overwater them , We here at “Watch Us Grow” all purpose liquid plant food always recommend feeding  your plantings. Mix 1 ounce of “Watch Us Grow” with 1 gallon of water , feed those Marigolds every 10 to 14 days

Cup & Saucer Vine – Tips for a Successful Garden Series

Our next subject is “Cup & Saucer Vine”, this flowering vine has beautiful blossoms, it is an annual in areas that have colder winters , this would be areas that get below 24 degrees F.

In areas that it stays warmer all year round this vine will grow to be 50 feet long or more. It’s a vine so it loves to climb , Erecting a trellis is always a good way to keep it somewhat contained, as it will cling to any rough surface and reach for the sun.

Please go to our website   and check out our  “Climate Zone Map” to see if you can grow the Cup & Saucer Vine all year round or as an annual.

The Cup & Saucer Vine likes a very sunny location and will grow rapidly when it is hot, it also likes a light , rich soil that drains well, it likes to be watered regularly but it’s best if you let it dry out between waterings.

Cup & Saucer Vine makes a great container plant for your deck or patio, make sure to give it room to stretch. Also the container you put it in should be at least 1 foot deep  and 1 foot across,  bigger is better in this case. And again a trellis of some sort is a good idea.

We here at Watch Us Grow recommend feeding your vine every 10 to 14 days with a solution of 1 ounce of Watch Us Grow to 1 gallon of water , If you have your vine as a container plant you can either feed directly to the soil or feed it foliar. Remember to NEVER foliar feed in the direct hot sun, feed it in the morning or in the later part of the day.




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