Winter Care for Indoor Plants

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We’ve talked about preparing your outdoor plants for cold weather. But what about winter care for indoor plants?

Your indoor plants may not be exposed to the chilly outside temperatures, but there are other factors that affect them. Houseplants react to changing light in the winter and often grow dormant, depending on the species. Dormant plants don’t require as much water as they did in summer. Over watering in the winter can be harmful to your plants and cause problems like root rot. Succulent plants such as Christmas Cactus only need to be watered lightly every two to three weeks. Snake plants can be watered once a month or less. If you use a humidifier during the winter, your plants might need even less water.

Once Spring rolls back around, you can go back to your normal watering schedule. 

Thoroughly research your houseplants to make sure you’re providing the best environment to keep them happy and healthy during the winter. 

What Every Gardener Needs to Know About ...

... Propagating Seeds!

You don't have to spend a ton of money every year buying multiples of plants. If you're trying to fill your garden, you may want to learn how to make the most of some of the plants you already have.

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) with flowers and seed pods.

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) with flowers and seed pods.

Some plants are easily propagated by seed. In fact plants such as pipevine can ONLY be propagated by seed. When gathering seeds, be sure to wait until the seeds are mature. Milkweed pods split open when the seeds are ready, but if you harvest too early, they're not viable. Harvesting while the seeds are still attached to the pod, makes removing the seeds from the fibers easier. If the fiber is already expanded, simply put the seeds in a brown paper bag and give them some vigorous shakes. The seeds will detach and fall to the bottom of the bag and the fluff will be left on top. Once you have harvested the seeds, store them in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant.

Other plants, can be propagated by taking cuttings from an already mature plant. Try taking cuttings early in the day. This ensures your new cutting will be full of water and not wilted. Keep your new cuttings moist and away from harsh sunlight. 

New Year, New Yard

It’s winter and, oh boy, does it feel like it!

Around this time everyone is making resolutions on how to improve themselves. New year, new me. Why not take a little time this winter to plan 2018 garden improvements? New year, new yard. 

Here’s an idea:

Frogfruit

Frogfruit

If you’re tired of grass or just can’t get it to grow in that bald spot in your lawn, you can make a gorgeous groundcover out of hardier native plants. Try adding a mix of horse herb and frog fruit, both very hardy, drought tolerant ground covers.

To start, remove any weeds in the area, including grass. Make sure to get all the roots that like to hide deep in the soil. You don't want random grasses and weeds popping up in your new groundcover. 

Amending the soil with compost, can help your new plants thrive. Once you put your plants in, mulch around them to help hold moisture in. Mulch will also help keep weeds under control. 

Consider planting wildflowers or low growing shrubs, they can add diversity your new garden.

Need more ideas? Check out this year's gardening classes and workshops! 

North Texas Master Naturalists Recognize Roger Sanderson & John Wilt

Roger Sanderson Photo by Stalin SM

Roger Sanderson
Photo by Stalin SM

John WIlt Photo by Carroll Mayhew

John WIlt
Photo by Carroll Mayhew

We’re so happy to tell you about the achievements of two of our spectacular team members!

On Wednesday December 6, 2017 during the Annual Award Dinner of the North Texas Master Naturalists, our Director of Horticulture, Roger Sanderson, was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership of the North Texas Master Naturalists as a “Very Special Friend,” and “in recognition of exceptional dedication to educating people about the value of the natural world, especially native plants, butterflies, snakes and birds.”

He has been a regular instructor for Master Naturalist classes, and has made his mark on Texas Discovery Gardens the last 5 years in creating the best native butterfly garden in Texas. He has also established the Hummingbird Garden which opened this year and is dedicated to the memory of Exceptional Master Naturalist, Jim Varnum.

Roger did his undergraduate work at U.T. Austin majoring in Zoology with a minor in Botany, and did his graduate work in Horticulture at Texas A&M.  He was the Director of Botany and Wildlife Biologist at the Heard Museum for 11 years. Roger is on the board of the Prairie & Timbers Audubon Society and is a past-president of the Texas Herpetological Society.

The same evening John Wilt, Texas Master Naturalist class of 2014, received his milestone award for amassing 5,000 volunteer hours for the program.  Since retiring, he has been unmatched in his support of the North Texas Chapter. He has become literally a fulltime unpaid employee of Texas Discovery Gardens. John was previously the first NTMN to be given a quarterly award for his contributions and volunteering efforts.

We're beyond grateful to have these two on our team!

Cold Temperature Care

In Dallas, we usually see the first frost toward the end of November. Frost can take a toll on your plants.

So what can you do to keep your garden in tip top shape? Here are a few tips:

Tropical Milkweed

Tropical Milkweed

  • Leave your leaves!  By shredding your leaves with a lawn mower and not bagging them, you are giving the grass an extra layer of insulation.
  • Give tender plants, like tropical milkweed an extra layer of compost or mulch.  This will help protect them against a frost. 
  • Finally, don’t forget to bring in your container gardens! If the pots are too large to move, you can use a frost cloth, or even an old bed sheet to protect your plants!
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Then there is Frostweed, when temperatures drop below freezing, liquid in the stalks slowly pushes out, making gorgeous natural sculptures.

Stop by Texas Discovery Gardens to see how we’ve prepared for winter!

Frostweed Sculptures

 

Toddler Talks

Why do butterflies land on flowers? How many legs do butterflies have? Why are butterflies and other bugs important?

You might be able to answer some of these questions with ease. But to our youngest visitors, butterflies are a mystery. That’s why we created Toddler Talks.

Toddler Talks helps encourage discovery. 

Toddler Talks helps encourage discovery. 

Toddler Talks, is a 10-15 minute lesson geared toward little ones ages 1-4. They'll learn basic butterfly facts in easy to understand language. This hands on experience is not quite as information packed as our Butterfly Release, but our Entomology team has made butterflies easy to understand for the smallest explorers. Nature play using butterfly models encourages learning and discovery. 

Visit Texas Discovery Gardens with your little one and learn all about the butterfly basics. 

Toddler talks take place in our butterfly house every day at 11 am. You can visit our Ongoing Events page for a list of other ongoing programs taking place at Texas Discovery Gardens.

Greens, Reds and Yellows! Oh My!

Fall is here and that means leaves are changing colors!

All that fall color comes from the same pigments found in those healthy fruits and vegetables: carotenoids and anthocyanins. These pigments are always present in leaves, but in spring and summer abundant chlorophyll keeps leaves looking green. 

Leaves lose their chlorophyll as days become shorter and colder. (Or, in our case, mostly shorter). Leaves can’t make enough food, so they quit making chlorophyll. And when that green fades, beautiful yellows, reds and oranges take center stage.

Carotenoids  are yellow or orange in color. Anthocyanin, helps deliver excess sugars from leaves back to the tree. This pigment turns leaves red.

So, what is a homeowner to do with all these colorful leaves that eventually fall to the ground?

Leave the leaves! 

Leaves can contain much of the nutrients the plant has pulled from the soil. Save money on buying fertilizers to put those nutrients back by keeping your leaves on the lawn and in garden beds. If you mow your lawn, mow over leaves to break them up. They’ll fall down under the blades of grass and eventually work their way back into the soil. Pile leaves into mulch for garden beds over the winter or spring. Composted leaves improve soil’s tilth. Organic matter breaks up clumps, allows for deeper roots, improves seed germination, and improves water absorption and drainage.

If its crafts or compost, let us know what you're doing with your leaves this fall in the comments below!

Crawling Critters

At Texas Discovery Gardens we have some interesting critters. Many of them are on display. you can see them interacting with others of their species in special enclosures meant to simulate their natural environments.

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Tarantulas are pretty neat creatures. If they’re scared, they’ll kick up irritating hairs to try to scare away predators. Our exotic stick insects reach halfway up your arm, but these fierce vegetarians can pack quite a kick if they feel threatened.

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Then, you have caterpillars, which grow 27,000 times their original size before turning into a chrysalis. They do nothing but chomp away at plants as they grow. Adult butterflies don’t have moving mouthparts. They have a straw-like proboscis that siphons nectar or rotting fruit juices for sustenance.

Stop by during your visit to the State Fair of Texas and see eye to eye with these cool arthropods during our Critter Encounters everyday at 2pm!

Monarchs and Milkweed

Let’s talk a little about our state insect the monarch butterfly and it’s host plant milkweed. Migrating monarchs won’t be laying eggs on the plants this fall, but they will need milkweed to lay their eggs on for their journey north next spring.

Why is it so important? 

Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. A female Monarch won't lay her eggs on any other plant. The plants that caterpillars munch on are called host plants. Different butterflies have different host plants. For instance Gulf Fritillaries host on species of Passiflora, or passionvine. 

Did you know there are more than 100 known species of milkweed? Some of them will grow right here in North Texas!

Antelope Horns Milkweed is a common milkweed found in Texas. In the Dallas area, it can be found growing alongside roads and in open pastures.

One that you may not have seen before, Asclepias Texana, or Texas Milkweed, prefers dry, sandy soil.

But if there is no milkweed, Monarchs won't be able to produce the next generation. By planting milkweed in your garden, you can help sustain monarch populations! Learn more about gardening for monarchs and other butterflies using our Gardening Tips

Slithering Snakes

Did you know that there are about 15 snakes that call Texas Discovery Gardens home? Our Snakes of Texas Exhibit has venomous and non-venomous Texas natives. No worries, it’s all behind glass!

Although some snakes like Rattlesnakes and Copperheads might seem intimidating, every snake has it’s place in a balanced ecosystem.

A small snake that you definitely want to find in your garden is the earth snake. It's a small brown reptile that can fit in the palm of your hand. It is just a little larger than an earthworm. Funny enough, it’s diet consists of earthworms and small arthropods.

Other snakes such a King snakes and Rat snakes keep pest populations in check. 

Learn more about these fascinating creatures and see eye to eye with some of our native stars at our Snakes of Texas exhibit during the State Fair of Texas!