Extension News

Ask the ISU Experts

Balloon Flower

Note to media editors:

Got gardening questions? Contact the Hortline at (515) 294-3108 (M-F; 10-12 & 1-4:30) or send an e-mail to hortline@iastate.edu. For more gardening information visit us at Yard and Garden Online at www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu



When should I start tuberous begonias indoors? 


Plant tuberous begonia tubers indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the average last spring frost in your area.  (Flowering typically begins 12 to 14 weeks after planting.)  Start tuberous begonias in pots or other suitable containers. All containers should have drainage holes in the bottom. Use a well-drained potting mix.


When planting the tubers, place the concave or indented side upward. The rounded side is the bottom. Cover the tubers with 0.5 to 1 inch of potting soil. Water well. Then place the containers in a warm, 70 degrees F location. Since the tubers are susceptible to rotting, keep the potting soil moist, but not wet. Once the tubers sprout, move the plants to a sunny window or place under fluorescent lights.


Fertilize the plants with a dilute fertilizer solution once every two or three weeks. Harden (acclimate) the plants outdoors 7 to 10 days before planting. Initially, place the plants in a shady, protected location. Then gradually expose the plants to longer periods of early morning or late afternoon sun. Plant tuberous begonias outdoors when the danger of frost is past. Tuberous begonias perform best in moist, well-drained soils in partial shade. 


I would like to establish some perennial beds in my yard, but I don’t have a great deal of time for maintenance chores.  What are some good low maintenance perennials? 


All perennials require some maintenance. Watering, fertilizing, pinching, staking, deadheading, dividing and providing winter protection are common maintenance chores.  Some perennials require frequent attention through the growing season.  Others require minimal care. 


Low maintenance perennials for sunny locations include butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), hardy geranium (Geranium spp.), hardy zinnia (Heliopsis helianthoides), daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), blazing star (Liatris spp.), daffodil (Narcissus spp.), peony (Paeonia hybrids), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), moss phlox (Phlox subulata), balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), coneflower (Rudbeckia spp.), perennial salvia (Salvia x superba), sedum (Sedum spp.), speedwell (Veronica spp.) and ornamental grasses (various species). 


Shade-loving, low maintenance perennials include lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense), heartleaf brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), turtlehead (Chelone spp.), bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.), barrenwort (Epimedium spp.), hosta (Hosta spp.), creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera), lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), foam flower (Tiarella spp.) and ferns (various species). 


My potentillas have gotten scraggly.  What is the best way to prune them? 


Mature potentillas are often scraggly in appearance. The best way to renew or rejuvenate scraggly potentillas is to prune them back to within 3 to 4 inches of the ground in late winter/early spring (March or early April). The shrubs will grow back and quickly develop into attractive plants. For best performance, potentillas should be rejuvenated every three to four years. 



Contacts :

Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871, rjauron@iastate.edu

Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033, jmcguire@iastate.edu

There are three photos for this week's column.

Balloon Flower, (Ballonflwr2-8-06), 1.7 MB

Heartleaf brunnera, (brunnera2-8-06), 916 KB

Hosta, (hosta2-8-06), 604 KB