Cared-for plant is set on death

Tibouchina is on its last days despite care from Helen Lang

I have mentioned my rather elderly Tibouchina several times, most recently to tell you it looked sickly. Now it is definitely ill, probably dying. Every day there are more yellow leaves, which, when picked off, leave the poor plant looking like some skinny, starving waif, just waiting to die.

It is fairly elderly, but has been well-treated, watered regularly, fertilized (irregularly), put outside in the summer, brought in each fall and put in a sunny window for the winter. But if it has made up its mind to die, die it will, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I should have known something was up when it produced a number of beautiful blooms this fall. This is often a farewell signal, I’ve found, but you always hope not! I am tempted to put it outside where it is much too cold for a house plant, to put it out of its misery, but … oh dear!

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s talk about something more practical, such as hanging baskets, which, if they haven’t been brought inside, will surely perish in this icy weather. I watched a man a couple of weeks ago taking down his baskets, to put them in the greenhouse until spring, but most of us don’t have a greenhouse and, since most things will need to be replaced, why not empty them now and plant something else to look attractive during the winter? Mind you, you’ll need to make sure baskets are fastened to their hooks securely, so the winds won’t toss them 10 feet away, to be completely smashed.

Let’s think of plants that might look (fairly) happy when it gets cold. How about winter pansies, (yellow ones show up best) or primula, with small leafed veriegated ivies to trail over the sides. Plant crocus bulbs underneath, to pop out when the cold weather moderates.

Possibly the best idea is to bring them inside into a shed or the garage (unless your spouse strenuously objects) and forget them until next spring. One less thing to worry about when the winds howl around the corners of the house and the water in the pond turns to ice.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.

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