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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Questions for the Week


A typical conversation on a gardening talk show could be:

"Alright, caller, you're on the air. This is radio free talk-your-fool-head-off! The power of confusion is at, or in, your disposal! What is your question about houseplants?"

"Well, I know you haven't been asked this one before and I know some of your other listeners are having this problem too. The problem is my houseplant. It's brown around the edges! What could be causing that?"

"I guess your just lucky that its brown around the edges! It could have ring-around-the-collar!"

After several minutes of awkward studio laughter at, probably one of radio history's corniest jokes, the conversation continues, with the garden show host asking, "On a more serious note, have you been watering your plant very often lately?"

"Why, no. I hardly ever water it. Do plants need water?"

"Well, I think that the lack of water COULD be the problem. Thanks for calling and keep listening good buddy! Next call!"

"Well, I know you haven't been asked this one before and I know some of your other listeners are having this problem too. The problem is my houseplant. It's brown around the edges! What could be causing that?"

"Are you sure its not ring around the collar!"

After several more minutes of embarrassed, as well as awkward studio laughter at radio history's first corniest joke revisited, the intellectualism continues.

"Seriously now, good buddy, have you been watering your plant very often lately?"

"Why, no! I hardly ever water it more than twice a day."

"Hey! Hey! If you're not wearing waders or have pontoons strapped to your plants, you must be hip deep in "Swampville" by now! Are you growing algae or houseplants? Slack off on the water or we may declare your place a game preserve--where ducks can land and "foul", get it, foul (fowl), odors abound!"

And so goes the houseplant questions to every talk show in the U.S. I have decided to eliminate garden talk shows in the U.S. by publishing the answers to every possible houseplant question. Here goes:

1. Browning around the edges of the leaves of houseplants is caused by too much water, OR

2. Browning around the edges of the leaves of houseplants is caused by too little water.

3. Houseplants that wilt and die are being damaged by too much watering, OR

4. Houseplants that wilt and die are being damaged by too little watering.

5. Leaves falling off of houseplants is caused by moving the plant around to much. People get motion sickness and throw-up; plants also get sick when moved and their leaves drop-off. If plants have become acclimated or become used to sunshine, they will self-destruct if you put them in the shade. If plants have become accustomed to still air conditions, they will exhibit symptoms of stress such as leaf drop and/or death if they are put in front of an air-blasting vent.

6. No! Flowering plants don't like to bloom in the house because there is not enough light and this saddens them. Maybe they will bloom in a sunny window or under intense lighting, but don't bet your baby on it!

7. No! Pecan trees do not make nice houseplants unless you intend to someday blast a hole in the roof. No! You cannot control the height of the tree by pruning. God will eventually win! He wanted that pecan to be a tree and IT WILL BE A TREE someday. Avocados feel the same way! I don't care if it is "your baby" that you raised from a seed. Grow it for a while, then give it a dumpster-side going away party. In other words, give it to your garbageman! It is a proven fact that overgrown avocado trees are happier and grow better in garbage collection areas (high organic matter, I guess) than in homes.

8. Yes! You can prune and cut your houseplant. When is the best time? Anytime you feel mad! Pruning and cutting will make you feel better and who has ever been convicted of plant slaughter? Will the plant die? Probably. But such is life! Should you expect any better? Now you think you are a surgeon, too?

9. No! I don't know the name of the plant that a friend gave you while you were in the hospital--I can hardly remember my own kid's name. Why don't you call it Fred, or Frieda if you like to have a girl around the house. Or, name it after your mother-in-law; then you can call it what you want. I have heard that talking to plants, regardless of the language used, makes them grow! If you really want to know the name of your houseplant, take it on a trip to the local nursery--there you'll find millions more just like it wearing name tags! Or, you can check the very informative houseplant site at:


10. Yes! Your plant could be pot-bound (roots sensuously entangled to the point of masochism) after 20 years in the same pot. When repotting, use "potting" mix so that your plant will grow better and your cat's paws will not get sore. When repotting, don't bury the root system more than an inch deep--some leaves should be showing above the top of the planting mix when you are finished. This will allow you to know what's in the pot. Use a larger container than the plant was previously growing in--otherwise it won't do much good to repot it! Make certain that the container drains well. This insures that it will rapidly wet the carpet and eventually rot a hole in the carpet, insuring a permanent location for the plant--over the rotted spot.

11. No! Cat urine is not an essential element for healthy plant growth.

12. No! Systemic insecticide (Disyston) applied around the base of your houseplant will not harm the cat. It may kill the cat if it eats the plant's potting mix while covering "the evidence" but who wants a potted cat anyway. If an animal does eat systemic insecticide potting soil and doesn't die, you are guaranteed a flea-less, worm-less beast for months to come!

13. Yes! Digging around houseplants by desperate animals can be controlled. Either dumpster-side services for the culprit, or the use of wire mesh--not around the base of the plant but around the body of the offender--will solve your problems forever.

14. No! It is not healthy for your children to play with or eat the cylindrical, brown putty found in the houseplant's potting mix--even though it is a naturally occurring, organic product.

15. No! Your child should not eat the houseplant. Even if the houseplant is not poisonous, foliage devouring by children should be discouraged. Such behavior can be eliminated by feeding the child. If foliage is the desired feeding target, I recommend lettuce or spinach. Salad dressing is optional. Lettuce and spinach are cheaper than poinsettias and African violets.

16. No! Most houseplants are not poisonous. Otherwise you would have to have a prescription to buy them.

17. No! Consumption of houseplants will not kill your child but the hungry little devil may acquire a belly-ache that will solve the herbaceous appetite for a while!

18. No! Houseplants should not float through the air or move around the room--check for insects. Spider mites, the mighty small critters on the bottom of leaves, cause overall leaf discoloration. You can apply pesticide, but do so outdoors unless you have roaches or in-laws you want to get rid of indoors. Sometimes, it is more economical to discard a heavily contaminated plant and then purchase a new one.

19. Yes! Houseplants can be overfed. Have you ever seen a fat houseplant? Probably not! Have you ever seen a dead houseplant? Probably so! The connection is that if you try to fatten a houseplant with too much fertilizer, you will kill it. Feeding once every month or so with a diluted liquid fertilizer is sufficient. Don't fertilize a houseplant to make it grow, fertilize it because it is growing.

20. Yes! The best place in the house to grow houseplants IS the toilet. However, the bathroom is also the best place in the house for other enjoyable, necessary activities. Unless you have Tarzan potty syndrome, you will want to try to maintain proper humidity in other areas of the house. Humidity between 50% and 60% is best for growing most plants. Most homes lack sufficient humidity, especially in the winter due to heating units that dry the air.

No! I don't plan to write anymore houseplant columns in the near future--why should I? I have answered every possible question!


QUESTION : My wife would like to know about drying herbs that she has been growing all summer. She has been cutting and freezing them for future use.

ANSWER: Check the site: the type of herb you want to dry.

QUESTION : Our ficus tree stands about 7 feet tall indoors. It seems to be doing fairly well after aggressive pruning a few weeks ago. Each morning I pick up several dried worms from the hardwood floor. They appear to crawl out from under the pot during the night. Additionally, there are tiny bugs in great numbers that seem to routinely live in and around the base. The leaves appear healthy, but are also have a sticky texture. Any ideas?

ANSWER: You can eliminate insects from the root system of the plant without damaging the plant by watering it with an insecticidal mixture such as diazinon. Simply read and follow the label instructions for diazinon, and water the plant with a mixed solution of diazinon the next time it needs watering. The sticky substance is called honeydew and is excreted from sucking insects such as aphids and leaf hoppers that can be found on the bottom of leaves. Use a foliar insecticide to control the leaf sucking pests and the stickiness will disappear.

QUESTION : My wife and I made the unfortunate mistake of planting fig ivy in our yard years ago. It covered a complete wooden fence at one point, and thus established a large and healthy root base. We now want none of it in our yard (it is all in a perimeter garden full of other plants), but don't know how to eradicate it. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER: Fig Ivy should be controllable with maximum strength (as per label instructions) applications of a glyphosate herbicide such as Roundup, Kleanup or Finale as often as re-foliation occurs.

QUESTION : I have just recently planted 5 acorns from our oak tree. So far, 2 of them have sprouted. My question is, how do I force them through the winter to get a head start on next year's growing season. Here in Minnesota, the growing season is very short-May - October. Can this be done? Or, are these 2 plants destine to die?

ANSWER: If the 2 plants are growing in a container, then you have no problem. However, if they are in the ground, then you will have to protect them from the cold or they will freeze and die. You could replant them into a container and then move them indoors when the temperatures drop. In order to maintain growth on the trees, you will need to keep them in a sunny location, or at least in as much light as possible. It is still going to be hard to see a lot of growth. Still, you ought to be able to maintain them inside until next spring. Be careful not to over water, i.e., let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings.

QUESTION : I have 2 pecan trees in my backyard. In the 7 years that I've lived here, they have never produced. This year, I have beautiful pecans. The only thing I did differently is fertilized with a box of "Fruit and Nut Tree Fertilizer" from Wal-Mart during the spring. My question is this: When you have a male and female tree, does only the female tree produce? I only have pecans on one tree. Also, am I correct in that I pick up only the pecans that have fallen on the ground. You are not supposed to pick them off the tree, right? I am not a gardener by any means, but I do love to work outside, and I have had good luck with most of what I've tried. Start from the basics and let me know.

ANSWER: Pecan trees are normally slow to bear when they are not pushed with water and fertilizer. They are also known as alternate bearers in that they normally produce a big crop one year and then nothing the next. So I am not sure if your trees have pecans this year because they have finally grown large enough and matured, or whether they exhausted themselves in years before. The may have also been stressed from the drought, etc., and now they have finally stored enough energy to once again produce a crop. It doesn't really matter, however. The real question is-- how do you continue to have pecans? The fertilizer will help. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be fruit and nut tree fertilizer, as many times such products contain zinc, which becomes tied up by the soil. So you might be better off to spend less money and just get some ammonium sulfate or nitrogen fertilizer instead. Use 1 pound of this product per 1 inch of trunk diameter. Apply this every year.

There are not male and female pecan trees because each tree has both flowers. However, they do not bloom at the same time. Hence the reason for having 2 pecan trees; so one can pollinate the other. Both trees should eventually have pecans. It is not uncommon for trees to initially have an abundance of male flowers and few female flowers.

Nuts can be harvested from the either the ground or from the tree as soon as the shuck opens. So get them as soon as you can or the squirrels and other varmints will beat you to them.

A detailed outline of pecan tree management is available at the following Plantanswers site:

QUESTION : I have a Sanserveria ( Common name-- Mother in Law Tongue ) houseplant that is blooming. It has a real strong odor at night. It is dripping sticky sap from the flowers. I would like to know if this is a poisonous plant. I am concerned because I baby-sit a 3-year old.

ANSWER: For the best information about poisonous plants check these websites: poison/poison.html

QUESTION : This year, I have a severe problem with stink bugs. I lost 50% of this year's peaches due to stink bugs. I sprayed the trees several times this year but to no avail. The insecticide you spray settles on the outside skin of the peach, but the stinkbug penetrates the outer skin and feeds from within the fruit. The poison does not appear to harm them. After the peaches were depleted, they attacked my tomatoes. Well, now the tomatoes are gone, so what do they feed on next??? My hot peppers!!! This time, I did not spray the tomatoes or peppers. HELP!!!! What can I do? These stink bugs are small and light brown and green. So far, I do not have the large ones eating my crops. By the way, my dad had problems with the large stink bugs eating his tomatoes. Please advice how to get rid of them. I keep my lawn mowed and have no weeds. However, behind my property, there is a small drainage-type creek full of weeds. Should I spray them???

ANSWER: Stinkbugs have been a severe problem this year. Insecticides such as Sevin and Thiodan (endosulfan) seem to be most effective, but they have to contact the insect itself and have little residual action. I would recommend a protective covering such as Grow-Web, which is discussed on this PLANTanswers website:

Maybe their population will be down next year -- we hope so, for the sake of peaches, pecans, pears, tomatoes, peppers and every kind of "suckable" fruit you can name!!!

Plants that can be attacked: Beets, okra, squash, beans, peas, corn, cowpeas, tomatoes and many weeds.

Description: Adults are approximately ½ inch long and each one has a triangular-shaped scutellum that extends from just back of its "shoulders" and narrowing to a point at its posterior. The front wings are thick and stiff about the base, but the distal half is much thinner and membranous. These membranous wing areas overlap on the back when not in use. Crushed bugs have an odor fitting their names. Nymphs are without wing covers and smaller, but otherwise similar to adults.

Life History: Life history and habits of each of the stinkbugs are similar. Generally, barrel-shaped eggs are deposited in clusters, usually on the underside of foliage. Eggs often are beautifully colored and ornamental. Development from egg to adult occurs in 4 to 6 weeks. Anywhere from 1 to 4 generations may occur annually. As adults, they over-winter in places affording protection from cold weather.

Damage: Damage is caused by nymphs and adults sucking sap, primarily from pods, buds, blossoms and seeds. Removing the liquid contents of developing seeds causes them to become flat and shriveled. If the fruit is attacked at an early stage of development, "catfacing" or pitted holes will occur on bean pods, tomatoes and squash.

QUESTION : I am the county agent in Donley County, Texas which is in the Panhandle. The town I'm located in is Clarendon. My question regards the use of Native sage brush as a herb. I had a women call who wants to use it as a herb. I know that cattle eat it with no ill-effects. Can people eat it as well? In my own research resources here in the office, which is very limited, I checked as a reference "Edible Native Plants". I found that the sage that is used as an herb has a different scientific name than does the big silver or other sages.

ANSWER: Absolutely not!!! Do NOT eat sage brush ?? you folks are hungrier up there in the Panhandle than I realized!!! Only the Salvia offininatis (Garden Sage) should be eaten. Sages and Creosote Bush are loaded with alkaloids and resins that won't kill you but will really make you wish you had gone to McDonald's instead. If your folks want to "graze" through the brush, have them purchase the book by Michael Moore entitled Medicinal Plants of the Southwest. Lord HAVE MERCY!!!

QUESTION : Can mulching around your home and/or foundation draw termites?

ANSWER: Absolutely!! Mulches should NEVER be piled on home foundations or tree trunks. Termites will feed on decaying wood wherever they can find it. We should not be building "stairs" for them to waltz into our homes. This could happen if mulches are piled up against foundation walls, especially where there are weep holes or other cracks or openings where termites could use the mulch to gain entry. From a pest control perspective alone, sure, it would be ideal to say NO WOOD MULCHES around homes, but of course mulches have other benefits such as moderating soil moisture fluctuations around foundations, limiting weeds, enhancing appearance, etc.