ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers.
Q I have had several prayer plants and would like to know how I can keep the leaves from turning brown on the edges. I try not to overwater them, but have been told that they like plenty of moisture. J.S. East St. Louis, Ill. Prayer plant (Maranta) cannot be allowed to go dry or leaves will brown along edges. However, they need a well-drained soil which is kept ``just moist'' but never soggy. Browning may also occur if humidity is too low, a frequent problem during winter where homes require constant heat. A humidifier is helpful for both plants and people. Other reasons for browning are direct sunlight and too low temperature (which must be 65 degrees F. or above). Q We have a semi-shady, slightly moist area between a patio and our house foundation where we would like a ground cover. Would sweet woodruff grow there? We have tried several different plants but they have not done well. I have fond memories of the ``new-mown hay'' fragrance of this plant near my childhood home. Would you please give its botanical name? SE.F. Jefferson City, Mo.
Sweet Woodruff (formerly Asperula odorata, now Galium odoratum) does well in shady spots and moist (but not wet) soil, so it should be ideal for your situation. Some folks think it somewhat aggressive, but we have had no problems with it. In any case, yours would be confined by the patio. Q We started a small but colorful lily bed a few years ago. We chose a mostly sunny spot and worked in plenty of humus at the time we planted. We have been rewarded with many heavenly scented summer evenings. This past summer some of the stalks started producing little bulblets along the stems where the leaves are attached. We did nothing with these, but would like to ask if we could plant them and expect them to be exactly like the parent, should they appear again next year. C.J.T. Spokane, Wash.
These bulblets (also called bulbils) can be removed in late summer and planted by themselves in a cold frame or a special spot in the garden. Plant them about an inch deep in humusy soil and you should get plants identical to the parents in about two years. Bulblets may also form at the base of the stem, just under the soil surface. Two other methods of propagation are: division of the large clumps and removal of some of the scale segments.
If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.
Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.