Dear master gardener: My jade plant has branches that are drooping down and some of the leaves have fallen off. Should I prune the drooping branches? What is causing the leaves to fall off?
Crassula ovata, commonly known as jade plant, is a succulent and easy-to-grow houseplant. Jade plants grow best with bright light and some direct sunlight. Your drooping branches could be due to inadequate light. The best time to prune a jade plant is in the spring because the callus tissue will form over the wound better. Jade plants can be top heavy so pruning will encourage the growth of a thick, main trunk to help support the weight of the plant.
Pruning also helps root growth. Always prune a jade back to a lateral bud or branch, but not into it, and do not leave a stub. The cuts will heal within a few days and you will see new growth within a few weeks. Never remove more than 25-30 percent of the plant at one time.
To form a compact plant the terminal ends of the branches should be pinched off regularly. Jade plants also may be pruned into small trees or a bonsai. It is a good idea to repot your jade plant every two to three years or when it becomes too top heavy. Like pruning, the best time to repot a jade is in the spring when new growth begins. Over-watering may be causing your leaves to drop. Jade plants and succulents in general do best when the soil is allowed to dry out between watering.
Dear master gardener: I’ve heard about worm composting. What is it and should I do it?
Composting with worms is a great way to recycle kitchen scraps, even year-round, when outdoor piles are frozen. One pound of red wigglers (not earthworms or nightcrawlers) eat a pound of scraps per week, and if they’re happy, they’ll have babies and you can compost even more.
It’s easy to get started with an opaque plastic tub, some dampened bedding materials like shredded newspaper, peat moss, paper egg cartons or dry leaves. Worms need some grit, like a handful of sand or ground up eggshells for their gizzards. Keep them between 55 80 degrees — the basement is perfect.
Worms aren’t fussy eaters. Bury fruit and veggie scraps, moldy leftovers, tea bags, coffee grounds, corn on the cob, etc., under the bedding every few days. No meat, dairy, or fats — they make the bin smell.
After a few months, the worms will have eaten everything, even the bedding, and created nutrient dense compost for your plants. Dump your bin out, collect the castings, add new bedding, throw the worms back in and you’re ready to go again.
“Worms Eat My Garbage” by Mary Appelhof is a great book to get you started.
Dear master gardener: I’ve heard that I can harvest the seeds from a Jack-in-the-Pulpit in the fall. Is it true, and if so, when should I plant the seeds?
Arisaema triphyllum, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, is a native woodland plant that would make a fascinating addition to your shade garden. You can get seeds in early autumn from Jack-in-the Pulpits that have ripe red berries. Remove the red flesh and plant the seeds immediately. Do not let them dry out. Sow the seeds where you want the plants to grow and cover them with one-fourth to one-half inch of soil. The seedlings should come up in early spring.
You could also refrigerate freshly cleaned seeds in a plastic bag with some moist sand or potting soil for six weeks, sow the seeds in pots and then plant the seedlings outdoors. If Jack-in-the-Pulpits are in a favorable site and become established, they will probably self-seed.