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Organic Plant Protection with Improved Horticultural Oils


Oil-based insecticides have come a long way in the last few decades.  Lighter and more versatile than the “dormant oils” of yesteryear, today’s horticultural oils can be used at most times of the year and are effective against a wide variety of insects.  They’re also among the most benign pesticides, decomposing within a few days of application and causing minimal harm to beneficial insects and other untargeted organisms.  Accordingly, many brands of horticultural […]

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The Best Hardy Camellias for the Landscape


Camellias have been known to trigger acute plant envy in Northern U.S. gardeners.  If only those voluptuous blooms came on hardier shrubs that could withstand sub-zero temperatures.
As a matter of fact, in some cases they do.  Although most camellias trace their origins to mild subtropical and maritime areas of East Asia, a few hail from chillier regions.  These cold-hardy camellias have contributed their genes to the development of new varieties that are as […]

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Landscape Shrubs that Tolerate Salt

Pink Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’)

Salt can be a winter lifesaver for cars and pedestrians.  It can also be murder on the garden, sometimes literally.  Most de-icing salt contains sodium, which is toxic to many plant species.  Even when used sparingly, it can find its way onto the leaves and roots of nearby plants, disfiguring or killing them.

One of the best ways to prevent salt damage to your garden is to use plant species that can […]

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Growing Winter Onions and Shallots

Fall and winter – when most of the vegetable garden is slumbering – is a great time to get a jump on next year’s onion, scallion, and shallot crop.  Most members of the onion tribe (known botanically as Allium) are hardy perennials and biennials that tolerate winters in most areas of the U.S.  Garlic (as discussed elsewhere on this site) is one well-known and often-grown example – but winter onions and shallots are also ideal winter-growing crops […]

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Sustainable "Imperfect" Turf Options


The “perfect lawn” – that oft-celebrated but all-too-rarely achieved carpet of unblemished turf grass – is a seductive concept.  It’s also impossible to grow in most areas of the United States without major inputs of pesticides, fertilizer, water, and labor (as well as cash).  This is not to mention the significant secondary costs that come with chemically supported lawns, such as damage to beneficial soil microbes and the neighboring environment.  What’s good for […]

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Top 10 Tough Fast-Growing Shade Trees

Red maples are very fast growing and spectacular in fall.
What makes a fast-growing shade tree exceptional? First, it must be strong-wooded and long lived. Second, it must be attractive, providing desirable seasonal characteristics to make your yard look great. Those that are native, disease resistant, and well-adapted to a given region are also optimal. Finally, they should have minimal messy fruits to reduce the hassle of seasonal clean up.

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Surprise Lilies for Summer and Fall

The rosy blooms of Lycoris incarnata almost look candy-striped. (photo courtesy of Jim Murrain)
Commonly known as “magic lily,” plants in the genus Lycoris are, in fact, much more closely related to amaryllis than to their namesake. But they do bring plenty of magic to the landscape when they open their large funnel-shaped flowers on tall naked stems in mid- to late summer. Several are winter-hardy to boot, creating all sorts of delicious possibilities […]

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Patio Peaches

Bonfire is the most popular patio peach with its maroon-purple leaves, small size, and sweet little peaches.
Do you want to grow your own peaches, but lack a place for a full-sized peach tree? This is not a problem, thanks to a slew of recently introduced peach tree varieties that mature at a shrubby 4- to 6-feet in height.  Ideal for containers, urban gardens, and patios, these dwarf peaches bring big possibilities to […]

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Swallowtail Butterfly Gardening

Gardeners tend to have a thing for swallowtail butterflies.  Likewise, swallowtails tend to have a thing for certain plants – and certain gardens. The more you incorporate their favorites into your garden, the more they will favor you with their flighty visits.

Adult swallowtails of all species (including the half-dozen or so species native to eastern North America) share similar tastes in nectar.  A border brimming with coneflowers and […]

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Four Hardy Fruiting Vines for Edible Landscaping

Concord grapes are an old-standard hardy grape.
Hardy fruiting vines bring together two of the hottest trends in horticulture: edible landscaping and vertical gardening.  They are the perfect choice for grow-it-yourself gardeners with limited square footage and a tasty way to clothe a pergola or trellis or provide rapid aerial cover.

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