A favorite plant

By Jim Janke • Special to SMN

Editor’s note: This is a regular feature on gardening by the Haywood County master gardeners. Look for it every other week.

Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes) is one of my favorites. Sow the seeds indoors anytime, and 10 to 12 weeks later you’ll have beautiful 4-inch tall plants. These make great houseplants, or will add color to shady garden beds if planted outside after the last frost. They come in various shades of red or white mixed with mottled green on the leaves. “Splash” is the most popular variety, and is carried by many seed companies. Grow Polka Dot plants for the foliage color, not for the very small flowers.

Sow the seeds in an artificial soil mix (such as Jiffy Mix) about 1/8” deep. Keep the flat covered in a warm place until the seedlings have emerged. You should get at least 75 percent germination. After three to four weeks transplant into small pots. Keep under grow lights or in a well lit area. Transplants grow quickly; pinch back to keep a well rounded shape. Cuttings can easily be rooted to get more plants.

I sow these seeds indoors early in the fall, so that I have compact 4-inch plants by the holidays. The plants are excellent hostess gifts because it’s something you grew instead of something you purchased. I grow a different color each year in case my previous year’s gift has survived. Try growing Polka Dot plants, and I believe you’ll see why it’s one of my favorites.

Master Gardener Plant Sale

The Master Gardener Plant Sale is now underway at the Extension Office. The following plants are for sale at excellent prices: Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Grapes and Horseradish. Several varieties of each of the fruit plants are available. Order by March 14 for pickup in early April. The sale benefits the Haywood County Master Gardener Volunteer Association, which funds worthwhile horticultural projects around the county. Call 828.456.3575 for additional information, or drop by the Extension Office in Raccoon Road to pick up an order form.

Jim Janke is a Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. © 2008 NC State University.

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