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Amsonia tabernaemontana
( Willow Blue Star )

Clump forming perennial with light blue, star-shaped flowers are present from May through June. Requires very little care in moist, fertile soils. Grows to 2 feet tall and 18 inches wide. A wonderful border plant. When using this plant in flower arrangements,sear end. Take care, as sap is poisonous. This is one of few perennials that has fall color; leaves turn yellow. The American Horticulture Society ranks this as one of their top 75 great plants for the garden.


How to Grow this Plant:


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Characteristics
Cultivar: n/a  
Family: Apocynaceae  
Size: Height: 0 ft. to 2 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 1.5 ft.  
Plant Category: perennials,  
Plant Characteristics: poisonous, seed start,  
Foliage Characteristics:  
Foliage Color: dark green,  
Flower Characteristics: long lasting,  
Flower Color: blues,  
Tolerances: heat & humidity, slope,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range: Late Spring to Early Summer  
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9  
AHS Heat Zone: 5 to 9  
Light Range: Part Sun to Sun  
pH Range: 5.5 to 8  
Soil Range: Sandy Loam to Some Clay  
Water Range: Normal to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials

Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.

Light
Conditions : Full to Partial Sun

Full sunlight is needed for many plants to assume their full potential. Many of these plants will do fine with a little less sunlight, although they may not flower as heavily or their foliage as vibrant. Areas on the southern and western sides of buildings usually are the sunniest. The only exception is when houses or buildings are so close together, shadows are cast from neighboring properties. Full sun usually means 6 or more hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on a sunny day. Partial sun receives less than 6 hours of sun, but more than 3 hours. Plants able to take full sun in some climates may only be able to tolerate part sun in other climates. Know the culture of the plant before you buy and plant it!

Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
Conditions : Moist

Moist is defined as soil that receives regular watering to a depth of 18 inch deep, does not dry out, but does not have a drainage problem either.

Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants

Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Planting
How-to : Preparing Garden Beds

Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.

A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.

How-to : Planting Perennials

Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.

The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.

To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.

To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.

To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.

Problems
Fungi : Rusts

Most rusts are host specific and overwinter on leaves, stems and spent flower debris. Rust often appears as small, bright orange, yellow, or brown pustules on the underside of leaves. If touched, it will leave a colored spot of spores on the finger. Caused by fungi and spread by splashing water or rain, rust is worse when weather is moist.

Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and provide maximum air circulation. Clean up all debris, especially around plants that have had a problem. Do not water from overhead and water only during the day so that plants will have enough time to dry before night. Apply a fungicide labeled for rust on your plant.

Miscellaneous
How-to : Cut Flowers

Flowers suitable for cutting maintain their form for several days when properly conditioned and placed in water or soaked oasis. A cut flower should have a fairly strong, long stem, making it easy to work with in arrangements. There are many short stem flowers that make good cut flowers too, but they look best when floated in a bowl or clustered and placed in a juice glass size vase.

For best results, always cut flowers early in the morning, preferably before dew has had a chance to dry. Always make cuts with a sharp knife or pruners and plunge flowers or foliage into a bucket of water. Store in a cool place until you are ready to work with them, this will keep flowers from opening. Always re-cut stems and change water frequently. Washing vases or containers to rid of existing bacteria helps increase their life, as well.

Glossary : Border Plant

A border plant is one which looks especially nice when used next to other plants in a border. Borders are different from hedges in that they are not clipped. Borders are loose and billowy, often dotted with deciduous flowering shrubs. For best effect, mass smaller plants in groups of 3, 5, 7, or 9. Larger plants may stand alone, or if room permits, group several layers of plants for a dramatic impact. Borders are nice because they define property lines and can screen out bad views and offer seasonal color. Many gardeners use the border to add year round color and interest to the garden.

Glossary : Herbaceous

Herbaceous refers to a non-woody plant that dies back at the end of its growing season, generally after frost or during the fall of the year. The rootstock of perennials will overwinter, providing the plant is hardy in that area, and resume growth in the spring.

Glossary : Poisonous

Poisonous: any plant or part of a plant which is toxic or irritating in any way.

Glossary : Perennial

Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.

Glossary : Seed Start

Seed Start: easily propagated from seed.

Glossary : Landscape Uses

By searching Landscape Uses, you will be able to pinpoint plants that are best suited for particular uses such as trellises, border plantings, or foundations.

How-to : Getting the Most Out of Cut Flowers

Cut flowers bring the garden into your home. While some cut flowers have a long vase life, most are highly perishable. How cut flowers are treated when you first bring them home can significantly increase how long they last.

The most important thing to consider is getting sufficient water taken up into the cut stem. Insufficient water can result in wilting and short-lived flowers. Bent neck of roses, where the flower head droops, is the result of poor water uptake. To maximize water uptake, first re-cut the stems at an angle so that the vascular system (the ""plumbing"" of the stem) is clear. Next immerse the cut stems in warm water.

Remember when the flower is cut, it is cut off from its food supply. Once water is taken care of, food is the resource that will run out next. The plants stems naturally feed the flowers with sugars. If you add a bit of sugar (1 tsp.) to the vase water, this will help feed the flower stems and extend their vase life.

Bacteria will build up in vase water and eventually clog up the stem so the flower cannot take up water. To prevent this, change the vase water frequently and make a new cut in the stems every few days.

Floral preservatives, available from florists, contain sugars, acids and bacteriacides that can extend cut flower life. These come in small packets and are generally available where cut flowers are sold. If used properly, these can extend the vase life of some cut flowers 2 to 3 times when compared with just plain water in the vase.

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