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Tolmiea menziesii
( Piggy-back Plant )

Tolmiea menziesii is a perennial plant, also grown as an indoor plant, primarily for its attractive foliage. Leaves are 5 inches wide, lobed, forming a nice basal rosette. New leaves form at the juction of the leaf stalk, on top of the old leaves, hence the name "piggy-back" plant. Flowers are tiny, brownish, inconspicuous, but appear on 1 to 2 foot stems. Can be used as a shady groundcover, in areas without foot traffic. Requires full to partial shade, and abundant water. Native to the Coast Range from N.California to Alaska. As a houseplant it needs filtered light, lots of watering, and cool temperatures. A wonderful hanging plant.
Important Info : Can be affected by pests and diseases.


How to Grow this Plant:


Where can you buy this plant:
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Characteristics
Cultivar: n/a  
Family: Saxifragaceae  
Size: Height: 1 ft. to 2 ft.
Width: 3 ft. to 6 ft.  
Plant Category: ground covers, houseplants, perennials,  
Plant Characteristics: low maintenance, spreading,  
Foliage Characteristics: small leaves,  
Foliage Color: green, silver to cream,  
Flower Characteristics: fragrant,  
Flower Color: greens, purples,  
Tolerances: rabbits, slope, wind,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range: Late Spring to Late Spring  
USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 to 9  
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant  
Light Range: Shade to Part Sun  
pH Range: 4.5 to 7.5  
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.

How-to : Fertilizing Houseplants

Houseplants may be fertilized with: 1. water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; 3. or organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are used every two weeks or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are carefully worked into the soil usually only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion, follow label directions. Allow houseplants to 'rest' during the winter months; stop fertilizing in late October and resume feeding in late February.

How-to : Fertilize Monthly

Now is the time to begin fertilizing with a water-soluble fertilizer. Continue through the end of summer.

Light
Conditions : Light Conditions

Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.

You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.

Conditions : Filtered Light

For many plants that prefer partially shady conditions, filtered light is ideal. Good planting sites are under a mid to large sized tree that lets some light through their branches or beneath taller plants that will provide some protection.

Conditions : Full to Partial Shade

Full shade means there is little or no light in the growing zone. Shade can be the result of a mature stand of trees or shadows cast by a house or building. Plants that require full shade are usually susceptible to sunburn. Full shade beneath trees may pose additional problems; not only is there no light, but competition for water, nutrients and root space.

Partial shade means that an area receives filtered light, often through tall branches of an open growing tree. Root competition is usually less. Partial shade can also be achieved by locating a plant beneath an arbor or lathe-like structure. Shadier sides of a building are normally the northern or northeastern sides. These sides also tend to be a little cooler. It is not uncommon for plants that can tolerate full sun or some sun in cooler climates to require some shade in warmer climates due to stress placed on the plant from reduced moisture and excessive heat.

Conditions : Moisture-loving Houseplants

Houseplants that require ample water, or those labeled as moisture-loving houseplants require that they be watered thoroughly until the soil is saturated and then drains freely from holes in the bottom of pot. Re-water when potting soil becomes dry to the touch an inch or so below the soil surface.

Conditions : Light and Plant Selection

For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.

Watering
Problems : Waterlogged Soil and Solutions

Waterlogged soil occurs when more water is added to soil than can drain out in a reasonable amount of time. This can be a severe problem where water tables are high or soils are compacted. Lack of air space in waterlogged soil makes it almost impossible for soil to drain. Few plants, except for bog plants, can tolerate these conditions. Drainage must be improved if you are not satisfied with bog gardening. Over-watered plants have the same wilted leaves as under-watered plants. Fungi such as Phytophthora and Pythium affect vascular systems, which cause wilt.

If the problem is only on the surface, it maybe diverted to a drainage ditch. If drainage is poor where water table is high, install an underground drainage system. You should contact a contractor for this. If underground drains already exist, check to see if they are blocked.

French drains are another option. French drains are ditches that have been filled with gravel. It is okay to plant sod on top of them. More obtrusive, but a good solution where looks aren't as important, think of the French drain as a ditch filled with gravel. Ditches should be 3 to 4 feet deep and have sloping sides.

A soakway is a gravel filled pit where water is diverted to via underground pipes. This works well on sites that have compacted soil. Your soakway should be about 6'wide and deep and filled with gravel or crushed stone, topped with sand and sodded or seeded.

Keep in mind that it is illegal to divert water onto other people's property. If you do not feel that you can implement a workable solution on your own, call a contractor.

Tools : Watering Aides

No gardener depends 100% on natural rainfall. Even the most water conscious garden appreciates the proper hose, watering can or wand.

    Watering Cans: Whether you choose plastic of galvanized makes no difference, but do look for generous capacity and a design that is balanced when filled with water. A 2 gallon can (which holds 18 lbs. of water) is preferred by most gardeners and is best suited for outdoor use. Indoor cans should be relatively smaller with narrower spouts and roses (the filter head).
    Watering Hose: When purchasing a hose, look for one that is double-walled, as it will resist kinking. Quick coupler links are nice to have on ends of hoses to make altering length fast. To extend the life of your hose, keep it wound around a reel and stored in a shady area. Prior to winter freezes, drain hose.
    Sprayers: Are commonly thought of as devices for applying chemicals, but can really be a step saver for watering houseplants or small pots of annuals rather that dragging out a hose or making numerous trips with a watering can. The backpack sprayer is best suited for this. Take care not to use any kind of chemical in tanks used for watering!
    Sprinklers: Attached to the ends of garden hoses, these act as an economical irrigation system. Standing Spike Sprinklers are usually intended for lawns and deliver water in a circular pattern. Rotating Sprinklers deliver a circle of water and are perfect for lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Pulse-jet sprinklers cover large areas of ground in a pulsating, circular pattern. The head usually sits up on a tall stem, except for when watering lawns. Oscillating sprinklers are best for watering at ground level in a rectangular pattern.


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 Houseplants

Houseplants that require normal watering should be watered so that soil is completely saturated and excess water runs out the bottom of the pot. Never water just a little bit; this allows mineral salts to build up in the soil. The key to normal watering is to allow the top inch or two of potting soil to dry out between waterings. Check frequently as certain times of the year may dictate that you water more frequently. Also, some plants that require normal watering during the growing season, may require less during the winter months when they are dormant.

Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants

Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Conditions : Outdoor Watering

Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:

* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.

* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.

* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).

* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.

* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.



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.

Conditions : Indoor Watering

Plant are composed of almost 90% water so it important to supply them with adequate water. Proper watering is essential for good plant health. When there is not enough water, roots will wither and the plant will wilt. When too much water is applied too frequently, roots are deprived of oxygen and diseases occur such as root and stem rots.

The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:

* The key to watering is frequency. Water well then wait long enough until the plant needs to be re-watered according to its moisture requirements.

* When watering, water well. That is, provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With containerized plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.

* Avoid using cold water especially with houseplants. This can shock tender roots. Fill watering can with tepid water or allow cold water to sit for a while to come to room temperature before watering. This is a good way to allow any harmful chlorine in the water to evaporate before being used.

* Some plants are best irrigated by sub-irrigation, i.e. watering from the bottom up. This avoids splashing water on the leaves of sensitive plants. Simply place the pot in a shallow pan filled with tepid water and let the plant sit for 15 minutes to allow the root ball to be thoroughly wet. Take out and allow sufficient drainage.

* Use an unpainted dowel to help you determine when to re-water larger pots. Stick it into the soil ball & wait 5 minutes. The dowel will absorb moisture from the soil and turn a darker color. Pull it out and examine. This will give you an idea of how wet the soil root ball is.

* Roots need oxygen to breath, do not allow plants to sit in a saucer filled with water. This will only promote disease.

How-to : Reduce Watering

This plant requires less watering during winter months, so reduce watering from late November through early March.

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.

How-to : Potting Indoor Plants

Make sure that the plant you have chosen is suitable for the conditions you are able to provide it: that it will have enough light, space, and a temperature it will like. Remember that the area right next to a window will be colder than the rest of the room.

Indoor plants need to be transplanted into a larger container periodically, or they become pot/root-bound and their growth is retarded. Water the plant well before starting, so the soil will hold the root ball together when you remove it from the pot. If you have trouble getting the plant out of the pot, try running a blade around the edge of the pot, and gently whacking the sides to loosen the soil.

Always use fresh soil when transplanting your indoor plant. Fill around the plant gently with soil, being careful not to pack too tightly -- you want air to be able to get to the roots. After the plant is in the new pot, don't fertilize right away... this will encourage the roots to fill in their new home.

The size pot you choose is important too. Select one that is not more than about 1 inch greater in diameter. Remember, many plants prefer being somewhat pot bound. Always start with a clean pot!

Problems
Pest : Spider Mites

Spider mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing mouth parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They also produce a web which can cover infested leaves and flowers.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered, especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.

Pest : Mealybugs

Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Prevention and Control: Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Consult your local garden center professional or the Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal insecticide/chemical recommendation. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealy bugs.

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.

Diseases : Anthracnose

Anthracnose is the result of a plant infection, caused by a fungus, and may cause severe defoliation, especially in trees, but rarely results in death. Sunken patches on stems, fruit, leaves, or twigs, appear grayish brown, may appear watery, and have pinkish-tan spore masses that appear slime-like. On vegetables, spots may enlarge as fruit matures.

Prevention and Control: Try not to over water. If your climate is naturally rainy, grow resistant varieties. In the vegetable garden, stake and trellis plants to provide good air circulation so that plants may dry. Increase sunlight to plants by trimming limbs. Prune, remove, or destroy infected plants and remove all leaf debris. Select a fungicide that is labeled for anthracnose and the plant you are treating. Follow the label strictly.

Miscellaneous
Glossary : Rhizome

A thickened modified stem that grows horizontally along or under the soil surface. It may be long and slender, as in some lawn grasses, or thick and fleshy, as with rhubarb.

Conditions : Rabbit Tolerant

As cute as they are, rabbits can really damage a vegetable garden. Young, tender lettuce plants seem to be their favorite. If a free-roaming dog is not a possibility for you, consider installing raised vegetable beds and covering tender shoots with netting. If you have ample room, you can opt to plant enough for you and the bunnies. Scents don't always repel animals, as they get used to them and are often washed off in the rain.

Conditions : Slope Tolerant

Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.

Conditions : Wind Tolerant

Plants that are wind tolerant usually have flexible, strong branches that are not brittle. Wind tolerant plants often have thick or waxy leaves that control moisture loss from whipping winds. Native plants are often the best adapted to not only wind, but also soil and other climatic conditions.

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 : Low Maintenance

Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. It does mean that once a plant is established, very little needs to be done in the way of water, fertilizing, pruning, or treatment in order for the plant to remain healthy and attractive. A well-designed garden, which takes your lifestyle into consideration, can greatly reduce maintenance.

Glossary : Sandy Loam

Sandy Loam refers to a soil that drains well, with excellent air space, and evenly crumbled texture when squeezed in the hand. A good workable garden soil that benefits from added fertilizer and proper watering. Dark gray to gray-brown in color.

Glossary : Some Clay

Some Clay refers to a soil that is loam-like, but heavier. Drainage is not bad, prolonged periods of rain cause bog-like conditions. Rich in nutrients, but needs the addition of organic matter to improve texture. Easily forms a ball when squeezed and requires a firm tap with finger to crumble. Light brown to slightly orange color.

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 : Perennial

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

Glossary : pH

pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.

Glossary : U. S. Natives

Native plants require lower maintenance and usually have less pest problems. They are key components in the xeriphytic landscape and backyard wildlife habitat. Select your region and the search will look for all plants in the database that are native to your area.

Glossary : Soil Types

A soil type is defined by granule size, drainage, and amount of organic material in the soil. The three main soil types are sand, loam and clay. Sand has the largest particle size, no organic matter, little to no fertility, and drains rapidly. Clay, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has the smallest particle size, can be rich in organic matter, fertility and moisture, but is often unworkable because particles are held together too tightly, resulting in poor drainage when wet, or is brick-like when dry. The optimum soil type is loam, which is the happy median between sand and clay: It is high in organic matter, nutrient-rich, and has the perfect water holding capacity.

You will often hear loam referred to as a sandy loam (having more sand, yet still plenty of organic matter) or a clay loam (heavier on the clay, yet workable with good drainage.) The addition of organic matter to either sand or clay will result in a loamy soil. Still not sure if your soil is a sand, clay, or loam? Try this simple test. Squeeze a handfull of slightly moist, not wet, soil in your hand. If it forms a tight ball and does not fall apart when gently tapped with a finger, your soil is more than likely clay. If soil does not form a ball or crumbles before it is tapped, it is sand to very sandy loam. If soil forms a ball, then crumbles readily when lightly tapped, it's a loam. Several quick, light taps could mean a clay loam.

Glossary : Tolerant

Tolerant refers to a plant's ability to tolerate exposure to an external condition(s). It does not mean that the plant thrives or prefers this situation, but is able to adapt and continue its life cycle.

Glossary : Ground Cover

Aground cover is any low growing plant that is planted in a mass to cover the ground. Shrubs, vines, perennials, and annuals can all be considered ground covers if they are grouped in this fashion. Ground covers can beautify an area, help reduce soil erosion, and the need to weed.

Glossary : Fertilize

Fertilize just before new growth begins with a complete fertilizer.

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