The genus Penstemon is made up of 250 species of deciduous, semi-evergreen, and evergreen perennials and subshrubs, and numerous cultivars which tend to be semi-evergreen. Leaves are narrow, up to 3 inches long, or large and ovate, to 5 inches long. Racemes or panicles of foxglove-like flowers are produced from early summer to mid fall. ‘Chester’ bears carmine to crimson flowers with red-marked, white throats.
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Size: Height: 1.5 ft. to 2.5 ft.
Width: 1.5 ft. to 2 ft.
Plant Category: perennials,
Plant Characteristics: low maintenance, seed start,
Foliage Characteristics: medium leaves, semi-evergreen,
Flower Characteristics: nodding, pendent, showy,
Flower Color: reds, whites,
Tolerances: slope, wind,
Bloomtime Range: Early Summer to Mid Fall
USDA Hardiness Zone: 6 to 9
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Light Range: Part Shade to Full Sun
pH Range: 5.5 to 6.5
Soil Range: Sandy Loam to Clay Loam
Water Range: Dry to Moist
FertilizingHow-to : Fertilization for Young Plants
Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.
How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants
Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.
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.
LightConditions : Partial Shade
Partial Shade is defined as filtered light found beneath trees with high limbs. Partial shade usually offers some protection from direct afternoon sun.
Conditions : Dappled Light
Dappled Light refers to a dappled pattern of light created on the ground, as cast by light passing through high tree branches. This is the middle ground, not considered shady, but not sunny either. Dappled remains constant throughout the day.
Conditions : Part Sun
Part Sun refers to filtered light, with most sun being received during the afternoon hours. Shade usually occurs during the morning hours.
Conditions : Sun
Sun is defined as the continuous, direct, exposure to 6 hours (or more) of sunlight per day.
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 : Partial Sun, Partial Shade
Part sun or part shade plants prefer light that is filtered. Sunlight, though not direct, is important to them. Often morning sun, because it is not as strong as afternoon sun, can be considered part sun or part shade. If you live in an area that does not get much intense sun, such as the Pacific Northwest, a full sun exposure may be fine. In other areas such as Florida, plant in a location where afternoon shade will be received.
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 : 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.
Conditions : Full Sun
Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.
WateringProblems : 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.
Conditions : Dry
Dry is defined as an area that regularly receives water, but is fast draining. This results in a soil that is often dry to a depth of 18 inches.
Conditions : Normal
Normal is defined as regular watering to a depth of 18 inches, but periodically dries out in the top 7 inches between waterings.
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 : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
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.
How-to : Reduce Watering
This plant requires less watering during winter months, so reduce watering from late November through early March.
PlantingHow-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 : Pinching and Thinning Perennials
Once you plant a perennial, it does not mean that you will enjoy years of maintenance-free gardening. Perennials need to be cared for just like any other plant. One thing that distinguishes perennials is that they tend to be active growers that have to be thinned out occasionally or they will loose vigor.
As perennials establish, it is important to prune them back and thin them out occasionally. This will prevent them from completely taking over an area to the exclusion of other plants, and also will increase air circulation thereby reducing the incidence of diseases like botrytis and powdery mildew.
Many species also flower abundantly and produce ample seed. As blooms fade it is advisable to deadhead your plant; that is, to remove spent flowers before they form seed. This will prevent your plants from seeding all over the garden and will conserve the considerable energy it takes the plant to produce seed.
As perennials mature, they may form a dense root mass that eventually leads to a less vigorous plant. It is advisable to occasionally thin out a stand of such perennials. By dividing the root system, you can make new plants to plant in another area of the garden or give away. Also root pruning will stimulate new growth and rejuvenate the plant. Most perennials may be successfully divided in either spring or fall. Do a little homework; some perennials do have a preference.
How-to : Preparing Containers
Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.
Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.
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.
ProblemsPest : Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails favor moist climates and are mollusks, not insects. They can be voracious feeders, eating just about anything that is not woody or highly scented. They may eat holes in leaves, strip entire stems, or completely devour seedlings and tender transplants, leaving behind tell-tale silvery, slimy trails.
Prevention and control: Keep your garden as clean as possible, eliminating hiding places such as leaf debris, over-turned pots, and tarps. Groundcover in shady places and heavy mulches provide protection from the elements and can be favorite hiding places. In the spring, patrol for and destroy eggs (clusters of small translucent spheres) and adults during dusk and dawn. Set out beer traps from late spring through fall.
Many chemical controls are available on the market, but can be poisonous and deadly for children and pets; take care when using them - always read the label first!
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.
Fungi : Powdery Mildew
Powdery Mildew is usually found on plants that do not have enough air circulation or adequate light. Problems are worse where nights are cool and days are warm and humid. The powdery white or gray fungus is usually found on the upper surface of leaves or fruit. Leaves will often turn yellow or brown, curl up, and drop off. New foliage emerges crinkled and distorted. Fruit will be dwarfed and often drops early.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and space plants properly so they receive adequate light and air circulation. Always water from below, keeping water off the foliage. This is paramount for roses. Go easy on the nitrogen fertilizer. Apply fungicides according to label directions before problem becomes severe and follow directions exactly, not missing any required treatments. Sanitation is a must - clean up and remove all leaves, flowers, or debris in the fall and destroy.
Fungi : Leaf Spots
Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.
Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.
Weeds : Preventing Weeds and Grass
Weeds rob your plants of water, nutrients and light. They can harbor pests and diseases. Before planting, remove weeds either by hand or by spraying an herbicide according to label directions. Another alternative is to lay plastic over the area for a couple of months to kill grass and weeds.
You may apply a pre-emergent herbicide prior to planting, but be sure that it is labeled for the plants you are wishing to grow. Existing beds may be spot sprayed with a nonselective herbicide, but be careful to shield those plants you do not want to kill. Non-selective means that it will kill everything it comes in contact with.
Mulch plants with a 3 inch layer of pinestraw, pulverized bark, or compost. Mulch conserves moisture, keeps weeds down, and makes it easier to pull when necessary.
Porous landscape or open weave fabric works too, allowing air and water to be exchanged.
Diseases : Southern Blight
Plants with Southern blight have lesions on the stem at, or near, the soil line. These lesions develop rapidly, girdling the stem and resulting in a sudden and permanent wilting of the plant. High temperatures (above 85 degrees F, 29 degrees C) favor the disease. The fungus attacks a wide range of plants and survives for long periods in soil. To control, treat with a recommended fungicide according to label directions.
MiscellaneousConditions : 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.
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 : Bird Attracting
The term bird attracting applies to any plant that has flowers, fruit, nuts, or structure that attracts birds. Most plants on ""bird attracting"" lists have favorable fruits or flowers that serve as food, but the trunks, limbs and foliage cover that trees and shrubs provide should not be overlooked as they add shelter for raising young and protection from foul weather.
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 : Container Plant
A plant that is considered to be a good container plant is one that does not have a tap root, but rather a more confined, fibrous root system. Plants that usually thrive in containers are slow- growing or relatively small in size. Plants are more adaptable than people give them credit for. Even large growing plants can be used in containers when they are very young, transplanted to the ground when older. Many woody ornamentals make wonderful container plants as well as annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.
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 : Mass Planting
Mass is one of the elements of design and relates directly to balance. Mass planting is defined as the grouping of three or more of the same type of plants in one area. When massing plants, keep in mind what visual effect they will have. Small properties require smaller masses where larger properties can handle larger masses or sweeps of plants.
Glossary : Naturalizing
Naturalizing refers to planting in a random pattern, much as itwould occur in nature. If you spend any time in the woods, you've probably noticed that plants often grow in groups. The center of the group is dense and towards the edges, plants are located farther apart. Narcissus bulbs are easy to naturalize if you use this method: fill a bucket with bulbs and toss them out. Plant them where they fall. You will notice a portion of the bulbs are close together while the others have scattered farther away.
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 : Loam
Loam is the ideal soil, having the perfect balance between particle size, air space, organic matter and water holding capacity. It forms a nice ball when squeezed in the palm of the hand, but crumbles easily when lightly tapped with a finger. Rich color ranges between gray brown to almost black.
Glossary : Clayey Loam
Clayey loam refers to a soil that retains moisture well, without having a drainage problem. Fertility is high and texture good. Easily forms a ball when squeezed in the hand, and then crumbles easily with a quick tap of the finger. Considered an ideal soil. Usually a rich brown 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 : Seed Start
Seed Start: easily propagated from seed.
Glossary : Semi-Evergreen
Semi-Evergreen: a plant that retains some or most of its foliage throughout the year.
Glossary : Long Lasting
Long Lasting: having blossoms that last for an extended period of time. Some plants may have the appearance of providing long lasting flowers because they are prolific, repeat bloomers.
Conditions : Site Conditions
When setting criteria for site conditions, check boxes that apply to your planting area. This will narrow the search for appropriate plants. Naturally, you'll need to select a USDA Hardiness Zone. Selecting a specific soil type and pH are just as important as light and water conditions because they enable a search that will find plants best suited to your site.
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 : Plant Characteristics
Plant characteristics define the plant, enabling a search that finds specific types of plants such as bulbs, trees, shrubs, grass, perennials, etc.
Glossary : Flower Characteristics
Flower characteristics can vary greatly and may help you decide on a ""look or feel"" for your garden. If you're looking for fragrance or large, showy flowers, click these boxes and possibilities that fit your cultural conditions will be shown. If you have no preference, leave boxes unchecked to return a greater number of possibilities.
Glossary : Foliage Characteristics
By searching foliage characteristics, you will have the opportunity to look for foliage with distinguishable features such as variegated leaves, aromatic foliage, or unusual texture, color or shape. This field will be most helpful to you if you are looking for accent plants. If you have no preference, leave this field blank to return a larger selection of plants.
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.
Glossary : Fertilize
Fertilize just before new growth begins with a complete fertilizer.