Have you ever heard of coleus seeds wintering over in Pa.?

Q: I am a Master Gardener in Emmaus. In summer 2017, I had three large pots of coleus under our maple tree, each pot with a different variety. This summer, I was astonished to see several seedlings come up (of two of the three kinds of coleus), which I allowed to grow over the season.

Have you ever heard of coleus seeds wintering-over in Pennsylvania?

- Advertisement -

— Claudia Allen

A: Seeds are remarkable packages. They protect embryonic plants and provide nutrition all in a case designed to open when the temperature and moisture is appropriate for that particular plant.

I have not experienced coleus seeds wintering-over outside but I have had a similar experiences with other plants during mild winters or in protected areas.

It is a random event, depending on the location of the seeds, if there is a protective snow cover and how harsh the winter is.

I remember planting tiny tomatoes one year and pulling out seedlings for the next three years after seeds dropped the first year germinated on their own with no winter protection. As most people know, tomatoes are heat lovers but the seeds still survived on the ground.

Creeping Charlie

Q: I’m remembering a recent article in The Morning Call. You mentioned applying broadleaf weed killer to lawns. Does that apply to creeping Charlie, which has become a tenacious problem in my bit of city lawn? And, if so, what type of solution do you recommend?

— Diane Schellenberg

A: Creeping Charlie (ground ivy or Glechoma hederacea) is one of the most difficult weeds to get rid of. The plants are aromatic, evergreen and grow into a dense mat.

The leaves are dark green to purple, round with scalloped edges The flowers are tiny, funnel-shaped and bluish-purple. It spreads by seeds, rooting at nodes and by rhizomes. It thrives in moist shady soil but can tolerate some sun.

You can inadvertently make your problem worse by mowing without bagging. Small pieces of creeping Charlie are distributed throughout the lawn and can root.

You can use a broadleaf herbicide that specifically lists creeping Charlie. Apply in the fall or as directed on the package. Large patches can be smothered under layers of newspaper or cardboard, however this will kill just about everything under the cover.

Small areas can be controlled by hand-pulling but you must be persistent because it will take constant monitoring and weeding. Elimination is not usually possible, control is the best you can expect.

A few more holiday plants

The past two weeks I mentioned tropical plants and evergreen hollies and mistletoe, so there are only a few more holiday plants to discuss.

The first, a personal favorite, is rosemary (Rosmarinus sp.). The plant is beautiful and useful. Trailing varieties can be grown on wreath forms or other wire topiary forms or just allowed to drape over the side of the pot.

Upright ones are frequently shaped to resemble miniature Christmas trees. Either is an excellent decoration. The dark green leaves are needle-like and delicious in many dishes. The stiff branches can be stripped and used as skewers for appetizers or short grilling spears.

My cautions concerning rosemary are that you provide it with a cool location, not cold, with good air circulation and bright light. I usually manage to find a good spot but forget to water it sparingly but regularly.

Indoor heating systems frequently reduce humidity so placing your rosemary somewhere handy and giving it an occasional mist of water is also a good idea. If it survives the winter, move the plant outside in the spring and enjoy fresh rosemary for months.

Another popular plant is the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). Remember these are tropical, so do not expose them to cold temperatures, cover them when taking them outside and never leave them in a cold car. One other note is always try to keep the plant in the same orientation to the available light. This is not a plant to rotate. Buds often drop when the plant is reoriented to the light.

My final plant this week is the Norfolk pine, (Araucaria heterophylla or A. excelsa) a popular tabletop tree. It is tropical, and remains indoors all year in our area. When decorating, use small ornaments and cool lights to avoid damaging the tender branches.

Give them bright, indirect light and keep the soil slightly moist with regular watering when the soil surface dries out.

Provide extra humidity during the winter. Do not allow them to sit in saucers of water. Fertilize monthly in the spring and summer with a water-soluble balanced fertilizer. Allow the tree to remain slightly potbound, using only a marginally larger pot when you do repot one.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at [email protected] or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

Week in the garden


  • Pot up leftover spring-flowering bulbs and store them in a cool area with temperatures around 40 degrees or cooler for 8 to 12 weeks, then bring in for forcing.
  • Sow seeds that require a cold period for germination.


  • Purchase gifts and gift cards for gardeners on your Christmas list.
  • Clean, check, repair decorations before installing, discarding damaged ones.
  • Secure decorations so that they are not damaged or lost during windy or stormy weather.
  • If you are purchasing a live potted or burlapped Christmas tree, find an appropriate planting spot, dig it out and store the soil, covered or in a container in the garage.


  • Rake, blow or mulch fallen leaves on the lawn. Matted leaves encourage mold problems and can keep water from reaching the soil.
  • Keep newly seeded or sodded lawns watered until the ground freezes.


  • Bring in easily movable pots and lawn decorations or wrap large statuary to avoid winter damage.
  • Store empty terra cotta, clay or plastic pots in a dry, protected area to avoid cracking
  • Stop pruning until late winter or very early spring.
  • Mark off beds, new plantings, plants that are late to break dormancy in the spring and delicate plants. Stay off them when decorating or dealing with snow removal.
  • Apply mulch for winter when the ground freezes.
  • Check stored amaryllis bulbs for new growth. Water and move to a warmer area, then gradually into indirect light.
  • Top-dress beds with compost or manure now and till in next spring.
  • Water new plantings anytime we have a week with less than an inch of rain until the ground freezes.
  • Check caulking around doors and windows. Repair now to keep out mice, ladybugs and stinkbugs.
  • Repair or replace damaged screens and garden hoses.
  • Dump standing water.
  • Provide deer, rabbit and groundhog protection for vulnerable plants. Reapply taste or scent deterrents.
  • Clean and fill bird feeders regularly. Clean up spilled seed and empty hulls. Dump, scrub and refill birdbaths at least once a week. Consider a heater to provide water during freeing weather.
  • Clear gutters and direct rainwater runoff away from house foundations.

Tools, equipment, and supplies:

  • Store summer/fall equipment. Sharpen blades, empty gas tanks, check and/or replace oil.
  • Check winter equipment and replace or repair as needed.
  • Place melts and shovels near exterior doors along with boots, gloves, and other outdoor gear.


  • Use pet, child and plant-safe melting products if possible.
  • Store garden chemicals indoors away from pets and children. Discard outdated ones at local chemical collection events.
  • Photograph storm damage before clearing or repairing for insurance claims and file promptly.
  • Watch for tick bites, they are active anytime the temperatures are about 50 degrees or warmer.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at [email protected] or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.


- Advertisement -