Lower South

August, 2006
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Milky Way Cast Iron Plant
Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is a dependable shade-loving perennial in the southern landscape. The standard tall green form works well, but for a nice twist consider growing the semi-dwarf variety 'Milky Way'. It reaches only about 18 to 24 inches tall and is speckled with creamy white spots for added interest. 'Milky Way' aspidistra also makes a good houseplant, and the foliage works well as cut foliage for arrangements.

Cast iron plant does well in dry shade but with increasing light it will need more soil moisture. Avoid direct sun or the foliage will burn. Cut the plants back at the end of winter and fresh new foliage will emerge soon.

Clever Gardening Technique

Get a Head Start On Cool-Season Vegetables
I like to start my cool-season crops, except root crops, as transplants in the shade of a large tree. Keep the growing medium moist with regular sprinkling, and it will stay a little cooler and provide the conditions seeds need to germinate and grow rapidly. You will get better germination earlier than you would out in the garden in an exposed bed. Once they are up, move them gradually into more sun and then set the well-conditioned transplants out into the garden. This technique will give you a two- or three-week jump on the cool-season garden.

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