new jersey landscaping

Gardening Tips That Don't Have A Root To Stand On

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10 Garden Myths Debunked

Many of the garden tips and tricks floating around out there have been passed down through generations, spread by word of mouth or found on the Internet. Many gardeners tend to rely on these methods and some of them are accurate and incredibly helpful, however there are a few, very common tricks that are actually big misconceptions. These misconceptions act as more of a hindrance than a helpful garden hack. Let’s expose these common garden myths and make your gardening experience a whole lot easier for next season.

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Most people believe that adding a layer of gravel or stone at the bottom of a container will help improve drainage. I have actually heard this tip a number of times and I have tried it but with no avail. The gravel you place at the bottom of your planter will actually prevent free drainage and lead to moisture collecting around the roots. To avoid the inevitable root rot and disease, use a container with a drainage hole as well as a good potting mix. It has been said that planting “smelly” plants around the outside of your garden will keep deer and other pests away. I have been struggling with keeping deer out of my garden for some time now, and I can tell you first hand that smelly plants do not do the trick. The deer are smart and they quickly learn to simply walk around the smelly plants to get to feast on your garden. Click here for some alternative methods to keep the deer from invading your outdoor space.

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There seems to be a lot of misconceptions regarding the fertilization of plants as well as lawns. Some people believe that since a little fertilizer is good for the plants, then adding more will work better. This is incredibly wrong. Adding too much fertilizer to your plants will fry the roots as well as stunt the plants natural growth habit. Most fertilizers have a high content of nitrogen; too much will result in a lot of thick foliage but no blossoms or fruit. The excess fertilizer can also wash into the ground water, which has been causing problems for local bodies of water throughout the state. Too much fertilizer on your lawn will result in burning; your green grass will look like straw.

Many gardeners want to have a drought-tolerant garden. This is mainly due to the misconception that these drought-tolerant plants require no water. Drought-tolerant does not mean: “no water required” it simply means that the plant requires less watering than others. No matter what, all plants need regular water until the plant is well established. Certain plants do become drought-tolerant after they are established, but they still require occasional watering. Especially in the heat of summer, make sure you are watering your drought-tolerant plants moderately. When it comes to watering lawns, there are many opinions on the best time to complete this task. Most people tend to believe that watering at night will help save water and keep the grass healthy. However, if you are watering your lawn at night, the water will sit on the lawn throughout the evening and thus inviting mildew and fungal diseases. In truth, it is best to water your lawn in the morning, giving it more than enough time to dry before nightfall.

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Gardeners everywhere love using mulch in the garden, however most people believe that the mulch should be piled up against the shrubs to keep them healthy and protected from possible winter damage. This is also false, Mulch helps retain moisture and keeping the plant material constantly damp can lead to a number of diseases and fungus. When mulching in your garden, be sure to keep it a few inches from the trunk of your plant material. There is another misconception that sand will improve the quality of clay soil. Adding sand to clay soil will result in your soil having consistency comparable to mortar. The best way to improve clay soil is by introducing organic material, compost or finely chopped bark will do the trick. English ivy can be invasive but is not a parasitic plant, as some believe. It can grow up to 90 feet and kills other plants by blocking out the sunlight necessary for success.

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Most people tend to believe that sterilizing their garden tools with a bleach and water mixture works the best. Bleach is actually corrosive and will gradually ruin the quality of your tools. Some alternatives are rubbing alcohol, Listerine, Lysol or WD40 – these products are relatively safe to use in small quantities. Always make sure that you sharpen and clean your garden tools regularly - this will help to avoid spreading any fungus or disease to your other plant materials. Another tip most gardeners tend to follow is that young newly planted trees should always be staked. The truth is allowing the young tree to move freely allows it to grow stronger and sturdier. If you are planting your new tree in a fairly windy spot or if the tree tends to be top-heavy, it can be loosely staked with a flexible and soft material. Make sure that the stake isn’t in place for longer than six months. 

Use the tips we have listed in this article to help avoid these common garden myths. If you are unsure of a garden hack that a friend or relative mentioned to you, a little research won’t hurt. As landscape designers, we love our gardens as much as you do! We want to make sure that your gardening experience is as relaxing, enjoyable, successful and most importantly, SAFE. We all can’t wait for the next gardening season, but keep these tips in mind and if you have any proven garden hacks or other myths to be debunked, please post them in the comment section on our Facebook.

 

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Lawn & Garden: How To Prepare For Winter

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Landscape Checklist For Winter Preparation

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

For avid gardeners, it feels as though as soon as the growing season arrives, it’s gone. For the blooms this might be true, but for your landscape as a whole, there is still plenty of time to care for it before it enters its dormant period. Preparing your lawn and garden for the cold weather is incredibly important when it comes to keeping a happy and healthy landscape. There are important tasks to complete in the fall to make sure that all plant materials are ready for that strikingly cold first frost. Take a look at the steps below to help you prepare your garden for dormancy; at the bottom of this post we have our downloadable and printable fall checklist to make your garden prep a breeze.

First you want to assess your garden. Your garden can tell you a great deal upon conclusion of the growing season. To prepare for the next growing season, first you want to assess the results of your work from this season.  Assess the overall health of your plant materials, check for diseases and damage and address accordingly. Next we begin the physical preparation – its time to clean up the garden! You should weed, deadhead faded blooms and replace any ties with jute twine The natural fibers work better over the winter because they are more flexible – they will break down over time but by the time that happens you will be needing to retie your plants anyway.

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Next you can begin cleaning up your plant material. You can lightly prune dead and broken branches from your trees and shrubs but take care when pruning your flowering plants. Some plants flower on old growth (certain types of hydrangeas for example) so when you prune off the old growth, you’re actually pruning off next years buds. Spent flower heads can be pruned off but if you’re unsure of the pruning methods of a certain plant, it doesn’t hurt to look it up. Then you want to see if any of your plants have outgrown their space in your garden. If so, then they might need to be divided. If you have perennials in containers, you can remove them and trim the roots before planting them in the ground (root pruning will hem stimulate new feeder roots).

Make sure to remove any annuals or bulbs from your garden that aren’t zone hardy – be sure not to forget your containers and window boxes as well. You can save seeds from your annuals for next year. You can use cool weather annuals in your containers such as kale, pansies or garden mums. You can then add soil to the areas where plants were removed or areas where additional soil is needed. You can add compost and peat moss to replace any lost nutrients from the growing season. Add mulch to needed areas in your garden but make sure it isn’t sitting on low lying branches or pushed up the stalk of a plant.

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The fall is the perfect time to lay down seed to fill in those bare patches throughout the lawn - the cooler weather will allow them to have a better chance at germinating and developing a strong root system before the freezing temperatures arrive. Aeration will help to break up compact soils and aid in seed germination – the two can go hand in hand. You should also apply your winter fertilizer –a slow release all-natural fertilizer will do the trick. Your lawn can store food in the form of carbohydrates during the winter season, allowing for a healthier and stronger lawn the following season.

If weeds were a concern this season (as they usually are) you can also apply a selective pre-emergent herbicide (like you did in the spring) – this will help deal with weeds that have been deposited during the summer. You can also use a spot treatment of post-emergent herbicide however most people would rather put down grass seed instead. If grass seed as been laid on your lawn do not use any weed control as this will stop the grass seed germination along with the weeds. Make sure you know the difference between selective and non-selective herbicides – a non-selective herbicide will kill everything including your lawn. Lastly, early fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. For some plant material suggestions and tips, take a look at our Fall Is For Planting post. Plus, nurseries and garden centers have everything on sale to help clear their shelves for the season.

Following this checklist will help you ease your garden into dormancy and allow for happier, healthier plant materials next season, as well as a cleaner garden! As the days grow shorter and the weather grows colder, gardeners everywhere dream of the upcoming growing season – so take advantage of the time you have left this year to make the most of the 2017 growing season. Come springtime, your garden will be thanking you for your love and care during the previous season. So take this list, check it twice and count the days till spring arrives. Happy gardening!

 

Download and print our Fall Gardening Checklist

 

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Garden Labyrinths: A Journey To The Center

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The Wonders Of Garden Labyrinths

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

        Quite recently a new outdoor trend has experienced a surge in popularity – garden labyrinths. In reality, outdoor labyrinths are not a new trend at all; they have been created all over the world for centuries. A garden labyrinth is an intricately designed maze that is giving landscape design a new spin. These unique and beautiful structures are designed in a wide variety of shapes and out of an endless range of materials. They are viewed as a meditation aid providing a relaxed, calm, serene feeling to anyone who enters.  

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        A labyrinth differs from a maze in that the intent is not to journey through but to. They are made up of a singular curving pathway leading to a central area meant for meditation and reflection – the walker proceeds along the path as a walking meditation and upon reaching the center, they pause, turn around, and walk back out. These wondrous designs have been around for thousands of years and are used in a number of different fashions ranging from ceremonial purposes to choreographed dances.

        Studies were done by Dr. Herbert Benson at the Harvard Medical Schools’ Mind/Body Medical Institute on the effects and benefits of labyrinths on the human mind. These studies showed that “focused walking meditations are highly efficient at reducing anxiety” and that the effects hold significant long-term health benefits. Walking through a labyrinth can lower your blood pressure and breathing rates, it can reduce incidents of chronic pain and insomnia and aid in improving fertility among a number of other benefits. Labyrinths have been installed in hospitals, health care facilities and spas across the globe because of the amazing health benefits they hold.

        It is said that the garden labyrinth can become a metaphor for the journey of life: we are all on our own individual singular path through life, full of twists and turns, and just like each person’s individual life, every experience and every moment is different from person to person. Labyrinths represent ones’ journey inward to discover ones true self and then the journey back into the everyday world. Walking a labyrinth is a right brain activity – it triggers creativity, intuition and imagination. It can be your own personal tool to clear your mind, release anxiety, aid in transitional periods or provide healing and self-knowledge.

        Garden labyrinths are becoming increasingly popular throughout the world and their styles can be as simple as using a rope to outline the path or as intricate as using detailed stonework and pavers to create the delicate symbol. Labyrinth designs, paver kits, stencils and pre-made pathways can be ordered online or DIY tutorials are readily available as well. Hardscaping ones property normally consists of the usual yet ever popular items: retaining walls, patios, outdoor kitchens or fire pits…why not stand out from the crowd and add a hardscape feature to your property that is truly unique. Building an outdoor labyrinth into your landscape will not only make your property one of a kind, but it will give you a one of a kind experience with every walk you take. 

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The Moments That Take Your Breath Away

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Tigridia pavonia: The Tiger Flower

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

       Have you ever seen something so beautiful that it literally begged you to stop what you were doing and stare in awe? The Tigridia pavonia is one of those breathtaking flowers that you can’t help but stare at. Known more commonly as the Tiger Flower, it truly is a wonder to behold in a late summer garden. With similarities to the Daylily and Gladiolus, the tiger lily comes in a vast range of colors that can make your jaw drop.

       With brightly colored blossoms sitting atop a slender stem, the Tigridia pavonia can produce several flowers per stalk. The flowers are two-toned with combinations of pink, white, red, orchid yellow or orange and a unique contrasting center point. The flowers can be 3 to 6 inches wide and consist of three large one-color petals surrounding 3 small spotted petals. These smaller petals surround a similarly patterned center cup.

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      The stems are surrounded by sword-shaped leaves that stand upright similar to that of Gladiolus. The interesting characteristic about these delicate blooms is that that they only bloom for a single day. However, since the Tiger Flower produces multiple blossoms per stalk, the flowering period technically can last up to several weeks. You can also cut back the first flowers about six inches down the stem to aid them in re-blooming.

       Tigridia will thrive in areas with well-drained soil and full sun. It has been known to tolerate part shade in a hot climate area. Once established, the Tiger Flower is drought tolerant and deer resistant. It can be used in the landscape as a border or a massing plant; you can also put them in containers as an exotic accent piece. The stems are delicate and the foliage is light so planting it among low-growing plants or groundcovers will work the best.

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       The bulbs should be planted in the spring and it’s recommended to plant 3 bulbs to a group for that extra impact. When planting these bulbs, set them 3 inches into the soil and about 5 inches apart – make sure to water well throughout the season. For such an astonishing plant, they are incredibly easy to grow! The bulbs do produce offsets and will eventually form a large clump. You can divide them every 3 years or so to keep them maintained.

       The beauty of this flower is enough to make your heart skip a beat, seeing it in bloom is like falling in love at first sight. For a plant as beautiful as this, its hard to believe that it’s so simple to grow and virtually maintenance free! Turn your already beautiful garden in to a showstopper by planting these bulbs next spring. Your garden will surely be the talk of the town, especially during the end of the season after the early and mid season bloomers have faded – the Tiger Flower is absolutely the diamond in the rough!

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Organic Hacks To Improve Your Garden

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Hacks That Will Forever Change How you Garden

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

Every gardener has their own handful of tips and tricks and by sharing these neat hacks – gardens everywhere are reaping the benefit. There’s the “by the book” way of gardening and then there’s the back road “unorthodox” way. I’ve found that most of these little tricks that work better that the step-by-step instructions from Gardening For Dummies. We’ve selected 5 organic gardening hacks that will not only change the way you garden but better your garden all together:

1. Save your coffee grounds! Believe it or not, coffee is for more than just giving your body a jump-start. Rather than throwing away your coffee grounds, save them for your garden. They are an amazing organic resource and provide nitrogen to your compost as well as assisting in improving your soil structure. If you are adding your grounds to a compost pile, combine it with equal amounts of leaves and grass clippings. When adding coffee grounds to a static compost bin, combine it with a carbon source (such as shredded paper or dry leaves) in equal amounts. For both composting methods make sure to mix the components together for the best results. If you are adding coffee grounds to your soil, make sure the soil is wet and apply a nitrogen fertilizer simultaneously. Coffee grounds in your soil will encourage microorganism growth. It has also been found that coffee grounds in the soil can also repel pests such as snails and slugs while at the same time attracting earthworms.

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2.  Save your eggshells! If you place crushed eggshells around your garden plants and vegetables, this will help deter slugs and will take your plants off their lunch menu! There really is no science behind this little hack; it’s simply that slugs do not like sharp edges as their soft bodies could easily be punctured. If you notice the obvious slime trails on your vegetative materials, its time to break out the eggshells (pun intended)!

3.  Epsom salt for your tomatoes. Epsom salt has multiple health and beauty benefits for us, but who knew that it could be useful in the garden? Epsom salt is actually a naturally occurring mix of sulfate and magnesium. So when adding Epsom salt, in small quantities, to your tomatoes, can actually help the plant develop better fruit! Magnesium and sulfate are important ingredients when it comes to plant growth. It has also been found that adding Epsom salt around stressed plants can actually help them to recover.

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4.  Aluminum foil comes in handy! Every gardener is concerned about crawling pests when it comes to their vegetable gardens. Simply wrap a collar of aluminum foil around your tomatoes or squash – this will help deter these pests and prevent them from tasting your vegies before you even get the chance. Again, there is no science behind this hack; most crawling insects are not fond of moving across metal surfaces. The foil also acts as a physical barrier, preventing stem-harming pests such as borers from attacking your plants.

5. Baking soda is a multipurpose product! Baking soda can also be used in the garden as an organic fix for fungal diseases. The sodium bicarbonate properties in baking soda actually act as a natural fungicide. All you need to do is take 1 teaspoon of baking soda and dissolve it in 4 cups of water, add a few drops of liquid dish soap (so the solution can stick to the plants). Spray this solution on plants to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew, rust and black spot. This method can be repeated ever week to two weeks (or after rainfall).

There are so many garden hacks out there that can make your gardening experience easier and your garden happier. These hacks are heard mostly by word of mouth, so if you have any hacks of your own, please share them on our Facebook. We can all benefit from anything and everything that will make our lives better and easier. Happy gardening!

More Garden Hacks

Are You a Good Weed? Or a Bad Weed?

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Soil Conditions: Weeds as Indicators

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

When it comes down to it, any gardener will tell you that there is no such thing as a good weed, and I’m inclined to agree with them. However, the weeds that love to invade your property can actually tell you a lot about your garden. Analyzing the types of weeds that flourish throughout your property can clue you in on the soil conditions of your lawn and garden spaces. With this knowledge, you can make the proper soil amendments and provide a better growing environment for your garden plants as well as your turf.

Improving your soil conditions often can help deter or even eliminate weed growth and when it comes to weed control, taking preventative measures will provide the best results! It makes sense that soil conditions and weed growth go hand in hand. Although there are a vast number of types of weeds as well as a wide range of soil types, we are going to focus on the weeds that are most “popular” and the most common soil types. Let’s see which weeds will help you decipher what soil conditions you have in your lawn and garden.


For wet, moist and poorly drained soils:

- Moss Joe-pye weed

- Spotted spurge

- Knotweed

- Chickweed

- Crabgrass

- Ground ivy

- Violets Sedge 

For soil that is dry sandy:

- Sorrel

- Thistle

- Speedwell

- Garlic mustard

- Sandbur

- Yarrow

- Nettle

- Carpetweed

- Pigweed 

For soil that is hard and compacted:

- Bluegrass

- Chickweed

- Goosegrass

- Knotweed

- Mustard

- Morning glory

- Dandelion

- Nettle

- Plantain 

For heavy clay soils:

- Plantain

- Nettle

- Quack grass 

For Acidic soils:

- Oxeye daisy

- Plantain

- Knotweed

- Sorrel

- Moss 

For alkaline soils:

- Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot)

- Chickweed

- Spotted spurge

- Chicory 

For Poor/low fertility soils:

- Yarrow

- Oxeye daisy

- Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot)

- Mullein

- Ragweed

- Fennel

- Thistle

- Plantain

- Mugwort

- Dandelion

- Crabgrass

- Clover

For fertile, well-drained, humus soils:

- Foxtail

- Chicory

- Horehound

- Dandelion

- Purslane

- Lambsquarters 

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It’s easy to identify common weeds using the link listed below or by using research books. Once you are able to identify the weeds that plague your property, you can eradicate these pests and improve your soil. Not only are you improving the growing environment for your turf and plant material, you are improving the over all look of your property. As much as I dislike saying it, there is no true way to win the battle against these weeds. However, these preventative measures and your consistent devotion to your outdoor space will help to lessen their ability to take up space on your property and lessen the competition they bring against your chosen plant material.

Rutgers Weed Gallery

 

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DIY Family Garden Project

Kokedama Hanging Garden For Kids (And Adults!)

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

With the technology kids have access to nowadays, it’s hard to get them away from anything with a screen. So why not let them have a fun learning experience while fostering their creative side and gain quality family time all at once? Try this fun DIY garden project on for size! This project isn’t just fun for the children, but adults can enjoy it as well! Kokedama hanging gardens are fun to make and very easy to care for, so it is perfect for your children (and yourself!). Kokedama means: “moss ball” in Japanese. It is essentially a way to garden by covering the roots with moss and soil and more moss, and then a string is added to hang it up.

For this project you will need:

•   Small, shade-tolerant plant (baby ferns work the best)

•   Scissors

•   Peat soil

•   Bonsai soil

•   Mixing pot

•   Water

•   Garden gloves

•   ½ cup measure

•   Yarn or twine

•   Moss, collected from outside or purchased at a garden center

Here we go!

Step 1: Remove the dirt from the plant by tapping it gently. You want to have the plant so that it is mostly the plant head and its roots (as little soil as possible).

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Step 2: Mix the two soil types together – 3 ½ cups of peat soil and 1 ½ cup of bonsai soil. Add ½ cup of water to dampen the soil mixture

Step 3: Put on your garden gloves (or don’t if you don’t mind getting a bit dirty!) and shape the soil mixture into a ball – similar to rolling dough. More water can be added (a small amount at a time) if needed to get the soil mixture to stay in a ball shape. Make sure the ball is big enough for the plant roots to fit inside.

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Step 4: Take some of your moss and wrap a small amount around the bare roots of your plant (this will help your plant retain moisture)

Step 5: Poke a hole in the soil ball big enough to fit the plant roots in, while maintaining the ball shape of the soil

Step 6: Insert the plant roots into the hole and mold the soil ball around them (again still maintaining the ball shape)

Step 7: Wrap the outside of the soil ball with the remaining moss

Step 8: Take your twine or yarn and wrap it around the ball several times to help keep the moss in place – make sure you leave some yarn or twine above the ball in order to hang it up

Step 9: Take your beautiful new kokedama hanging garden and hang it in a shady place for everyone to enjoy – to keep it healthy simply mist it!

 

 

http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/28869/kokedama-hanging-garden-for-kids

Kopper King: The Hibiscus With Larger Than Life Flowers

Hibiscus x moscheutos 'Kopper King': The Kopper King Hibiscus

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

            In New Jersey, the tropical hibiscus is one of the more sought after annuals seen quite frequently in entryway urns, patio planters and especially surrounding pools – but did you know that there are hibiscus plants that are actually hardy for our area? The Kopper King hibiscus is stopping people in their tracks wherever they are seen and for good reason! Becoming more popular in the New Jersey landscape, this perennial beauty is absolutely breathtaking with its massive blossoms, striking colors and stunning foliage. As opposed to the tropical hibiscus, this perennial is easier to grow and maintain and will be your landscape show stopper year after year.

            With a sturdy, compact and slightly rounded habit, this woody-based perennial grows to be about 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. The size of the flowers is comparable to that of a dinner plate measuring from 10 to 12 inches in diameter. The remarkable size of the blooms makes them one of the largest flowers produced by any perennial in this area. The flowers resemble that of its cousin the hollyhock; they are light pink with showy red veins leading to a bright red center. These massive blooms sit atop foliage that has a striking deep purple-red color, giving the plant its name ‘Kopper King’. One of the wonderful characteristics of this perennial is its extended bloom period, which goes from mid summer to early fall and sometimes even to the first frost.

            The kopper king will thrive in full sun but can tolerate some light shade. To produce sturdier stems and the best flowers, make sure to plant it in medium to wet soil with good air circulation – this will also help the plant to be stronger and better at resisting diseases. This perennial is susceptible to wind burn so be sure to plant it in a protected area to minimize its risk. Once established, the kopper king does not like to dry out, deep and consistent watering will help to ensure a happy healthy plant! When the flowering season is completed in late autumn, you can prune the stems back 3 to 4 inches to allow for new growth in the spring – this perennial will also benefit from organically rich soils and regular fertilizations during the growing period.

            The kopper king has many uses in the landscape; it can be used as a border, a specimen plant or, for a greater impact, you could use it as a massing plant. Since this plant prefers moist soils, it does very well along streams or ponds and in low or wet areas on your property. This unique plant is the perfect combination of a tropical vibe and a sophisticated appearance. With its beautiful foliage and massive blossoms, the kopper king is a no-brainer when searching for a landscape plant that is a definite head-turner while still being beautifully elegant at the same time.