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Mandevilla, Worms & Unusual Houseplant

More on Mandevilla plants; unknown worms in peppers both from seed and transplants; and some ‘unusual’ houseplants you might wish to search out!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

September 11, 2005

Two shots of Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora) in my old Toronto home. Author photos.

Again this week, more questions. the first from Madge Veitch, who listens to my programmes on AM740 from Innisfil, Ontario. “I read your article recently about Mandevilla plants and would like to know the best time to repot as mine has flowered all summer long but the pot is fairly small? I will of course take it inside as soon as the temp drops and would like to pot it then but have a feeling you will say wait until spring. Thanks.”

You were absolutely right Madge. I suppose there is absolutely nothing wrong with transplanting your Mandevilla in the autumn, but generally re-potting plants is best done just as they are to begin a new growing season. That is when the plant will make the most root and top growth, and with the greatest energy. And, that is, of course, in the spring.

Nick Sutaroski wrote saying, “I hope you can help me, or aim me in the right direction. My Mom and Dad re-tired and are avid vegetable gardeners. They grow tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, herbs and lots of peppers, both sweet and hot. They have been very frustrated the last couple of years with finding small worms in the peppers once they are ripe and ready to be picked. They grow the pepper plants from seed, plus they also buy some pepper plants (worms found in home grown and store bought plants). Their friends and neighbours in the area are having the same problem. Any ideas how to get rid of these worms will greatly be appreciated. Thanks.”

Truthfully, I do not know what this problem is, and I did check with a local commercial grower of peppers and they are likewise stymied. The possible clue in Nick’s letter is that the same thing happens with both transplants and seeded plants. That makes me think it is a soil-borne problem; likely, I would think, something like the maggots which attack onions, and the similar carrot rust fly. I covered that topic twice recently, so I think my advice would be to follow my suggestions in the article on dated May 15/05, and the further comment on the muslin row covers aspect the following week, May 22. Since peppers love heat, the row cover concept for them seems an added benefit.

Finally this week, my old high school friend, Carol Hallam in the Toronto area, wrote some time ago saying that she and Bob (also a fellow East York Collegiate friend) were having their kitchen completely re-done and that there was a reasonably large container that she thought needed a complete re-do if it was to ‘match’ the new décor. She named a number of small to medium sized houseplants she had grown in the container over the years, but she said really none of them had lasted any length of time.

Here was my response to her:

I think the first thing you have to realize is that whatever you use in such a planter will have to be changed on some sort of cycle—all such indoor planters are. Nothing lasts indefinitely. Some plants, mainly foliage ones, will endure for a long time (years) but others will grow too ‘gangly’ and have to be replaced. And, I think you will want to supplant the foliage plants with some ‘colour’ on a regular basis.

One of the items I would suggest you look for is Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora) which we have had growing for a decade or more indoors (although outdoors here in the summer). I have included two not-so-great shots of ours while on Nesbitt Drive in Toronto.

While with the ‘Bs’ I think too of Snow bush (Breynia nivosa) which we also had on Nesbitt, but did not bring with us, and I’ve not seen one here yet (Damn!).

You can hardly get away without having at least one Dracaena. Your choice!

If you can find a Medinilla magnifica by all means get it. I have never seen one except once at Humber Nurseries, and I didn’t get it, and the next week it was gone.

Some of the Cordyline species or cultivars are very good too. I don’t think they will last as long, but cannot say that for certain.

If you like perfume, you should have a Wax plant (Hoya carnosa) provided you leave it in its pot. Then you’ll get flowers that are VERY fragrant. Stephanotis falls into the same category, both as to leaving it in its pot and fragrance.

Hypoestes is pretty with its freckled pink and green leaves. They’re quite inexpensive and readily available.

For variegated foliage you cannot beat the Bird-catcher tree (Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’) [I love pronouncing the botanical name!]. It is sometimes locatable!

And, likely you could have one or two of the Bromeliad genera, such as Vriesea, Tillandsia, Aechmea, Guzmania, and Neoregelia. Each has its own ‘demands’ as to light and they definitely need replacing, as all ‘pup’ out new plants after flowering with the older one dieing off.

I’ve, of course, left out tons of others, but mostly because I don’t think they are good candidates. Obviously I have left out some that would be good too!

Good Luck!

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