The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 28, 2013

Ask A Master Gardener


TARBORO — This week, we have two questions coming from visitors to the Blount-Bridgers House Garden.  The garden committee works regularly each week to maintain this lovely garden oasis in Tarboro’s Historic District. Garden manager, Jeni Filbrun invites you to join the volunteers, “the weekly weeders,” each Wednesday morning at 10 for an hour of garden tending.

Candis O. (Tarboro) Asks:  What is that invasive, ground hugging plant with a purple bloom that seems to be invading the Blount-Bridgers Gardens this winter?

Answer: The plant is a winter annual called Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule, a member of the mint family which means that it is edible!  Humming birds like it and it is so prolific that it can be used for erosion control.  It has a pink to purple flower and normally flowers from April to June. It generally grows in moist, fertile soils and reproduces by seed and stems that touch the ground.  It has many square stems that grow 6-18 inches from a taproot.

There are no poisonous look-alike plants so Henbit can be served raw, cooked, or added to salads.

Try this Recipe for “Spicy Henbit”

Chop 4 cups of shoots, cover with water, boil 10 minutes.  In a separate pan melt 3 tbls. Butter, add 1 tsp. curry powder, 2 whole cloves, and 1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon.  Stir and cook for a minute, stir in 2 tbls. of flour and cook another minute.  Add 1/3 cup of boiling water from the Henbit, stir until smooth. Drain and add the boiled Henbit and 3⁄4 sour cream.  Cook on low for 15 minutes.

Katherine A. (Tarboro) asks: I saw these plants in the Blount-Bridgers Garden and noted how really great they looked for this time of year (winter). What are they exactly?

It’s a Cardoon plant, a relative of the artichoke, and also kin to the thistle. The bud petals are edible before blooming its thistle-like flowers (see photo). The silver-green leaves make a notable presence in the Blount-Bridgers Garden with the purple leaf mustard plant.

Barbara D. (Tarboro) Asks: I have been digging up and replanting my caladiums every year.  I wonder if this is really necessary?

Caladium is an ornamental plant, popular for its colorful leaves. They are shade lovers, and brighten up the shady areas of your yard. Caladiums also make great indoor houseplants. Indoors or out, they are easy to grow. They are tropical plants, native to the Amazon river area of Brazil. The plants thrive in a warm, shady, humid environment. The leaves come in a variety of combinations of green, with white, pink or red. The plants grow to a height of 12" to 30" in one season.

Here’s your answer: Caladium does not like cold weather. Roots survive over-wintering outdoors only in the warmest areas of the country. So, in the fall, the tuberous roots are dug up, cleaned and separated. Make sure to have some buds on each divided section. Store roots in spaghnum moss in a dry, dark location.

Here are Some Tips on How to Grow Caladium

Caladium are grown from a tuberous root. The larger the tuber, the larger the plant. Many people prefer to start with new roots each year. Many home gardeners find the roots produced by their plants are smaller, and turn to commercial growers who know how to produce the biggest roots for the best plants.

We recommend an early, indoor start for your Caladium plants. Plant roots in individual containers indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date. Use 4" to 6" peat pots to make transplanting easier, and to minimize transplant shock.

Plant roots, round side up, 1 1/2"- 2" deep, in rich starter soil, peat

moss, or vermiculite. Roots should have a few buds on them. Keep the soil moist and warm. They will not sprout in cold soil.

Transplant them outdoors after all danger of frost has past, and the soil has warmed. Select a location that is shady, or does not receive direct sunlight. Caladium likes rich soil. The soil needs to be kept moist, but should be well draining. If the soil is poor, add generous amounts of compost and manure.

Fertilize outdoors once a month with a general purpose fertilizer. Indoors, use a liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks. Prune dead or damaged leaves.

Insect and disease problems are infrequent. Use insecticide or fungicide only if a problem occurs.

Question: Millie H. (Pinetops) asks: I recently had a pine tree removed that was diagnosed with pine bark beetles; what should I do with the logs?

Answer: Logs infested with Mountain Pine Beetles can be treated in various ways to kill developing beetles before they emerge as adults in summer. As with other pine bark beetles, one very effective way to kill larvae developing under the bark (though very labor intensive) is by peeling away the bark, either by hand or mechanically; this exposes the larvae to unfavorable conditions — the larvae will dehydrate, starve and eventually die. Logs may also be burned or scorched in a pile. They can also be buried under at least eight inches of soil, or chipped. Following beetle emergence, wood can be used without threat to other trees."

* While this literature is out of Colorado, this method of control is applicable to the Southern Pine Beetle as well.  * Specific info can be found at these sites:

“Ask A Master Gardener” is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management.

Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provide answers.  

Submit your questions by email to  Or call the local Extension Center at (252) 641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to “Ask A Master Gardener”, c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, NC 27886.