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Originally published Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 5:00 AM

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Rot-resistant Port Orford cedars, a healthy houseplant diet

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris finds some varieties of Port Orford cedar that aren’t susceptible to root rot; he also has some dietary guidelines for feeding your houseplants.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Puget Sound Gesneriad Society/Seattle African Violet Society Show & Sale:

Sale 9 a.m.-4 p.m., show noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Swanson’s Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle (www.swansonsnursery.com).

Freeway Park Tree Walk:

9:30 a.m. tour in English, 11:15 a.m. tour in Spanish, on Saturday; meet on the patio on the south side of the Washington State Convention Center, 800 Convention Place, Seattle (www.seattle.gov/trees).

‘The Agony of Indecision: Lurching toward a Personal Style’:

Northwest Perennial Alliance presents Tom Fischer, editor-in-chief at Timber Press, who will talk about those false starts, bad decisions and distractions that most gardeners deal with when trying to move a garden to an ever-elusive ideal. 1 p.m. Sunday, Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St., Seattle; $5-$10 (www.northwestperennialalliance.org).

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In the Garden

In the past, I’d rarely recommend planting a Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). Although the Oregon natives are among the most attractive of conifers, they were so highly susceptible to the soil-borne root-rot fungus phytophthora, they’d almost always die of the disease unless they were planted in perfect drainage. Fortunately, a new series of Port Orchard cedars is now available. The varieties in this series are grafted onto phytophthora-resistant rootstock, making these trees a great choice for home landscapes. If you’re looking for a privacy screen, ‘Golden King,’ with bluish-green, gold-tipped foliage grows rapidly to 40 feet tall and spreads to 18 feet wide. ‘Siberstar’ grows equally tall and wide with spectacular silver-blue foliage and cascading, fan-shaped branches. For an explosion of gorgeous foliage that tops out at around 20 feet high and 12 feet wide, ‘Yvonne’ glows with flattened sprays of bright gold. But don’t feel left out if you don’t have room for a big tree or are looking for a centerpiece for a container display. The charming ‘Blue Surprise’ grows to only about 6 feet tall by 2 feet wide. Its steel-blue leaves are spectacular in summer, and even better in winter when they take on purple tints. For a stunning container combination, pair it with the golden foliage of Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger.’

Houseplant feeding

Houseplants need to be fed, but knowing how much and how often to fertilize can be a bit tricky. The only time you should feed your houseplants is when they’re actively growing in spring and summer, starting in mid-March. As a general rule, vigorous, actively growing plants in bright light can be fed full-strength every two weeks. Houseplants growing in medium light need lesser-strength fertilizer less often. Feed houseplants in low light only about ¼ of the rate recommended for a plant growing in a sunny location, and do it only once per month. Plants growing in medium light fall in the middle of the spectrum, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Even if you do everything perfectly, excess fertilizer salts can build up in the soil and cause root damage. Leach out the excess salts at least once in summer by submerging the pot in a pail of water until it stops bubbling, then hold it up to allow the excess water to run out. Wait a minute and do it again. If the pot is too big to plunge, find someone to help you take it outside and water the tweedle out of it a couple of times in a row to allow the water to run through and leach out the excess salts. Make sure your helper is strong. Once the soil absorbs all of that water it’s going to weigh a lot more than it did when you brought it out!

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

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About Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.
ciscoe@ciscoe.com

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