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Garden Q&A: An unusual but easy houseplant and what to do about mushrooms in the driveway

Lace flower regularly produces charming fringed blooms, sometimes with a speckled throat, and is as easy to care for as African violets.
Lace flower regularly produces charming fringed blooms, sometimes with a speckled throat, and is as easy to care for as African violets. (Miri Talabac/For The Baltimore Sun)

I can’t get an animal pet during this pandemic, so I was thinking about some new green ones. Can you recommend a houseplant that’s a bit unusual (but not hard to grow)?

Lace flower is a trooper and regularly produces charming fringed blooms, sometimes with a speckled throat. If you can grow African violets, you can grow this relative with similar fuzzy leaves. Alsobia dianthiflora — its botanical name — can be found online. (But try to buy from a Maryland garden center!)

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Grow it as you would an African violet, not letting water sit on the leaves, but watering at the base. Don’t let it dry out entirely. It wants bright, not direct, sunlight or artificial light. The trailing growth habit makes it a good candidate for hanging pot or edge where the tendrils can flow naturally. Trim ends to keep it tidy and full. Clippings can be used to start new plants.

We have mushrooms breaking through our driveway. We had them dug out and the driveway repaved. Now they are breaking through again. Expensive to keep doing! Before we have our driveway redone again this spring, any suggestions?

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A very tough gnarly type of fungus, Schleroderma, may grow on big dead roots or old wood. Keep in mind that a mushroom is merely the fruiting body of a fungus that most of the time lives as fine white filaments of mycelium.

Removing the mushrooms will not solve the problem unless you remove the wood they grow on. When you dig down to find the wood, you may want to remove surrounding soil containing mycelium. Your paving company should offer ideas on what to do. You also might want a second paving company to get ideas and see if the original asphalt bed was laid correctly.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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