Last spring I received a small azalea plant. I kept it outside in the pot all summer and recently brought it indoors. Should its nut-like nodules — maybe next year's buds or last year's flower remnants — be removed? Suggestions for overwintering the plant?
Leave the "nodules"; they're probably buds. Always move your plant gradually from one temperature to another, whether indoors to outdoors or from room to room indoors, to lessen adjustment shock. Keep your azalea in medium to bright light but not direct sunlight and as cool as possible. Shallow roots can dry out quickly in a dry heated house. Always keep soil moist. These are acid-loving plants that don't like high pH-conditioned water. If leaves start to yellow, use purchased water. Don't fertilize in the winter.
My bedroom is infested with a tiny black or dark brown insect that looks like a flea, but crawls rather than hops. My cat's dry food was loaded with these things. They aren't weevils like you find in flour — they're bigger. My friend suggested buying an "ozonator" which is supposed to kill all bugs, bacteria, mold and mildew. I'm looking for a non-chemical, safe method to deal with these invaders.
You have cigarette beetles or drugstore beetles. As curious as the names sound, they are rather common pantry pests, probably introduced to your home via the dry cat food. Once in the home, they are attracted to other grain products and spices. Discard any products that show signs of insect activity. You must stop the life cycle of the insect, i.e., egg to larva to adult. It's not necessary to destroy all food products in question. Most can be placed in the freezer for a day or two to kill undetected eggs. New dry cat food should be stored in a very cool, dry place. A metal container that can be tightly sealed is good. There's a color photo of a cigarette beetle on our webpage. Click on Plant Diagnostics and then go to Pest Control. Our publication HG67 Pantry Pests is available at http://www.hgic.umd.edu.
University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at hgic.umd.edu.
Plant of the week
If you have enough light and patience, try growing one of the spectacular gloxinias. Even if you have no patience, you can buy one and throw it away after its five or six weeks of glorious bloom. The three- to six-inch flowers are purple-to-white or bi-colored with a lush velvety texture. Provide filtered or artificial light and well-drained, organic soil. Water regularly and feed with diluted complete fertilizer. Leaves begin to die back as the plant enters dormancy. At this time keep soil barely moist at about 60 degrees until sprouting starts. Then resume regular watering and fertilizing. Gloxinias can bloom twice a year which makes your efforts well worthwhile. —Ginny Williams