Homegrown: Creeping Charlie, mulberry trees

I purchased two creeping Charlie plants but am not sure how to care for them. Do they need any special care?

— Yolanda

Charlies are fairly easy to take care of, but there are a couple of things to remember.

First, they prefer bright, indirect light. The leaves can yellow and burn if they get too much direct sun.

They can take sunlight early in the morning or late in the evening before sunset, or sunlight through a sheer curtain.

Just make sure that they get enough light. If the area you have them in is too dark, the plant will get pale and long and leggy.

The most common problem people run into is how often to water the plant.

Creeping Charlies don’t want to stay wet all of the time. When you water, soak the plant well. There should be water coming out of the drainage holes every time you water.

If you have a saucer under the plant, don’t allow that drainage water to remain in the saucer. Use a turkey baster to suck it out if you don’t want to move the plant, or just set it in the sink to water so the excess water can just go down the drain.

After you’ve soaked it well, allow the soil to dry out a little bit before soaking it again. Most people get into trouble by watering too often.

Of course, you don’t want it to dry out too much. I stick my finger down into the soil mix in the pot to check moisture. I like to let the top 3⁄4 –11⁄2 inches of soil dry out pretty well before watering it again.

The bigger the pot, the deeper I’ll let it dry out.

Creeping Charlies also like to be fertilized fairly regularly. They usually need less fertilizer during the winter than at other times of the year.

Use a good houseplant-type fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro once to twice a month.

How much water does a mature fruitless mulberry tree need, in a hot climate?

— Eva

I’m afraid I can’t give you a specific answer.

The best thing to do is to determine your own watering schedule. You want to water your tree deeply but infrequently.

The first thing to do is to make sure that the plant is soaked well when you do water. I like to see the water penetrate to a depth of 12–18 inches.

The day after you water, dig to check on how deeply the water went.

Next, make sure the soil has a chance to dry out slightly before soaking it again. If the soil stays too soggy (easy to do in heavy clays), the roots suffocate and die off.

Dig 3–5 inches and feel the soil. There should be some moisture there (if there isn’t, it’s too dry and you need to water more frequently), but some significant dryness as well.

Mona, one of Bookcliff Gardens’ sales clerks, said to let the soil get to the consistency of pie dough when you’re rolling it out, and I think that’s a pretty good analogy.

Personally, in my yard, I’m soaking my woody trees and shrubs once a week during the summer. Now take that with a large grain of salt, as your situation may be different because of the reasons I outlined above.

It’s always best for you to do some digging around in the yard to see for yourself what’s going on down there.


Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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