I’m going to continue my articles challenging some common garden myths and legends that many of us take for fact now. The goal is to dispel some common myths that I see floating on social media and give you more information so that you can be a plant nerd, too. All of these myths will be great table conversation over the Holidays with your family.
The first myth is something that I used to sell many plants when I worked in the greenhouse industry. Lemon scented plants repel mosquitoes. You can find anything from lemongrass to citronella plants and even lemon scented thyme. We can easily find plants by the name of mosquito plant in garden centers today. Mosquitoes are not fond of the oil that is found inside many of these lemon scented plants. The oil is only effective when it is crushed and the scent is allowed to be used on items. If you want to get the most bang out of your buck from a citronella plant, crush the leaves and rub the scent on your clothing. The plant by itself does not repel mosquitoes.
As we get into the Christmas season it’s time to dispel the myth that poinsettias are poisonous. Poinsettias are not poisonous and the average child would have to eat around 500 leaves to get a reaction according to an Ohio State University study. The myth might have arisen from a story that in 1919 a small child died after chewing on a leaf. Poinsettias are in the plant genus called Euphorbia and this plant group is known to have a white milky sap that can sometimes irritate. People have different reactions to everything and I grew up knowing an older lady who was allergic to daylilies. With the diversity of colors that poinsettias come in now, it’s time to add more to your living rooms!
Putting egg shells around my tomato will prevent blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is a common question that I get every year and there is a misconception of why it occurs. It occurs when the plant is not able to take up calcium, thus showing up as a calcium deficiency. This calcium deficiency is usually caused by the plants inability to take up the calcium since Tennessee’s soils almost always have enough calcium. Any period of drought will show up as a calcium deficiency since the plant is not able to take up the needed calcium when the plant is forming the fruit. Egg shells normally take a year or longer to break down when left in large pieces. If you want to maximize the uses of your egg shells, try adding them to your compost pile after you have pulverized them to a dust.
As always, if you have any questions regarding any horticulture facet, feel free to contact Lucas Holman, Horticulture UT-TSU Extension Agent, Wilson County at 615-444-9584 or Lholman1@utk.edu.