Question and Answer - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Question and Answer

Q. Saw your article the other day about bulbs blooming in winter. I’ve never seen January budding snowdrops. When do they normally bloom? My daffodil’s are up about 3 inches! Also, I would like info on flowers to plant in clay-like soil. I would like perennials that bloom quite a bit of the summer and in partial shade or full sun. I have planted many flowers and half don’t live or don’t come up the next year.

A. Snowdrops (Galanthus) is among the earliest of the spring-flowering bulbs. Most references list the bloom time for our area as very early spring, but it is not at all unusual for them to bloom in late February to early March. However, January or early February is rather early. Some gardeners found them blooming even earlier, in December, this winter.

While there are a few species of perennials with long blooming seasons, typically perennial flowers have shorter bloom seasons than annual flowers. So choosing several species for different bloom times will help provide season-long interest. You can also interplant some annuals with the perennials to provide additional color. Purdue Extension has several publications that can help you select perennials for your garden. Check out the articles at Of particular interest are the publications on perennial flowers, annual flowers and flowering bulbs.

Q. I have several houseplants of different kinds. Whenever the soil in the pot is disturbed, clouds of tiny black gnats fly out of the dirt. Most of these plants have never been outside, and I use fresh potting soil anytime I repot any of them. Do you know the cause or a correction for this problem?

A. The most likely culprit is fungus gnats, so named because they commonly feed on fungus growing in the soil. They are mostly a nuisance on houseplants, though their larvae can feed on plant roots and can also bore into the plant stems. The adults will hover above the surface of the potting soil, as you’ve observed, and are particularly noticeable when the soil is disturbed by watering and other maintenance.

Fungus gnats are a serious pest in greenhouse production, since young plants are more susceptible to injury, and the gnats can also transmit fungal diseases. Fungus gnats thrive in moist conditions, so home gardeners can generally get good control by letting the soil dry out more in between waterings and removing mulch and plant debris from the soil surface. If soil is badly infested, repot into clean, well-draining soil mix, water less frequently and dispose of excess drainage water. More information on fungus gnats and shore flies can be found in Purdue Extension entomology publication E-111 “Fungus Gnats and Shore Flies” and online resources from the Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory and

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