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Leslie Derrenbacker


Dear Gardener Gal: I have a question about some very brightly colored cacti I recently saw for sale in a big box store. I’m not necessarily wanting to buy them but wondered if first, are they real and second if so, will they keep that same color?

Bet other people have seen these cacti and wondered the same thing. — Bette in Floral City

Dear Bette: I too noticed these primary colored little nightmares. How could I not? These poor cacti have been painted obscenely bright unnatural colors as though they were destined for a young child’s bedroom or a daycare center — both of which would be wildly inappropriate.

Not that you asked, but painting these cacti and then marketing them offends me on two levels:

First, I’m offended because by painting these plants we have reduced them to an inanimate object. There’s a strong likelihood that they will be placed where a bright splash of color is the goal with little to no thought to proper growing conditions. Now I realize it is but a simple cactus, not an endangered orchid, but anything that reinforces the disconnect between humans and the natural world is a step in the wrong direction.

Second, I’m offended by the dishonest nature of this marketing. These are real plants. Like all real plants if given half a chance, they will grow. The new growth will not be colored, it will be whitish. How long will it take? Depends. The bottom line is, the bright colors are temporary and the cactus probably will be too. A person’s money would be much better spent on faux cactus or succulents and then painting them if desired. These days they look amazingly real and will only need occasional dusting.

That should offend no one.

Dear Gardener Gal: I have a foxtail fern in a pot on my porch. I love this plant! Grows and all I do is water it when I remember. However, this week I noticed one of the stems has turned white. So far it is only the one, but would like to know what is going on. Maybe it’s not as easy a plant as I thought? — Ben

Dear Ben: Do me a favor and take a closer look at the white branch. I bet upon closer inspection you will see tons of tiny white flowers. Your Myers asparagus fern is happy. Well done!

As you may already know, this plant isn’t a fern. It’s actually in the lily family. With some really good magnification, those tiny flowers are “lily-like.”

I’m with you; I like this plant. It is hardy and attractive. I like them as specimen plants in large pots. Planting caladium bulbs in with them jazzes the pot up for summer.

Unlike the loose form of asparagus fern we all grew up with, the Myers or foxtail doesn’t seem to spread by seed. This means it is not invasive like its cousin, which spreads like crazy.

These plants don’t usually have pest problems, so I’m pretty sure yours has a case of “the flowers.” Relax and enjoy.

“Gardener Gal” Leslie Derrenbacker is a Master Gardener and native Floridian. Send your questions to

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