October 2009
Featured Articles

Fall Plant Care And Other “Clues” to Autumn Fun


Jerry Chenault is picking some beautyberry behind his house. They make great fall decorations. The plant is actually called American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), although the Japanese Beautyberry looks very similar. Callicarpa is from Greek, meaning “beautiful fruit.”


Ah, fall is here! Makes me think of Charlie Brown trying to kick that football (which Lucy always pulls away) and crashing into a big pile of leaves! We all know fall brings football, scarecrows, hay bales and cornstalks, and also leaf color changes...but did you know your houseplants notice the change too? They do!

As the amount of daylight decreases (after September 23), all of your plants will start to notice the change. Leaf color change and a general all-around slow-down in growth are just a few of the ways your plants will respond to the shorter days. Your houseplants will go into a slow-growth period and will not need to be fertilized nearly so often as they were. Take a minute to notice how much light is coming into your house during the coming months. It could save your plants! Make sure they receive the light they need to survive.

Even though houseplants will slow down, you’ll still want to check their moisture level periodically to make sure they don’t dry out. But then, you already knew that, I’ll bet. Here’s something you may not have thought of: collecting fall decorations from the fields and woods. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But I’m betting fewer than a handful of us actually do it. It’s a SUPER opportunity to spend some quality time with your children or grandchildren too...and to make some good memories.

What kind of fall/winter decorations are waiting in the great outdoors? Plenty. Let’s see...there are milkweed seed pods, grass seed heads, nuts, cones (like pine cones), beautyberries, coneflower seed heads, ironweed, corn cobs and even interesting stones. I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of other treasures.

You might use these as a bouquet of sorts and then include those items that don’t fit in a vase as decorations around its base. Or, you can just place these items in a nice bowl and use it as a centerpiece. Add in a little moss and you’ve got a real woodland centerpiece! Don’t forget to pick up other fall-related items at your local farmers market (like mums, Indian corn, gourds, pumpkins, etc.) that also make great fall decorations.

My oldest daughter, Kristi, always loved searching for things like these outdoors. Acorns, rocks, feathers, bird eggs...she called them "clues." I have many wonderful memories of searching for "clues" with her. I wish I could do that right now. I hope you’ll search for "clues" and enjoy the great outdoors with those who are special to you.

Happy hunting!

Jerry Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in the Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs division.