Q: I recently moved a couple of plants inside my home to spend the winter. I immediately noticed a lizard in one of the containers and an ant bed in the other. I moved them back out to the porch until I figure out how to rid the plants of any kind of small animal or insect. I remember you writing an article once about bringing ants into your home, but I don’t remember what you did to the plant to get rid of the pests. I’m unable to locate the article.

A: I no longer store any plants inside my home for the winter, but the method I used after I brought an ant hill inside my home in a container (and spent all of the next day killing ants) was to remove the plant from its container and empty the old soil into a planting bed. Then I would flood the plant with water to remove any critters that might be attached. After that, I would clean and sanitize the container and return the plant to the container, and use a new bag of commercial potting soil for planting. I never had any problems after that.

Q: What is the proper way to propagate a gardenia? I placed a blossom cutting in water earlier this summer and it formed roots, but as soon I moved the cutting to a pot of soil, the cutting died. Can you help me plant one successfully?

A: To propagate a gardenia shrub, take new-growth stem cuttings at the branch tips of a shrub. The cuttings should be about 6 inches in length. (Do not select a stem that has a blossom attached). To propagate each shrub, choose three healthy stem cuttings that have been cut at a slant. From each stem cutting, remove all except the top two sets of leaves. Next, prepare a small pot of soil for rooting the stems, using equal parts potting soil and sand. Dampen the potting soil mixture and then dip the ends of the cutting in a jar of rooting hormone. (Rooting hormone may be purchased at a local gardening center). Using your finger, or a pencil, make a small planting hole in the soil. Cluster three stems together as if making a bouquet and gently place the stems in the hole and return the soil (gently) back round the stems. Place the container in bright, but indirect light, and keep the soil damp (not soggy wet). The soil must stay damp for the stems to grow a root system. If you are successful, the stems will maintain a healthy look. After a few months of growth, the stems may be moved up to a slightly larger pot of soil. Continue moving the plants up to one size larger pot every few months as the small plants continue to grow. When the plants are graduated up to at least a 2-gallon pot, they should be large enough to plant in the landscape. I hope this helps.

Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County Master Gardener and an experienced garden writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others in their gardening endeavors. Send questions or comments to clink43@bellsouth.net.