Diseases of garden plants
Flowers - Annuals
Flowers - Perennials
Native Plant gardening
|Can hardwood rose cuttings be successfully rooted in the summer?
Minyahil , Addis Ababa |
|Hello, Minyahil: Propagating a rose by cuttings is very common although softwood cuttings root more readily. The best time to take your softwood cutting is during the spring or early summer. Hardwood cuttings are usually reserved for climbers or rootstock propagation. Hardwood cuttings can be taken in the late fall or early winter. Both hard and softwood cuttings are taken and propagated in the same manner. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruners and take your cuttings from the newest growth. The cuttings should be 6-8 inches long. Remove all foliage except for the top leaves and dip the end of the cutting in water and then a rooting hormone, which you should be able to find at your local garden center. Plant your cuttings in small containers filled with a vermiculite, perlite mixture or any good container mix. Place in a bright place but out of the full sun. Keep the soil evenly moist. Your cutting should root in six to eight weeks. You can tug gently on the cutting to see if it has rooted yet. After it has rooted out you can bump it up into a larger container or, depending on the time of year, you can plant it directly in the garden. Either way you will want to acclimate your new plants into the full sun so the new growth will not burn.
|Can I cut a growth (the small stems that come out on the trunk of the tree) from an apple tree, and make it grow? Virginia, Vine Grove|
|Hello, Virginia: The most common method of propagating fruit trees is grafting. This method of propagation is done by joining two different varieties of trees together. This means that the top of the tree, also known as the scion, is different from the bottom or rootstock of the tree. So, the top of your apple tree is the variety that you purchased but the lower part of the tree, below the graft union, a few inches above the base, including the root system, is that of another apple. Growers graft fruit trees for several different reasons, the most important reason being that it makes the trees hardier because it can allow for optimal nutrients. Grafting can manipulate the size of the tree as well as make them more resistant to insect and disease problems. The suckers you have growing from the base of your tree are coming up from the root system of another apple, not that of the apple tree you are intending to grow. So taking cuttings from the suckers and trying to root them will not give you the same apple tree you initially purchased. You can propagate your apple tree by taking semi-hardwood cuttings but propagating by this method is not advantageous for fruit trees. Your tree will not be as productive or as healthy as if it were grafted, and unfortunately this method is not as simple as taking cuttings or collecting seeds. It certainly takes some experience and depending on how inclined you are, it may be worth leaving it up to the professional growers and purchasing another tree from your local garden center.|
|Can I deadhead and divide garden/tall phlox in my area at this fall time of year? Diane, North Rose|
|Hello Diane: Dividing perennials becomes necessary when plants become overcrowded or start to die out in the middle. Dividing rejuvenates our plants and is also a great way to spread our favorites among the garden or share with friends. Phlox (Phlox paniculata) is best divided in early spring or early fall, so if you can get to it in the next week or so then go ahead; otherwise you should wait until next spring as the new growth emerges. Wayne County, New York, is considered zone 6a according to the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. It is important for the plants to get their roots settled in their new homes before the winter arrives. If the roots do not have a chance to do this, they become susceptible to heaving, which lifts the plant up as the soil freezes and thaws, exposing the roots and potentially killing the plant. When you decide to divide, dig up the plant, keeping as much of the roots attached as possible, and then use a sharp spade to divide. It is always a good idea to prepare the new holes before digging up any plant. The more time out of the soil the more likely the roots are to dry out, so get the phlox back in the soil and watered as soon as possible. Make sure to plant in a space where they will receive full to part sun with well-drained soil. Treat them like a new planting in terms of moisture and avoid fertilizing for the first year. Apply a thin layer of mulch to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Keep in mind that these plants may not flower as well as they normally do since their energy will be concentrated on the roots during the first year of growing in their new home. You can deadhead as soon as the flowers fade, but leave the foliage alone until the first frost kills it and then cut it back.
|Can I start White pine seedlings in containers and winter them in my garage? If so, what is the best soil to start them in? Kurt, Centerburg|
|Hello, Kurt in Ohio: White pine (Pinus strobus) is typically propagated by seed. Cuttings do not have a high success rate. Some years are better than others in terms of seed production. Seeds can be harvested in the fall from mature cones. They will turn a yellow-green to light brown when ripe and the scales of the cone begin to open. If the seeds are not directly sown in the ground, they will need to be stratified for 60 days in a space where temperatures range from 33-41 degrees F. You are essentially creating an environment that is similar to what the seeds would go through if they were left alone in nature. They need to go through this dormancy period in order to germinate. It is best to use a good quality potting soil that is peat-based. Avoid topsoil and make sure the seed bed/container you choose has drainage holes. White pines are typically slow to get started but if given sufficient sunlight this conifer is considered a rapid grower. This native evergreen is tolerable of most soil conditions but does not do well in compact clay soil. If you are gardening in clay soil it is best to amend the soil before planting.|
|Can I take broken branches from a boxwood bush and put them in a bucket of sand to produce roots. That's what I have been told. Geraldine, Keene|
|Hello, Geraldine: It is true that you can make new plants by taking cuttings of your existing boxwood. Some plants are more difficult to propagate than others, but boxwoods are quite easy and have a good success rate. These evergreens generally root anytime of the year. Propagating boxwoods is usually done by taking cuttings. This means that you literally take your pruners or gardening scissors and take a cutting of your boxwood. There are softwood cuttings that are taken from new growth, and hardwood cuttings taken from older woodier growth. Either way, make your cuttings between 4-6 inches long. Remove all the foliage except for the top inch or 2 of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. It is best to use a mixture of half sand and half peat or perlite. It is best to have your containers ready to be planted before taking your cuttings because you do not want them to dry out. After they are potted up, water them well and cover them with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. Use a bamboo stake or a stick to make sure the bag does not touch the cutting. Place in an area with filtered light, avoiding direct sun. Do not let the soil completely dry out but you never want it sopping wet either. If there is condensation on the bag you will not need to water. The cutting should root gradually and then you can plant it in a larger container or directly into the garden.|
|Can I take cuttings from my mums in the fall after they have bloomed and root them with success? Cheryl, Ellijay|
|Hi, Cheryl: Hardy chrysanthemums can be propagated by cuttings. This should ideally be done in the spring or early summer as they put on new growth; this allows enough time for the roots to develop and establish before colder temperatures arrive. Take a 2-3 inch cutting off of new growth from an established plant in your garden and remove all foliage except for the top few pair of leaves, dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone, and pot it up in a good quality potting medium such as Pro-Mix, then wait three to four weeks for roots to develop. The cuttings should be planted in a small container with plenty of drainage holes. The soil should be constantly moist but never soaking wet. Place your cuttings in bright indirect light until they become larger and you can bump them up into larger containers or plant them directly in the garden. Pinching back as the plant grows will encourage more branches and a fuller plant in the long run. For those of us gardening in Kentucky, I should mention that the mums sold in garden centers this time of year are not considered hardy for us. This may not be the case where you live but waiting until next year to propagate will give you a higher success rate.|
|Can you tell me a foolproof method to grow violets from seed? I am currently a student at University of Kentucky. I got a garden plot in the campus community. I would like to make it a violet garden. Four or five attempts and over 100 seeds have failed already, although I always followed the instructions on the seed package! There are two kinds of seeds from two nurseries, one of which is “Labrador Violet,” the other "Queen Charlotte." For the latter one, the instructions are:
Place seeds with a small amount of moist growing media inside a zip-lock bag and keep at 70° F. for 2 weeks. Then place in the refrigerator for an additional 4 weeks. Remove and sow in cell packs or flats and keep at 41-54° F. until germination occurs.
Only two seeds germinated in the end, but damped off after one week.
|Hello, Paul in Kentucky: Although the viola seeds you purchased are different species, they require the same growing conditions in order to germinate. The best time to sow these seeds is actually in the fall. According to Jelitto seeds (a very reputable seed provider) the ideal sowing dates are November-March. At this time you can sow them directly outdoors. Unlike most other seeds, these tend to sporadically germinate over a long period of time. It can take anywhere from four to eight weeks just for viola seeds to germinate. Temperatures lower than 41 degrees F are ideal in terms of germination and the soil should remain consistently moist but never sopping wet. Hopefully your gardening plot has access to water and is shaded from the sun during the hottest part of the day. These perennials will self-sow/naturalize once established so keep this in mind as your plot fills in. It may be that your seeds were not given enough time to germinate before the seed trays were tossed. If you still have your seed trays you might want to hold onto them to see if anymore pop up. It is always a good idea to purchase seeds from a reputable provider; that way you know you are getting good quality seed. The horticulture professors at the University of Kentucky are a wealth of knowledge and I assume would be happy to help with your plot if you have issues later this fall after you direct sow.|
|Can you tell me where I can find 8" plastic pots? I have tried to find them online, but my computer skills are limited. I will need about 300 pots, so I've been told I would want to get them wholesale. Can you help? Brenda, Bardstown|
|Hello, Brenda: It sounds like you intend to do a lot of planting! There are places where you can purchase 8” plastic nursery pots. Wholesale prices are not always available to the home gardener. Most companies require you to be a licensed grower or a garden center/nursery before you can receive this price discount. Buying in bulk may give you a price break. Here are a couple of places to look on the Web: www.wormsway.com
If you are ever in Louisville, you can purchase these nursery pots at Premium Horticulture Supply. They are located at 915 E. Jefferson Street. Their phone number is (502) 582-3897. I could not find a Web site for them, but I know they sell to the public and they may be willing to ship them to you. You might also check with your local garden centers. If they are not growing themselves, they may be happy to let you recycle these plastic pots. You could also contact your County Cooperative Extension Service and ask the horticulture/agriculture agent if they know where you can purchase them locally. Nelson County Master Gardeners may also be helpful in locating these containers.|
|How are butterfly bushes started, are they by seed? Shirley, Hodgenville|
|Hello, Shirley: Thank you for your question. Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) are a nice addition to a-sun loving garden. Hence their name, they attract butterflies and provide mid- to late-season color with their large, prolific blooms. These herbaceous shrubs are quite easy to propagate. This can be done either by collecting seed or by taking softwood cuttings. To collect seed you will want to let the pod dry on the plant. This will happen later in the fall into the early winter. After the pods have dried, go ahead and harvest your seed. The seeds are very small, so when you go to break open the pod do not be surprised to see more of a powdery substance than any large seeds. After you harvest the seed, you can directly sow or save them and sow them next spring. They may not come true to seed, meaning you could get a different color bloom than that of the plant you harvested the seeds from. Taking a cutting is just as simple and with this type of propagation you will get the same color bloom as the plant you take the cutting from. Take a cutting of 4-6 inches from new growth and remove the lower foliage. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone and plant them in a peat-based potting mixture. Place out of direct sunlight and keep the soil evenly moist. The cutting should root in 2-3 weeks.
|How best to propagate weeping apple trees by taking cutting? Terence, Mooi River|
|Hello, Terence in South Africa: As a general rule, most if not all weeping trees are propagated by grafting. This is an asexual method where the weeping tree is fused to the rootstock of a compatible tree, in your case another apple. I am not sure if you are talking about a crabapple or an apple grown specifically for fruit, but either way grafting is the method of choice. For a homeowner this is a challenge since it takes an experienced grower's knowledge to do this successfully and we do not typically have rootstock available for us to experiment with. As for propagating your tree from cuttings, you might have some success with softwood cuttings but hardwood is usually difficult to root. Softwood cuttings can be taken in May or early June from the current season’s growth. Each cutting should be 4-6 inches long and potted up in peat such as perlite mix. The cut end should be dipped into a rooting hormone to encourage roots before planting. Make sure your containers are just a few inches in diameter and allow for good drainage. Keep the soil evenly moist but never sopping wet. It can take several weeks for roots to develop, and as they fill up the container they can be bumped up into a larger one to continue to grow. Keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight and avoid fertilizing until it is time to transplant them. For a higher success rate you can take several cuttings. If you would like more detailed information on propagation methods you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho67/ho67.pdf. This publication is for gardeners in the state of Kentucky but the information is still valid for your purpose. Good luck!|
|How do I dry pumpkin seeds to plant in the spring? Nancy, Camden|
|Hello again, Nancy: Saving your seeds from your pumpkins is a great way to plan for next year's crop. You will need to harvest the seed, separate them from the meat, dry, and store them until next spring. Remove the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all the pulp and seeds. Place in a strainer and separate the seeds from the pulp. Rinse them under room-temperate water and place on a towel or drying rack. Make sure they are not overlapping and have space between them so they will not stick together. To be certain they have completely dried out, leave them in a cool, dry space on the towel/drying rack for up to a month. You will want to turn them every couple of days. Then store them in an envelope or brown paper sack until next spring when you can directly plant them in the ground, or if you want to get a jump start on next year's crop you can start the seeds indoors. The ideal condition in which to store your seeds is going to be a cool, dark, and dry space with good air circulation. Avoid storing any seeds in plastic because this can encourage condensation, which can cause rot. Keep in mind that each pumpkin has many seeds and these plants take up a lot of room in the garden, so you will likely not plant all the seeds from your pumpkin. The larger the seed the better chance of germination, so try to save the larger ones and more than you intend on planting, just in case some of them do not save well.
|How do I separate rather large ferns in a north-facing flower bed that, after several years, is overgrown with border flowers (coleus, impatiens, hosta, & begonias)? Terry, Shelby|
|Hello, Terry in North Carolina: Hardy ferns are a must-have for any shade-loving garden. There are so many to choose from with a range of size and color options. In general, most ferns are slow-growing and can take several years to mature, as it sounds like yours have. As they mature they tend to die out in the middle, and this is when you know it is time to divide them. Ferns typically need dividing every three to five years. The best time to divide your ferns is after the first frost or in the early spring. Hopefully you can wait until later in the fall since it will be easier on you in terms of less foliage to deal with, and less stress on the plants. Later in September or early in October is the ideal time to divide since it still gives the plants about a month to get their roots settled in before the winter arrives. It is always a good idea to water the ferns really well a day before you dig them up to divide them. This makes it easier to lift them from the ground and prevents the roots from drying out before they get replanted. Preparing the new homes before division occurs is important. The less time the plants are out of the ground the better. Depending on the ferns you are growing, they are divided by rhizomes, clumps, or edge division. When it is time to divide your ferns, use a sharp spade and start digging about 6-8 inches out from the fern. Carefully lift the entire plant out of the ground and lay it on its side. Use your spade or a sharp knife to separate the fern into two or more plants. Get them back in the ground as soon as possible and treat them like you would any new addition to the garden.|
|How do I start hydrangeas from a cutting? And what time of the year do you deadhead them? Susie, Elizabethtown|
|Hi, Susie: Late spring through early summer is the time to take cuttings of your hydrangeas for propagating purposes. This will give the cuttings sufficient time to root before transplanting them into the garden. Taking cuttings at other times of the year, when the temperatures and humidity are lower, reduces the chances of root development. Using a clean and sharp pair of pruners or gardening scissors, take your cutting off (5-6 inches) from the new growth. Remove all foliage except for the top two pairs of leaves and then dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone such as Root Tone. Place the cutting in a small container filled with sand/peat-based potting mixture that allows for good drainage. Place in a space that has good filtered light and keep the soil moist but not sopping wet. Your cutting should begin to root within two to three weeks. Pruning practices of hydrangea differ between species. Panicle and Arborescens (smooth) hydrangeas bloom on new wood, or current season’s growth. They should be pruned this time of year before the new growth begins in the spring. Macrophylla (bigleaf) and oakleaf hydrangea bloom on old wood, or last season’s growth. These do not require annual pruning except to shape and remove dead wood. The best time to prune these is after they have finished blooming in the fall. Pruning hydrangeas at the wrong time can result in lack of blooms.|
|How do you germinate acorns from willow oak and water oak so that little tree seedlings will sprout? Kirk, Fulton|
|Hello, Kirk: Willow oak (Quercus phellos) and water oak (Quercus nigra) are both readily propagated from seed. These hardwood trees are generally good seed producers. Acorns from these trees will ripen from late October to early November. As a general rule the seed of white oaks (willow oak) matures in one year and the seed of black oaks (water oak) takes two years to ripen. Timing is key for successful propagation. So, this is a perfect time to start collecting your acorns. The acorns on the lower branches will ripen first so go ahead and start removing them from the trees. Choose the larger acorns that have turned brown as opposed to the green ones since these are the ripened ones. Take all the acorns you have collected and soak them in water for 24 hours. Discard the floating ones since this is an indication they have been damaged by insects. With the remaining sinkers you can directly plant them in the ground or in containers outdoors. These seeds require two to three months of cold stratification for improved germination; however, planting them directly in the ground, or in a container for that matter, makes them a likely food source for insects and other critters during the winter months. For this reason you may consider planting more than you would like and hopefully you will have seedlings to share with your friends. So, after you have separated the sinkers from the floaters go ahead and remove the acorn caps and plant the bottom of the acorns 12-18 inches deep. Plant them on their side and water them well. Thin your seedlings the second year. You should not have to water throughout the winter months but spring/summer may require hand watering on your part if Mother Nature does not provide sufficient moisture. A thin layer of mulch will help keep the moisture in. Planting from seed can be very rewarding but it certainly takes a lot of patience so keep this in mind as you begin this process.|
|How do you split up large Kimberly Queen ferns? I saved mine from last summer and put them in a greenhouse. I want to separate them and grow more ferns. Mine are huge, but the extended cold we had made them look bad, so I cut them back and want to separate them so they will be pretty this spring and summer. I also have Petticoat ferns and a Macho fern that I want to do the same thing with. I hate to buy new ferns every year. Can you advise me of what to do? Alice, Greenville|
|Hi, Alice: Dividing larger ferns is a great way to rejuvenate them and is also an economical way to create more plants. It is an easy process but can also be quite messy, so you may choose to do this in the garden when the temperatures warm up or lay a sheet of plastic down in the greenhouse for quick cleanup. The benefit to doing this earlier is that the ferns will have time to fill out in their new containers and will be ready to place in the garden in the spring. It is fine that you cut back the foliage; otherwise you would have been sweeping the greenhouse for many months since they have a tendency to drop their foliage during the winter months. So when you are ready, remove the ferns from their containers and lay them down with the roots closest to you. Take a sharp pair of gardening scissors and literally cut through the roots until you have separated the plant into two parts. If your ferns are really large and you want to divide them more than once, go ahead but you will want to visually make your cuts before you actually start dividing. This way you will have equal parts. Another option is to again remove the ferns from their containers and lay them on the ground and then use a sharp spade to divide them. You do not have to be nice about this process, you cannot hurt the plants. After you have divided them, pot them up in containers that are adequate for their new size using a nutrient-rich potting medium. Water them and give them a half dose of either slow-release or liquid fertilizer. Keep the soil consistently moist at this stage. It will take them a while to fill out into their new containers but the effort is well worth it.|
|How do you start a lemon tree from seed? Marissa, Guthrie|
|Hello, Marissa: Starting a lemon from seed is as simple as planting it in a good quality potting medium and watching it grow. If you are using seeds from a lemon you purchased from a grocery store or market, just be aware that the lemon you will grow from these seeds may not be the same lemon you purchased. They do not come true from seed. Plant the seed one-half inch deep and water it in. Do not allow the seeds to dry out or they will not germinate. They should be harvested, washed, and immediately planted. Make sure the container you plant them in allows for good drainage and place them in a warm space with bright light. They should germinate within a couple of weeks. It can take up to 15 years for the plant to produce any actual lemons, so if this is what you are after you may find it easier to purchase a lemon tree from your local garden center/nursery. These plants are grafted and only take up to five years to produce fruit. Lemons are considered a tropical for Kentucky gardeners so it would have to come indoors during the winter months.|
|I am looking for a source to purchase container-grown pecan plants. Any suggestions? Mabel, Boston|
|Hello, Mabel: The advantage to purchasing a container-grown pecan would be that it does not go through the stress of being moved from one place to the next. The main stress is caused when the roots are removed or damaged during this process. Some growers use special grow bags or liners that are used in the field. This allows the plants to benefit from being field grown but can be dug up without disturbing the root system. As pecans mature, they develop an extensive tap root that makes it difficult to transplant. So planting one that has been grown in some form of a container is beneficial in terms of a successful transplant. Have you contacted your local garden centers/nurseries? They may have some in stock or be willing to try to find one for you. In some cases, garden centers have more sources than home gardeners do for purchasing plant material. If you want to wait until the spring we would be happy to put you in our wish book list at The Plant kingdom in Louisville. Our phone number is (502)893-7333. You may also contact your county Extension agent and see if they have any local suggestions. The Nelson County office phone number is (502) 348-9204. Here are a couple other possibilities:
Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery here in Kentucky has smaller field-grown pecans. Their Web site is www.nolinnursery.com and their phone number is (270) 369-8551. TyTy Nursery in Georgia has them available bare root for shipment this fall and their Web site is www.tytyga.com. If you want to read more on growing nut trees in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id77/id77.pdf.
|I brought a jasmine plant back from South Carolina about 10 years ago. It has been growing in a pot and blooming quite well. Two years ago it started vining so I transferred it to larger pot. It is flourishing with direct sun most of the day and still vining. I would love to give starts to friends, but the cuttings will not root, even with Root Grow. I'd also would like to start another plant in case something happens to this one. Can you help? Ruth, Radcliff|
|Hello, Ruth: The most successful way to propagate jasmine is by taking semi-hardwood cuttings. This means that the wood is partially mature and from the current season’s growth. The best time to take your cutting is from now until early fall. This will have given your plant enough time to put on new growth. It is best to take your cutting in the early morning before the heat of the day arrives and the shoots are more flexible. Use a clean, sharp pair of gardening scissors or pruners and take a 4-6 inch cutting from a lateral shoot from the upper part of the plant. Avoid taking a cutting from a stem that has a bud or bloom. This is because you want the energy to go into producing roots and not concentrated on the flower. After you have taken your cutting you will want to remove all the foliage except for the top two leaves. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone such as Root-Tone that you should be able to purchase at your local garden center. Pot up your cutting in a peat-based potting medium that allows for good drainage. The cuttings will root better if given the environment of a greenhouse. This can be done quite easily since most of us do not have access to an actual greenhouse. Of course you can purchase mini greenhouses but making your own is just as easy. First choose a container no bigger than 3 inches in diameter, or tray if you are taking more than one cutting at a time, and fill it three quarters with your potting medium. Then take your cutting and place it in the center of the container approximately an inch deep. Then add a bit of soil so there is still at least three quarters of an inch left at the top of the container. Tamp the soil down so the cutting is standing upright on its own and water well. To create the heat and humidity of a greenhouse you can use a clear plastic sandwich bag and put it over the top of your container; just make sure the plastic is not touching the cutting. A stick or pencil will work just fine. If you are using a tray you can make a wire frame to go over it and then stretch clear plastic over the frame. Place in an area where the cutting will receive indirect light and keep evenly moist. Do not allow the soil to completely dry out or become sopping wet. It can take several months for the cuttings to root.
|I have a branch of a weeping cherry tree. It is in water for now. I was wondering if I could leave it in the water to sprout--will it start to grow that way? Amy, Jackson|
|Hi, Amy: Some cultivars of cherries can be propagated by taking cuttings although it is not as easy as cutting off a branch and putting it in water. Depending on the cultivar of a cutting, either soft or hard wood can be rooted if done properly. Weeping cherries and all other weeping trees are typically grafted onto the rootstock of another close relative with a more desirable, stronger root system. Grafting is a technique that is used to join two different plants together to create one. This process is used when the root system of the desired plant does not root well or does not have an adequate root system in terms of hardiness. This method of propagation can be complicated, especially for the home gardener. Creating new plants is sometimes not as easy as we would like it to be. I am sorry I do not have more encouraging advice for you, but unfortunately placing a large branch of your weeping cherry in water is not the best way to create a new tree.|
|I have a firecracker bush that has gotten huge. Can I split it safely? It is in full bloom: should I wait? Kim, Milton, FL Kim, Milton|
|Hi, Kim: Russelia equisetiformis, commonly known as a firecracker plant, is winter hardy in USDA zones 9-11 so for those of us gardening in Kentucky, this plant is considered a tropical. The reddish-coral colored, tubular flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies. In your garden, I assume it is evergreen and should only be pruned to control size or to remove broken/diseased parts. The growth habit of this plant is cascading and whimsical; it can reach 2-4 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide. If you want to divide your plant, the best time to do so is in the early spring before it puts on new growth or begins to flower. When it is time to dig up the existing plant and divide it, try to keep as much of the root system/soil intact as possible. It is always a good idea to prepare the new hole(s) before digging up any plant. The more time out of the soil the more likely the roots are to dry out. So get them back in the soil and watered as soon as possible. Make sure to move your firecracker plant to a space where it will receive full to part sun with well-drained soil. Treat it like a new planting in terms of moisture and avoid fertilizing for the first year. Apply a thin layer of mulch to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Keep in mind that it may not flower as well as they normally do since their energy will be concentrated on the roots during the first year of growing in its new home.|
|I have a large magnolia tree; it has sprouts from a downed limb, some 5 feet tall. How do I separate these from the tree to start a new one, or is this a project that has any hope of a positive outcome?
Linda, Beaver Dam|
|Hello, Linda: Propagating a magnolia from a cutting is possible and worth the effort if you are a very patient gardener. It is a long process and it does not always have a successful outcome. Rooting potential varies depending on the species as well as cultivar of each magnolia. It can take up to 12 weeks for the cuttings to root and up to seven years before you will be able to enjoy any flowers. Sometimes it is easier to leave this task up to the professional growers and purchase a more mature tree from your local garden center. That being said, if you are up for the challenge it is best to take soft to semi-hardwood cuttings. These cuttings are taken from new growth usually during the growing season, so you will need to take your cuttings soon if you do not want to wait until next summer. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruners and make your cuttings between 4-6 inches long. Remove all the foliage except for the top inch or two of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. It is best to use a mixture of half sand and half peat or perlite. Ideally you want to have your containers ready to be planted before taking your cuttings because you do not want them to dry out. After they are potted up, water them well and cover them with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. Use a bamboo stake or a stick to make sure the bag does not touch the cutting. Place in an area with filtered light, avoiding direct sun. Do not let the soil completely dry out but you never want it sopping wet either. If there is condensation on the bag you will not need to water. The cutting should root gradually and then you can plant it in a larger container or directly into the garden.
|I have a yucca tree/plant and my cat tore two pieces off the main trunk. I was wondering if I could just stick them back into dirt and they'd grow? Stacy, Iowa Falls|
|Hi, Stacy in Iowa: Really it depends on what species you are growing. Some yucca species can be propagated from leaf cuttings and others are propagated by division of rhizomes or stem cuttings. It sounds like your cat only tore off the foliage so hopefully yours is one that can be grown from leaf cuttings. The only way to find out is to try. It is important to let the foliage callus before you pot it up. This may take about a week or so but after the cut end has callused over, pot it up in a soil made specifically for cacti and succulents. Water it and place it in a warm, brightly lit room. Make sure the container has good drainage and keep the soil moderately moist. Too much water will cause rot so keep the soil on the dry side. It may take several weeks for roots to develop and several months for new growth to begin.|
|I have an asparagus fern plant. I wanted to get the dead parts outso I removed it from the pot and started separating the dead roots. I found grape-like pods and put them in water; was this the right thing to do? Gail, Philadelphia|
|Hello, Gail in Pennsylvania: There are a few different ferns commonly known as the asparagus fern, the most well known being the Asparagus densiflorus. This fern is actually a relative of the asparagus vegetable, hence its name. It is good that you divided the dead foliage from the healthy foliage. This will not only make your plant more aesthetically pleasing but it will also invigorate your fern to put on new growth. The grape-like pods you mentioned are tubers that are usually green in color and found a few inches below the soil line. They store nutrients as well as moisture for the fern and are released when needed. Underground rhizomes and tubers also serve as propagation organs by professional growers. They can be cut into pieces and planted to produce offspring. It is best to plant them directly in soil as they will probably rot if put in water for any extended amount of time.|
|I have an unusual azalea bush that I would like to propagate and would like some advice on how to do that. I only have one and would like to have others around my house that match. Teri, Mt. Vernon|
|Hello, Teri in Kentucky: When you find a plant that you really like, one is never enough. You have a few different options for propagating your azalea. They can be grown from seed but the new plant may not look exactly like the one you are growing; it could look like any variation of its parents. Azaleas can also be propagated vegetatively, both from cuttings and by layering. This is the only way to get an exact replica of what you are currently growing. Typically, evergreen azaleas root better than deciduous ones, so layering may be the way to go if your plant is deciduous. Evergreen azaleas root best when the cuttings are taken from wood that is not too soft but not hardened off either. An in-between stage is best (usually in June). When the time comes, use a clean pair of pruners and cut between 4-6 inches off the new growth. Remove all the foliage except for the top inch or 2 of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. Be sure to keep the soil moist but it should never be sopping wet. You will want to create a mini greenhouse environment. Plastic bags work great for this purpose but make sure the bag does not actually touch the cutting. You will want to keep the cuttings out of the sun. It will take several weeks for the cuttings to root. Layering is when you take a lower branch of the existing plant and bury it a couple inches into the soil. This will encourage it to grow roots and you will eventually be able to separate it from the “mother” plant. The Kentucky Extension Service has a publication on propagating plants for home gardeners. It goes into more detail about vegetative propagation. You can read it at www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho67/ho67.pdf
|i have bhut pepper seeds, the hottest pepper in the world. They said they have to be in 80 to 89 degree weather. In Illinois it doesnt that, so I'm asking if I can put them in my mom's car or would that be too hot? Also, can you tell me how to? grow them? I bought six of them for $30 so I don't want too waste them. Nathaniel, Charleston|
|Hi, Nathaniel: The seeds will need to be potted up into small containers no bigger than a couple of inches and filled with a good seeding/soil mix. You can purchase seed-starting products such as peat pots at your local garden center. Plant the seeds ¼ inch deep and keep the soil evenly moist. It could take several weeks for the peppers to germinate so be patient. Once you have them planted they will need to be in a space where they will receive bright filtered light, indoors in a south-facing window or outdoors where they will not come into contact with direct sunlight. As far as the temperature needed for germination, this can be acquired a couple of different ways. Some seed-starter kits come with a clear plastic top. If you can’t find one of these you can always substitute the clear plastic top with Saran wrap. This will create an environment that would make the air temperature warmer than it actually is. I do not think there is any need to place them in your mom’s car. I think she will be happy to hear that you will not be propagating/watering your peppers in her vehicle!
|I have several moon vines blooming. I want to save the seeds but can't find the seed pod after they bloom. Dianae, Cordova|
|Hello, Diane: Collecting seeds is a great way to share with your friends as well as an economical way to fill your own garden. There are a few different vines commonly referred to as moon vine, but the most common is the night-blooming, sweetly scented Moon vine (Ipomoea alba). This vine is a perennial in warmer climates but for those of us not living in the tropics it is considered an annual vine. The flowers usually have to be pollinated for seeds to develop. So every faded flower may not develop a seed pod but keep looking and I am sure that you will find some. Ipomoea alba has a reputation for self-seeding but if you want to be certain you have seeds for next year, you can collect the seed pods, which will appear after the pollinated flowers have faded. The pods themselves will start off green and eventually harden and turn a dark plum color. It is important to let the pods dry on the vine. This is when they are ready to harvest. Break open the pod and collect the seeds. The pod only holds a few seeds because of their size, unlike some pods that hold hundreds of seeds. Once you have harvested the seeds, allow them to dry and then place them in a bag or container out of direct light and store them for the colder months. Early next spring you can take them out and use a knife or something sharp to knick the seeds. Then place them in warm water overnight and pot them up the following day. Use a peat pot that you can directly transplant into the garden. Otherwise, wait until your frost-free date has passed and directly sow them in your garden.|
|I just bought a macho fern and am curious if I can split it. I have two urn style pots flanking my entryway. Any sugestions would be great. Tina, Ocala|
|Hi, Tina in Florida: It is possible to divide your macho fern, in fact this is the most common method of propagation for this fern. The downfall to dividing it and planting the separate ferns in your urns is that they are not going to be uniform in shape. They will eventually grow into their new home and even out, but aesthetically it may not look very pleasing until they do. But if your urns are in a space where you do not see all the way around them then this may not be an issue. To divide your fern take it out of the nursery container it was purchased in and lay it on its side. It is helpful in terms of cleanup to do this on a piece of plastic or in the garden. You can either use your spade to separate the fern or your fingers and a pair of gardening scissors/pruners. It really will depend on how root-bound the fern is. You do not have to worry about being too gentle; these are tough plants and it may take some effort to divide. Try to keep as much of the roots intact as possible but keep in mind it is inevitable that you will lose some roots and likely some foliage as well in the process. After you have divided the fern it is important to get it back into the soil as soon as possible. Make sure your urns have drainage holes and fill with a good nutrient-rich container mix. Water well and feed with your favorite well-balanced fertilizer. I assume these are not considered tropicals for you since you are gardening in Florida. Here in Kentucky we can only dream about having our tropical ferns outside this time of the year.|
|I planted a little acorn in a pot with some soil in honor of my dad. It sprouted recently and even had two little leaves. I came home yesterday and my cat had eaten it down to the nub. Is there hope for the little tree now? Nancy, Wilmette|
|Hello, Nancy in Illinois: I am sorry for the loss of your dad and for your acorn seedling. The answer to your question really depends on how far back your cat nibbled. The first leaves that emerged are called the cotyledons. These would have eventually fallen off anyway, but if the cat ate below them into the meristem, which is part of the plant tissue where active growth occurs, then there is no hope for your acorn seedling. If new growth were going to happen, you would notice it within a week or so. Unfortunately I cannot give you a yes or no answer. It will be a waiting game at this point. The good news is that you can still collect acorns this time of year and start a new plant out of reach from your cat.|
|I planted some bare root roses about a month ago; some of them are leafing but the other ones are doing nothing. The canes are still green but there is no growth at all. What can I do to encourage them to leaf? Martha, Joshua Tree|
|Hello, Martha: It sounds like your roses are right on track. It can take up to six weeks for a bare root rose to put on any foliage. As you have found out, some will leaf out before others but this does not mean the canes without foliage will not be healthy plants in the long run, it is just that they are a bit slower and still concentrating their energy on the roots and getting settled in the containers. If the canes are still green just give them more time. It the canes were brown and brittle it would be another story, but assuming you purchased the bare root roses from a reputable grower and you followed proper planting instructions, including soaking the roots before planting, they should be fine. Continue to keep the soil/roots evenly moist. Do not allow them to completely dry out or to be sopping wet. Keep the containers in a shaded space with bright filtered light. For the roses that have put on growth you can gradually start moving them to a sunnier location. Do not take them from where they are now to a space where they will receive six hours of sun, but a couple hours is fine, and eventually they will need a minimum of six hours of sun. You can fertilize these roses with a well-balanced granular food but avoid fertilizing the roses without foliage. Not to worry, you know what you are doing!|
|I planted zinnas in the ground. They have come up but need to be thinned. I transplanted about six plants but they immediately wilted. Is this normal or a bad thing? How should I thin and transplant to ensure success? Sondra, Almo|
|Hello, Sondra: Growing from seed can be very rewarding but also frustrating when things do not work out as planned. Ideally, we do not want to see any wilting when we thin and transplant our seedlings. The best time to thin is shortly after they have germinated and before they become tall or leggy. Zinnias in particular are known for being difficult to transplant. For this reason you were smart to directly sow them outdoors after the frost-free date. In the future when you plant seeds outdoors, give them enough space so that you do not have to thin them. The spacing will depend on the variety that you are growing, so refer to the seed packet. For now choose the smallest seedlings and gently remove them from the soil, being careful not to damage the roots. Immediately re-plant them and water them in. They should be planted at the same depth that they are currently. A thin layer of mulch will help protect the roots and help the soil retain moisture. If they have become leggy you can pinch them back to the first true leaves so there is less foliage to support and the energy can be concentrated on root development. As with all seedlings it is likely that a few will not survive, so do not be too hard on yourself and enjoy your blooms!|
|I was planting a dwarf nandina. The top broke off, leaving a stub. Will the plant with the stubb grow again? If I place what broke off in the soil, will it root? Marla, Aledo|
|Hi, Marla in Texas: I am not sure if you are asking if the stub with the roots attached will put on new growth or if you can start a new plant from the part that broke off, so let’s start with the stub. If there is no foliage left then chances are slim that it will put on new growth. If it does, it will take years before it looks like the plant you purchased. If you have a nonprominent space in the garden you might just plant it and see what happens. As for starting a new plant from the piece that broke off, it may be possible to propagate vegetatively if the piece is still viable. This is not the best time of year to take cuttings but since you live in a warmer climate you may have better luck. If you want to try to take a cutting to see if it will root, you will want to do this as soon as possible. You will want to make your cutting between 4-6 inches long. Remove all the foliage except for the top inch or 2 of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. It is best to use a mixture of half sand and half peat or perlite. After you plant it, water it well and keep the soil consistently moist. The cutting should root gradually and then you can plant it in a larger container or directly into the garden.|
|I'm in central Florida. I know you will think I'm nuts but I have been on this computer for three hours to try and find an answer to this question. I took my dogs for a walk very early this morning and I saw a clump of a bamboo trees, and I would like to grow some. Is it possible to cut a stalk and smother it in rooting hormone and start a new one? Or is this one of those that have to be uprooted? Kathi, Edgewater|
|Hello, Kathi in Florida: There are several species of bamboo and some are considered invasive, so keep this in mind before adding it to your garden. The most reliable way to propagate bamboo is through division. You will have to use a spade and dig up a chunk of the canes as well as the underground rhizomes. Bamboo can form a thick underground mat so it may be difficult to get your spade in the ground, but you will have a better chance of starting a new plant this way as opposed to taking a cutting and dipping it in rooting hormone. The best time to do this is early spring before the new growth begins. It is important to not damage the roots when you dig up the bamboo. You want to keep as many of the roots attached as possible. This will help reduce transplant shock. Treat the bamboo as a new planting and make sure it has enough moisture throughout the hot summer months. If you want to try taking a cutting from the bamboo and rooting it, take your pruners and cut a 4-6 inch piece off the new growth. Remove all the foliage except for the top leaves and dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Pot the cutting up in a small container filled with a well-drained potting soil. The container should be no larger than 4 inches. Keep the cutting out of direct sun and do not allow it to completely dry out. It should root in four to six weeks. After it has rooted you can bump it up to a larger container so it can develop more roots and then plant it in the garden. If this bamboo is in someone else’s garden you should ask permission before you attempt to propagate.|
|I'm in the Pacific Northwest. A sedum I planted at the end of June '09 received some damage from wind and rain last night. What is the best way to start new plants from the broken stems? It's a beautiful plant, it was just starting to bloom. Carolyn, McMinnville|
|Hi, Carolyn: Gardening in the Pacific Northwest is a territory I have not gotten my chance at yet, but if sedums grow in your garden the way they do in any sunny, well-drained garden in Kentucky, they will be very easy to propagate. In fact, they are probably the easiest plant to propagate. With very little effort you can have new plants in no time. Simply take the pieces that have already broken off, or take a few new cuttings from new growth that are a couple of inches long, and replant them either in the garden or in a small container. If you decide to pot them up in a container, make sure it has a drainage hole and fill it with a loose soil specifically for cacti and succulents. I have literally taken broken pieces of a lower growing sedum ‘Angelina’ and laid them in the garden. I did not plant them, I just placed them on top of the soil and they are now a beautiful mass of chartreuse green. In general, sedums and other hardy succulents are very low maintenance. They need to be watered as they are becoming established, but as long as they are planted in a space where they will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sun and the soil allows for good drainage, they will be very happy plants. As the taller sedums produce flowers they can become top-heavy, and I am sure this is why they were damaged during the wind/rain storm but they will certainly recover.|
|I'm so upset: my moonflower seeds were exposed after planting them. The wind knocked over my pots and some of the seeds came up out of the dirt. They were just starting to germinate, so I replanted them. Will they die from exposure after planting them? Diane, Staten Island|
|Hello, Diane: Growing from seed can be very rewarding. In nature, seeds are dispersed by wind so do not worry about this damaging your seeds. As long as they are back in the soil and receive enough light and moisture they should be fine. Moonflower seeds germinate quickly and will put on new growth in no time. It does not matter if you grow them in a container or directly in the soil--as long as they are putting on growth and have a good root system they should be fine. You can transplant the ones in the containers into the soil once they have rooted out in the pot. Gently take them out of the container and plant them just as deep in the soil. Moonflowers are a tropical vine that are easy to grow and are not too picky about soil conditions. They are fast growers that produce large white, scented blooms that open during the evening hours. Make sure your new plants are receiving enough moisture and are exposed to full or part sun. Oh yes, and that they have something to climb on!|
|My braided hibiscus tree has two suckers growing very fast at the base of the tree. Can I somehow grow these separately, try to braid them in, or do I just have to cut them off? Sylvia, Marble Falls, TX Sylvia, Marble Falls|
|Hi Sylvia: Hibiscus that are braided are trained this way by the grower. To keep the tree-form appearance, it is best to remove the new growth. If you want to propagate your hibiscus you can take a 3-4 inch cutting from this new growth, dip it in rooting hormone, and pot it up in a quality potting soil. Keep the cuttings in a bright space but avoid direct sun. The soil should remain moderately moist until roots develop, which will take six to eight weeks. You may only need 3-4 inches for propagation purposes, but you will want to remove the new growth all the way down to the soil line. Your hibiscus will likely continue to put on new growth like this, so it will require a bit of maintenance. You can continue to propagate or not, but either way removing this new growth will help the plant concentrate its energy on producing flowers instead of woody growth. Mature plants are prolific bloomers, and even though their blooms only last for a day they are never in short supply. As long as they are given a minimum of six hours of direct sun and proper nutrients, they will provide blooms all season long.
|My grandmother and I are trying to transplant the limbs of a nonbearing mulberry, and we were wondering if that is possible to do, or are we just planting a dead limb? Danielle, Pyote|
|Hello, Danielle in Texas: Morus alba, or the common mulberry, can be propagated by seed, tissue culture, and cuttings. Since you are growing a fruitless cultivar, collecting seed is not an option so taking a cutting is the way to go about producing a new plant. If you have planted a large limb then do not get your hopes up. Cuttings are typically only a few inches long, and for best results are dipped into a rooting hormone before planted. There are softwood cuttings that are taken from new growth (June-July) and hardwood cuttings taken from older, woodier growth (fall-early winter). The cuttings should be taken from the tips of the branches where the new growth has formed. They should be 4-6 inches long. You will want to remove all the foliage except for the top inch or 2 of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. It is best to use a mixture of half sand and half peat or perlite. You will want to have your containers ready to be planted before taking your cuttings because you do not want them to dry out. After they are potted up, water them well and cover them with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. Use a bamboo stake or a stick to make sure the bag does not touch the cutting. Place in an area with filtered light, avoiding direct sun. Do not let the soil completely dry out but you never want it sopping wet either. If there is condensation on the bag you will not need to water. The cutting should root gradually and then you can plant it in a larger container or directly into the garden.
|My husband has become interested in the large "basket variety" gourds. After finding a Web site (and losing it) I have had no luck finding him seeds for the kinds he wants. We have some long-neck ones growing but they are too young for harvesting this year. He wants to make birdhouses. I would be more interested in the kind to make bowls from. How do we find the seeds for these? Olivia, Strunk|
|Hello, Olivia: I believe what you are looking for is Lagenaria siceraria, commonly known as bottle or birdhouse gourds. Varieties of Lagenaria are grown specifically for containers. These annual seeds can be planted from March through May. They usually take 12-21 days to germinate and between 120-150 days to harvest, so the sooner you can get them in the ground the sooner you can harvest them. Starting the seeds indoors is a great way to get a jump start on the growing season. Make sure you have plenty of space in the garden for these vigorous vines. As far as where you can find these seeds, Renee’s Garden is a very reliable source and they offer a crafters’ gourd seed blend. This mixture should satisfy both you and your husband. You can purchase these seeds online by visiting their Web site at www.reneesgarden.com
or you can ask your local garden centers to see if they carry Renee’s seeds.|
|The seed pods on my night blooming jasmine have gotten knocked off; can I dry them out and plant them? David, Cuyahoga Falls|
|Hi, David in Ohio: As gardeners we all look for plants that give us something unique to admire. The night blooming jasmine, also known as jessamine or Cestrum nocturnum, is a wonderfully fragrant plant that exudes a sweet aroma as soon as the sun goes down. It is native to tropical America and the West Indies so this makes it a tropical for those of us not gardening in zones 8-11. Although we cannot enjoy the sweet fragrance all year long we can propagate our plants by saving the seeds or taking stem cuttings before the first frost. For maximum viability we want to make sure they have had sufficient time to dry on the plant before we harvest and collect them. If the seeds have not had time to mature on the plant before they are harvested they will not be worth planting. You mentioned that your seeds were still white and this is an indication that they are not completely dried. You can try drying them in a warm, well-ventilated space where they will not be in contact with any moisture or direct sunlight. You may not have a huge success rate but it is certainly worth the try. Depending on the temperature and humidity that the seeds are subject to it may take them a couple of weeks for them to completely dry. Hopefully they have not molded and if they have then it is not worth the effort of trying to dry them. You might want to purchase a packet of seeds just in case yours do not germinate; that way you will not have to wonder if you are going to be able to enjoy this jasmine next growing season or not. Gardening is not an exact science and sometimes experimenting is well worth the effort and sometimes we learn from our mistakes.|
|There is a weeping mulberry tree at my work and I would like to find out how to take a piece of it and grow one of my own. Can you help? Is it easy? Leigh, Yarmouth|
|Hello, Leigh: A weeping mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pedula’) is a smaller tree that can add a nice structure/focal point to the garden. Different plants are propagated by different methods depending on characteristics of the plant and previous success rates had by the growers. The most common and successful method of propagation for a weeping mulberry is done by taking cuttings. There are softwood cuttings that are taken from new growth (June-July) and hardwood cuttings taken from older, woodier growth (fall-early winter). At this point I think you would be fine if you wanted to take a softwood cutting but you could also wait a couple months, let the growth harden off, and then take a hardwood cutting. Either way, make your cuttings between 4-6 inches long. The cuttings should be taken from the tips of the branches where the new growth has formed. Remove all the foliage except for the top inch or 2 of the cutting. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. It is best to use a mixture of half sand and half peat or perlite. You will want to have your containers ready to be planted before taking your cuttings because you do not want them to dry out. After they are potted up, water them well and cover them with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. Use a bamboo stake or a stick to make sure the bag does not touch the cutting. Place in an area with filtered light, avoiding direct sun. Do not let the soil completely dry out but you never want it sopping wet either. If there is condensation on the bag you will not need to water. The cutting should root gradually and then you can plant it in a larger container or directly into the garden.|
|What do I have to do to get persimmon seeds to grow? I have frozen them for three months to no avail; I pick up seeds from mature trees in Breckenridge County in the fall and plant them but they do not grow. James, Louisville|
|Hello, James: I apologize for the delayed response. Some trees are easier to propagate than others. The common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is among the more difficult ones. There are a few different species of persimmon trees and even more cultivars, but for this purpose we will assume you are referring to the common persimmon, which is what we typically find growing here in Kentucky. When persimmons are grown from seed, the fruit of one tree can taste different than that of another tree, which is why growers have developed cultivars that have a consistent flavor as well as growth habit and disease/insect resistance. These cultivars are grafted onto seedling rootstock of the common persimmon. In some cases they are grown from cuttings, and in even fewer cases they are field-grown, but they do not transplant well, so for these reasons persimmon trees are usually a bit more expensive to purchase. All this being said, when grown from seed they can lose their viability when exposed to extreme temperatures or become too dry. Seeds should be collected from September through November after they ripen. After the seed is separated from the pulp, they should be kept in moist sand or peat for 60 to 90 days at around 40 degrees F. This cold stratification is required for germination. I would suspect that the seeds you have collected in the past may have been exposed to extreme cold temperatures. If you have already collected seeds, you can plant a few of them in the ground and then put a few of them in the moist sand in a sealed container and keep them in the refrigerator for 60 to 90 days. Chances are you will have seedlings next spring.|
|What exactly is an heirloom seed? If you save the seeds of an heirloom plant that produced fruit and planted them another season, will they produce fruit again? How do these seeds differ from genetically engineered seeds? What are advantages and disadvantages of both? Irene, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Irene in Kentucky: The definition of an heirloom crop is not agreed upon by all gardeners, but most have the same opinion that to be considered an heirloom variety it has to be 50 years old, usually local or regional varieties passed down from one generation of gardeners to the next or shared with friends, and they must be open-pollinated. This means that if you grow a specific heirloom variety and save seeds for next year's crop, these seeds will produce the same variety or come true from seed. This is not true with genetically modified varieties. These hybrids are a cross between two separate varieties (parents) and when the seed is harvested, saved, and planted the following year it may not germinate because it is sterile or it will have reverted back to one of its parents. Plant breeders genetically modify seeds to give them specific characteristics that make them disease-resistant, give them a more uniform shape, and increase productivity but this is all done by sacrificing the taste. Heirlooms just taste better; even if your heirloom tomato has a funky shape, which most of them will, they hands-down always taste better. If given the right growing conditions, disease should not be a problem. For commercial growers it is less maintenance on their part to grow genetically altered options, but for the home gardener heirlooms are the way to go.|
|What is the pod that forms on some rhubarb plants? Is it a seed sack that can be planted for a new rhubarb crop? Judi, Brighton|
|Hi, Judy: Rhubarb is a long-lived, cool-season perennial. Yes, what you are referring to sounds like a flowering seed head. These seed pods are commonly found on certain varieties of rhubarb, especially the ornamental ones. These flowering seed stalks are typically found among older, mature plants as well as when they become overcrowded or in need of nutrients. It is possible to propagate rhubarb from seed but it will not come true to seed, meaning it will have different characteristics from the plant that you are currently growing. This can be a good or a bad thing and for this reason rhubarb is typically propagated by division, but you don’t know until you try. If you want to try to grow from seed, collect the seeds, soak them overnight in water, and then pot them up into small peat pots or any small container with good drainage. Fill the container with a well-drained potting soil and keep them relatively moist, not sopping wet but do not allow the soil to completely dry out either. Place the seeds in a bright space with good filtered light. They should germinate in seven to 10 days. As the plants grow you can transplant them into a larger container, being careful not to damage the roots. When the plants are large enough to put in the garden, you will want to gradually work them into the full sun so the foliage does not burn. Treat them as you would any new planting. You should be able to harvest in two growing seasons. If you are growing rhubarb as a vegetable and not an ornamental plant, the seed stalks should be removed as soon as you notice them because they will take energy away from producing the edible stalks (petioles). Allowing the rhubarb to flower will reduce the vigor of the plant.|
|What poppies are best to grow from seed in my zone and where can I get them? Phyllis, Rockford|
|Hi, Phyllis: According to the USDA hardiness zone map you are gardening in zone 4b-5a. The most common perennial poppy you could start from seed is the Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale). All poppies grow best in cooler climates. They will likely be much happier growing in your garden than in mine, which is zone 6b-7a. They tend to be short-lived perennials in Southern gardens but they will generally reseed from year to year. Although they may not come true to seed, they still provide blooms each spring. There are many cultivars of the Oriental poppy blooming in shades of red and pink. They should be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. These seeds should not be too hard to find. It is always best to purchase high-quality seeds from a reputable source. Check with your local garden centers or if you have any specialty seed stores they would be a good one to check with. There are many catalogs you could mail order these seeds from as well.|
|When is the best time to start tomato plants from seed, so they'll be ready to set out Derby week? Larry, Shepherdsville|
|Hello, Larry: Starting tomato seed indoors is a great way to get a head start on enjoying your crop. The average frost-free date for our area is May 10. Ideally it is best to wait a couple of weeks after this date has passed to set out tomatoes. Of course, this is just an average so watch the weather and if the nighttime temperatures are consistently in the 50s it is safe to transplant the seedlings into the garden. You do not want to start your tomato seeds indoors any earlier than six to eight weeks before the frost-free date, so the third week in March would be the earliest opportunity to plant your seeds. Potting up your seeds the first week of April will ensure that you are able to transplant them outdoors two weeks after our frost-free date has passed. When the time arrives, to start the seeds choose a container that has sufficient drainage holes and fill with a peat/perlite/vermiculite potting soil. Pro-Mix makes a good seed starting mix. The seeds should be planted 1/4 inch deep and 1-1/2 inches apart. Water well and keep the soil consistently moist. It should never be sopping wet since this can rot the seeds but do not allow the soil to completely dry out either. The seeds should germinate within five to 10 days. Once the seeds have germinated, make sure to place them in a south-facing window or use fluorescent bulbs to provide adequate light. Ideally the indoor temperature should be no lower than 70 degrees F. As the seedlings grow and the roots develop, they will eventually need to be transplanted into larger containers. Choose the healthiest seedlings and dispose of those that are not going to make it. When the time comes to transplant them into the garden, it is best to gradually acclimate them to this environment. Place the containers in a dappled light situation for the first couple of days and move them slowly into the full sun where they should be planted. This will reduce transplant shock and improve chances of a healthy tomato plant.|
|When it the best time to plant seeds? I have hyacinth bean seeds and hollyhock seeds. Should I start in pots or in the ground? Darlene, Lexington|
|Hi, Darlene: Hyacinth bean vine (Dolichos lablab) is an annual vine for those of us gardening in Kentucky. It has purple/white flowers with velvety purple bean pods. It is a very fun vine to have in the summer garden. It can climb up to 15’ in one season so make sure you have a fence or trellis for it to grow on. You can plant these seeds outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. You will be safe to plant outdoors the second week of May. If you want to get a jump start on your vines, you can start your seeds indoors now. Soak your seeds in water overnight and then pot them up in a peat-based potting soil. Put them in a space with bright light and keep the soil evenly moist. Collect your seeds each fall so you can enjoy your vine year after year. Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) should also be planted outdoors after the frost-free date has passed. They are biennials, which means they will bloom the second growing season. This year it will concentrate all its energy on producing foliage and establishing a strong root system. You can also start these seed indoors. They should be planted 1/4-1/2 inch deep and 4-6 inches apart. They should germinate in two weeks and will need to be thinned after they are 3-4 inches tall. Hyacinth and hollyhocks want to be planted in full to part sun.
|When should you sow Japanese lanterns seeds and how deep should they be sown? Terri, Elizabethtown|
|Hello, Terri in Kentucky: There are several species of Physalis, commonly known as Chinese or Japanese lanterns. All belong to the nightshade family but some of these species are annuals and others are perennials here in Kentucky. The annuals have a taproot and the perennials form a thick underground mat known as rhizomes. The perennials can be aggressive and considered weedy. Do you know which species you have? If you purchased them in a seed packet, it will tell you the species. P. alkekengi, P. heterophylla, P. longifolia, and P. virginiana are all perennials here in Kentucky. Annual species include P. angulate, P. grisea, P. pubescens, and P. philadelphica. As for planting seed, you can start them indoors now and transplant the starts into the garden in May, or you can wait until the frost-free date for our area passes, usually around May 10, and directly sow them outdoors. Sow them ¼ of an inch deep and make sure the soil remains consistently moist. Too much water can rot the seeds and too little will prevent them from germinating. Depending on species and growing conditions, they should germinate in 14-30 days. Indoors they should receive as much light as possible, and if you directly sow them in the garden later this spring they should be planted in a sunny location. The colorful lanterns form around a single berry after the flower has been pollinated. They are great for cut or dried arrangements.|
|Will pods from a formosa tree produce a new plant? Do they need to be tied and buried? What time of the year do you plant them? E.R., Girard|
|Hello, E.R. in Illinois: Mimosa trees (Albizia julibrissin), also commonly known as formosa or silk trees, are medium growing deciduous trees. The fern-like foliage and fragrant flower of the mimosa give it a tropical feel. Unfortunately, these trees are not native and associated with many disease and insect problems. As for propagating a mimosa, they can be propagated by softwood cuttings as well as by seed. You can collect the seed pods after they have dried on the tree and then directly sow them in the fall. This fast growing tree has an invasive habit and if you already have one, then chances are you will have more next year because they are known to self-seed. If you are considering this for your home landscape, there are better options for a medium growing flowering tree, such as dogwoods, serviceberries, fringe tree, and redbuds. These are all disease-resistant and less aggressive options.