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Why Did My Plant Die?

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Archive
Here's the Vast and Cavernous Archive of Enquiry that the Doyenne has already answered. Good clean fun for the whole family.

This week's questions:

  • Why Won't My Chaste Tree Bloom?
  • Orchid Care
  • The Wildest of Irish Yews
  • Columbines From Seed
  • Silvermound Rots
  • Hakonechloa and Hydrangea
  • Sickly Lavender
  • Old Failing Dogwood

    Why Won't My Chaste Tree Bloom?

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in south central N.C. I collected Vitex agnus-castus from seed six years ago. One plant has made it, it is at least 5 ft. tall, set flower buds, but they have not bloomed. Should I move it?

    Thank you,
    Velta

    Velta,
    Since you grew this vitex from seed, I would give it one more year in its location to see if it blooms. Most flowering shrubs grown from seed don't really hit their blooming stride until they are 5-7 years old. But... Vitex likes well drained soil and at least six hours of full sun each day to bloom. If it isn't getting that, you might consider moving it to a sunnier spot.

    KL

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    *****

    Orchid Care

    Dear Doyenne,
    I was given a 'Uniwai Supreme' orchid about 2 months ago. I have followed the directions on the label and the last flower fell off this past weekend. I haven't fertilized it yet. Do you have any suggestions for the right fertilizer and what steps I should follow to bring back the flowers?

    Thank you,
    Gina

    Gina,
    You should be able to find fertilizer specifically for orchids at any garden center. Use it every time you water (ideally, once a week), but use half of what the manufacturer recommends. Orchids are all about continuity, so stick to one regime. Your plant may bloom again in as little as six months or as long as a year.

    Enjoy, KL

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    The Wildest of Irish Yews

    Dear Doyenne,
    I garden in the moist and fickle Willamette Valley (Oregon). I planted an Irish Yew as a columnar contrast to my wild and untidy (in a good way) looking perennial beds. The problem is that this particular Irish individual has taken on the character of his sloppy neighbors. He's throwing limbs out all over the place. About three years ago a horticultural-minded friend suggested I start hacking off any unwanted width, and the height would come, but apparently there is no central leader. Did I get an incorrectly labelled Taxus or just a black sheep?

    Thanks,
    Martha (an Irish wildling myself)

    Martha,
    When you said you had a wild Irish yew, you weren't kidding. Sounds like you got the straight species (the wild one) instead of the fastigiate (upright or columnar) form you were expecting. The good news is that yews are extremely forgiving of pruning, which is why they are a favorite subject of topiary and hedges. The best time to prune your wild Irish yew is in late winter or early spring. Of course your other option is to get another plant, this one with a money back guaranteed pedigree.

    All the best, KL

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    Columbines From Seed

    Dear Doyenne,
    A friend gave me a bunch of tiny columbine seeds (they'll have blue blossoms but I don't know their latin name, sorry). I planted 266 of them in those tiny seed trays I got from my nursery friend. They are coming up and are adorable! I live in zone 5 and am wondering if they will survive the winter if I plant them as little seedlings in my garden in the fall or should I have just thrown them in the ground like "real nature?" How do I keep them alive this winter?

    Thanks,
    Donna

    Donna,

    You're good to go. Columbines are very hardy; even very little babies are adapted to survive severe cold. You might plant them out soon, though, so they can get established before winter.

    Best, KL

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    Silvermound Rots

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in the Spokane, WA area. Have you heard of silver mound? I don't know the scientific name but it is a low growing, greenish-silver mounding beautiful little perennial. I had planted 15 plants about two years ago and this spring only four came back. Any ideas why?

    Thanks
    Robin

    Robin,
    Artemesia 'Silvermound' is a great perennial. However, it can be rather short lived (2-4 years is typical). It's a plant that prefers very well drained soil, and is often prone to rot if watered regularly. The rot may not actually kill the plant until it is faced with the added insult of freezing in the winter. My advice: treat 'Silvermound' as a temporary resident in your garden and be prepared to replace it every now and again. Ultimately, the less care you give it, the longer it will survive.

    Best of luck, KL

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    Hakonechloa and Hydrangea

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in Rochester Hills, Michigan (NE Suburb of Detroit). I planted a climbing hydrangea and Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' in my backyard along a fence this past June. I thoroughly amended the soil before planting. Although my yard faces north, the location in question receives full sun between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. in summer. Is this location too sunny for my plant selections?

    The hakonechloa leaves are yellow and browning somewhat (I do water), and the hydrangea has been attacked by some leaf-eating bug (nursery suspects some type of beetle).

    Thanks,
    Jodee

    Jodee,
    Sounds like the afternoon sun is a bit much for your treasures. Several options here:

    1. Leave both of the plants where they are since they're still getting used to their locations and you've had a very hot summer to boot. Not a nice first year! Keep watering and let them settle in, then let's see how they do next year.

    2. If it's Japanese beetles that are eating your hydrangea, you can usually hand pick them off at night. However, do know they will be attracted to a stressed plant.

    3. If you have to move the plants and you don't have a location picked out, you can certainly move them to containers. If they are really suffering you can do it at anytime, but make sure you NEVER let them dry out (a classic case of do as I say, not as I do...). If you haven't found a place to put them by autumn, keep the pots in a very protected place.

    4. Prepare a more appropriate spot, e.g., an open north exposure that receives no direct sun at all, and move them there in early fall or early spring.

    Enjoy, KL

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    Sickly Lavender

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in the Washington, DC area and have planted lavender and rosemary together on hillsides in full and partial sun. The rosemary is thriving. The lavender -- not so good. This is the checklist of things I've considered: Too much sun? Wet feet? Bad soil? Should I put lime down?

    Thanks,
    K

    K,
    Lavender is not too picky about soil pH, so I doubt that is an issue. It's possible that the lavender has not yet rooted out into the surrounding soil. Rosemary is much quicker to establish. If your lavender fails entirely, you might try double digging an area around where you are going to replant it. Then purchase plants in 4" pots. Small lavenders will root into the disturbed soil and establish themselves much more quickly.

    Best of luck, KL

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    Old Failing Dogwood

    Dear Doyenne,
    We have a very old red/deep pink dogwood (about 95 years old!) that grows at the southwest corner of our carriage house in Rochester, NY. It gets some morning and afternoon sun but a larger tree blocks most other sunlight. For the last 10 years some of the bark is being shed and the leaves even now are beginning to turn a lighter shade of green in between the veins. Is this normal for dogwoods? Any suggestions or should I give it up?

    Cheers,
    Dianne

    Dianne,
    There are all kinds of things that could be contributing to your dogwood's decline, and old age is undoubtedly one of them. Dogwoods can live for many decades, though in optimal conditions. It's also possible that the increased shading is a problem. A good dose of nitrogen fertilizer in late fall might be advisable (only N; no PK). Also, iron chelate might help the interveinal chlorosis. Finally, bark shedding could indicate disease. You might want to call in an arborist since the tree sounds astonishing, and worth the time and money.

    Best, KL

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