Monday, October 29, 2007

Rubber tree pruning

Anne: I live in Ft Myers FL and I have planted a rubber tree plant outside our house about 3 years ago. It has grown into quite a beautiful tree. I need to prune it back as it is about 7 ft tall and probably 10 ft in diameter. Can you advise the best way and can I take the cuttings and plant them in another area of the yard? Thank you.

Anne's response:

The best time to cut a rubber tree back is when it is not actively growing – usually January and February. Do not cut back to leave a bare stem as the plant should have some foliage on a stem for new growth. The tip ends of limbs may be rooted in sand. You will need a piece at least 6 inches long with two leaf nodes on the stem. The leaf at the tip of the stem should still be a leaf bud, not an opened leaf. You may leave one opened leaf on the stem you root but cut the leaf back to one/half its length. Keep the cutting in a ligh area but not in direct sun. It will take at least 6 weeks for rooting to occur.

Crytomeria browning

Hello Anne- I have (had) a wonderful row of 15 foot tall cytomeria (I'm pretty sure) in our backyard as a privacy wall. We noticed recently that they are turning brown from the bottom up about halfway up the tree. Nearly all of them are affected in this way. Not sure if it is the drought, as no sprinklers hit them and they get water only by the rain. Or possibly some type of mite or fungus. I NEED to save these, as it will be nearly impossible to replace them. Should I hand water them like crazy? HELP!!! Beth P.

Anne's response:

Cryptomeria does have problems with heat and drought. In full afternoon sun it will brown out its lower limbs in dry weather. It needs to be planted in humus rich soil where it gets protection from direct afternoon sun. If this is the first year you have had problems with the plants it may recover over the winter. Be sure the plant is well-mulched and do not prune the brown limbs until it starts to put on new growth. You may want to take a sample of the plant to a good nursery to see if you are correct in your identification of the plant.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Holes and tunnels

Hi Anne, I live in Raleigh, and I am having a terrible time. My yard is being over run by something, I have a cluster of about 6 holes in my yard about 3-4" diameter, and there deep, I try to fill them in, but they just come back, plus they have these shallow tunnels throughout the whole yard, its hard to work and play in the yard when you fill your going to sprain your ankle falling in one of these. What can I do, are we have squirrels in the yard, I have never seen any rabbits or moles, but I have seen a chip munk here and again, what can I do, my yard in pitiful.

Thanks, John

Anne's response:

Rabbits and chipmunks would make the types of holes you describe. “Havaheart” Traps will work to catch them and you can use a Neighborhood location system of providing them with another home. It is suggested that you relocate them to an area at least 4 miles away from your home.

Peace lilly

Hi Anne,

I planted a peace lily out side for the summer. It did not die, but had many holes from slugs likely. I now want to take it in. Can I overwinter in cooler like I do other lillies or should I simply plant it and look after it better than I did this summer - darn slugs!!!


Anne's response:

The spathaphyllum or Peace Lily is usually considered a houseplant.

There are beetles, other insects and slugs that will form holes in the leaves. To keep it in the house this winter you may want to repot it to get rid of any insects in the soil. Keep it in an area with good light and a temperature of at least 55F. Water once a week or when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Blueberry bushes

Dear Anne,

I have three to four blueberry bushes in my yard in Matthews NC. I have
just realized that they are all dead! One side of one is still green but
is being taken over by all the dead leaves. I have never seen it this

Usually it turns colors and then the leaves fall, I think. I do not
recall it ever being dead. What do I do now? Prune it? Dig it up? Will
it come back in the spring?

Two of the bushes are over 10 feet tall and needs to be cut back either
way! Any information would be greatly appreciated!

Erin G.
Matthews, NC

Anne's response:

The heat and drought of the summer have been hard on blueberries and azaleas. If the plants were not heavily mulched the roots may have dried to the point that the plants are permanently damaged. If the plants were mulched and the plants were generally healthy until late August they may have gone into early dormancy. I would not do anything until the time they break dormancy in the spring. If stems of the plants are really dead you should know it by April and you can prune or remove as needed.

You do need to prune the very tall plants. I prune my own by removing the oldest and tallest trunks at ground level so the plant will produce new growth from the roots.

Brown Lelands

Good morning-

What is happening to the lelands? Is it the drought that is making them turn brown or is it a disease? My neighbor's started getting brown areas and then it all just went brown all over.

Needless to say that is worrisome if it is a disease that could spread to ours. We have a wonderful privacy screen with very large lelands and the possibility of losing them is heartbreaking. We ran soaker hoses along our line but now that even soakers are banned the concern has doubled. The other question is can you trim lelands? Some of ours are encroaching on our porch and the walkway between porch and leland is shrinking!

Love the blog - love the advice!

Anne's response:

As long as you do not trim the Leyland Cypress back to bare wood it is fine. It is not a plant that will put out new green needles on a bare branch. There are several causes of gradual browning and death of the plant. Plants watered with pond water often develop Phytoptera root root just as camellias and azaleas do. There are some dieback diseases that you can diagnose by looking for "oozing" cankers or sores on the bark of the tree. There are also mites that can cause severe damage, especially in hot dry weather. The county cooperative extension offices can usually provide information on what is causing problems in specific counties.

Brown azaleas, should I cut them down?

Due to the drought and not watering, I think I've lost my azaleas on the north side of my house. Should I just cut them down and start over. They were quite large and over eight year old bushes. There is one bush that had some green left but it looks half dead. Will they come back?

Anne's response:

Some of our brown azaleas will eventually recover by putting out new growth from the roots. If the area just under the bark of a branch is still green that branch may recover and leaf out. If the branch has died it Is best to prune it out as quickly as possible. If the plants do not leaf out in the spring you could try severe pruning in late April to force new growth from the roots.

Poncirus trifoliata

Hello Ann, I enjoy watching your show. I am interested in purchasing the poncirus trifoliata. Where would I find this plant? Thank you, Cecelia G.

Anne's response:

It is easier to find the plant at the spring plant sales of some of the plant societies than at commercial nurseries in this area. Seeds are available in some of the specialty seed catalogs and web site seed exchanges.

Kwanzan cherry trees

Anne, my kwanzan cherry trees, planted 3 years ago, seem to be dying. The limbs pop right off, the leaves that are left are yellow, brown and falling off the tree. Someone told me to have the soil tested before spraying with a fungicide. They recommended calling the local agriculture department. Could this be a cherry canker and can my trees be saved? -Beth

Anne's response:

Excessively dry weather can produce the symptoms you describe. You can usually spot a canker disease by looking for splits and shrunken areas in the bark of the plant. Using a certified arborist from one of the reputable tree services such as Bartlett Tree Co. to look at the plant is the best way to get a correct diagnosis.

Boxwood and the drought

Anne, Several of my boxwoods have a good bit of dead leaves. Should I cut the dead part off? Thanks, Kay

Anne's response:

If it is just the leaves that are at the base of stems there is no need to prune because that is the oldest growth on the plant. Plants are losing more leaves than usual in the heat and drought this summer. If entire branches are brown remove the branch to an adjoining stem.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boxwood and the drought

Anne, Several of my boxwoods have a good bit of dead leaves. Should I cut the dead part off?


Anne's response:

If it is just the leaves that are at the base of stems there is no need to prune because that is the oldest growth on the plant. Plants are losing more leaves than usual in the heat and drought this summer. If entire branches are brown remove the branch to an adjoining stem.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Canna Lillies

I planted Canna Lillies 2 years ago in my garden to fill in behind some daylilies, and both years the only thing that has come up are the leaves. I have not had any flowers. What is wrong with these lillies? - Jennifer B.

Anne's response:

They may be young plants that are not yet mature enough to bloom. They could be receiving too much fertilizer or at least fertilizer with too high a nitrogen content. If the daylilies are blooming the cannas should have enough sun.

Plant info

Dear Anne, I enjoy your segments on TV, although I wish they were longer. I have a question about a plant, the cockscomb, which is the celosia cristata. My pastor has some in his yard and he cut off the top of one and told me to dry it and the seeds would fall out, which they are doing? My question: is this plant a perennial or an annual? Will it self sow and return? Any information you can give would be appreciated. Susan S., Clover, SC

Anne's response:

The plant is an annual so you need to keep the seeds in a dry place until you are ready to sow them in the spring. The seeds must be planted each year because the cold temperatures of Carolina winters are too cold for the seeds to overwinter outside.


In your latest blog you suggested that we don’t recondition our lawns this fall. So, does that mean even if we are leaving fescue and moving to a burmuda grass lawn we should wait till the spring to prep and seed? I have so many bare spots, I plan to over seed with the burmuda and not kill out the fescue. Will all this work and when in the spring should I attempt this? Thanks for the help. Brent

Anne's response:

Bermuda lawns are seeded in the late spring after soil temperatures are over 55F. You will have better luck tilling the fescue lawn and seeding with Bermuda but you could core airate the area and seed if the soil is not severely compacted.

Roundup Weed Killer

Dear Anne, I have a large maple tree in the middle of my lawn (30-40 foot high and 3-4 ft dia. trunk). I am completely redoing the lawn and need to first kill of the old lawn, which contains too many weeds. If I use roundup to kill the existing grass/weeds will the roundup hurt or damage the roots of the maple tree? Some of the maple tree roots are actually visible above ground. Once I have killed the existing grass I plan to add more top soil to cover the exposed roots. Thanks,
Larry P., Rocklin, CA

Anne's response:

I would not apply soil to cover the roots of the maple tree. They have grown out of the soil because its not soil they are happy to grow in. Covering the roots with soil will reduce the oxygen supply to the tree. The advantage of using Roundup is that it is a contact killer that is absorbed through the leaves of plants. If there are not cut places on exposed roots it is safe to spray the area with Roundup.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Yochino cherry tree dropping leaves

I have a yochino cherry tree that has dropped most of the leaves after they turned yellow. I had 2 of these planted last year and don't recall the tree losing so many leaves. The other y.c. tree has some yellow leaves and some have dropped but nothing like the other one. (both trees are probably 10 feet or so) I have watered both some, but not a lot. Could this be drought related? Can you give me a plan?

Thanks, S Adams

Anne's response:

From the description of the problems I think the problem is drought and heat related. Yoshinos do lose their leaves earlier than some other cherry trees and as many trees are this year they have gone into dormancy a bit early with the heat and drought of the summer. Hopefully we will have enough rain this winter for plants to recover. If we have adequate rain in February and March you should apply some fertilizer as the plants begin to open their blooms.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lilac bushes

Hi Anne,

I have 6 lilac bushes. They are called "little kim". How is the best way to grow them, I put firewood ashes around them, like it said. I also fertilized once a month, with peter's plant and bush fertilizer. Please help.

Thank you,

Anne's response:

Fertilizing a lilac once a month during the heat and drought may cause problems. Most shrubs are much happier with an application of fertilizer just before new growth begins in the spring. The lilac “Miss Kim” is a cultivar recommended for southern gardens but I do not know the growth habits of one called little kim. Miss Kim does need a more neutral soil than the acid soils in the Carolinas so the application of wood ashes does help that. The application of lime will serve the same purpose. Lilacs do not like the hot afternoon sun so they should be planted in an area that geets good morning sun and protection from afternoon heat.

Poison ivy

I have a bush that I like. It has poison ivy growing in it. How can I get rid of the poison ivy, and not hurt the bush. Does Poison Ivy become dormant in the winter? Would I catch poison ivy in January? I was thinking about using limb cutting tool to cut the leaves off. Then let the leaves turn brown on the ground. Can I catch poison ivy from the stems? Is it safe to go after the stems and roots when the leaves are off?

Thank you for your help,
Winston H.

Anne's response:

The chemical that causes the rash from poison ivy remains in the roots, stems and leaves. Many people get poison ivy rash during the winter because they are pulling on the vines after to leaves are no longer there to identify the plant. One method of controlling the vine in a shrub is to make up a solution of Roundup in the early fall and use a sponge or paint brush to apply the solution to the leaves of the poison ivy. You do need to use plastic gloves to protect your hands and arms. The vine will be killed then you can remove the vine from the shrub. You need to wear plastic gloves when touching the vine. I have found it helpful to use a large plastic bag and start at the top of the vine covering the pulling the vine into the bag. Remember to wash clothes that come in contact with the vines – and clean any clippers or other tools with alcohol after you use them on poison ivy.


I transplanted 5 nandina bushes 4 years ago each year I mulch them and fertilize with standard miricle grow the have yet to produce berries and remain 24-36 inches tall ONe year I put lime on the soil as we live in the sylva area and we have to lime the yard every year it is very clay-like and we also live in a section with a lot of mica.

My next step after this winter is to cut them back to nothing and then I am done unless there is something obvious that I could be doing.

Thank you for you suggestions.

Nancy D.

Anne's response:

If the plants were not producing berries when you transplanted them they may be cultivars that were developed for decorative foliage, not berries. They need full sun, soil on the acid side and very little fertilizer to produce berries. Miracle Gro may contain too much nitrogen for nandina.

Leyland Cypress In Georgia

We have 4 Leyland Cypress trees along the back of our home that have disease (which I read up on) we have cut all the die back branches off and we have seen the red sap running down the trunk in these areas....will the tree sprout new branches where we cut off ??? Is there anything I can spray on the trees to stop the problem???We are on a complete outside watering ban in Georgia and so the only water they get is when I was watering through a sprinkler system and any little rain we might get. Please help.....Am I going to loose my babies??? I have a total of 15 of them and to loose these 4 would be a big problem cause we are growing them for privacy. Thanks for your immediate help.

Anne's response:

I don’t know whether the disease is Coryneum cardinale or Cytospora cenisia. Cutting out affected branches and spraying with a copper fungicide is the usual remedy. If the trunk of the plant is affected it is usually recommended that the entire plant be removed to keep the disease from spreading to other plants in the row. The disadvantage of growing a monoculture for a privacy hedge is that if one plant gets a disease all of the plants in the row will get it because they are planted so closely together. The better privacy screen is usually a combination planting of several different plants and planting them in a staggered row instead of a straight line. This gives better air circulation and makes it more difficult for a disease or insect problem to pass from one plant to the next.

Wisteria vine

Hi Anne,

I live in northern NJ. This year for whatever reason, it set beautiful buds, many flowered then mysteriously the buds began to schrivel and leaf production is spotty. It has been very robust til now, it's an old vine that has been trained as a squatty tree. Any suggestions?


Anne's response:

It sounds like someone may have sprayed an herbicide such as Roundup near the plant. Another cause might be a late freeze after the plant began to set out new growth.

Arapaho Crape Myrtle Tree

I have an Arapaho Crape Myrtle tree and it was doing well when I first planted it but now the leaves are turning brown. I would like to know what I should be doing to prevent this. Thank you.

Anne's response:

Leaves on Crepe Myrtles turn brown for several reasons. There are some root rot diseases, the plant may be too dry or too wet, the soil may be too alkaline or if the plant is recently planted the roots may not have been watered in to make good contact with the soil around the roots.

Non-fruit bearing plum tree

I have a non-fruit bearing plum tree. It is growing well and needs trimming. It is growing outward into my neighbors property. When is it best to trim it and how? - DLB of Apex

Anne's response:

The best time to prune a non-fruiting tree is in the dormant season. In the Raleigh area this is usually January or February. You will lose some blooms but the plant will flower in the spring. Trees are pruned to remove branches that are rubbing another branch, branches that grow in to the center of the tree and small limbs that grow out from the bottom of branches. Under North Carolina law your neighbor is within his rights to remove your plant material that grows into his yard.

Can I save my Boxwoods?

Hi Ms. Clapp,

I have 4 boxwoods planted in a circle around the utility boxes in my front yard. They are about 3 feet tall and probably about 7-8 years old. I noticed last week that 2 of them are almost totally brown. I gave up on watering my lawn last month, and I fear that drought has taken its toll on them. My question is, can they be saved or should I go ahead and replace them? I have watered them within the watering guidelines of my town for the past 2 weeks, but it doesn't appear to be having any effect.


Anne's response:

Some plants are going into an early dormancy and turning brown with the heat and drought. In some cases the plant is permanently damaged or dead but some plants may produce new growth when soil moisture rises and new growth starts to develop. This is a year that we may want to wait and see what happens in the spring. You haven’t lost anything by waiting until next spring to remove a plant that might recover. With the heat and drought I would not replace any plants until next year. There may not be enough water to water any new plants we put in the landscape this fall.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hibiscus - accidental poisoning!

I accidentally sprayed my hibiscus with Weed & Feed instead of the insecticide I thought I was spraying it with! All the leave have turned yellow. Is there anything I should/can do? What will happen? Thanks, Plant Killer

Anne's response:

After an attack with weed and feed about the only thing you can do is hope. If you sprayed with no more than the recommended amount the plant may be damaged but not killed. If you work on the principle that if a little is good, more is better the plant has been killed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Dear Anne, I have an indoor hybiscus plant and suddenly the leaves are turn color and following off. I also notice the the leaves feel sticky. Any suggestions. I appreciate any help I can get. Thanks, Lorraine

Anne's response:

From the description of symptoms I think there may be two problems. The stickiness of the leaves is probably from insect secretions. Check for white flies or aphids. You can spray the plant with Insecticidal Soap to kill the insects. I leave the Insecticidal Soap on the plant for about 30 minutes and then I wash it off.

When leaves turn color and fall off it can be from natural aging of the plant. If the leaves that are lost are the older leaves on the plant it is natural leaf drop. If new leaves are being affected it may be a problem with watering or the plant may have ben in the container too long and needs repotting.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I live in TN about 40 miles from Nashville. I have a lot of Althea bushes and today I found on my double pink there is something wrong with the leaves, looks kinda molded with some black on them. Please help. Thanks, Cynthia

Anne's response:

I think the plant you are referring to is Hibiscus syriacus or rose-of-sharon. Aphids and whiteflies may cause the damage you describe as can the fungal disease powdery mildew. At this time of year the better control is to keep diseased leaves raked up from beneath the plant and as daytime temperatures are in the sixties spray the plant with dormant or horticultural oil. Oil sprays smother over-wintering insects and disease spores.

"First Light" perennial sunflower

Hi Anne, I cannot seem to find the answer to my question on the internet and was hoping you could help. I purchased "first light" a perennial sunflower from the Farmers Market and a couple of the larger branches broke off. I was wondering can I root the broken branches in water or rooting compound then into potting soil or is there nothing to do but throw them out? Hope you can help. Thanks, Cathy in Apex

Anne's response:

Perennials can be rooted. The better way is to take a cutting from the tip end of the stem, no more than 6 inches long. Use a rooting hormone and vermiculite rooting medium. Keep the plant moist – either by misting or put the cutting under a clear plastic container. The cutting should be kept in a place with good light – but out of direct sun.