Friday, November 30, 2007

Lucky bamboo

Dear Ms. Clapp,

I have some lucky bamboos that live in water for a few years. Since the roots are now filling up the container, I’m wondering if I can trim them a little now.

Thank you so much,

Hien C.

Anne's response: Trimming the roots does help their performance but don’t trim off all the “new, white” roots. Remove the dark, shriveled roots; clean the container, replace the water in the container with fresh water. I add a drop of liquid fertilizer to 2 cups of water and use that solution to “repot” my Lucky Bamboo.


Hello Ann!

I am inquiring on Ferns.

I purchased a fern from the school this year and to my surprise, it held up in the sun. And I mean the direct sunlight.

As the weather turned cooler outside, I figured it would be best to bring it in, so I did, and it's dying.

Any suggestions?
Should I have just left it outside and is there a chance to save it? It is huge and so pretty.

Deanna H.

Anne's response: Some Boston Ferns will do well in sunlight but they are not winter-hardy. They also resent being brought inside for the winter and will shed a lot of leaves. Keep it watered in an area with good light and out of air blowing from a heating system. Some people keep them in a heated garage for the winter and then trim them back and put them back outside when the weather warms up in April.

Rosa of Sharon

Hello Ms Clapp, Where can I find a plant name Rosa of Sharon and when is the best time to plant them. Also, I'm wanted different color if they come that way. Thank you.

Anne's response: There are two plants with the common name “Rose of Sharon.” The plant we see most frequently in North Carolina is Hibiscus syriacus, which also has the common name althea. It is available in garden centers in the spring and is available in several shades of lavender, pink and white. There are also some with variegated leaves and double blooms. The plant grows to 5 feet tall or more and loses its leaves in the winter.

The other plant is Hypericum calycinum, also known as Aaron’s beard. It is a low shrub with evergreen foliage. It is a groundcover plant with large yellow blooms. /You will have more luck finding this plant in mail-order catalogs.

Palm Trees

Dear Anne:

We got palm trees from a farm in South Carolina, when is the best time to plant them and how should we take care of them. We live in Rockwell NC.

Thank You,
Elizabeth C.

Anne's response:

I would ask the farm from which you purchased them for planting instructions .It is usually best to get plants in the ground as quickly as possible after purchase. Some palms are not winter-hardy in all parts of Zone 7 – and I think Rockwell is in the Zone 7-a, or colder part of the zone 7. You might check with some of the nurseries in the Kannapolis area to see if they think the plants you have will grow in your area.

Grape vines

Hi Anne,

I live in an area that rarely has frost. In fact last year I never had one. I put in some Zinfandel hybrids a couple of years back (on heat and drought resistant stock) and the last couple of “winters” during any warm spell they take off. Just recently, even though it’s late November, I’ve got one starting to trellis up like crazy (I’d had a couple of weeks of colder weather). I’d like to keep them dormant (or get them dormant) for 3 or 4 months anyway to give them some rest and not waste their energy. My soil is not great so I’m trying to keep them working on the root systems a bit longer. I’ve also had trouble with pruning – losing sap. I melted wax on my cuts and that seemed to help. Usually they take off strongly in February – then stop for a bit and then again in early April but each rootstock seems to be different and they’re all played out by July. Have you any ideas how I can control things a bit? Can I just do weekly pruning of anything green until I’m ready to let them go?

Thanks, Dan

Anne's response:

I would check with your county agricultural extension agent for some help. The NC Cooperative Extension Service also has a web site with their information leaflets. There are a lot of wine grapes being grown in North Carolina but the “Zins” seem to do better in areas where there is cold weather. Any time you prune a plant you will have a problem with new growth starting. Late February is the recommended time for pruning grape vines – and prune them once a year to keep the loss of sap to a minimum. The “bleeding” is always a problem when you prune grapes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crepe Myrtle Question


I live in North East Pennsylvania (around Pittsburgh). We planted 14 crepe myrtles this summer down the length of our driveway (it is over 1000 feet long). They are only about 18 to 24 inches tall right now. We live in a very open, very windy, snow drifting area. What can I do to protect these crepe myrtles for their first winter? My husband wants to stick buckets over them to protect them from the wind and high snow drifts that can form. Any suggestions?


Sue S.

Anne's response:

It is unusual for Crepe Myrtle to survive in Zone 6. The top of the plant usually is killed to the ground at temperatures below 0 although the roots often will survive to -10 if the ground has a protective layer of mulch. The plants do bloom on new wood but I would not expect your plants to get much taller than 3 feet in a single season. Some gardeners have had success wrapping tender plants in foam thermal blankets for the winter but it is used more frequently to protect single specimen plants. The problems of using buckets and sheets of plastic is that when the sun is out the temperatures under the protective covering will be high enough to damage (“ cook”) the plant.

Japaneses Maples

Dear Anne,

Every spring my Japanese maples tree starts out fine but, eventually ends up throughout the season with partially withered leaves. The type is Bloodgood. What can I do to spruce this three year old tree up?


Anne's response:

There are two major reasons for withered leaves on maples – late frosts and too much sun.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rubber plants

Hi Anne,

I was on your site reading about the other ladies rubber plant.

My question is I received a cutting a few weeks ago and left it in water to grow roots, after two weeks I decided to plant it because it was getting no roots

Now a week later I notice it wilting can you please tell me what I may be doing wrong, I am hoping I never killed it as it is a piece from my gramma's plant.


Anne's response:

It may have died after being left in water for so long or the air around the plant may not have been moist enough for the cutting to survive in the cutting medium. Keeping a plastic tent around a cutting and keeping the soil around the cutting moist, but not sopping wet, does help.

Sometimes you can revive a plant by making cut across the bottom of the stem at a slant. Put the cutting in warm water for about 45 minutes to revive it and then try to root it again. Getting cuttings to take is not a sure-fire process. Even plant professionals do not expect all cuttings to survive. That is why we make several the first time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rubber Mulch

Anne – What are your thoughts on rubber mulch vs. pine straw or pine bark mulch?

Sue J.

Anne's response:

My problem with rubber mulch is “what do you do with it when you no longer need it as mulch?” It is a product that does not degrade in the environment and you cannot put it in the landfill. It is not an “environmentally friendly” mulching material.


I read your answer about hibiscus plants not surviving in cold climates. i brought mine into a greenhouse that is actually part of our living space and it faces west. the plants are full of buds and blooming now. should they be cut back? how much water is needed? do they go into a dormant stage? i have had hibiscus plants (shaped to look like a tree) before, but this year I got a red one with the most unusual blooms. the flowers are usually just one petal going around, but these blooms have like 3 going around and are magnificent. Is this a special hibiscus flower?

Anne's response:

Hibiscus do go dormant but they will retain their leaves until new ones appear in the spring. The ideal time to cut the plants back is in the spring when they are put back outdoors. They should be watered once a week.

Transplanting a mature gardenia

Hi Anne, I have lived in my home for 15 yrs, and have 3 gardenia bushes that were here when we moved in. Each one is positioned between two azalea bushes, and all were planted in a row, too close together. The gardenias never should have been put where they are, and I would love to move them. Keeping them where they are means I have to trim them to about 2 1/2 ft wide, and the azaleas to about 4-5 ft wide. Can you advise me regarding the root system, how difficult it would be to relocate them?

Linda H., Mobile, AL

Anne's response:

You could root prune the gardenias now by using a spade and cutting through the roots at the outside edges of the plants. Prune the plants to a manageable size in March and move them to a new location. They will have to be watered on a weekly basis after they are moved. The easiest solution is to remove the gardenias now and find new ones to add to your landscape next spring. Gardenias are fairly inexpensive shrubs and if you want to continue to have them in your landscape new plants will have a better shape and growth pattern than ones that have been severely pruned most of their life.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Planting and spacing Nellie R. Stevens trees

Dear Anne Clapp: Could you tell me what distance to space Nellie R. Stevens trees to obtain a dense hedge or screen in 5 years? I will be planting 30 each plants, 10 inches in height. Thank you so much.

Robert C.
New Braunfels, TX

Anne's response:

I suggest you check with your local cooperative extension service for information on growth of Nellie Stevens hollies. In the acidic soils of North Carolina we expect rapid growth to about 15 feet wide and 20 feet tall. It takes about 10 years from a 3 gallon container to produce a mature plant. I would not expect a “dense hedge” from a 10 inch twig of Nellie Stevens in less than 8 years. One way of achieving your goal is to space the plants so you could remove every other one as they fill in the space.


We have a row of boxwoods along our driveway that receives full sun and after the drought they are brown. Should we dig them up or just cut down until we see live growth. They are only a few feet high.

Anne's response:

With the dry weather and warmer than usual fall temperatures I do not think it is wise to do major pruning. If the plant is still alive it will try to put on new growth that may be harmed by freezing weather. I suggest you scratch the bark on a few stems on the plants to see if there is still a green cambium layer just beneath the bark. If you see any signs of green I would wait to see what re-growth occurs in the spring and then prune the plants. If there is no sign of growth in the spring remove the plants.

Wisteria transplanting

Hi There, I found your site and would like to ask you a question.... I am in Melbourne, Australia and have a 10 or so year old purple wisteria growing on our pagola. My husband wants to enclose the area and wants to dig it up and move it elsewhere in the garden. It is a very big plant, and would need to be cut back in a big way. How much can we cut it back and how gig is the root system... how far do we dig out, what season is the best time to do this and would it survive? I have got so many different answers from friends and am clueless as to what to do.

Regards, Jacquii

Anne's response:

The root system on a wisteria is quite large. It is also a plant that reproduces from root cuttings so there is often a problem of having quite a large garden of wisteria plants when one is dug up. In the southeastern United States we find that the oriental wisterias are overly aggressive garden plants and prefer cutting the plants to the ground and applying a brush killer to the stump to kill the plant. Small plants may be moved during their dormant season.


I live in south Louisiana and I would like to transplant Oleanders. When is the best time?

Anne's response:

Oleanders are sensitive to below freezing temperatures so it is easier to move them just as new growth begins in the spring.

Plum delight loropetulum

Anne, I have 14 plum delight loropetulum's planted in front of my house.I want to move them to another location. They are around 4 years old. I have to prune them two to three times a year to keep them small. My question is about the root system. Do they have shallow or deep roots? I was told the best time to move them was in Oct. or Nov. What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you, Rena L.

Anne's response:

The plants may be moved during the fall if you are going to be able to keep them watered. You can expect a to remove a root ball at least as wide as the outer edges of the plant and about 10-12 inches deep. They should be replanted to a hole that is no deeper than the one from which they were removed and at least 10 inches wider.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Boston ferns

I have hanging Boston ferns outside and think I can place a plastic bag over them for the winter to protect them. How can I take care of them outside in the winter? Thanx.

Anne's response:

Boston Ferns in pots cannot survive temperatures below freezing. They are classified as a tropical plant. It is difficult to leave anything outdoors under a plastic bag. When the sun is out the temperatures inside the bag can get quite hot and the plants can be scalded. Boston ferns should be over-wintered in a location where temperatures do not get below 40F.

Grass - Bermuda or Zoysia?

Anne - My fescue lawn is beyond hope after this year's drought in Charlotte. Rather than spend the time and money on trying to revive the fescue this fall, I'm ready to kill it off completely and move on to something that's heat and drought tolerant. Two alternatives come to mind - Bermuda and Zoysia. Which do you recommend? I have only limited shade though I have landscaped several large areas that include trees. I don't relish the idea of combating an invasive like Bermuda with weed killer but figure it beats wasting water irrigating fescue. Is there any other alternative lawn grass that I should consider?


G. M., Charlotte, NC

Anne's response:

I have grown Zoysia successfully in the Raleigh area for over 30 years. It does not get watered unless I have applied fertilizer and it is not expected to rain that week. It is not as aggressive as Bermuda so it is easier to maintain borders around flower and planting beds. There are some newer cultivars that are even more shade tolerant than the original Meyer Zoysia.