Monday, March 31, 2008

Insect Problems with Gardenias

I have a gardenia at my front window and have noticed sooty mold on the leaves. I inspected the leaves and found some flat looking greyish bugs that look kinda like scale and have globs of cotton on my leaves. I poked at one of the cotton balls and a dark round looking bug with an orange head was under the cotton. It kinda looked like he was feeding on the other flat looking bug but I couoldn't be for sure. The flat gray ones have spikes all around theyre body kinda like a swordfish's snout looks. I have tried an insecticide but I dont want to hurt my plant by spraying it again. What can I do?


Anne's response:


Gardenias often have problems with insects such as scale and mealy bugs. One solution is to spray the plant in late March with a horticultural oil spray that smothers overwintering insects and their eggs. It is safe to use the sprays until temperatures get over 75 degrees. You spray the top and bottom of the leaves and the bark on the limbs and trunk. Horticultural oil is a product that is labeled as an organic insecticide and is usually permitted on products labeled as organically grown.

Pests in Chokecherry Trees


I have several (four or five) large chokecherry trees that are infested with the Chokecherry Midge. The cherries are swollen and when broken open, reveal a worm and eggs. The chokecherries are ugly and unusable for jelly or syrups (that I particularly enjoy making).

My understanding is that the fly emerges in the spring, from the egg that winters over in the soil under the tree. It flies to the blossoms, attaching itself and turning into a worm that crawls into the cherry. It then feeds on the cherry, lays it's eggs there and dies. The ugly cherries drop to the ground and the cycle starts over.

Am I way off in the woods on this, or what? I can't find any recommended treatment to get rid of this problem, so I pruned one tree back drastically last fall and got rid of the branches loaded with infected cherries. I hope it grows back--it's a sorry sight. Now, spring is coming and I don't want to prune back every tree--I'd like to get some chokecherries again. I've asked a puzzled extension agent--no help there... This problem is new to these trees--two years ago, they were beautiful.

Thanks so much!

Anne's Response:


Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is grown commercially in Quebec and northern Ontario and prefers cold weather. The trick to breaking the cycle is to remove all the fruit that falls to the ground and get it off the property. Treat the soil under the tree with an insecticide that is labeled for ground dwelling insects. There are orchard sprays labeled for home use that can be used for insect control when fruit trees are blooming. A major problem with such sprays is that they also kill your pollinating insects. Some directions say to use the spray as the buds swell but before they open and then reapply immediately after pollination. Your insects probably came as visitors from a tree in a neighboring property – often miles away. It could also have been in the soil in the pot if the plants were purchased as potted trees rather than bare root ones.

Spacing a Nellie Stevens Hedge

I live in Raleigh, N.C. and plan of planting six 4' or 6' Nellie Stevens Hollys along a fence line. Can you tell me the spacing I need between each holly? Also spacing needed off the fence? Any suggestions or advice would be great.


Anne's Response:


When planting a Nellie Stevens Hedge, remember that the mature plant will be about 10 feet in diameter. That means putting the plants no closer than 9 feet to each other and putting them 5 feet from the fence.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Possible help for Crepe Myrtle

Last year I pruned two crepe myrtle trees in my yard. We had some warm weather and they began to bud… THEN, a hard frost came and they didn’t really bloom last year at all.. BUT, new growth was coming out at the base. Is there ANYTHING I can do for them now?? I’m afraid that I’ve killed them.

Thank you for any advice or suggestions.

Rosemary H.

Anne's Response:

Crepe Myrtles haven’t started budding out yet so hopefully the tree will have recovered. They like dry weather in the fall and they did get that. I try to cut off any suckers that come from the base of the plant because they do spoil the shape of the plant. Don’t use a nitrogen fertilizer on the plants because that usually promotes new foliage rather than blooms.

When to fertilize and which plants/bushes get acid-loving vs. "normal" basic?

Hi, Anne -- I think your show is great. I'm new to NC, having moved to Raleigh only three years ago from New Jersey.

One of the first things I did was to plant my favorite flowering plants. But now I'm unsure when to fertilize them. If you can recommend a good book on growing flowering shrubs in the Raleigh area, please suggest it.

If not, could you please tell me when to fertilize and whether to use acid-loving plant fertilizer or base-loving plant fertilizer:

• lonicera fragrantissima
• winter Daphne odora
• Korean spice viburnum
• Jasmine vine (blooms white)
• mock orange
• exbury azalea
• winter clematis (vine, now in bloom)
• Russian olive (elaeagnus?)

I guess the basic question is: do I fertilize them while they are in bloom??? Thank you, in advance, for the information --


Anne's Response:

My favorite general gardening book for this area is the Southern Living Garden Book. There are several books that might help – look for books by Bob Polomsky (South Carolina Cooperative Extension), Toby Bost (formerly the extension agent in Durham county) and Pam Beck (local garden writer.)

The Exburry azalea hybrid will appreciate an fertilizer for acid loving plants but I have founf that the “organic fertilizers” formulated for blooming shrubs will work on all the plants you list. I prefer to add fertilizer just as the foliage starts to show in the spring. If the drought continues you may want to time your fertilizer applications with expected rainfall and reduce the amount that you apply.


I was given some tulips bloomed in a pot. I was told that I could go ahead and plant these in my yard now and that later I could dry the bulbs and re plant them next year. Is this true? and how do I do this?

Will they still live if I plant them in the yard now? Is there anything else I can plant now. I guess I am late I should have planted bulbs back in the winter I guess didn't know that until now.... I would love to do some daffodils or something... but how can I plant those NOW or can I?


Anne's Response:

If you are growing tulips in the Raleigh area it really isn't worth the effort to plant bulbs that have been forced for indoor bloom. Our climate is so warm that we rarely get more than 2 or 3 years bloom out of most tulips. Most of the tulips you see in mass plantings in this area are bulbs that are planted in the late fall and treated like annuals.

Daffodils do come back reliably. The best time to get them in the ground in late October.


Good morning,

With the weather dipping below freezing tonight what should I do to protect my fruit trees and blueberries that are already in bloom, or will it not be enough to hurt them?


Paula G.

Anne's Response:

Your message did not reach me until Wednesday so I hope your plants are ok. The temperatures did not get cold enough to damage plants on Monday night. If freezing weather is predicted again you may want to cover the plants with a sheet or some other fabric covering. Don’t use plastic sheeting unless you remove it before the sun gets to the plants in the morning. The heat build-up under the plastic does as much damage as frost.

Flowering evergreens

We live in AZ and are removing a desert fern the messiest tree i have ever had i would like to plant a flowering evergreen that is is fast growing as we are in our late 70s.

Thank you soo much for your help.


Anne's Response:

Growing conditions vary so much in Arizona that it is hard for me to recommend something for you. Most cooperative extension services have lists of plants that grow well in their area so I suggest you check you local telephone directory or go the Arizona Extension Service Website.


Hi Anne,

My yard this year has been taken over by all kinds of weeds. I had some landscaper come and spread weed killer, but it is not working. He is telling me that weed killer only works in a continuous 80 degree temperature. I can't seem to agree. I have never had all these weeds and it seems impossible that his weed killer is not working. I was outside this week watching him spreading and didn't notice the spray working. I told him the spray was not working. He then pressed harder. Should I select someone else.


Anne's Response:

If my landscaper told me weed killer didn’t work until temperatures got over 80 degrees I would find someone else to do the work. The labels on most products say the best temperature for applying them is when temperatures are over 55 and under 75.

Indoor Peace Lilly

Dear Anne,

You answered a question for me years ago on WPTF about growing roses in a flowerbed of almost complete sand. Now I have another more detailed question. I have an indoor Peace Lilly that was given to me from my mother's funeral 4 years ago. I have managed to keep it living, which is a trick for me on it's own. It's grown to be HUGE, even through we have moved it to bigger pots two or three times.

1. Is it possible to split it into two or three plants? I would love to give part of it to my sister and reduce the size of it so that perhaps it will be come healthy again.

2. The ends (the last 1 to 1/2 inches) of most of the leaves are brown and dry. I water it, and perhaps over water it. At the first sign of sagging leaves, I water it well. I also supplement by watering with about 1 cup of water every other day. Once a week or once every two weeks, I add a couple of drops of plant food. Once the leaves turn completely brown or shrivel, I cut them out as close to the base as I can. Every 6 months or so, I trip out all the bad leaves completely, or it becomes a tangled ball of mess.

3. It never seems to bloom anymore, I would love to see it bloom again.

4. Now for my strangest question, do Peace Lillies "get old" and die?" I want to make sure I have this plant for as long as possible. Above all to my other questions and especially #1, I want to make sure I don't kill this plant.

I'll be happy to send you a photo of it's condition if you like.

I appreciate your time, I know this is a long email, this is a very important plant to me.

Doug E.

Anne's Response:

I think it is time the peace lily was divided and repotted. Remove the plant from its pot and remove the soil from the roots. Find two or more segments of stems that have good root systems growing and break the plant apart. You may have to use clippers to cut the plant apart but they usually break without too much trouble. Repot each segment in a good quality potting soil in a pot that is no more than 3 times the width of the base of the plant piece. Water it well and leave in an area where there is good light but not direct sun for a couple of weeks until the plant recovers from its transplant shock. Fertilize the plant when new growth starts to form.

You may have been overwatering the plant – and that is easy to do when a plant is too crowded in the pot. Most plants exist quite well on once a week watering. Don’t let the water stay in the saucer under the pot for more than a couple of hours. Using fertilizer that is too high in nitrogen will reduce the blooming so that may have been your problem.

Fertilizing Green Giant Arborvitae Trees


I saw a recent post (3/19) in which someone remarked that they had over-fertilized their green giants, but no amount was mentioned.

I lost two of mine late last year and I wonder if it is from the same cause.

What are the proper fertilizer, amount and time to fertilize these? Mine are about 4 ft tall.

Thanks and regards,

Anne's Response:

The amount of fertilizer you use depends on the brand of material you use and the amount of nitrogen. An 8-8-8 fertilizer contains 8% nitrogen, 8% phosphorus and 8% potassium. A 10-10-10 contains 10% of those ingredients so it will take less 10-10-10- to do the same job as an 8-8-8. Read the label very carefully and don’t apply more than the recommended amount. We also find that adding fertilizer when there is not adequate rainfall or irrigation water will cause plant damage.

Tomato plants with yellow speckles and drying parts

Hello, Ann,

I am a teacher in Northern California (Fremont). The temperatures are ranging between 40 at night to low 60's in the afternoon. Our class garden is just starting up for this year. We have transplanted tomato plants into raised beds. This morning, I noticed that there were yellow spots on the leaves. When I touched the spots the leaf would flake off.

Can you tell me what it might be? What shall I do so my students have a good experience with their gardening project?

Thank you.

Mary W, Teacher

Anne's Response:

Tomatoes don't do well until soil temperatures stay above 50 degrees.
Sometimes you can use a plastic mulch on the ground to keep the soil warm ; you can use a light-weigh non-woven fabric row cover to keep the plants warm and keep the insects off until you have blooms and need the bees and other pollinators. The California Co-operative extension service usually has material on planting tomatoes in home gardens. Check their web site for additional information.

Leyland Cypress Fell

I have a 20’ 6-7 caliber Leyland that fell in my yard. This tree is in the middle of a row of Leylands that forms a screen around my pool in the backyard. I believe it fell in some heavy winds we had on March 8th and has been laying on the ground straddling my pool deck and pool cover. Half the root looks like it’s still in the ground but half may be out. The tree actually looks like it’s alive a surviving and I thought it was worth a try to save it by standing it up and anchoring it with stakes and perhaps the adjacent trees and fence. Please give me your opinion. I had a rep from a local reputable landscape company who did some major landscaping for me last year (3 tree transplants, etc.) come by and tell me that the survival rate on these is 30-40%. What do you think? Thanks.

Anne's Response:

I think the 40% survival rate is optimistic for a Leyland cypress especially as long as it has been out of the ground. If it were in my yard I would remove the plant and let the other plants fill in the space or plant a new plant.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Anne, Last year I cut the green foliage on all my daffodils back just after they quit blooming. This year I had very few blooms. After watching your show on daffodils I realized that was a mistake. My question is, have I damaged the bulb permanently or will it bloom normal next year if I let the foliage die down as you suggest?


Anne's Response:

Yes they will bloom next year if you allow the foliage to die back naturally this spring. In the fall, late October when a rain is expected, fertilize the bulbs with a fertilizer formulated for bulbs. I use Holland Bulb Booster. The fertilizer will work slowly into the ground and be available to the roots of the daffodils during the winter. You may add a second application of fertilizer when the foliage starts to pop out of the ground in January.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Propagating nellie stevens

Dear Anne,

I am interested in propagating Nellie Stevens tree, I read an article that I can use cutting to propagate it. Can you please tell me how to do that and where to cut for the highest success rate?

Thank you very much!

Best regards,
How Y

Anne's Response:

The best success rate for Nellie Stevens is to take cuttings during the early fall on growth that has not completely hardened off. Make cuttings of 4 to 6 inches from the tips of stems for the best results. I filmed a segment on making cuttings from camellias that shows how you make cuttings. It should be available in the material from older shows.

Camellia disease

I seem to remember reading information about some disease present in the 'April' series several years ago that was harmful to other shrubs. What information pertaining to this do you have?


Anne's Response:

I don’t know of any disease that was present in the April Series of camellias. They were developed in Chapel Hill and have good cold resistance and make excellent landscape plants. Many camellias are susceptible to photoptera root rot just as azaleas and rhododendrons are and any of those plants could transfer the disease to a garden if it is present in the soil around the plant when you purchase it. Two or three years ago there were articles on camellias being shipped from California that had been infected with “Sudden Oak Death Syndrome”.


Hi Anne,

We planted ligustrum against our fence. Of the 9 plants we planted, 7 are doing great and have grown well above the

fence for privacy. However two of them are struggling. They have lost leaves, and now have leaves that are yellow with brown spots. Is this an insect? What can I do this spring to nurse them back to health so they catch up with the others? We live in Cary, NC.

Thank you,


Anne's Response:

The spotted leaves are probably a result of a foliar leaf spot disease. The problem usually occurs when plants are too close together for good air circulation or where the soil is too wet and compacted. Spraying the plants with a lime-sulfur spray may help control the disease on the plants that are affected. Ligustrum are such hardy plants that that it is not necessary to spray the plants that are not affected.

Grafting stems

What is it called when people attach orange tree limbs to an apple tree and it still grows? I thought that it was like gourding or something like that?

Anne's Response:

If you can attach an orange tree limb to an apple tree you have horticultural super powers. You can graft a stem of one variety of apple tree to another apple tree. You can graft a stem of an orange tree to the rootstock of a cold hardy poncirus or other citrus fruit. Most grafting is done within the same plant family. Just as in kidney transplants in humans, you have to have a donor and a recipient that are biologically compatible.

Leyland Cypress Mystery

Hi Anne,

I have noticed that a lot of Leyland Cypress and Cedar trees in the Charlotte, NC area are all turning brown and dying. Is there a disease going around? I thought I remembered one called Canker before but not sure what it was. Why would these trees be dying and other next to them still be healthy. I ask this as mine have now started to get brown limbs and I am concerned that I will lose mine as well. Can you please advise us what to do to save these trees. I have notices that some large rows used as screens are all dying or dead and some were more than 40 feet in height.

Thank you!

Lori from Charlotte

Anne's Response:

There are some disease problems with Leyland Cypress that may come from organisims such as Cercospora or Phomopsis. The horticultural extension agent in Mecklenberg County or the Master Gardeners in the County Extension Office should be able to tell you if there is a problem in your area. Most of the damage being seen this year is drought related.

Wisteria problem

Hi Anne,

I have something growing on my wisteria. It is hard dark brown knots on the stems and around the base of the plant. We made the plant into a tree instead of a vine and it blooms beautifully each year for about 3 years but this winter it has developed these knots and I don't know if I should cut them off or not. Will it harm the tree if I leave them on ? They look so ugly and I want to cut them off if it will not kill my wisteria. Please answer soon Thanks.

Patsy Ann
Somerville, Ala.

Anne's Response:

The problem could be crown gall, a disease that also affects rose bushes, almond, apricot, plum and walnut trees. It is difficult to control and most home owners remove and destroy the infected plant. Sometimes you can remove the infected parts of the plant and control the problem. Some growers cut out the infected areas and treat the stem with streptomycin. You may want to check with your local extension agent for a recommendation.

Leyland Cyprus Trees


I need help on what do. The problem I am having is that I planted 21 Leyland Cyprus trees in the spring of 2006.

The first year they grew straight and seemed to have no problems. Today March 16, 2008 I was outside looking at them and noticed some of them leaning and the dirt around them separating. Where I live (Southern Chester County,Pa.) there is a lot of farm land and very strong winds. This past winter we had a fair amount of rain and not as much snow. Which in turn has made the ground very wet. I am not sure what to do. Do I stake them? Do I add more soil? Can you please help me?

Anne's Response:

The trees need to be placed upright again, the soil packed back around the roots and the plants staked to keep them steady until they grow a good root system.

Cupressocyparis leylandii

Hi Anne,

I have a garden surrounded by wonderful trees of cupressocyparis leylandii healthy trees until last year, they started getting yellow one after another and i do not know what to do.can you help please. it hearts me a lot to see my 12 years old trees getting sick like that.

Thank you,


Anne's Response:

Leyland Cypress have been affected by drought during the past year. With as many plants as you have I suggest you have a certified arborist diagnose the problem your plants have and then recommend a treatment plan to save them. It is not unusual to have Leyland Cypress decline after about 10 years in the ground. They prefer the temperate, moist climate of England to the heat and smog of the urban south.

Topiary Question

Hi Anne,

I purchased a Eugenia topiary last spring and planted it in a pot which I placed on my front porch. It did quite well over the summer and fall. I brought it inside over the winter and approximately 3 weeks ago I noticed white specks on the leaves. I researched the problem and thought it to be mealybugs. I purchased an insect spray and used it three times, but the specks are still there. Any thoughts on what might take care of this problem, or what the spots might be? It is a beautiful plant and I would hate to

Thanks so much!

Sheila M.

Anne's Response:

The problem could also be scale or aphids. If you can wipe the spots off it is usually scale or mealybugs. A spray may kill the insects but the white matter is still there until you rub it off. Aphids suck the fluids from the leaf of plants and leave a white mark that cannot be removed. The new leaves on the plant will not be infected.

How to Plant Yoshino Cherry Tree

Hi Anne,

My name is Trang. I live in Annandale, Virginia.
I am planning to plant a row of 8 cherry trees along my drive way. How far should I plant them apart from each other?

Thank you,

Anne's Response:

It will depend on the variety of tree you purchase. If the mature plant is supposed to be 15 feet wide the plants should be planted at least 15 feet apart. They may be spaced further apart than that and they will have fewer problems with insects and disease if they are spaced so there is a least two feet between the plants at the mature width – that is plant 15 foot wide trees at least 17 feet apart.

Green Giant Arborvitae Trees

Hi Anne,

My neighbor and I planted a row of Green Giant Arborvitae trees between our houses late last summer. The trees began to have a "burnt" look about them a few months ago and large portions of the trees began to turn a dark brown.
We later discovered that we had both fertilized the trees unbeknownst to the other late last fall. It seems obvious that we have over-fertilized the trees, but is there any way to save them now that several months have passed and spring is approaching. Thanks for your help!

- Brandon from Apex

Anne's Response:

You may be able to help the problem by spreading gypsum in the area where you spread the fertilizer. It does help get rid of excess ammonia and nitrogen. If the fertilizer was a slow release fertilizer all the nitrogen may not have been released and you may be able to salvage the plants. If the plants are brown and dry they may put on new growth this spring - but it does sound as though you have fertilized the plants to death.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thuja Green Giant

My son and daughter-in-law just planted some Thuja Green Giant trees in their backyard. They are only about 18"-24" high so they are just little things. The tops of the plants have turned brown. They are still pliable and appear to be alive. Is this normal, or are they not healthy? They ordered them online. They planted such a large quantity of them I just hope they haven't wasted their time and money. What do you think Anne? Do you have any recommendations?

Thanks for your time and your answer.


Anne's Response:

From your description I am not sure how much of the plants have turned brown or when the browing occurred. If the plants have been in the ground for several months and it is just the tip of the plant it may have been from cold damage. Plants that did not receive enough moisture during the winter can turn brown. If the plants were not watered well when they were put in the ground they may turn brown. Plants can turn brown and still remain pliable for a month or more. One of the instructions I give people planting material that has been shipped bareroot from some distance is to soak the plant roots in warm water. This improves the ability of the plant to absorb water through its roots. With recent rains plants are getting enough moisture and have not needed supplemental watering. The plants may recover and start producing new growth within the next few weeks. When the first new growth shows the plants should be fertilized with a slow release fertilizer. You may want to contact the nursery that supplied the plants for their recommendations.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rain Barrels

Dear Anne, I plan to do a small garden this year and I want to know where is the most reasonable place to get a rain barrel?

I would like to get one from the City of Raleigh so maybe they can take money off my bill if they do that. Please let me know how beneficial you think rain barrels will be this coming year.

Thank you, Pat

Anne's Response:

The City of Raleigh has been selling Rain Barrels at their facility on Peace Street. I think the past year has taught us that we need to have a source of water other than our drinking water for use in the garden.

This past drought will be repeated many times in future years as the population of the city grows. I will be filming a segment on rain barrels to be run in late March or early April.


Ann, I just watched your tips on pruning forsythia. I was not sure if we can prune during March. Mine has already started budding/flowering. If I can prune in March, should I go all the way to the ground and not prune half way down? This plant is about 8 years old and spreading quickly. I have thinned it out several times, but is still very large. Also, how often and what fertilizer should I use.

I would appreciate your reply.


Sylvia N.

Anne's Response:

I prune my forsythia when it finishes blooming and expect that to be in about two weeks. You do have to be careful to keep the cascading stems from rooting as they touch the ground. That means that very long stems do have to be cut back each year. You also need to dig out any sections of the plant that exceed the dimensions of the space you want to fill. It is a very aggressive plant and I have never fertilized the one in my yard.

Leyland cyprus

Hi Anne,

I have 14 Leyland Cyprus trees that are 5 years old and approx. 7 feet tall. They are not in full sun so I guess that slows the growth down a bit. Do you have any suggestions for fertilizer I should be using or do nothing at all? I thought they would be a bit taller by now. Thanks for your help.

Cathy in Apex

Anne's Response:

Those plants are about as large as I would expect them to be at their age if they are not growing in full sun. As long as you mulch the plants with composted leaves, bark or shredded wood they should not need additional fertilizer at their age.

Ground cover

How do I remove ground cover that is too prolific from under trees and bushes without damaging them?

Anne's Response:

Most ground covers under trees can be killed with a broad leaf weed killer. Don’t spray on a windy day.You can also use Round-Up at the strength recommended for the ground cover plant on a day when there is no wind.


Last year about this time we bought a home in Sequim, Washington. There are a few lithodora plants and they are in pretty deep cedar bark. Although they look fairly healthy I don't see much spreading. I absolutely love this plant and the deer leave it alone. Should I scrape away the cedar bark to encourage spreading?

I am a fairly novice gardner though I enjoy it immensely. Thanks for the help.

Barbara P.

Anne's Response:

If you want the lithodora to spread it needs to have good contact with the ground. I would remove the bark in the immediate area of the plants that are established. You can leave some of the mulch in place to keep weeds under control until the plant material fills in. You don’t need to have mulch any deeper than 2 inches for weed control and moisture retention.

Palm tree seed pods

HI Anne,

Our Lady Palms here in FLorida, are producing so many seed pods constantly each year.

Is there any way of stopping that? Also, does cutting them off as soon as they open promote more than usual pods to form? Any help would be so appreciated. Thank you.


Anne's Response:

Removing the pods as soon a they open is a good way to control seed pods from germinating. Removing them does not cause the plant to produce additional pods. Check with the Florida extension service to see if there is a spray approved for sterilizing plant blooms in Florida. There are products that we can use in North Carolina to keep sweet gum trees from producing seed but the product I have says not approved for shipment to California, Florida and Hawaii.

Pompas grass

When and how do you cut pompas grass?

Anne's Response:

It needs to be cut back before it starts to produce new growth in the spring and can be cut back to within 2 inches of the ground. I filmed a segment on cutting back Miscanthus that ran several weeks ago. Pampas grass is treated the same way.

Monday, March 10, 2008


I have yellow and purple tulips. Something is eating the blooms from the purple ones. Any ideas? Also how to deter them.

Anne's Response:

Slugs are out doing damage in this warm weather so if you see slime that may be the critter. (A saucer of stale beer next to the blooms will kill snails and slugs. They are attracted to the scent and drown in the saucer.)

There are beetles that seem to be attracted to the color purple. If the edges of the petals are scalloped that may be the problem. Sevin dust or liquid will deter that kind of insect damage. If the entire blossom is gone it is more likely a chipmunk or mouse looking for food or moisture.

Drought tolerant plants


Can you recommend a flowering plant that's drought tolerant for the Raleigh area. I have several pine trees in the front yard and would like to plant drought tolerant flowers around the trees. Before the drought, I planted petunias. They tended to flourish around the trees with the help of Miracle Grow, but they are not drought tolerant. My front yard gets full sun.

Thanks for your assistance.

Anne's Response:

Some perennials that like hot dry weather and lived through last year’s drought in good shape include Rudbeckia, butterfly weed, coneflower, and hardy ageratum.

Some annuals – more like your petunias are Blanket flower (Gaillardia), salvia, sun coleus and portulaca.

Moving small bushes, trees


I would like to move two possibly four-year-old butterfly bushes and 2 two-year-old spruces. Is now a good time or have I waited to late? If yes, is there any special preparation, etc?

Peggy C.

Anne's Response:

You can probably get away with moving the butterfly bush right now. It is a drought and heat tolerant plant should be able to withstand the shock of moving if you are able to give it a gallon or so of water a week to get it reestablished. Spruce trees are much less tolerant of the summer heat in the south so it is better to transplant them in the fall. As short a time as the spruce have been in the ground they will have a small rootball and should be fairly easy to move. About four weeks before you plant to move them in the fall use a sharp spade and “stab” it into the ground in a circle where you will want to dig the plant. This severs the roots and allows them to heal and start new roots growth. When you move the plant make sure the top of the rootball 1 inch out of the ground when it goes in the new planting hole. Fill the soil in around the plant and water it in well. Mulch the area over the new planting area but make sure the mulch does not get closer than 6 inches to the trunk of the tree. Make sure the plant gets the equivalent of 1 inch of water per week – either from rain or watering. You will probably need to continue watering the spruce through the following summer.

Yoshino Cherry Tree

I need some expert advice and fast before this tree wakes up for spring! We planted a 14 ft Yoshino Cherry Tree about 20ft from the house last spring, it has done wonderful and appears to be thriving at about 18 to 20 ft now. My problem is I didn't look at the blue print of the house and I thought the septic tank was on the other side of the house. While adding a new flower bed in the back yard, extending from the house, reaching out about 10ft and ends about 6ft away from the tree, during the digging process to remove the grass and prepare the bed, we uncovered a corner of our septic tank which is about 1ft deep and a foot or two rest in the corner of the bed and the far corner of the tank rest about one foot to one and a half feet away from the trunk of the tree. The tank is partially in the bed, which is another problem because I wanted to plant a Weigelia and a crepe myrtle near it, would that be advisable or possible? My question is, do we try to move the Yoshino Cherry Tree and will it survive, or can we safely leave it without causing harm to the tank itself? I'm hoping for a miracle answer for my cherry tree. Also, will a Weigelia harm the tank if planted within a few feet of the tank corner? Thank you so much for your help!

Anne's Response:

You never plant trees or shrubs over the septic tank because you don’t know when you are going to have to have access to the tank. You can plant grass and beds of annuals or perennials in that area. It is advisable to keep the trees and shrubs with larger root systems out of the leach field as well. As large as the Yoshino is it will be hard to move but it does need to be moved as quickly as possible. Be careful that no heavy equipment damages the top of the septic tank when the plant is moved or taken down.


My peonies don't bloom well. What do I need to add to my soil and what kind of fertilizer do I need. Will Lime help?


Anne's Response:

Peonies that bloom early in the season and cultivars with blooms that have a single row of petals do better in the south. Lime may help if you have used pine bark as mulch or composted oaks leaves as a soil amendment. Peonies need at least 6 hours of sun - and in the south you want as much of that as possible before the plants get hot afternoon sun.

The plants need a good period of cold weather in the winter. To let the soil get a bit colder I remove the mulch around my plants in December, January and February. The plants will benefit from an application of fertilizer with a slow-release nitrogen in the spring as the buds open.
They also benefit from the addition of potash in the winter. Some gardeners use the wood ashes from the fire place as a source of potash.

Rooting Lealand Cyprus

Hi Anne:

I am trying to root some Lealand Cyprus trees to add to my property. I already have some healthy trees from which I can take cuttings. How should I proceed?

Anne's Response:

It is usually easier to make cuttings from evergreens in the winter when they are dormant. I did a segment on dormant season cuttings on For Your Garden that occasionally shows up at the appropriate season or you may be able to access it on the website.

Chick-weed investation

Hi; Last year my parents put out a lot of money to turn their back yard back into grass. This included a chick-weed infestation. At this time the yard is mostly grass, however there still is a lot of chick-weed. My question all relate to this, should I kill all the chick-weed and grass with a product like round-up and start from scratch? I have a lot of friends that are looking to make some extra money, so I will have no problem finding enough Manuel labor. How would you proceed?

Anne's Response:

Round-up will kill all the grass and the chickweed. Use a broadleaf weed killer such as Weed-be-gone or 2-4D to kill the chickweed and leave the grass. Put out the chemical on a day when the temperature is over 60 and rain is not expected for 24 hours. Don’t mow the lawn for a week after you apply the weed killer to allow it more time to kill the roots of the weeds.

Transplanting tea olive

Hi Anne,

First of all your blog/website is wonderful!! I am going to share it with my garden club and family members!!

My question – I need to move a beautiful tea olive that was planted close to my pond and home. It is now over 7 feet tall and is competing for space with another very large plant (don’t know its name, but the ‘other’ plant shades the fish, so I can’t move it.)

The tea olive has begun to flower. After flowering do I cut it back and move to another location? Thanks or your help!!!

Lucy H.

Anne's Response:

I would cut the plant back after it blooms but wait until fall to move it. In late August you can use a sharp spade to root prune the tea olive. Just stab the spade down into the ground in a circle at the outside edges of the plant. After 6 weeks you should be able to move the plant without upsetting it too much. The root ball you have to move will be smaller and not weigh quite so much. New roots will generate quickly in its now location if you make a good planting bed and water the plant in well.

When can I plant?

My husband and I bought a new home last summer and are very anxious to plant some shrubs. When is it safe to do so? I have seen landscapers putting in shrubs on new construction, but I trust you more than them. Thanks!

Anne's Response:

I prefer to plant shrubs in the fall when it is cooler and the plants need less water. If you plant during the spring you will have to water the new plants at least once a week until they get established. Make sure you use composted leaves and manure in the planting holes to provide enough organic matter in the soil.


Are gardinias decidious? I can not fins mites or anything else. I have treated with miracid and Bayer 2-1 systemic. About 1/2 the leaves have fallen through the winter but new shoots are appearing and the tips of the branches are starting new buds or leaves. What may be happening? Stacy

Anne's Response:

Gardenias will loose about 1/3 of their leaves every year but a healthy plant will start putting on new leaves in the spring. Keep the plants watered and use a fertilizer that contains a slow-release nitrogen when the plants start showing new leaves in the spring.

Bonsai infestation

hi, I received a bonsai tree (ficus I believe) for Christmas and love it. Tonight however, I noticed it had a lot of yellow leaves. Closer investigation showed a hollow 2 inch area in the the middle tree trunk (it has three twisted trunks) and a bunch of brown tiny eggs(?) and brown bug carcasses. I really don't want this plant to die, and there are still a lot of lovely green leaves. What are these bugs and how can I get rid of them in order to save my plant?



Anne's Response:

Insecticidal soap can be sprayed on the trunk of the tree to smother the insects and eggs. Take it outdoors on a warm day to spray as it is messy and the odor is not that pleasant. Leave the spray on the plant for about an hour and then wash it off and bring the plant back inside. The yellow leaves may be from another cause entirely. Ficus resents being moved; they do loose a lot of leaves in the winter so check the base of the yellow leaves to see if there is a sign of new leaves beginning to emerge. You may also want to check the soil moisture to make sure it is not “sopping wet” because that causes root rot and yellow leaves. A slow release plant food may supply enough nitrogen to produce greener leaves.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Drought help

Dear Anne,

Help! We moved to a new home and we cannot water, so therefore we cannot sod. What can I do? Would you just throw out some seed and hope for the best. Or should I mulch the yard? I have dogs and the dirt and mud are about to drive me insane!

Kind regards,

Barbara P.

Anne's Response:

There are some landscapers who are putting down sod and using well water or treated sewage water. It is more expensive but it will help get the sod off to a good start. If you put down fescue sod there will be a problem if the watering restrictions are not lifted during the summer. It really is too late to put our fescue grass seed this year. If you want to put down a warm season grass such as Zoysia, Bermuda or St. Augustine you may be able to start them from seed in May if it looks like we will have rain on a regular basis. Using sod for warm season grasses would also be a possibility and they have the advantage of not needing as much water after they are established.