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(April 2012)

QuestionI purchased a rosemary topiary on sale after Christmas. It's in a 4" pot and I want to re-pot it and move it to my front yard. I get 6+ hours of sun light out there.  My question is, what size pot do I choose? I'm unconcerned about keeping the shape because I will be using it for cooking. I'd like for it to get as big as possible but it has to be planted in a pot and placed near my front porch  to keep the neighborhood dogs from urinating on it.


AnswerRosemary does great outdoors in Arkansas.  It actually is fairly drought tolerant once established.   If you want a large plant, opt for a fairly large container.   Maximum size will be limited by root constriction, so the larger the container, the larger the eventual mature plant.   Choose a container that will work with the size of your front porch.

(March 2012)

QuestionOne morning, after blooming for 4 weeks, all my pansy blooms disappeared...2 days later, all the stalks were gone.  What kind of critter eats pansies?  They were in a window box, that I have planted pansies in the last 4 years, where they lasted throughout the season.  Also our horsetail (they are tall spikes of green with bands around them every inch or so)  disappeared this winter, after surviving the last 2 winters outside.  Could a creature have eaten these?


AnswerSince they are in a window box, I would have to assume squirrels or rats.  Pansies can be eaten by deer, rabbits, squirrels and rats.  Once they get the taste for them, they tend to revisit them annually.  If the plants are eaten at night, I would bet rats did it, while squirrels would be more likely to eat during the day.  You can put out a trap and see what you get.  The horsetail (Equisetum) is a highly invasive plant.  I can’t imagine it being eaten nor do I think it is gone. Give it time to green up this spring and my bet is it will return.

(November 2011)

QuestionI love gardenias and last year I bought a plant and planted it outdoors.  It lived until frost and then it died back to the ground. I just left it alone and it came back out slowly but it never bloomed. This year I bought one that says frost free. I planted this one in a pot.  Should I leave this one in the pot outside, bring it inside or plant it in the ground? Also, what about the one I bought last year, just leave it alone?


AnswerMany gardenias took a hit with our cold winter weather last season.  While most didn't die, if they get frozen back, you do lose the blooms for that season.  Gardenias have flower buds set before they head into winter.  They are much hardier planted in the ground than planted in containers.  Elevated soil in a small pot gets colder than ground soil.  At this stage, the one that is in a pot, I would suggest either moving it into a garage or storage area to prevent it freezing and then plant it in the ground next spring.  Planting now is not going to allow much time for the roots to establish before winter sets in.  The plant that is already in the ground, leave it alone and hope it survives the winter better this year.


QuestionWe have a deck that is approximately 20 feet above ground.  My husband had an arbor built above the railing.  He has jasmine honeysuckle growing from 8 large pots sitting on the deck.  The plants have been growing for about 4 years and some of them have made it to the top of the arbor which is what we want.  However, each year we usually have 1 or 2 plants that die back somewhat and have to start over.  I have been thinking that we need to protect the plants from the cold since they are sitting above ground level.  Do you have any suggestions as to how this can be done?


AnswerIf the plants are dying back to the pot, but then resprouting, there is enough protection in the size of the containers to protect the root system.  What is getting nipped is top growth, which will be trickier to protect.  Make sure there is ample moisture in the soil prior to a heavy frost, since dry plants are more susceptible to winter cold.  You could also wrap the vines loosely with burlap, sheets, etc. when temperatures are predicted below 15 degrees.  You can leave them covered for extended periods without any problems to the plant.  Just make sure it isn’t too tight, and be aware of weight issues should we have winter precipitation.  Can the arbor support the added weight of wet fabric?

(Oct. 2010)

QuestionI live in Lonoke County and it is bone dry.  I have expensively watered lawn, shrubbery and flowers all summer just to keep them alive.  Now we are almost through October and I can’t tell if things are turning brown because of the time of year or the drought.  How long should I keep watering?


AnswerAlthough some parts of the state have gotten some showers, they were not universal across the state, and even where they did fall, it wasn’t enough to make up for the deficits we are experiencing.  Just because the weather has turned cool does not mean we can stop watering.  I have had so many gardeners tell me they are giving up, and now is NOT the time to do so.  If you have watered all summer, why stop now?  Many plants have set flower buds, some are shutting down early, but there still needs to be ample moisture in the plant for it to survive the winter, and to protect the flower buds.  We may not have to water daily now, but you still want to apply at least an inch of water per week unless we have rain.  Once a killing frost occurs, weekly watering may not be necessary, but if the drought continues into the winter, you will need to water occasionally even when it is cold.  Pay particular attention to containerized plants, and when temperatures are going to plummet.  Moisture in the ground and thus in the plants acts as a barrier for the foliage and can help protect them.  When plants are too dry, they will experience more winter burn.

QuestionI purchased a Tecoma stans var. angustifolia plant early in the summer of this year and it is currently still in the original pot.  It is about 4 feet tall and a serious and beautiful bloomer.  I am not sure how to take care of it this winter so I can continue with it in the spring.  Should I ground plant it or leave it in its pot.


AnswerTecoma stans var. angustifolia is a more compact version of the Esperanza or Tecoma stans.  This plant is an outstanding bloomer in full sun all summer long and it is still going strong.  While Tecoma stans is considered hardy to zone 8, the angustifolia form is listed as hardy in zone 7 (which is what central Arkansas is).  I would still question its winter hardiness in a container, but if you want to plant it outdoors next spring and get it established, it should overwinter.  For this winter, you will probably want to move the pot into the garage or crawl space for winter hardiness.

QuestionI live in Fairfield Bay and have a knockout rose bush that the deer just love. I want to move it to a pot and put it on the deck.  However, I don't know how big a pot it will take in order for it not to freeze during the winter.  Would you give me some idea about the hardiness of a potted rose and the size pot I should use?


AnswerI would say a minimum of a five gallon container and larger if you can handle it.  The larger the pot, the easier it is for you to keep it watered in the summer and the more protection for the roots and the more cold tolerant the plant will be in the winter.   Don't forget to water even in the winter, especially prior to a hard freeze.  Container plants dry out more quickly than those in the ground.

(Sept. 2010)

QuestionIt looks like I may have "killed" my asparagus fern.  I have had it for 29 years and it was beautiful.  It was in a pot on my porch and had kept it watered well and it was doing good.  Then all of a sudden it turned brown and is dying.  I thought back and the only thing I can think of that I did - was, and this is dumb, I watered it with some vinegar water.  I had always heard that ferns like acid soil - so thought I would give it some -  Evidently Wrong!!!  Do you think that I could cut it all back and keep it watered and fertilized - or is it gone????


AnswerI hope it isn't totally dead, but never use vinegar on a plant you want to live.  Vinegar is often touted as an organic weed killer—and it is non-selective, meaning it doesn’t treat the good plants any differently than the bad. Regular household vinegar is a 5% acetic acid concentration.  Acetic acid is what has the potential to kill vegetation because it draws moisture out of the leaf. Research is ongoing as to the effectiveness of vinegar as a non-selective weed killer, so we are not recommending it at this time, but so far, they have found that strong concentrations of acetic acid are needed to kill tougher weeds, but any amount can burn a plant.  Since you did dilute your solution, it should be even less than 5%, so hopefully you just burned the plant and there is still life left.  Cut off the damaged parts, and put the plant in your sink or shower and let water run through it to leach out any residue.  If the plant is not totally dead, it should begin to sprout back out.

(April 2008)

QuestionI have two bougainvillea plants that I have had a couple of years. I bring them in each fall.  I was wondering when it would be safe to put them outside this year.  Also I am trying to stake them so they will look like a tree instead of a bush.  Do you have any suggestions?


AnswerI think it is a good idea to wait until mid to late April before moving any tropical plants outdoors.  This just guarantees that a late frost won’t hit them—think back to last year!!  Bougainvilleas usually bloom better if they are slightly pot-bound, so don’t give them too much container space or you may get more foliage than flowers.  To train them into a standard takes time and patience.  You would need some form of stake to get the trunk established, then start pruning the top at a height where you want the bush to begin.  Be careful, since the stems do have thorns on them.

(June 2005)

QuestionCan you tell me the specific care for a potted Calla Lily? I received it as a gift and the blooms are now gone. The leaves are tall  but still green and starting to droop. Should it be set outside and can I expect repeat blooms someday?


AnswerCalla lilies can over winter fine in central and south Arkansas, and sporadically in the northern part of the state.  Plant them in a well drained soil in morning sun or filtered sun.  I would avoid direct afternoon sun.  Don’t expect more blooms this season, but hopefully the foliage will linger all summer, and it is often as striking as the flowers.  If your plant has really declined, the leaves may continue to die back, but I would not be surprised if new leaves appeared to carry you through the rest of summer.  Make sure drainage is good in both summer and winter, since wet conditions in the cool months can spell disaster.

(June 2008)

QuestionI saw on TV last fall that you can plant tulip bulbs in dirt in pots.  I thought that was a neat idea and I did that.  I had tulips blooming everywhere in them in April/May.  What should I do with them now?  I potted geraniums and other plants on top of them for the summer.  Is that okay.


AnswerTulips are not one of our best repeat bloomers when they are planted in the ground, so I am not going to hold my breath as to how well they will come back in your containers. The main concern I have is moisture. Tulips are best planted deep in the ground which keeps them drier in the summer months.  In containers with plants on top, you will be doing regular watering and the bulbs are going to stay awfully moist. If you try this again in the future, consider letting the foliage grow for the requisite six to eight weeks after flowering, then lift and dry the bulbs for replanting the next fall. For best show with spring tulips it is often best to use new bulbs every season anyway.

(October 2005)

QuestionI recently went to Maine and brought back a Limelight Hydrangea that grows to be trees in Maine! It is in a 10 inch pot and is about two feet tall! My question is should I plant it or keep in the pot inside?  I thought these were so pretty in Maine; they have huge blooms on them and grow to be 10 to 15 ft tall there!


AnswerThe ‘Limelight’ hydrangea is a cultivar of the Hydrangea paniculata or panicle hydrangea.  These plants can grow quite large and bloom on the new growth, so you don’t have to worry about winter damaging the flowers.  I would definitely plant the shrub in the ground now.  It will fare much better in the soil than in a container indoors and should have no problems with winter damage.  Amend the soil with organic matter, and mulch.  Water periodically, even in the winter if it gets dry.  Planting now should give you a stronger root system next spring and a stronger plant for the growing season. The flowers on this cultivar are reputed to be lime green, however they often appear more white than green in our climate.  Either way it makes a pretty bush, growing ten feet or more in height and five to six feet wide.

(July 2010)

QuestionI bought this beautiful hanging basket of Million Bells in the spring and it had a million blooms.  I have watered and fertilized it and it has not had over 50 blooms since purchase. It's in a shady spot.  Should I move it to the sun?


AnswerYou have nailed the problem on the head.  Million Bells is Callibrachoa, a plant related to petunias.  The more sunlight they get, the better they bloom.  They will not bloom in the shade.  Do keep up with fertility, as callibrachoa can slow down with blooming when it gets hot and dry if it is lacking in nutrition.  If you have had it in deep shade, gradually expose it to full sun or you may sunburn it.

(April 2005)

QuestionI received two blooming ranunculus in 4" pots and  the little plastic insert in the pots didn't really say much about the care of  the plants, only when to plant and whether to plant in sun or shade.  I did a web search and found only a greeting card company with photos of the plants.  Are they bulbs or annuals?  What do I do with them once the bloom is gone?  Any info you may be able to pass along will be greatly appreciated!


AnswerRanunculus are bulbs, or more correctly tubers, which can be hardy in our zone.  They bloom early in the spring with bright bold colors, with either single or double flowers.  After bloom, let the foliage grow until it dies back, then lift and store the bulbs until next fall, when they can be planted again. If you leave them in the ground for the summer dormant months, they often rot, if they get any additional water.  They must have a very well drained soil.  Although it is possible to have them for more than one year, I grow them as annuals and buy blooming plants every year in late winter for an extra touch of color.  I throw them away after they are done.

(March 2005)

QuestionI have an oleander tree (about 6 ft tall now) that I move outside at the end of March every year in Fayetteville.  I have over-wintered it in the garage (it has done fine) and am wondering how I prune this plant to encourage flowering.  The first year it flowered nicely.  It gets about 4 hours of direct sunlight and about 4 hours of dappled sunlight.  I have never pruned except some suckers and inside pointing twigs.  Does it bloom on new growth or old growth?  This will be the 4th year and it bloomed a little last year but less and less every year.  Does it need to be fertilized?  Help.


AnswerIt does bloom on the new growth, so if you are not pruning it and it is containerized, it is probably maintaining a constant size, and flowering will be somewhat limited.  Also, the more sunlight it gets, the better it will bloom. Repot it this spring when you move it out--either putting it in a larger container, or replacing the old soil with fresh and breaking up any root-bound conditions.  Then prune it back by one third or more.  Fertilize monthly, and try to increase the light if you can.  Hopefully, you will see an abundance of flowers this summer.

(November 2005)

QuestionI live in NW Arkansas and I have several large containers outside on my deck that I would like winter color in. What options do I have for a shade garden?  I have many large oak trees surrounding my house.     I have five large containers and I would like plants that would take our winter.


AnswerYou might try planting bulbs further down in the containers and then lining the tops with pansies, violas and parsley.  If your shade is primarily from deciduous trees, you typically have enough sunlight through the winter months to have annual color.  New bulbs can be planted every year, since they have flowers set when you purchase them.  They set their energy in the 6 weeks after bloom for next season’s flowers.  You can reuse them or buy new.  Make sure you do water the containers even in the dead of winter—especially prior to a really cold snap.  The larger the container, the more winter hardy your plants will be.  Small containers dry out quickly, and the soil gets much colder.

(December 2005)

QuestionI've been trying to grow Italian parsley in a pot to keep indoors over winter, and it will grow well for a few months and then the leaves start to wilt and curl up.  I'm an experienced gardener so I don't over water, and I use a professional potting mix that contains fertilizer, so I don't fertilize at all.  One variable here is that I allowed the Black Swallowtail caterpillars to feast on it and they pruned it down to the soil level, but it has grown back again.  Any suggestions?


AnswerYou would have been much better off planting the parsley outdoors than in.  It is a tad late to get it established outside, but if you can find a nursery still selling it, try.  Parsley thrives in cool weather--I usually plant it along with my pansies and violas.  It is a biennial, meaning it will only live for two years before blooming, setting seed and dying.  The warm indoor conditions with low light and low humidity will make it difficult to grow indoors. For best luck, give it a bright location and the coolest spot you can find inside.  Do not attempt moving your plant outside as it would not be acclimated to cold, and would promptly die.


QuestionWe had to give up a large landscaped house for a town house in Hot Springs Village. Therefore I have grown tomato plants directly in bags of soil on a sunny deck (with slits in the bottom of the sacks). What tomato variety do you suggest as the very best? Peppers have been successful, grown in bags of soil also; but what variety might you suggest as best? Has squash been successful?


AnswerYou could ask ten different gardeners which variety of tomato is best, and you would probably get ten different answers.  We all have our favorites.  Usually when we grow tomatoes in containers, which I would classify as the bag method, the bush type of tomatoes is easier to manage.  Tomatoes come as either determinate varieties--bush type, or indeterminate--those that keep growing.  The determinate ones usually have a stronger stem and don't require the rigid staking.  They are usually more manageable in size.  For peppers, almost all should perform well.  The banana type peppers may not be as nutritionally needy as the bell types, but with proper nutrition and watering, anything is possible. They sell space saving varieties of squash and cucumbers--more bush-like in habit, specifically for containers.


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