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(August 2012)

QuestionI have two large 15' camellias on the east side of my house. They were planted in 1968 and haven't been watered or fertilized for at least 6 years. They bloom profusely without fail. My question is for the first time I've seen some seed pods forming. I'm curious as to why the pods are forming on such an old shrub. Why now? Is it a portent of doom for the mother plant?


AnswerCamellias have the potential to set seeds every year.  I think part of the reason we are seeing more this year, is that they bloomed so early, met with no late freezes and had ample time to set seeds before the heat hit.  We often think of camellias as water needy plants, but I have found that they can be pretty resilient, once they are well established and in the right spot.  Flower buds are set for next year’s blooms now.

(July 2012)

QuestionRecently, I asked you about my dwarf gardenias not keeping their blooms very long. I have been introduced to Epsom Salt this year and have been doing some experimenting with different plants and having wonderful results.  The gardenias also received a dose of ES and are now blooming again.  Not many, but a very few blooms and very little, if any, fragrance.  We are curious if the salt has produced the extra blooms.  We do not recall them blooming after spring last year.


AnswerEpsom salts are magnesium sulfate, and many home gardeners swear by it for magnolias, tomatoes and roses.  If your soil is low in magnesium, this is an easy way to raise the level.  Many of our old acidic soils may lack in magnesium. Having you soil tested will determine where your levels are.  Gardenia varieties vary tremendously by how long they bloom and whether or not they can re-bloom.  Weather conditions can also alter the bloomability.  This year, many plants bloomed very early and if they have been watered, I have seen a large number of the plants setting new flower buds.  I even have some new buds on my single blooming Daisy gardenia, which has never re-bloomed before.  Enjoy the new blooms, but don’t depend solely on Epsom salts as your fertilizer regime, and I wouldn’t use it much later in the season on gardenias.

QuestionI have 3 gorgeous crepe myrtle trees 25-30 feet high and planted in a line 15+ feet apart.  They don't look stressed but haven't bloomed this year.  They have never been pruned but the canopies have started to grow together.  Are they mature and therefore not blooming on new growth?  Should I have them trimmed (by an expert of course) or could it be a chemical problem?  They are in full sun.


AnswerYou aren’t alone, even the crape myrtles seem to be affected by this hot, dry weather.  Many are not blooming, and those that are have much smaller than normal flowers.   For those that have finished blooming, deadheading—removing the spent flowers can encourage them to bloom again, but since yours haven’t started yet, try giving them really deep soaking water.  While crape myrtles are extremely drought tolerant, and won’t kick the bucket, or even appear wilted, they will slow down and stop performing when it gets really dry.  Look around at neighbor’s landscapes—often the greener and more lush the garden, the more flowers you will see.  If you can’t or don’t want to water, the crape myrtles can hang on, and if we get a break in the weather, there is still ample time for them to flower.

QuestionWhat is the reason and solution for blooms falling from tomato plants?  The flowers can’t seem to stay long enough for fruit to appear. What do I do??


AnswerTomato blossoms fail to set fruit when the nighttime temperature stays above 75 degrees, and/or when the daytime temperature exceeds 95 degrees.  It was the main reason we had no tomatoes last year. It has not been a big issue this year, but will be now that the weather is heating up.  There isn’t much you can do about it, but keep the plants healthy and happy until the weather cools off and they begin to bear again.

(June 2012)

QuestionI have a wisteria tree that has yet to bloom.  I keep the vines/runner trimmed as needed.  Any ideas on what might be causing this? Also, I have a peony in full sun that has yet to bloom. I am not an expert by no means with flowers.


AnswerWisteria can be notoriously slow to start blooming--sometimes as long as 8-10 years. Once it does, it tends to bloom annually.  It does best in full sun and should be kept trained to a trellis or fence--not allowed to grow up a tree.  It should be pruned hard in the spring once the leaves begin to come out, and then not pruned again, as it sets flower buds in late summer/ early fall. Peonies in full sun that aren't blooming usually mean they have planted the bulbs too deep.  The eyes on a peony (similar to eyes on a potato) should be planted no deeper than ½ to 1 inch underground.

(May 2012)

QuestionI have a gardenia bush on the east side of my house.  A few years ago I cut it back and ever since it does not bloom.  Can you please tell me how to get it to bloom again?


AnswerProper pruning should encourage flowering, but even if you butchered the plant, improper pruning should not impact flowering for more than one year.  Has the plant grown back?  Did you water last summer?  Gardenias bloom normally in late May and June, but this year they are already blooming.  I had one with blooms in late April.  Gardenias set flower buds for the following year in late summer to early fall.  They do need sunlight to set flowers.  If they are in deep shade, they won’t bloom.  If they were overly stressed and didn’t put on new growth, they wouldn’t bloom well.  In cold winters, damage can occur which can impact blooms, but that sure wasn’t the case this year.  Check the sunlight and water when dry.  Fertilize now with an azalea fertilizer and see what happens.

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