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October 20, 2018


My family was given a start of this plant several years ago by an elderly gentleman who lived somewhere north of Conway. The gentleman stated that he had taken a sample to a nursery and they were unable to identify this plant.  We would appreciate your help in identifying it. It can grow up to 6 feet tall as well as 6 feet wide.


 Picture of a lespedeza bush  



The plant in question is a bush lespedeza or bush clover, I believe it looks like Lespedeza thunbergii.  It is a beautiful deciduous shrub which can die back to the ground in a cold winter, but usually survives. Occasionally you will have blooms in mid-summer but it usually shines in the late summer/fall garden. It is gorgeous in bloom. 


September 29, 2018

QuestionOk, I reluctantly surrender. My three 10 year old red tips have to go. 90% of their lush foliage has gone away this summer, despite spraying.  The area is heavily shaded, against (west of) a 6 foot privacy fence and in a well-drained area in northwest Arkansas.  Do you have any suggestions for a more carefree replacement? And, should I replace now or in the spring?


Fall is a great time to plant hardy trees and shrubs.  You have several options to choose from.  There are numerous holly species which form great hedges, from the old-fashioned Burford holly to Nelly R. Stevens and Foster hollies.  You could also plant one of the smaller southern magnolias such as Little Gem or Bunny Ears.  Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’ arborvitae is great in NW Arkansas and Cryptomeria is another needle-type evergreen that would do well as a hedge. 


May 19, 2018

QuestionI have a currant spice bush that blooms yellow spicy blooms in the spring. It sends out suckers, but I have not been successful in digging one up to share with a friend. Would I be more successful rooting a wood cutting in water? 

AnswerThe spicy currant or Ribes odorata is an old-fashioned bush. What season are you dividing in? Suckers usually work, but you may try layering some of the floppy stems to increase the roots.  Move them in the fall after they are rooted and they should work. They also root fairly easily from cuttings taken in mid-June to early July.   


April 7, 2018


Would you please tell me what this is? It's growing in my front yard and I don't think I've seen it before. 

Picture of flowering almond


The plant in question is a flowering almond, Prunus glandulosa.  It is an old-fashioned small deciduous shrub that is absolutely gorgeous when in bloom, but unfortunately it doesn’t bloom for very long.  Enjoy those light pink double blossoms while they are there. 

 April 7, 2018


Years ago (50 probably) these seemed to be in every 'old' lady's yard. We called them wasp bushes because they seemed to harbor stinging things and had holly like sticker leaves. It never occurred to me these were red top/tip photinia, but I've asked at 2 nurseries and they both said it is, but a lady customer said it's another variety that doesn't get blight. The leaves are not smooth edged at all and while similar, they are not the blighted plants I have had. What is this old lady wasp plant really?

AnswerIt is Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata), a much larger shrub than the red tip variety of photinias (Photinia x fraseri) and much more resistant to the leaf spot disease.  My kids called it the stinky plant when they were young since those that were in our neighborhood had profuse blooms with a fairly noxious odor. 


February 3, 2018


I read your IN THE GARDEN weekly and love it! I live in NWA, Fayetteville area, I would like to plant an evergreen screen that will have West exposure. Suggestions?


There are a number of possibilities.  You could plant either a one variety hedge or a mix of evergreens for more diversity.  Choices include: hollies (Nellie Stevens, Foster, Burford or American holly are some choices), some of the smaller southern magnolias (Little Gem, Bracken’s Brown Beauty or Teddy Bear), and some needle-type evergreens include cryptomeria, Green Giant arborvitae or Eastern red cedar.


January 27, 2018


We planted Indian Hawthorn around our home last spring. The plants on the north side have done well with only some black spot fungus, but the plants on the south side have much worse black spot infestation. We have sprayed fungicide routinely and removed diseased leaves until the dead of winter. Now we need advice about the spring. Do we remove all the diseased leaves which would defoliate the plants before spring? Do we spray for the fungus now or just before spring? 


Indian hawthorn shrubs can suffer from entomosporium leaf spot disease.  There are several new varieties that are resistant to the disease, but it doesn't sound like you have those.   I would not take off all the damaged leaves, but do good sanitation around the plants with any leaves that have fallen. I would spray with a fungicide in early spring as growth is about to begin.  Then wait and spray again 4 weeks later.  While it may be necessary to spray on a regular basis to keep them totally disease free, I personally would not want to do that. I would try a preventative spray and then see what happens.  A general fungicide like Daconil, Bayleton or broad spectrum fungicide should work. 


August 19, 2017


Having added a number of them Indian hawthorns to the yard, I was dismayed to see some leaves with spots and red and yellow coloration.  Those afflicted leaves are dropping.  Mr. Google thinks the cause is entomosporium which is listed as the scourge of red top photinias.  What to do?


Indian hawthorns are affected by entomosporium leaf spot, and this summer seems to be a good year for leaf-spotting diseases, with the frequent rainfall and milder temperature.  Who could guess that a miserable hot and dry summer breeds less leaf spots?!  I for one will take the weather and suffer a few diseases.  That being said, I think it is getting a tad late in the year to start a spray program.  I would do a good job of sanitation this fall, raking up all the fallen leaves and old mulch since the disease does overwinter in plant debris. You can spray with a dormant oil to smother any disease spores once the weather gets cold.  Next spring use an ornamental fungicide such as Rose Spray or Daconil as soon as plants begin to leaf out next spring.  If your plants have gotten leggy due to the problem, lightly prune and sterilize the pruning shears in between cuts, Spray with a fungicide when you are finished.  I would suggest spraying two or three more times next season at 2 week intervals.  Although for the plants to stay totally clean you would need to repeat the spray schedule, I think catching it early and hopefully preventing it should help.  If you need to replace any, or are considering new plantings, choose resistant cultivars such as Olivia, Eleanor Tabor, Indian Princess, Gulf Green, and Georgia Petite.


August 12, 2017


This plant was bought at the Bella Vista plant sale 3 years ago; no one could tell me about it then as the person who contributed the plant was not there at the time.  It has taken over both sides of our deck ramp even though it was only planted on one side; it's about 3-4 feet tall and did not bloom till last year.  Any clues as to what we have here?

Picture of a Clerodendrum bungei


The plant is commonly called Mexican hydrangea or Cashmere bouquet – Clerodendrum bungei.  The flowers are showy and fragrant, but watch out—this plant spreads like gangbusters.


July 29, 2017

QuestionA bed on one side of our house gets shade for most of the day but then, in summer, a big blast of intense late-afternoon light for 2-3 hours. Any advice on what perennials or flowering shrubs might do well here?


My guess is that in addition to 2-3 hours of intense light, you get pretty bright filtered light for another 2-3 hours or more.  If that is the case, you should be able to grow a wide variety of plants.  Loropetalum is a spring blooming evergreen which comes in a wide variety of mature sizes and does well in full sun to partial shade.  It has purple foliage and pink flowers, or a green leafed variety with white flowers.  Abelia is an old-fashioned evergreen which should do well in your situation and blooms all summer.  Althea or rose-of-Sharon will do well, along with clethra and itea (deciduous mid-summer and late spring/summer bloomers).  For perennials I think you should do well with coneflowers, Joe pye weed, daylilies, asters,  rudbeckia and salvias.  I think you have plenty of options. 


March 11, 2017


I would like your advice on plant choices for two spots in my yard.  The first one, on the NW corner of our lot, is in full sun so quite hot in summer, although it does get a little shade in late afternoon from a maple tree nearby. I put in some Pfitzer Junipers there to add more evergreen to the yard.  I want to add some evergreen azaleas (at least, that's what I'm thinking). Looking online, it seems many of them are not that crazy about full sun.  And then they also have to be fairly cold hardy to be in Fayetteville.  Do you have any varieties you might suggest?  Some get very large, but hopefully I could trip them to keep them medium in size (5x5' or so) if they decide to really grow.  Or maybe there is a smallish variety that would work there.  I guess pink or some pretty lavender color would be nice. The second spot is on the other end of the same part of our yard, on the SW corner.  On that corner, we have a rather large smoke tree.  It has always been such an odd tree, kind of a problem for us.  The branches quickly grow very long, then invariable break in the wind and hang down.  We don't know whether to cut it to the base or not, so you see the trucks sticking up.  But we cut off the branch stems because they are constantly breaking.   We are about ready to just pull that tree out and put in a Japanese maple.  I would like a weeping type, I think, maybe one that just gets about 10x10'.  It seems, again, that not many Japanese maples like a spot like that which is in full sun (and I mean full!), with that extreme heat.   Do you have a suggestion on any Japanese maples that would be happy there? Love your columns and blog.


Not only are these beds in full sun, but totally exposed at the edges of your yard, so I don't think azaleas nor Japanese maples are good options.  Some sun and heat lovers for shrubs include dwarf variegated abelia--they should bloom a good part of the summer and there are numerous options to choose from.  If you don't care if they are evergreen, dwarf buddleia (butterfly bushes), itea, ninebark, Little lime hydrangea or dwarf spirea would be good choices.  For a small deciduous weeping tree consider a weeping redbud. Two other small flowering trees are the fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) and a serviceberry (Amelanchier).


February 1, 2017


Do you recommend treating Indian Hawthorne in my yard in Cleveland County with blackspot during the winter or now?  I know some more cold weather is probably coming, but do you feed plants in the winter and/or treat for diseases?  Also, is pruning now too soon?  

AnswerSpray schedules and fertilization would be a waste of time in the winter because the plants are dormant.  Wait until after bloom before pruning. If you prune them now you will not have any blooms this spring. Indian hawthorn plants set their flower buds in the fall for the following spring bloom. Pruning as soon after flowering is best.  That would be the time to spray with a fungicide and fertilize as well


November 12, 2016


Recently I had a local nursery install several plants at the back of my condo in Russellville, consisting of Sky Pencil Holly, Soft Touch Holly, Knock Out Roses, Camellia, a Teddy Bear Magnolia, a Japanese Lace Leaf Maple along with some Encore Azaleas and Distylium. My question is, should I fertilize these plants now, if so what type of plant food would be best. Thank you.

AnswerNever apply fertilizer this late in the season.  You want the plants to go dormant, not put on new growth as they head into winter.  Do pay attention to water needs, we continue to be quite dry.  Pay particular attention when it does get cold.  If plants are too dry heading into a hard freeze they are more prone to winter damage. The key  for you is to get the roots established this winter, and worry about fertilizing when they are kicking into new growth next April or May


September 1, 2016


I have some shrubs that I would like to move in my yard.  Can I go ahead and move them now, or must I wait?  I have a few hollies and a rose bush that are in the way.

It would be best for the plants to wait for cooler weather.  November would be an ideal month, but if you can wait until at least October it would not be as stressful to the plant.  September is often hot and dry, which will take a toll on the plants.  Depending on the size of the rose bush, you may want to wait and move it when you prune it in February, so you won’t have as many thorns to deal with. We don’t recommend pruning in the fall, since it exposes the plants to potential winter damage if we have a cold winter.  

 June 11, 2016


I saw this red bush, which has fluffy red poofs at the end of the branches.  Do you know what it is?  

Picture of smoke tree

 AnswerThe plant in question is a purple smoke tree (Cotinus). It can be grown as a large bush or a small tree.  They have been quite showy this spring.  There are green leafed forms but by far the purple foliaged plant is the more dramatic in the garden.

 February 6, 2016


We recently moved to the Leawood neighborhood in midtown of Little Rock.  Our home faces north.  The person we purchased the home from had recently removed all the overgrown landscaping, so we have a blank slate to work with.  In your opinion, what should we consider planting in the front of our home for maximum curb appeal?  We like azaleas, gardenias, hydrangeas, etc.  And do you have any recommendations on who to use?

 AnswerAll of the plants you mentioned would do well on a north facing home.  There are many choices including:  camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas, hollies, boxwoods, loropetalum, abelia, gardenias.  I don't recommend people, but I would suggest you get a bid from a variety of places.  You can also plan to attend the Arkansas Flower & Garden Show Feb. 26-28 to get ideas and talk with nurserymen, designers and us at the Extension booth.  I too live in Leawood.  It is a great neighborhood, but awful soil!

 September 2015


In March, my daughter & I dug up a Variegated Lacecap Hydrangea. I kept it on my patio in Cleveland County until Aug 8, when I took it to GA, where my daughter moved.  What do we do with it now? Do we wait until the fall to plant it or try to plant it now? It is in a giant pot, but the plant is so large, that it only has adequate dirt and has to be watered frequently? 

AnswerPlant it ASAP. The sooner it gets in the ground, the sooner it can start getting its root system established before winter sets in.   This will make your life easier too, since it won’t be AS water needy once it has more room to grow in.  Give it full morning sun and afternoon shade if you can. 

 March 2014

QuestionCan you tell me what is wrong with my mugo pine?   A few months ago it turned brown at the front, but did put out new growth.   It continues to turn brown, and then attempt to recover. 

AnswerIt is possible your mugo pine has some winter damage along with all the other plants that are struggling. Give it a couple of weeks to make sure this winter is over then prune out the dead branches. Then see how it begins to grow this spring. I think the recent winter precipitation helped actually put moisture back in the ground, which was lacking so much this winter.

 December 2012

QuestionI dug up a yucca plant in my yard and thought I was done with it. Now I have noticed a lot of small yucca plants beginning to sprout. How do I keep these plants from coming back up? I do not want any more yuccas.


AnswerYucca plants are tenacious and will re-sprout from any roots or crowns left in the ground. You can try digging up more of the plants and try to get as much of the underground portions as possible. Then be diligent in cutting them out as you see new sprouts. Spot spraying them with a Round-up product or a brush killer can also help, but you still need to monitor the area for a few years to make sure you have no surprise visitors.

December 2012

QuestionI have a couple of encore azalea plants that I would like to move to different spots in my flower bed. Is now the time to transplant them or is there a better time? I've heard that fall is a good time for planting but I didn't know about transplanting. The azalea bushes have several years’ growth on them so they are not new plants. Also when is the best time to prune azaleas? 

AnswerFall is a great time for planting hardy trees and shrubs, but more tender plants I prefer to wait until winter weather is over before transplanting or moving. If the site they are in is really bad for the plant, I would take my chances and move them. If you just need to relocate them, I would wait until spring. Azaleas can struggle in a particularly cold winter, and will be hardier with an intact root system. If we could only look in the crystal ball and know what kind of winter we will have, it would make life easier. Last year they would have thrived with a fall planting since we had no winter, but you just never know.

November 2012

QuestionWhen should we stop watering trees and bushes in central Arkansas?


AnswerThere is really not a cut off date for watering. It all depends on weather conditions. If you remember back to the horrid drought of 1980, we actually had more drought damage on trees and shrubs, because the drought continued all winter, and people quit watering. We have been fortunate to have rain every few weeks lately, so additional watering isn’t required unless you are planting new shrubs, trees and winter annuals. Then you will need to water a bit. Most plants will do fine without additional water for two to three weeks at a time in the winter months, but container plants will still need to be watered, especially prior to a hard freeze. Dry plants will be more sensitive to winter injury.

August 2012

QuestionI have two Compacta holly bushes on each side of the steps leading up to our front door. They have been there for 14 years, so they are well established as are the shrubs around them. They are almost square at about 3'x3'x3' Over the last 2-3 years they have become sparse of leaves at the bottom and sides. Is there anything I can do to restore them? I know it will be difficult to replace them.


AnswerWhen evergreens are pruned into hedges, whether they are tall or short, the top of the plant should have a slightly narrower profile than the bottom. If the top is the same size or larger, it shades out the base of the plants and they begin to lose leaves. In late February to mid March next spring, cut them back hard—possibly to 1 ½ - 2 feet and lightly fertilize. They should get the burst of new growth and fill back in, hopefully having foliage throughout the plant. Instead of pruning them into future squares, let them have a more natural shape, but keep the tops narrower.

July 2012

QuestionI have a ten year old hydrangea that I have never pruned. It used to bloom beautifully at the top, but this year, most of the blooms were at the bottom. When should I prune and how? Do I need to cut off the old flowers as they fade?


AnswerIf you are planning on pruning your hydrangea, you need to do it soon. Hydrangeas bloom in the summer, but turn around and set flower buds for next year in the late summer or early fall. Remove up to one third of the older canes at the soil line—this should reduce the size, but still leave plenty of growth for blooms for next year. As to removing the spent flowers, that is a personal preference. Some gardeners like the look of the dried flowers, while others think it looks bad. Do continue to water, since hydrangeas are not drought tolerant plants.

June 2012

QuestionI live in Bella Vista, Arkansas and I have a question about my hydrangeas. They were absolutely huge and loaded with blue flowers this year — I use coffee grounds on all my acid loving plants and they thrive. This year I had about 60-75 flowers and we got a big rain. All the flower heads were bowed over. Now I have a lot of bent branches. I know they set their flower buds on last year’s growth, so if I prune all the bent branches, I probably won’t have any flowers next year. I would have to cut about two feet off of each branch to get to straight limbs. Any suggestions on what to do? 

AnswerActually, the time to prune hydrangeas is immediately after they bloom. Instead of just cutting two feet off, try thinning the plants out and remove up to 1/3 of the limbs at the soil line. Cutting hydrangeas at the tops of the stems will encourage branching. Each branch on the stalk can produce the large flower heads which can make them top-heavy and not able to support the blooms. Pruning now will allow the plant to recover and you should still have flower buds set this fall for a bloom for next summer. Hard, cold winters often take a toll in the NW part of our state, but our lack of winter this year has given us quite the hydrangea show this year.

June 2012

QuestionCan you tell me what this bush is called? We saw it near the lake @ Heber Springs. Reminds me of " Gum Balls" !


AnswerThe plant in question is commonly called buttonbush — Cephalanthus occidentalis is the Latin name. It is a wonderful wetland plant and does attract butterflies as well. The white ball shaped flowers have tiny spikes sticking out all over them which makes them quite interesting.      

June 2012

QuestionAbout a month ago my rose ground cover bushes (which are about 3 feet tall) had a beautiful bloom. The bushes were covered with miniature roses. When they all bloomed, I deadheaded the bushes and now nothing---I can't see any new roses even coming out. I don't know the name of the rose bushes but the flowers are an apricot color that fades to light pink. Do you think this is the type of rose that only blooms once in the spring? If so, is it safe to cut them shorter at this time? 

AnswerMost miniatures and the flower carpet groundcover types are re-blooming roses. That being said, if you didn’t get around to pruning them as needed this past February and they are large, you can go ahead and prune them back even more now. This will get them in the shape needed and while it will delay new blooms, they will eventually rebound and begin to bloom. Because of the early start of our spring, many people failed to prune roses, butterfly bushes, and other summer flowering plants. If you have blooming plants, and don’t want to lose flowers, I am suggesting cutting every other stem as they finish flowering to get them pruned, and then when those cut stems rebound, cut the other half. If not pruned at all this season, these plants will be large, unattractive plants by late summer.

May 2012

QuestionI am removing nandina around the foundation of my house. They are probably at least 20 years old and have spread all along the bed behind the azaleas. I have to use a pick ax to uproot thick clumps of roots. Then I hand pick out the long running roots extending out every direction. My question is will I need to sift through to get all the little bits and pieces that this destruction is creating? There are fat white runners and brown woody runners. I'd like to not have to do this again in another 5 years. 

AnswerNandinas are tenacious plants and it is possible they will sprout from the roots that are left behind. The key is to monitor the garden and if you see sprouts weed eat them down or cut them off. Eventually you will wear them out. I don’t think you will get 20 years worth of regrowth from sprouts versus established plants. I like nandinas, but I know many gardeners do not.

March 2012

QuestionAbout 5 years ago I planted a hedge of wax myrtles around my house, spaced about two feet apart. My problem is that I have not kept them trimmed and they have grown quite tall and haven’t filled out well, you can see through them. If I trim them back to about 6 feet tall and keep it there, will they start thickening? 

AnswerPruning your wax myrtles should help them fill out. If left to grow un-pruned, they will continue to grow taller. The top buds on the branches have dominance, so growth continues upright unless the top buds are pruned out. Once the top buds have been clipped, energy can be directed into lateral buds which will help them get fuller. Try to get the pruning done fairly soon so you can catch the burst of new spring growth and they can fill out more quickly.

February 2012

QuestionI have a large landscape azalea on the south side of our home that is about 5 1/2 feet tall. It is about 35 years old and blooms beautifully every year. We lost one bush next to this one last year and had to cut it down. We have a bird feeder about 25 feet from the bush . The birds eat and then fly into the azalea and leave their drippings. Is there any way we can protect the azalea other than remove the bird house? 

AnswerIf you feed them, they will come! I don’t really see how you can prevent the birds from taking shelter in plants near a bird feeder. If you really think this is an issue, I would suggest moving the feeder to a different part of the yard. You might also avoid certain types of birdseed. Sunflower seeds can have what is called an allelopathic reaction to certain plants—that is why you often don’t see a lot of growth directly under a bird feeder. Allelopathic reactions occur when a plant such as sunflower gives off a substance via its seeds and roots, which can inhibit the growth of other plants. I have never known it to kill an azalea bush.

January 2012

QuestionWinter Gardening


AnswerIn the winter months plants go dormant, similar to bears hibernating for the winter. Evergreen plants retain most of their leaves, but they basically shut down their systems for the winter. You will see no new growth, but moisture is in the plant to buffer the leaves from freezing temperatures. When frozen, you may see some evergreens that look wilted or deformed. This is especially noticeable on larger leaved plants like aucuba or gold dust plant and winter annuals like pansies. As soon as they thaw out, the leaves return to their normal shapes. When frozen, leaves are brittle, so you should try to avoid much contact with frozen plants, or leaves or branches can snap off causing permanent damage. Evergreen plants can be more susceptible to ice and snow damage, because of the added weight of the winter precipitation on the foliage. Deciduous plants are those that lose their leaves in the fall or early winter. Bare branches can shed precipitation more easily than those with leaves or needles. You have all seen pine trees bending low with a heavy coat of snow or ice. If you have landscape plants that you can easily reach, lightening the load of snow with a broom or rake can help, but don’t touch the plants if they are covered in ice. When shifting snow, use a gentle motion from the underside of the plant. If it is snowing, chances are temperatures are below freezing, so you want to avoid damaging the plants trying to reduce snow weight. If you do experience winter damage, don’t be too quick to prune. Broken limbs or branches should be cleaned up as soon as you notice them, but burned foliage can actually serve as added protection. Wait until spring to see where new growth begins before pruning.

February 2011

QuestionI have a bunch of Encore azaleas that have bloomed every year since I planted them 2-3 years ago. The problem is they haven’t thrived. I took a cutting to a nursery and a guy there told me that the leaves were burnt. Is it possible that these azaleas are planted too close to the white siding of my house that the afternoon sun is being reflected onto these azaleas and burning them? 

AnswerEncore azaleas can tolerate more sunlight, but they do like water. Last summer took its toll on many plants. If they weren’t watered well, they could have been burned. Winter damage can also cause burned leaves. Wait and see what happens this spring as they start growing, then assess the damage and prune them then. Make sure they are mulched and watered, and fertilize them after the first bloom and see how they do.

November 2010

QuestionWe have a "bridal wreath" (sorry I do not know the official name for it) which we pruned after it bloomed this past spring. Since then it has grown "dramatically" and has some tall shoots on top. It is quite large and located in our front yard near the street. Can I prune it NOW for appearance and not affect its blooms next year? We "inherited" the plant when we bought the lot on which we built our new house and I have no experience with bridal wreaths. 

AnswerBridal wreath is the common name for the white blooming spring spirea. Pruning now WOULD affect the flowers for next spring. Flower buds are set for all spring blooming plants now. The time to officially prune is in the spring after bloom. Don’t just prune it to the size you want it to be, because any new growth would then make it larger. Prune it by at least 1/3 more to allow room for new growth. If you have a few wild shoots, taking them off now would not impact your spring display all that much.

November 2010

QuestionHave the wholesale growers all stopped growing the traditional azalea varieties? (I mean things like Hino, Snow, Coral Bells, Formosa, etc.) All I have seen at local nurseries and stores the past two years are the "Encore" azaleas which are three times as expensive as the older varieties. 

AnswerNo, most nurseries still carry a fairly good collection of azalea varieties. They often push the Encore types in the fall because of their rebloomability in the fall. In the spring, when the azaleas are all in bloom, you should see a huge selection of varieties, including the old standbys. Spring is a much better time to plant azaleas anyway, in case we have cold weather.

October 2010

QuestionI am having landscaping done on my property in Bentonville. We have picked out a Winter's Star Camellia. It has already formed fruit seed pods and I am wondering if it is a true Winter's Star? Is this likely something other than Winter's Star?


AnswerI would be very surprised if it already has bloomed. Seed pods are still on many camellias from last year’s flowers and the flower buds are set for this year. Winter Star is not a japonica type--they typically bloom in Feb-March time period and would not be as winter hardy. Parents of Winter Star are Camellia oleifera (the tea oil camellia) x Camellia hiemalis 'Showa-no-sakae'. There are quite a few of these cold tolerant camellias now that should do well in NW Arkansas. Even if they possibly had already bloomed (which I doubt), it would not have had time to set a seed pod.      

September 2010

QuestionI was wondering when is the best time to trim an arborvitae shrub? I have one that is pretty tall and wide and I did not know the best way to trim it to keep from hurting it. Fall is not a great time to prune shrubs in the landscape for several reasons. One, you may have a pruned look all winter long if new growth doesn't appear, and if new growth does come on late, it may not be as hardy. I would opt for late February through mid April as the prime time to prune arborvitae. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant when pruning. Also, in the case of needle type evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers, don't prune any branch too severely as they don't sprout out as readily from old wood. If you can, make sure green foliage is still on the branch after pruning.


AnswerFall is not a great time to prune shrubs in the landscape for several reasons. One, you may have a pruned look all winter long if new growth doesn't appear, and if new growth does come on late, it may not be as hardy. I would opt for late February through mid April as the prime time to prune arborvitae. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant when pruning. Also, in the case of needle type evergreens such as arborvitae and junipers, don't prune any branch too severely as they don't sprout out as readily from old wood. If you can, make sure green foliage is still on the branch after pruning.

May 2010

QuestionMy daughter and her husband were fishing from the bank of a lake and saw these vines growing nearby. Sure would like to know what they are. Thanks for any help you can give us


AnswerThe plant in question is Kerria japonica pleniflora--the double flowered form of the Yellow Rose of Texas. This is one plant that will bloom in even the deepest shade. Commonly grown in the shade, the flowers fade fast in full sun. The doubled flowered form will bloom off and on all summer. It is deciduous, but the stems stay green all year. It can begin to spread a bit when it gets established, but it is a tough, old-fashioned shrub.      

April 2007

QuestionI have a pink azalea bush. Usually it is loaded with beautiful blooms every year. This year, it only had four flowers on it. I have a red azalea right next to it and it's full of blooms. Wonder why the pink one didn't bloom this year and the red one did? I've talked to others and they have the same problem.


AnswerLast year, many folks did not have a great azalea season, since our winter was extremely dry. This year, we had more than enough rainfall, but we did get some low temperatures and some parts of the state experienced some ice and winter precipitation. I have had several folks tell me their plants look a little peaked. Some varieties of azaleas are more winter hardy than others, so your pink one may be less so than the red ones. Check to see if you have flower buds on the plant. Some may have set that simply failed to open. Allow all your plants to have a chance to bloom, and then prune out any dead wood or extra growth as needed. Fertilize with an azalea fertilizer and apply new mulch, making sure you don’t pile the mulch up next to the trunks. Water as needed this summer and see how they grow. One or two bad years may occur due to weather related issues, insect attacks or disease. As long as you give it a little tender care this summer, it should bounce back and return to good blooming again next spring.

April 2007

QuestionWhat can I do for my plants that were cold damaged?


AnswerThe question on most gardeners’ minds this week is what if anything can I do for my plants that were cold damaged. Damage reports are quite variable statewide, with central Arkansas seemingly reporting the least damage, while northwest was just devastated. But even in central Arkansas, we can’t be certain what lies ahead. There are several factors which will influence the amount of damage. The unseasonably mild March weather had most of our plants a good two weeks ahead of schedule. In a typical spring, crape myrtles would have had small sprouts if any new growth. This year, new growth was up to a foot or more in length. This new growth was very sensitive to cold on many plants. Azaleas were in full bloom in some parts of the state, and some varieties had already past their peak. The duration of the freeze and how low the temperatures got is also a factor. In some reports from Northwest Arkansas, they said they didn’t get above freezing for the day, and had 17 or lower for 10-12 hours. Some areas only got to 28 degrees and had a breeze. Damage is reported on what we expected—azaleas, crape myrtles, hydrangeas, etc., but we are also getting reports of damaged maple trees—both red and Japanese, tulip poplars, and hardy shrubs such as hollies and viburnum. Another factor is the level of soil moisture. If the ground was very dry, there was less protection for plants. Again, Pulaski county and several surrounding counties got good rainfall a few days before the cold. Other parts of the state were dry. Where you live is also a factor. If you live on a sloped yard with good air circulation, damage may be less than if you live in a low lying area where the cold air will pocket. Covering plants to protect them from late frosts, usually only offers 2-5 degrees of protection, depending on what is used. In some parts of the state, they needed 10-15 degrees or more of protection, so damage occurred even where protection was offered. Covering fruit trees or other ornamental trees is next to impossible. So now it is assessment time. Cut off the visibly damaged areas where the leaves and shoots are black or brown, then wait and see what happens. It may be a week or two before new growth begins to emerge on damaged shrubs and trees and then we will know how much more pruning is needed. In some instances, we may see new growth returning from the tops of the plants, in others it may be from the soil line, and in some cases we may have to replace the entire plant—but don’t be too hasty. We can always hope for the best. Check thin barked plants such as azaleas, Japanese maples, and hydrangeas. The sap was up in the stems and it may have frozen. This can lead to outer bark splitting. Where this type of freeze damage occurs, death may not occur to the damaged stems immediately, but you should prune it out when you see it. Plants that are damaged by the cold may be more stressed this growing season. Stressed trees and shrubs are more susceptible to attacks by insects and diseases so try to give them a little extra tender loving care. Don’t forget about watering all season and pay attention to any changes. If you had annual bedding plants or warm season vegetable transplants already planted, get ready to replant. However, that should be the least of our concerns, since they are easy to replace, unlike our trees and shrubs.

July 2006

QuestionWe have a six foot Needlepoint Holly planted last fall by a landscape company. It has lots of berries but no new growth this spring. The leaves that it has are at the tips and not near the trunk. Can fertilizing it bring out new growth near the trunk? Or, should we insist that it be replaced?


AnswerSometimes a holly will set copious amounts of fruit, and when it does, it directs all of its energy into the berries, and not into new growth. It is also its first year of growth, so it should be getting acclimated and setting out roots. I never judge a plant in its first full season in the ground. Also, be aware that the buds at the tip of the branches are dominant, so that is where you will see new foliage. If the end buds are cut off in the spring, it should direct energy into the buds further along the stems which should encourage new growth within the interior of the bush. A light shearing now of the tips could encourage more sprouting within the interior of the bush, but we are in the beginning of the hottest and driest days of the season, so new growth may be at a minimum. At this stage in the growing season, I am not so certain I would do much pruning. Keep it watered for now, and do some corrective pruning next spring.

November 2005

QuestionI have several red tops along with some holly bushes against the front of my home. I lost one red top this summer and I dug it up completely and made a circular flower bed where I planted summer annuals. It was pretty this summer but now with winter coming on I need to put something more permanent in to balance things out. I would like some evergreen, holly or something that stands about five feet high. Is it too late to plant hollies now? I saw one that started with an F, but I can’t remember what it was.


AnswerIt is not too late to plant. Fall is an ideal time to plant hardy trees and shrubs. Red top photenias have been dying across the south for years now with the leaf spot disease, or the weakening of the plant. Replacing them with tougher plants is often a good idea. By all means, you can still plant now. Keep in mind that many of our plants are container grown these days. Container grown plants can actually be planted twelve months out of the year, as long as you water. Fall is much better than summer in my opinion, so plant away. You probably saw a Foster Holly.

April 2005

QuestionA few years ago I planted a mock orange, Philadelphus virginalis it says. Although it is still living, unusual for things I plant, it has never bloomed. Will it? Also, there is this plant around Fayetteville that resembles honeysuckle but is a woody shrub rather than a vine. It grows like cancer, so without constant whacking it takes over the yard. Any way to get rid of it?


AnswerHow much sunlight does your mock orange get? It needs at least 4-6 hours, and will do great in full sun. It should bloom every year in late spring. It sets its flower buds in the fall, so don't do much pruning after June. They are usually pretty reliable. As for your honeysuckle plant, there are shrub honeysuckles, but they are not usually invasive. You may want to take a plant sample to your county agent. The best way to kill plants is to get as much of the original plant dug up, then spray any remaining sprouts with a glyphosate (Round-up) product. The larger and woodier the plant, the harder it is to kill.

January 2006

QuestionThe front of our home faces southwest and receives full afternoon sun in the summer. There is a raised bed that contains a crepe myrtle surrounded by compacta holly. I recently removed a Japanese maple the previous owner had planted in the same bed. Size wise it was dwarfed by the crepe myrtle and temperature wise it baked all summer. I considered another crepe myrtle but wanted something evergreen to provide some winter color / interest and shelter for birds. There is good but not deep soil in the bed and it is irrigated. The plant would be in front of a brick wall that radiates heat from the summer sun. I would like something that would grow to 15 to 20' and not more than 10-12' in diameter. I have considered several tree form hollies. Is there a particular variety you would recommend or some other type of ornamental tree / shrub that thrives in full sun and heat?


AnswerYou were wise to move the Japanese maple. They don't thrive in afternoon sun, especially during a particularly hot summer. There are several options for you. A multi-trunked yaupon holly can be nice, or the deciduous holly--while not evergreen, the berries give good winter color. A Little Gem southern magnolia is a nice smaller evergreen plant with fantastic white summer blooms. If left unchecked it can grow taller, but it is a slow grower and quite compact when young. A large shrub which if left to grow could become tree-like that is gaining in popularity is the Loropetalum. It is evergreen with purple foliage year-round, loves the sun and has bright pink spring flowers.

February 2006

QuestionI am worried about losing my hydrangea flowers this summer. The plants are really beginning to bud out now with all the warm weather we have had. Is there anything I can do to prevent this budding out? I live in Cherokee Village and am sure we will have more cold weather this season.


AnswerPray! Unfortunately, many of our shrubs, perennials and trees are beginning to grow statewide. Watch the plants closely and cover if cold weather is predicted. We have a long way to go until spring is officially here and many plants are ahead of schedule. There is nothing you can do to keep them from sprouting when the weather continues to be mild. Water if it is dry, and use extra mulch around low growing plants, or sheets and blankets on larger shrubs if a hard freeze is predicted. A large cardboard box works well too.

February 2006

QuestionMy tulip magnolia had quite a few open flowers and many buds showing color before it finally turned cold. Now they are brown. Should I prune them off and if so, how far back should I prune. Do you think it damaged all the flower buds?


AnswerI was worried this was going to happen! Many plants were moving ahead of schedule. Do not prune any damaged growth off yet. We may have more cold weather to come, and we want the extra protection. Any buds which were still tight should be fine. I expect to still have flowers this spring, and hopefully the weather will cooperate. Wait until after the plants have finished all flowering before pruning later this spring.


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