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Ron Smith answers reader's questions about the world of plants and gardening.

By Ron Smith, Horticulturist

NDSU Extension Service

Q: I grow roses and found the information on your Web site very valuable. I am moving from a hot desert climate to a cooler mountain climate. Is it possible to relocate my rosebush without damaging it? Will it live? I am unsure of the name of the rose, so replacing it would be difficult. (e-mail reference)

A: I'm glad the Web site information is helpful to you! I assume that you are talking about moving the rose at this time of year. If so, it would be at a higher risk than if you moved it later in the fall. If you must move it now, I would suggest cutting it back to a manageable size. Be sure to give the plant plenty of water about a day before the move. If possible, move it going into the evening hours or on a cloudy, cool day. Try to keep the roots in a ball of soil and don't allow them to dry. Cover the roots with wet burlap if the soil won't adhere into a ball around the roots. Plant it at the same depth and give it plenty of water at the new site.

Q: I have an American linden tree. I noticed a large crack in the bark a few years ago. The tree has developed more of them since then. I think it is sun scalding. The first crack is so long and wide that I can see the entire inner tree. There are ants crawling inside of it and there is a greenish fungus developing on the outside. I am wondering if I should cut the tree down. I have allowed a large sucker to grow beside it because of the damaged main trunk. The sucker is taller than the main trunk. The sucker has no cracks and it is growing straight. Should I cut the main tree trunk down and let its sucker take over? Is a sucker able to survive and thrive? If so, what can I do to prevent sun scalding to the sucker? (e-mail reference)

A: The only problem could be that the sucker growth coming from the roots is different than the scion wood tree. You certainly can attempt to grow the sucker and be successful. I've done it with ash, poplar and maple trees, but often what turns out is not what is wanted. You obviously wanted a particular cultivar of linden for the architectural beauty it has, so I'm afraid that the sucker growth would turn out to be a disappointment. If it was up to me, I would take everything out, including the sucker tree. To prevent sun scalding, don't prune any lower branches while the tree is young with thin bark. Wrap the trunk every fall with paper, PVC or burlap. Don't overwater or overfertilize in an attempt to push the growth of the tree faster than normal. Don't put mulch against the trunk of the tree. Keep the mulch at least 2 to 3 inches away from touching the trunk and don't put more than 3 to 4 inches of mulch over the root system.

Q: We have a large amount of red and black raspberry bushes that grow along the edge of the woods on our property. The berries are doing great; unfortunately poison and other ivy plants are enjoying the area even more. Is there a way to get rid of the poison ivy without killing the berry plants? (e-mail reference)

A: If you can be patient and sacrifice harvesting the berries for a growing season, you might be able to clear up the problem. Late this summer or early fall, cut the berries back all the way to the ground. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and heavy gloves. Try to make minimal contact with any of the ivy that is tangled with the bushes. Spray the ivy with a herbicide, such as Roundup or Trimec, with Roundup being the preferred choice. However, both should do the job. Where you are not free to spray, take a paint brush and spread the solution on the remaining poison ivy. It should translocate and kill the plants. If you burn the old raspberry canes that had the ivy tangled in them, don't let the smoke from the fire cover you.

Q: A friend of mine recently gave me clippings off her orchid plant. I really want to plant them and make them grow, but all I know is to follow the directions on the back of the Better-Gro Bark I purchased. Any other suggestions? (e-mail reference)

A: With orchids, that is probably the best bet going for you now. You might glance at my publication on home propagation techniques at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf.

Q: We have planted two different varieties of Ohio buckeye. One is much taller than the other. They were planted in 2001. The smaller one does not appear to be growing as well. In order to produce fruit, what needs to happen? (St. Joseph, Mo.)

A: Allow nature to take its course. They will produce fruit when they are mature enough.

Q: A couple of years ago I had someone spray a weed and feed on my lawn. I asked the man who did the work how to get rid of what I thought was crabgrass. He informed me that we do not have crabgrass in our area, but we do have quackgrass. He said there is no way to kill it unless I kill everything, so I have been living with the infestation. This year, I noticed that there are patches of grass in my backyard that have quackgrass. The quackgrass grows faster than the rest of the lawn, has broader leaves and grows straight up. In my front yard, there is a different looking grass. It has broader leaves than the normal grass and grows flat along the ground, which makes it difficult to mow. I am unsure what kind of grass this is, but I am beginning to believe and hoping it is crabgrass as I originally thought a couple of years ago. Do you have good pictures that would help me identify what is what? If my front yard has crabgrass, what would you recommend I do? (Williston, N.D.)

A: I suspect your problem is bentgrass (if you are a golfer or near a golf course) or barnyard grass. Go to http://www.weedalert.com/weed_pages/wa_crabgrass.htm to help identify what you are seeing. You can manipulate around this site to find good identification characteristics. I use it for teaching my introductory turfgrass management class. Using the Web site is much easier than walking around trying to find some of these weeds!

Q: What do you know about pomegranates? I got a bush shipped here from Georgia and planted it in October. It flourished so much that I reached a point where I had to move it. I did that in March, but it went into shock before I had it in its new hole. All the leaves wilted and fell off within hours. I cut away the small branches from the trunk. It's still green underneath the bark. Is it still alive? Should I let it go to see what it will do or replace it? (e-mail reference)

A: Pomegranates are tough. As long as it still has green tissue beneath the bark, there is a chance for recovery. However, your patience may not tolerate waiting, so unless they are outrageously priced, I would suggest replacing it. There is nothing like harvesting your own fruit!

Q: My wife and I have been looking at birch trees for our yard. We really like the weeping variety. They are very common here in Anchorage. Are there more than one type? There appears to be some that are shorter and weep dramatically, while others are very tall, but do not weep as much. Is there a difference between a cutleaf and a young's weeping birch? If so, how would they do in our climate? (e-mail reference)

A: I can tell you that the cutleaf weeping birch is a beauty to behold. It weeps nicely and gets tall. As for the young's weeping birch, I can't tell you because I never have seen this particular variety. Both are hardy in zone 2, so they should do all right in Anchorage.

Q: I have six peony trees. Five grow and bloom beautifully year after year. The sixth one, which is the only yellow one, blooms in an unusual way. The stems of the blooms curl under, so that all of the flowers are hidden inside of the foliage. What causes the blooms to curl under? (e-mail reference)

A: I'm sorry, but the only thing I can guess is that the plant has a genetic problem. I can't think of anything in the environment that would cause the curling in, especially when the others are growing normally.

Q: I have two African violets with the same problem. The stems seem to have been chewed through near the soil. In the first case, all leaves were gone at once. In the second case, the leaves started falling off one at a time. What's wrong with these plants? Is it a parasite or bug? (e-mail reference)

A: When in doubt, repot. I don't pretend to know what critter is causing this problem you describe, but it has to be hiding in the potting soil. I suggest repotting using fresh containers and pasteurized potting soil specifically for African violets.

Q: I have lilies, but no experience on raising them. After the first flowering last year, I didn't get any more. I have the same situation this year. Do lilies only flower once and then go dormant? (e-mail reference)

A: In a word, yes.

Q: It is hot and humid here in Houston. I have three good-sized blueberries (tifblue). The plants are growing well, but only produced two berries. I was told to prep my beds with aluminum sulfate once a month because they like an acidic soil. I also spread pine bark over the top of my bed to keep in moisture and help with the acidity. I went through all this trouble for two berries. My neighbor bought two plants, but never put them in the ground and rarely waters them. She has berries to give away to everyone! What do I do now? (e-mail reference)

A: You have blueberry envy! I don't know what to tell you except to ape your neighbor's technique because it is so successful. It sounds like you went to the effort and expense to do everything right. However, when the reward is two berries, it is not worth the work you put into it. Try flattery with your neighbor. She might share her secret.

Q: I planted three arborvitaes that have turned brown. Are they beyond saving or will they bounce back? We've watered them like crazy, but I am guessing the heat of summer and lack of consistent rain are the problem. Also, is it possible to remove them and replant them somewhere else in the yard? (Onalaska, Wis.)

A: I doubt they will bounce back if they are completely brown. You could have contributed to their demise with the heavy watering. Arborvitaes need just enough water to keep the soil damp. When they are overwatered, anaerobic conditions develop in the root zone, so the plants, in a sense, suffocate.

Q: We have two linden trees on our property. They appear healthy and we do like them very much as an addition to our maples. However, we are planning on moving soon to an area that is 20 miles north of here. I'm hoping that transporting seedlings is possible. If so, when is the best time to harvest the seeds? I know you can buy smaller trees and seeds, but we want something from these two trees. (e-mail reference)

A: Transporting seedlings is entirely possible and the harvesting of the seeds coincides with their dropping to the ground. I would suggest not trying to establish them at this point. Save the seeds until you get to your new location and then plant them. By doing that, there is less risk of failure and a greater chance of success!


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Ron Smith, (701) 231-8161, ronald.smith@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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