Q: I have a gardenia plant that was given to me at Easter two years ago. When I received it, it was covered with flower buds. Many of them bloomed and the others turned yellow and fell off. Last year the plant has only a few scattered flowers. What am I doing wrong? The plant has beautiful green leaves.
A: The gardenia sold as potted plants for Easter are varieties of Gardenia Veitchi. They develop flower buds only when the night temperature is below 65 degrees. The day temperature is not important so long as it is higher than the night temperature. Buds may form at 70 degrees but almost invariably fall off. If the night temperature goes below 60, plant growht may be retarded.
Specialists recommend a night temperatureof about 62 and a day temperature of about 72 for best bud development.
The main problems with growing gardenias are low humidity and inadequate light.
Q: When is the best time in the spring to spray azaleas with malathion for lace bugs? My bushes were badly infested last summer.
A: Inspect your plants regularly every week when mild weather returns. Lace bugs feed mostly on the underside of the leaves. If you find any, spray. Spraying is effective only for insects that are present and will not prevent them from returning nor is it likely to be effective a week later in killing young ones that hatch from eggs.
Q: Should a newly planted maple tree, 5 feet tall, be staked? Some say yes, others say no.
A: Do not stake the tree unless it is likely to topple over without support. A young tree standing alone with its top free to move usually becomes a storng tree able to withstand the elements.
During research, trees left unstaked developed stronger, thicker trunks and better roots. Those staked for two years were blown over soon after the stakes were removed.
Young trees respond to wind stresses by increasing diameter growth at points of stress. Staked trees are not stressed and hence fail to develop strong thick stems.
Q: Our Chinese hollies have grown much too large and are crowding other plants and the house. Can they be pruned?
A: Most Chinese holly varieties, such as Buford, require frequent pruning to keep them in bounds. This is especially true if they have been planted for 5 to 10 years.
Plants may be reduced in size by cutting out individual limbs within the plant, using hard pruners or a saw. This type of pruning can be done almost anytime except late summer and early fall. Early spring is the best time if considerable pruning is to be done.
Shearing is undesirable. It removes growth terminals and this is the growth that would produce next year's berries.
Q: I have some pussy willow branches given to me by my daughter. Can I use them to start a pussy willow tree for myself?
A: Cutting of pussy willow root readily in water or planted in the ground (after the soil warms up). Use cuttings about one foot long. If you root them in water, plant them in pots of soil or outdoors in the ground soon after the roots are about one inch long. Handle them carefully because the roots are brittle and breaks easily.