I have more than 40 old Rhododendrons in my yard. How and when should I prune them?
Since new growth does not readily sprout from the old and thick branches of established Rhododendrons, pruning is not recommended except for removing dead or damaged branches in mid-spring.
However, to promote more flowers for the following year, you should remove the dead flower clusters from your plants. To do this, simply grasp the dead flower cluster at its base and gently twist it off the main stem of your Rhododendron. It should pop off easily. Some plants may be too tall to reach, so just deadhead (remove the spent blooms) the clusters you can get to. By following this procedure, you will enjoy more profuse blooming next spring.
This is also a good time to deadhead your Lilacs. This gives them plenty of time to establish buds for what will be next year’s flowers.
Now that my containers are planted, what care do they need?
Maintenance for container gardens varies depending on what is planted. The four main tasks for container gardens: watering, feeding, deadheading and pinching.
The size and location of your container garden dictates the frequency of watering. Smaller containers need to be watered more frequently, as do containers in a sunny location. Hanging baskets lined with moss may have to be watered twice a day in really hot weather. To determine if your plants need water, stick your finger down into the soil to feel for moisture. If the soil is dry or the foliage is wilting, it’s time to water your plants. Water your containers in the morning to minimize evaporation and diseases.
There are not enough nutrients in your potting mix to last the entire growing season, so fertilizing your containers is important. In general, you should fertilize your containers with a water-soluble fertilizer every other week. Another option is to use a granular slow release fertilizer, which after applied, will stay active for two to three months if kept moist. Follow the directions on the label.
If you want your flowers to continue blooming all summer, remove the dead blooms. This is called deadheading; it allows the plant to keep producing flowers throughout the growing season. To remove the spent blooms from flowers that grow on long stems, like geraniums and daisies, follow the stem of the spent bloom to where it meets the main stem of the plant, and cut or snap it off. To deadhead flowers that bloom at the tip of a single, central stem (apical tip), such as marigolds or snapdragons, grasp just underneath the dead bloom and pop it off.
If you feel a plant is becoming lanky, it is possible to pinch it back to promote bushier plant growth. You may either pinch off a little new growth at the tip of each plant, or use pruners to remove up to half the plant growth. Plants that tend to get leggy and respond well to pinching back are: Coleus, Heliotrope, Million Bells, Petunias and Snapdragons.
Send your gardening questions to Lori Fenton at Lorissageadvice@aol.com.