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Flowering Plants & Shrubs

Boston ferns -- are they ok outdoors?
Q:

Dear Garden Guru,

I recently purchased two large, beautiful Boston Ferns that I have hung under the eaves of my NE facing balcony. They get some morning sun. Are they appropriate for outdoors?

- Pat in Newark

   
A:

Dear Pat,

Your Boston ferns will actually be happier outside than in. Outside, they receive better light, and better humidity so they tend to be greener and lose less leaflets than their indoor counterparts. My mom used to keep one fern inside and one outside and rotate them as the indoor one started looking drab. Hanging ferns inside get watered almost too carefully (no one wants the water on the foliage dripping to the floor). If kept outdoors, they will need to be protected from freezing temperatures.


Flowering evergreen shrub suggestions
Q:

Dear Garden Guru,

I have an agapanthus by my front steps that I want to replace with a flowering, evergreen shrub. A spring/summer flowering shrub would be great. I considered hydrangea (i have one in nearly the same spot that does great), but I would prefer evergreen. It gets some afternoon sun. Any suggestions? Thank you!

- Kristan in Fairfax

   
A:

Dear Kristan,

I suspect that you may want something in the same size range as the Agapanthus. All these are evergreen: Camellia sasanqua (white, rose or red flowers in late summer/fall), Southern indica Azalea (white, pink, lavender, orange or red flowers in spring), Polygala Petite Butterflies (2 tone purple flowers in spring/summer), Bush Lantana (red, yellow, pink or orange flowers in summer/fall), or perhaps a Marguerite Daisy (red, white, pink or yellow flowers spring/summer).


When and how to prune hydrangeas
Q:

Dear Garden Guru,

When and how do you prune hydrangeas?

   
A:

Hydrangea microphylla, both mophead and lacecaps, should be pruned in late summer/early fall right after the flowers have faded. The buds for next year’s blossoms are formed in October. If a hydrangea produces no flowers, it is probable that it was pruned too late in the year. Prune stems back to the first or second pair of fat buds below the finished flower. This can be as little as 4”. It is not necessary to prune farther back unless you want to reduce the height of the shrub. Remove canes that are thinner than a pencil to encourage larger blooms on remaining canes. Remove all small, twiggy growth and dead wood.

September/October is also the time of year to treat the soil around Hydrangeas to change or deepen flower color. Use Hydrangea Blue or Aluminum sulfate to make flowers blue or purple (acid). Treat the soil with Agricultural Lime to make flowers pink (alkaline). If your Hydrangea is white, the color cannot be modified. The harder wooded Hydrangeas, H. arborescens, H. aspera and H. paniculata, are pruned in late winter. Their flowers are formed on new, spring wood.

Adding colorful shrubs to the front on an SF apartment building
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I live in a 12-unit building on Noe Street in San Francisco. We would like to add some color to the front of our building with a pair of large round planters (17" wide at the bottom, 26" wide at the top and 22" high). The building faces west and gets 5-6 hours of direct sun. One resident suggested hydrangeas. Is that a good choice? If so, do you have purple- or violet-colored ones? How much do they cost? Any other suggestions?

- Peter in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Peter,

Hydrangeas could be used but they are not green year round.  They are without leaves from November through March.  We can order them for you in the colors you desire.  To keep them purple, you will need to treat them with Hydrangea Blue or Aluminum sulphate each fall.  You can detract from the "naked look by planting purple violas around them in the fall.  The cost for a 5g pot is $29.99.

Other plant options are Camellia sasanqua ( 5g $44.99) with white or rose blooms in fall/winter, Tibouchina -5g $29.99 (also known as Princess flower) with velvety purple blooms summer and fall.  These plants stay green year round.  You might also consider a plant with more texture than flower such as Phormium (5g $39.99).  You can accent any of these with a purple "spiller" such as Calibrachoa or purple lantana.

There are of course other options such as purple sage (Salvia leucantha), roses, and sun azaleas but these will require more grooming maintenance or not have a long bloom period.


How often to fertilize potted bougainvillea?
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

How often can I fertilize potted bougainvillea? Mine were lovely & full and started drying out, whitening, and falling off about 1 month ago (before heat spell) and new flowers are NOT coming in. This is my 8' tall one (my small potted boogie doing fine!)

- Caryn in San Rafael

   
A: Dear Caryn,

Bougainvillea will blossom on new wood.  Now that the first flower show has faded, a light shearing should stimulate some regrowth.  After pruning, feed with an all-purpose fertilizer such as Maxsea 16-16-16 or E.B. Stone Organic All Purpose. It is on the tips of this new growth that new flowers will form.


Caring for a Dracena that a neighbor left behind
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

My neighbor moved this weekend leaving me on my porch a huge over 7 foot tall 'corn plant'.  It is beautiful and perfect but way too big for my house.  He knew I would take care of it somehow but I am at a loss as to how.  I have a huge back yard with some sun, some shade, lots of sun in spots etc.  Can it be planted outside?  If so in what area? 

- Lynn

   
A: Dear Lynn,

Corn Plants (Dracena) are truly tropical in origin, therefore cannot take our cold winters.  However, knowing that you are in San Francisco where the winters are mild, it might survive outside as long as it was protected from the wind and covered during the rare cold snap.  It should be kept out of the direct sunlight, though a little early morning sun would be fine.

If you want to bring it indoors, it can be pruned by just cutting off the main stem at the height you want it to sprout at.  It will be naked for quite a while but should send out two to three new shoots.  As with all plants in the house or garden, feeding monthly will be appreciated by the plant.  I recommend Maxsea All Purpose Fertilizer.


Salt breeze tolerant plants
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

1) Which ferns are tolerant to salt breeze, and 2) Can Dendrobium Orchids withstand salt breeze ?

- Rodney in Margao, Goa, India

   
A: Dear Rodney,

There are some ferns that withstand coastal conditions.  Polystichum munitum (Western sword fern), Crytomium falcatum (Holly fern), Asparagus sprengerii (not a true fern), Dryopteris felix-mas (Male fern), Adiantum hispidulum (Rosy Maidenhair), and the Australian Tree fern will tolerate salt wind.

As for the Dendrobium, I am not certain if species other than Dendrobium nobile will tolerate salt breeze.


Summer blooming amaryllis
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

After the holidays a few years ago I planted my 6 amaryllis bulbs into a big pot on the front porch--this year for the first time, they bloomed in late May! How do I care for them so they bloom again?

- Bonnie in Walnut Creek

   
A: Dear Bonnie,

Good for you! Your Amaryllis will likely bloom in late spring or early summer from now on. After they have finished flowering, feed the long leaves with a liquid fertilizer such as Maxsea 16-16-16 twice a month through September. Keeping the foliage green, and growing will help the bulbs store the needed food reserves to flower again next year. In the fall or when the leaves begin to turn pale (regardless of water or food) allow the pot to dry out and store in a dry location until the spring. Resume watering again in March.


Rooting abutilon from cuttings
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

How can one root abutilon from cuttings? Mine do not root, even with root tone and perlite. Help!

- Diane in Pacifica

   
A: Dear Diane,

Abutilon will root from softwood cuttings. These are the actively growing shoot tips. Remove all but a couple leaves and the terminal flowers. Be sure that the cutting is orientated correctly (cutting end that was closest to the roots is placed in medium). Be sure that at least 2 or 3 nodes or leaf scars are below the surface. It is from these sites that roots will form. Try either sand or seed starting mix which is heavier and holds more moisture than perlite. Cover the cutting to imitate a greenhouse affect in a plastic bag. Keep the cutting in an area of good light but not direct sun. Bottom heat is beneficial so using a heat pad or placing on top of an older refrigerator is advised. Best rooting takes place when the medium and ambient heat can be kept close to 70 degrees. There are several YouTube videos that show this process. Just google "taking cuttings video".


Stepable ground covers
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

What stepable ground cover would you recommend for a lawn space of about 20' by 5' for a backyard in Mountain View? Drainage is not very good, but it does get quite hot in the summer. We are basically looking for pretty with little care needs. Thank you, Danielle PS. do you sell it?

- Danielle in Mountain View

   
A: Dear Danielle,

The first thing you should consider is improving the soil. Rototilling is a very easy way to incorporate larger amounts of planting mix and/or compost. This will improve your drainage and make the soil looser. The groundcover you ultimately choose will root better and spread more quickly with improved soil.

If you are willing to start by seed, there is the white clover which basically fertilizes itself, is deep rooted so can withstand some summer drought. It does flower and attract bees.More conventional "plug type" groundcovers that take light foot traffic are Potentilla (cinquefoil), Polygonum capitatum (now known as Persicaria capitata), Herniaria glabra (green carpet), Isotoma (best for foot traffic but is hard to get started) and Dymondia margaretae. Many of the creeping thymes will work also but are not forgiving of poor drainage. If we do not have a particular ground cover in stock, we can order it.


Hydrangea isn't blooming
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

My hyrdrangeas are getting lots of leaves & no buds!! Last year there were not as many flowers as in previous years. They are established one @10 years and the other @5 yrs. What's a girl to do?? Thank you!!

- Deborah in San Anselmo

   
A: Dear Deborah,

It may be that you are pruning your hydrangeas too late in the season. New flower buds for the following season are formed in the fall. These are the big, fat pairs of buds that you see higher up on the canes. The best time to prune is right after the shrubs have finished flowering in late summer. If you do prune later, prune back sparingly so that these fat buds are not all removed. Another possibility is that the site has become more shaded. Are there trees or shrubs that have overgrown into the light? Lastly, freezing temperatures can injure flower buds on hydrangea. We have had a couple cold winters back to back.


Plants that were affected by winter freezes
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I've noticed that several plants around my house went dormant over the cold winter and don't seem to be coming out of it. Two in particular are a 5' tall angel trumpet plant (in full sun) and a small Impatiens niamniamensis (in mostly shade). I'm almost positive they are not dead as the trunk and woody stems appear healthy and not dried out. Is there anything I can do to help these guys out? Thanks.

- Dave in Oakland

   
A: Dear Dave,

These plants were definitely affected by our winter freezes and frosts. I am guessing that both were top killed. Scratch the bark. If it is green underneath, they are alive. If dull brown green or brown, they are dead. Many of the Brugmansia are resprouting from the base. The impatiens, especially in the shade may be slow to resprout. If you find that the plants branches are indeed still living, pruning them back will initiate growth. In all honesty, if the plants were still living, you should have seen signs of life by mid April , but where there is green, there is hope.


Best ferns to plant
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I live near West Portal and am looking for ferns to plant. Curious what types are available and how I decide which ones will work best for my yard. Thanks! .

- Caroline in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Caroline,

The best ferns for you would be mother ferns (Asplenium), sword fern (Nephrolepis), the asparagus ferns, both trailing and upright (This one is called the Foxtail fern). The larger New Zealand tree fern (Dicksonia) is also appropriate. These varieties are readily available.


Simple plants to withstand the wind, sand, and drought conditions
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

We just bought a new place in the outer sunset, on a slightly windy, pretty sunny, and very sandy patch of land. We would like to plant a hedge, some grasses, succulents, and perhaps palms, going for the australian/almost tropical feel. We would also like to keep our plant choices down to a minimum for simplicity, and get things that can withstand the wind, sand, and minimal water. What do you think of the following plants: flax, pygmy palm, senecio malandrasie, echeveria, japanese bloodgrass, banana plant. Any recommendations for a billowy green ornamental grass, and a good hedge that is fast growing, low maintenance and won't grow over 15 feet?

-Diana in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Diana,

Most of the plants on your list will adapt well to that environment. You may want to reconsider the banana. The large leaves rip easily in wind. An alternative would be the Giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai). The bloodgrass will require more moisture than you care to give. Alternates would be Carex testacea or a dwarf flax such as the variety Jack Sprat or Surfer. Companion plants to consider are Euphorbia, Echium and possibly Agapanthus. A good billowy grass is the drought tolerant Mulenbergia (Bamboo or deer grass). Hedge plants that fill your requirements are Dodonaea (Hopseed), Escallonia, and Pittosporum tenuifolium. We also have a Design Department that can help you with on site consultation. Their number is 415-388-3754.


Caring for abutilon
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have several Abutilon plants in containers, they seem healthy but are very scraggily. Where do I cut them to make them fuller, and when is the right time of year?      

- Lynn in Larkspur

   
A: Dear Lynn,

You can prune your Abutilon safely April through August. To promote bushiness, nip back each branch to right above a pair of leaves.  Yes, you may sacrifice flowers, but new buds will form on the new shoots that emerge.  2 new shoots will sprout at the leaf axils.  After clipping, feed with a liquid fertilizer such as Maxsea 16-16-16.


Winter cold affected plants
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I've noticed that several plants around my house went dormant over the cold winter and don't seem to be coming out of it. Two in particular are a 5' tall angel trumpet plant (in full sun) and a small Impatiens niamniamensis (in mostly shade). I'm almost positive they are not dead as the trunk and woody stems appear healthy and not dried out. Is there anything I can do to help these guys out?

- Dave

   
A: Dear Dave,

These plants were definitely affected by our winter freezes and frosts. I am guessing that both were top killed. Scratch the bark. If it is green underneath, they are alive. If dull brown green or brown, they are dead. Many of the Brugmansia are resprouting from the base. The impatiens, especially in the shade may be slow to resprout. If you find that the plants branches are indeed still living, pruning them back will initiate growth. In all honesty, if the plants were still living, you should have seen signs of life by mid April , but where there is green, there is hope.


Creating a screen with plants
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Would like something that can grow quick & bushy in a container (or series of containers); provides privacy & a screen effect - we live on a corner in outer sunset & want to enjoy the yard in private - or something that can grow on a trellis (or series of trellis)...thank you!

- Hope in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Hope,

If you truly want a screen, you will need to accomplish it in several containers or large rectangular planters. The bigger the plants become in their containers, the more thirsty they get. The plant roots may eventually enter the ground through the drainage hole (s). The fastest and bushiest screen candidates are Pittosporum tenuifolium, Dodonaea Atropurpurea (Hopseed), Feijoa (Pineapple Guava), Callistemon (Bottlebrush), and Myrica (California waxmyrtle). Be aware that many shrubs and vines become "leggy" in containers. This is due to inconsistencies in feeding and watering as the plants become larger. Trellis options would be best planted in an espalier box. Vigorous vines are Jasminum polyanthemum (pink bud jasmine), Clematis armandii, Passiflora (Passion flower), and Bignonia (crossvine).


Daphne with new growth yet no flowers
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

My daphne has new growth but no flowers. Should I feed it? What and when?

- Jean in Daly City

   
A: Dear Jean,

If the Daphne has new growth but no flowers, the chances are it is either a new plant and/or it was pruned too late last year. Daphne blooms at the tips of the branches. Flower buds are formed in early summer, so, if it was pruned anytime after this, the flower buds for this winter would have been removed. Feeding the Daphne will not stimulate flowering but new growth would benefit from a 1/2 strength feeding of a liquid plant food. The Maxsea Acid formula is a good one.


Recommendations for wind-resistant trees and shrubs
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I live in the Bayview atop a hill where the winds are extremely fierce, akin to those at Candlestick Park. I have a quite extensive back (side, really) yard where I would like to plant seriously wind-resistant trees and shrubs. The only thing that is really thriving there is Echium fastuosum. I have a number of Dodonaea purpurea and the more-exposed ones have remained quite small just by way of example. I am looking for fairly sizable plantings in the main I suppose as there is a quite extensive area to cover. Help? Regards,

- Norman in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Norman,

Wind is a great limiting factor. There are some tough plants though. For taller plants, look at Schinus molle (California Pepper), Xylosma (no common name), Arbutus unedo and Marina (Strawberry tree), and Eucalyptus. I rarely recommend Eucalyptus as they are messy and difficult to garden under but they do take weather extremes. The red iron bark( E. ficifolia) would be best. The Pittosporum tenuifolium and undulatum are also recommended. Larger shrubs are Nandina (Heavenly bamboo), Westringia (Coast Rosemary), Callistemon (Bottlebrush), Escallonia, and Euonymus. It may be helpful to contact our Garden Design department for further suggestions and plant placement. Their number is 415-388-3754.


Runaway calla lilies
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I bought a house last year and have been trying to replant the garden with more native type flowers; however, when I dug up some calla lilies and moved some of the dirt around I found I've spread these! Even in the area where I replanted, these lilies are coming up in between my new plants. Is the dirt contaminated even if I pull up the majority of the bulb? I've even tried smothering them with rocks and pieces of old carpeting but they still keep coming up. Help!

- Shannon

   
A: Dear Shannon,

I am afraid that you have moved the Callas around. There is a main bulb that produces small "offsets" to the sides. Even a small piece of bulb can sprout as long as it has an eye (like a potato). You are going to have to dig below these sprouting Calla to get the whole bit.


Native tree & shrub suggestions
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

What native plants, shrubs or trees, would you suggest for a homeowners association complex that look good most of the year? We are near SB Mt. and its foggy and shady.

- Lee in Daly City

   
A: Dear Lee,

If you need natives for shade, look at Arctostaphylos (Manzanita), Rhamnus californica (Coffee Berry), Vaccinum ovatum (Huckleberry), Carpenteria californica (Bush Anemone) for evergreen shrubs. Deciduous shrubs that provide a flower show are the Rhododendron occidentalis (Western Azalea), Ribes sanguineum (Currant), and Calycanthus (Spice Bush). There are manzanitas for ground covers as well as the Ceanothus griseus horizontalis that will tolerate some shade. Asarum (Wild Ginger) takes full shade. Then there are the Western sword fern and Giant Chain fern (Polystichum munitum and Woodwardia).


Caring for cannas
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have taken over the care of a garden whose cannas used to grow tall with huge leaves and abundant, gorgeous flowers. What can I do to encourage this ?

- Cheryl in Portola Valley
   
A: Dear Cheryl,

The cannas are in their dormant stage now. To encourage robust growth, cut stems that have bloomed back to the ground. Water regularly and feed monthly with an all purpose fertilizer such as Maxsea 16-16-16. Though they will tolerate some drought, keeping them too dry will greatly reduce their size.

If the plant clusters are really crowded, now would be a good time to divide and thin them. This way, there is less competition for the water and food. You do not need to switch to Ultra bloom once buds form. It is also a good idea to snip off the flowers that have just finished blooming so the plant does not waste energy forming seed. Most flower stalks will blossom more than once.


About proteas
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I want to plant protea. I live on the coast. Lots of sun. Which is best species and do you sell them? I love sugarbush !

- Taissa in Belvedere
   
A: Dear Taissa,

Many of the Proteas do very well in our climate. We have the best availability towards the end of February and March. We usually have varieties of Protea neriifolia, Leucospermum, Leucodendron discolor, and Banksia. They come in 2g and 5g cans. I like Sugarbush too but none of our vendors seem to grow it.

Lifting bulbs this fall
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Should we lift the bulbs of amaryllis or begonia this fall? We live in the Outer Sunset. Thanks!

- Maya in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Maya,

You can leave your Amaryllis in place. They do best if they are not disturbed. The Begonias will last longer if you lift them once the foliage withers away. You know when Begonias are finishing when they get an incurable case of powdery mildew! Store the Begonia tubers in paper bags with peat moss. You can replant them again in February. If the Begonias and Amaryllis are in pots, move them inside and stop watering them. Allow them to remain dry until February.

Keeping mums alive through the winter
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Can the large potted mums I bought go dormant in the pots inside and be revived in the spring?

- Pegib

   
A: Dear Pegib,

Yes, the mums can go dormant in the pots but do not let them become completely dry over the winter. The roots will still need some moisture to remain viable. You will also want to keep them in a fairly light location.


Colorful, frost resistant plants
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I am thinking about the fall season. Could you kindly consider listing colorful plants that are frost resistant in your next newsletter? I need to invest wisely. Thank you!

- Cara in Larkspur

   
A: Dear Cara,

Annuals - Pansy, Viola, Snapdragon, stock, Iceland poppy, Paludosum daisy, Primrose, Calendula, Dianthus
Perennials-Cyclamen, Iberis, Euphorbia, Euryops daisy, Nemesia
Shrubs- Camellia sasanqua, Daphne, Flowering quince, Erica, Forsythia, Grevillea, Correa
Vines- Hardenbergia, Gelsemium


The best time to plant juniper and other plants
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Is it too late to plant juniper? I want to use it as a border for my front yard. Will it take long to grow?

- Karen in Pacifica

   
A: Dear Karen,

This time of year is, in fact, the best time to plant. Junipers planted now will establish root structures over the winter and spring and have much lower water requirements the first summer. The speed at which Junipers grow is dependent upon the variety, though most are slow the first year. Decide what the ultimate size plant you want and let one of our team members know and they will gladly recommend an appropriate variety.

How to plant and contain bamboo
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

We are considering planting Bamboo as a hedge around our garden. Our neighbors are concerned it will end up growing in their yards. We would like to prevent that from occurring. What can we do? Also, how likely is it that leaves from our bamboo will end up in our neighbor's yard? If this is a problem, can you suggest an alternative?
Thank you,

- Bernie in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Bernie,

Bamboo is lovely but can be difficult to contain. Your neighbors are correct, they can be messy with leaves. Choose a variety that it is not a running type. This is not to say that the clumping types do not spread, they just do so less erratically. The genera best for you are Fargesia, Himalayacalamus or Bambusa. Bamboo is a grass, and does respond to cutting so you would need to keep the bamboo trimmed so it is not tall enough to send leaves their way. As for it's spread, I recommend you plant it in a plastic garbage can at least 3' tall with the bottom cut away. Leave 3" at the top above the soil line so you can watch for and remove creeping rhizomes (roots). If this sounds like a lot of work, consider the fern pine (Podocarpus gracillior) or Hopseed (Dodonaea).

Pruning black eyed susans
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have an East-facing bed that gets lots of early to mid-day sun, especially in Spring and Summer. Itís planted with Black Eyed Susans which had a great show this Summer. However the blooms have all fallen down, and I 'm getting conflicting advice about how to prune them. Can the stalks all be cut to the ground, with new growth coming up from the ground in the Spring, or should I leave the old leaves and stalks alone? Itís pretty ratty-looking now and I'd like to get it cleaned up, but really want them back next year. Also, can I put some bulbs in with them for color in the Spring?
Thanks,

- Steven in Mill Valley
   
A: Dear Steven,

There are 2 types of Black Eyed Susans. The perennial types can be pruned back to the ground. These are the fulgida and lacinata species. They typically have yellow flowers about 2"- 3" across with dark green, somewhat fuzzy leaves. The hirta types are not as reliable to return. These are the ones with large flowers in yellow, rust and bronzy tones. The foliage tends to be very fuzzy and more gray green. Being more temperamental, there is resistance to cutting them back. In any case, an untidy bed that is under scrutiny usually gets cleaned up. You can plant spring flowering bulbs in the same bed, just be careful you don't scalp the roots of the Rudbeckias. You can plant taller bulbs such as Daffodils and Allium behind and shorter Freesia, Ranunculus, Muscari, etc in front.

What would make a good fast growing privacy shrub?
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I need to plant some privacy bushes in my front yard to block out the view of my neighbor's driveway. What bushes grow quickly, are pretty to look at, and can they be planted in the winter?

- Kristine in Concord
   
A: Dear Kristine,

The faster growing shrubs would be Pittosporum tennuifolium, Dodonaea viscosa (Hop Seed) and Prunus caroliniana. For something different, you might consider Pittosporum Silver Sheen which has a looser growth habit and daintier leaf. There are multi stemmed olive trees and tree form Oleander though these are slower growing. Some people make privacy screens out of redwoods. They are kept sheared and not allowed to become tall trees.

Is this a good time of year for moving overcrowded plants?
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I've heard this is a good time of year for getting plants in the ground but what about moving (re-planting) plants to new locations? Would this also be a good time of year? I have two situations: some plants that have done well but are now overcrowded and some that need a different location due to too much sunshine or not enough.

- Lori
   
A: Dear Lori,

Fall is an excellent time for moving plants. You will probably have to prune them back to prevent water stress as you will not likely get all the roots. Water the planting holes before putting the plant in to ensure that adequate moisture is in the root zone. Water again after planting. Use a preplant fertilizer such as Sure Start to stimulate new root growth. As a rule, all planting holes for larger perennials and shrubs should be prewatered regardless of the time of year.

Rooting hydrangeas from an existing plant
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

When planting Hydrangeas, am I able to cut a stem off from an existing Hydrangea plant and replant it in another pot?

- Cynthia in Foster City

   
A: Dear Cynthia,

You can root cuttings from an existing Hydrangea. Tip cuttings are the most successful. Cut the Hydrangea branch so that from tip to end it is about 8" long. Remove all the leaves except for the top 2. These you will cut in half to reduce transpiration area. Dip the cutting in Rootone and place in a pot that is 50% peat or potting soil and 50% perlite or sand. Be sure that at least 2" of the cutting are below the surface. Water the cutting by misting the soil until it is thoroughly wet. Keep the cutting out of direct sun and away from wind in an area that remains 60 to 80 degrees. Mist the cutting daily and keep covered with a clear plastic bag.

Another way is to use layering. Choose a branch that is close to the ground. Dig a trench 2" deep and as long as the branch chosen. Remove all leaves that will be covered by soil. Again, leave the top 2 leaves and keep them exposed . Chafe the bark where you will want roots to form, usually at a leaf node. Cover the branch with soil and water in. Put a rock or brick over the branch to keep it in the soil and reduce soil evaporation. Roots should begin to form with either method within 4 weeks.
 
Transplanting bromeliad "pups"
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have a beautiful bromeliad about 6 years old. It has bloomed twice but now the "mother" plant has 2 offshoots growing on each side. How do I separate them? or should I bring it in for that process? Would have to use heavy duty gloves because of the spiney leaves.

Thanks,

- Bobbi in Burlingame

   
A: Dear Bobbi,

Next spring would be the ideal time to separate the pups from the mother plant. You want them to get a good vase shape before removing. Those spiny Bromeliads can do some damage so gloves will be necessary. The best way to remove the pups is with a small pruning saw, hacksaw or very sharp pair of pruners. Cut the pups below the soil line as close to the base of the mother as possible. You may have to take the whole group out of the container to do this easily. The pups may or may not have formed their own roots yet but will, soon enough, after being potted in their own containers.
 
Wisteria troubleshooting
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Please can you tell me if you can cut off the new shoots or runner on a wisteria plant? Also why hasn't it flowered after four years?

- Pat
   
A: Dear Pat,

Yes, you can remove the long, stringy runners and looping new growth. It is the older wood of the Wisteria that forms flowering spurs. It is not unusual for young Wisteria to be vegetative only. It can sometimes take up to ten years for a small, 1 liter size plant to reach maturity and bloom. This is why nurseries often sell larger, though more costly plants, grafted with flowering wood.
 
Best time to transplant Camellia
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have two camellia plants that are planted two close together. I would like to separate them. Can they be easily transplanted without too much distress? When is the best time -- after blooming?

- Judy in Daly City
   
A: Dear Judy,

The best time to transplant the Camellia would be in the fall. The ground is still warm to encourage new root growth but the heat of summer is past. You may have to prune back the plant to help reduce the stress of losing some of its roots. This may reduce the amount of flower you get next spring as the buds are starting to form now for next year.
 
Aloe is brownish red
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Hi - we bought an aloe plant from Sloat a few months ago to leave outdoors in our Noe Valley garden, but the leaves are now brownish and lacking turgor. There are a few new flower stalks, though. I can't tell if it needs more or less watering-how does one tell?

- Rajni in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Rajni,

It sounds like the Aloe may be receiving too much sun. Hot sun makes the leaves brownish red. Aloes usually prefer a partial sun exposure. The lack of turgidity indicates that more water is needed. Water as soon as the soil looks dry.

 
Drought tolerant grass choices
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

What is a good drought tolerant grass or grasses to plant in the Richmond district of SF? We are looking for a lawn type grass (versus an ornamental grass).

- Carolyn in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Carolyn,

We like the Medallion Tall Fescue for its drought tolerance, wear and tear, and ability to take sun or light shade.

 
Need a tall (and fast growing) tree or hedge
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have a few young ceanothus shrubs in my yard. Their blooming period is now over, and now their leaves are turning yellow. What are the likely causes?

- Carrie in Berkeley

   
A: Dear Carrie,

Newly planted Ceanothus still need some irrigation in their planting year. If you have them on a once to twice a week watering schedule, this is enough. Water once a week this first summer. Don't let the shedding leaves tempt you to water more often, this can lead to plant death. The yellowing and dropping leaves are a natural response to the increasing temperatures. The plants will shed leaves that they don't need to care for in the summer months. New leaves flush out in the fall.

 
Help: rhododendron lost all its leaves!
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have a small rhododendron in my back garden, which is currently blooming. I had given up on it, as it has lost most of its leaves since it was planted about 18 months ago. What can I do to improve its health?

- Ellen in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Ellen,

After your Rhododendron has finished blooming, remove the spent flower heads. Feed your plant with an acid fertilizer such as Maxsea Acid or EB Stone Azalea Camellia food very 4 to 6 weeks through summer. Mulch the plant with either Microbark or Forest Mulch Plus at least 2" deep. Water regularly as Rhododendron are shallow rooted. To regrow leaves on the lower legs of the shrub, prune back to just above the lowest set of leaves (If there are 6 main branches, cut back 2 this year, 2 the next and the last 2 the following year). New leaves will sprout below the pruning cut. The feeding should stimulate new leaves to the top 4" of each of the remaining branches. Keeping the plant well watered will be the most important for ultimate leaf health.

 
Need a tall (and fast growing) tree or hedge
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Hi. We are remodeling our house and want to plant a fast-growing and/or tall tree. We will move back in there in October and don't want to see the next door neighbors house from our new living room. We want something not too deep (to take away from the yard), but lush enough to guard us from the next house. I love the look of bamboo, but was afraid of it's crazy growth and maintenance. I hear that there is a kind of bamboo that isn't crazy and doesn't grow all over the place. Is that true? What is it called? Any risks with it? A lot of maintenance? We are not great gardeners and need something low maintenance! Thanks.

- Denise in Larkspur
   
A: Dear Denise,

There is a less crazy bamboo called Golden Goddess but it will only grow to 8' and is slow to fill in. Bamboo may bother you in that it seems to constantly be shedding leaves. Since you want something narrow, have you considered a vine on a tall lattice or trellis? Star Jasmine or pink Jasmine will form a dense wall. You can also use Podocarpus gracillior (Fern Pine). It also will grow tall and narrow, if pruned. It can even be obtained as a 15 gallon trellised plant ( 6' x 6').
The traditional hedge plants such as Pittosporum, Myrica, Dodonaea and Rhamnus though fast growing, will need regular shearing maintenance to keep them in bounds.

 
Vines in containers
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I live on Potrero Hill in SF and have 2 climbing Jasmines that are in wooden containers about 1 foot in diameter. They get plenty of sun and are fed by drip irrigation 3days/week. I'm pretty sure they have died after about 6 months. I had 2 Bougainvillea previously in the same containers and they died too. Are some vines just NOT meant to be 'contained'?

- Ann in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Ann,

Most vines are not meant to be confined in such a small container. Even Star Jasmine, a very slow growing vine, will out-grow a 1' container in a year. If you are going to grow a vine in a container, I recommend a minimum of 18"x18"x18" (or so) and also that you keep in mind that the plant will not be permanent in the container. That said, there could be other factors that killed the bougainvillea and the jasmine that I will not be able to ascertain over the internet. One of our experienced nursery staff may be able to diagnose better with a sample.
 
Rhododendron not budding
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have 3 Rhododendrons in pots. They only get filtered sun/light. Two bloom well and the third never blooms. It puts on new healthy grow but no buds. They are all in the same area. Can you tell me what might be happening? Thanks for your help.

- Madalene in Millbrae

   
A: Dear Madalene,

If the Rhododendron that does not bloom is a different variety than the others, I suspect that it requires more sun to set buds. Not all Rhododendrons require the same light conditions. Is it possible to move it to a sunnier location? Feeding the plants with 0-10-10 (a bloom formula) from late summer through fall will also help.
 
Rose mildew issues
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

HELP!!! For 3 years my rosebush is covered with Mildew! No Fungicide helps!!! Or may be it is not Mildew?

Can you tell me how to cure my rose? Thank you

- Renate

   
A: Dear Renate,

I am sure it is mildew. Some roses are more susceptible than others. As a preventative, you can apply Rose Defense or Cloud Cover once a week starting when the new shoots are 3" long. There is also the Bayer All in One for Roses that prevents disease, feeds, and kills insects. Once the mildew is here, you can treat with a Copper Spray. It has also been recently discovered that a spray solution of 9 parts water and 1 part milk will cure mildew. If, as you say, nothing seems to help, the rose you own just is not suited to your climate. It may seem cruel, but replacing it with another variety may be the best answer.
 
Lilac bush doesn't bloom
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Can you help me with my lilac bush? It is about 8 years old and has never bloomed. It looses its leaves every year, but never gets any buds. I have used miracle grow but it does not seem to help.

- Mrs Rada
   
A: Dear Mrs. Rada,

There are several reasons that will affect the flowering of lilacs.
1. The plant does not receive enough sun. Lilacs require full sun, at least 6 hours a day.
2. The plant is pruned at the wrong time of year. Lilacs form buds on this years growth. If the lilac is pruned from late August through December, the flower buds are removed. The lilac should be pruned immediately after flowering if at all.
3. Providing too much nitrogen fertilizer (such as Miracle-Gro) will decrease flower production in favor of leaf production. Lilacs do best on poor, infertile soils. Only apply fertilizer once in the season, if at all, preferably after flowering.
 
Growing vines in containers
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I live in the Russian Hill section of SF. I want to plant 1-2 clematis vines in a large container that will be set behind a solid 4 ft wall. The roots will have constant shade. Once the vine reaches the top of the fence, it will have full sun 5-6 hours/day. I am looking for an evergreen vine in red, crimson, salmon, pink or blue. What variety of clematis would you suggest or would you suggest another vine?

- Beth in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Beth,

If you want an evergreen vine, you do not want Clematis. It loses its leaves in the winter. With the colors you want, I would suggest a Passion vine (Passiflora). Passiflora vitifolia is red. Passiflora manicata or jamesonii is rosy pink, all others are various shades of purple, lavender and blue. They will do fine in that spot but will definitely grow beyond the 4'!
 
Ground cover options
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Hi I'm looking for a ground cover that will withstand a few hours of afternoon sun which matches the baby's tears which grow in the shady areas of the garden: low to the ground, non-flowering if possible, fast growing. I found dwarf thyme on line as a possibility. Do you have anything I could use? Thank you.

- Beth in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Beth,

Your thought of dwarf thyme is a good one. Lime thyme, creeping thyme and elfin thyme will grow the lowest but they are somewhat slow to spread and they do flower for a short time in summer. Hernaria glabra (also known as green carpet) does not have a noticeable flower but is sometimes hard to obtain. Isotoma, the fastest grower, does have that blue-white flower in the summer. You might even consider planting baby tears in the sun. In your cool climate, with regular water, the baby tears should do just fine.
 
Developing bloom in camellias
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I planted two camellias in my back yard over a year ago. One of them developed many blooms and they are blooming right now, but no fresh new leaves. The other one had fresh new leaves all over, but no bloom at all. They are both about 1 1/2 feet tall. Is there anyone I can do to help it develop some bloom? Thanks,

- Lily in Pacifica
   
A: Dear Lily,

The camellia that is blooming will put out fresh new leaves once it has finished flowering. Your camellia that has produced new growth may be too young to bloom. Some varieties are slower than others to mature. Is it possible that the bloomless one is in a shadier location? To help stimulate bud formation, feed the Camellias with a Bloom formula fertilizer such as EB Stone Ultra Bloom 0-10-10 or Maxsea 3-20-20 beginning in late July and monthly through the winter.
 
Hedges for privacy
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

It's time to replace our small, tired looking hedge. We would like to replace it with a tree/plants that give us privacy but also something that looks nice and lasts a long time. Thank you Garden Guru

- Anthi in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Anthi,

These plants should do it: Pittosporum tenuifolium, Dodonaea (Hopseed), Juniper Spartan, Thuja, Tea Tree. If you have the space, flowering plums or Magnolia Little Gem.
 
Flowering shrub recommendations
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Any recommendations for brilliant-colored, flowering shrub (or small tree) reaching no more than 6 ft height for front yard (near sidewalk). Do not want anything that may grow wide & overtake the rest of the garden (i.e., purple sage). Area receives a lot of sun, southern exposure. Area has sprinkler system. I would appreciate any recommendations you may have.

- T. in San Jose
   
A: Dear T,

You may want to consider an Abutilon, Alyogyne or Rose. There is also the New Zealand Tea tree, Leptospermum. Many of these shrubs come grown as a small tree too. You might consider a lemon or Hibiscus as well.
 
Transplanting a 20 year old Camellia?
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

My camellias are over 20 years old and now they completely block my north facing windows. They produce some but not many blooms, so, I am wondering if I can transplant them into big pots in a sunnier part of the yard, while planting something else more suited to the north. And, any ideas what that might be? Thank you and Happy New Year.

- Cindy in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Cindy,

Twenty years in the ground is a long time. Digging up the Camellias will damage much of the root system and they may not survive the move to containers. However, should you decide that they really must go, now is the time to do it. You will need to cut them back dramatically (at least by half) as the reduced roots will not be able to support the existing size. You can also cut them back severely to regain a view through your windows. If the decision stands to replace them, consider ferns, Hosta, Sarcococca, Holly, Nandina, Podocarpus, Acanthus and Mahonia.
 
Best time to prune Bougainvillea
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

When is the appropriate time to prune a bougainvillea?

- Sue in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Sue,

The earliest you can prune Bougainvillea successfully in San Francisco is mid February. This ensures that there will be no more frost that could damage newly sprouting wood. If you were in a colder climate, I would advise a late March pruning.
 
Pruning a Forsythia
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I recently purchased a Forsythia from your store...it's in bloom right now and looks just awesome! I'm just wondering when is the best time to prune it? How much should I prune?

Thanks!
- Daniel in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Daniel,

You can always prune some of your Forsythia right before it blooms so that you can have flowering stems in the house. Forsythia only needs pruning to control height and or to keep it in shape. The best time to prune is after flowering in late spring (May or early June). The flower buds for next year are formed by mid-summer; pruning too late will sacrifice next year’s blooms.
 
Why wont my rhododendron flower?
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I planted a rhododendron over five years ago in my garden near the Sunset district. It has never flowered. What am I doing wrong? Thanks in advance for your reply.

- Evelyn in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Evelyn,

I fear that your Rhododendron may be in too shady a location. Rhododendrons do best in part sun or full morning sun. If they receive too little light the buds turn to leaf. You may want to consider moving it this coming Fall when it goes dormant. To do so now may stress the plant considerably.
 
Repelling Skunks
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Do you know of any plants that would help to repel skunks? There are a lot of them in my neighborhood, and I'd like for my dog to not get sprayed...

- Jennifer in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Jennifer,

I know of no plants that will deter skunks. We do carry a product called Critter Ridder from Havahart that has proven to be a good repellent for the urban, wild animals. It is granular so it’s easy to apply. I would try sprinkling it around the perimeter of your space and for sure, by garages or garbage cans. Try to keep pet foods removed from outdoor areas at night if applicable.
 
Wisteria Care
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have 2 tall Wisteria vines growing up the front of my house. They are at least 50 years old. Each year they grow thick lush leaves but when they flower in the spring there are only a few flowers which last for a few weeks. Is there any to encourage more flowers and less leaves?

- Jerry in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Jerry,

Are you pruning these vines back hard each year? Wisteria flower on old wood and you may be cutting away flower buds. When pruning Wisteria, the young, loopy growth can be removed but the flowering spurs on older, 2 year wood should be kept. The flowering spurs are shorter branchlets with visible dark brown flower buds that resemble little almonds.  Wisteria do best with little or no feeding. If they are given too much nitrogen, they produce more foliage and fewer flowers.
 
Apple Trees
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have a 40 year old golden delicious apple tree up to two years ago lots of fruit. Last year and this has grey moldy spots on the trunk and limbs and white fuzz at the tips and leaves. causing the leaves to fall and bearing the limbs. I tried to spray with soap and blight spray but, it is higher than the two story house and not getting any better Should I cut it down and start all over??

- Sara in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Sara,

What you describe on the bark of the tree and tips of branches is lichen. This will not kill the tree but usually invades very old bark. The best way to control this fungi/algae symbiosis is to spray the bark of the tree with Kop R Spray. This spray will also control powdery mildew which creates a white coating on leaves and causes them to turn brown and die. When powdery mildew is really prevalent, there will be much leaf drop. Less leaves means less energy to carry and bear fruits. I would recommend possibly having the tree reduced in height. It is advisable to begin spraying now, again in February and once again when the flower buds begin to swell. I would give your older tree the benefit of the doubt for a couple more years. Consider that 2006 was the wettest year on record and a horrible fruit production year and last year was very very dry, equally stressful. 
 
Shade Plants
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Hello, I am creating a plan for my front court yard. i have a large Magnolia tree that blocks 85% of the sun. Could you please suggest some hearty shade plants/flowers? I live on the water and there is much salt air. Thanks!

- Joe in Novato

   
A: Dear Joe,

Shrubs that will work in that shady spot are Viburnum tinus, Pittosporum tobira (which also comes as a variegated variety), Aucuba, Boxwood, Camellia, Fatsia, Hydrangea and Nandina.

Perennials and flowers that will thrive are Calla Lily, Fuchsia, Heuchera, Lamium, Liriope, Foxglove, Campanula, and Hellebore.

Some annual flowers that will work are Impatiens, Coleus and Primrose.
 
Rose Pruning
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I'm pruning my roses. Some a very tall. Is it true that if a branch of a rose bush has no thorns, it's a sucker? I've tried to get down to the bottom of the bush to see if the branch is coming from the base of the bush or from the ground. I can't always identify so I was wondering if the absence of thorns makes a difference. Any help would be appreciated. THANKS!!

- Lorraine in Walnut Creek

   
A: Dear Lorraine,

Unfortunately, the lack of thorns does not indicate whether you have a sucker or a cane.  Many rose bushes will throw almost thornless canes occasionally that produce an umbel of flowers. They are difficult to prune in that they don't always have a well oriented leaf bud scar to make a cut above.  You really do have to see if the origin is coming from beneath the bud union or the root zone. These thornless canes are often skinnier than there thorny sisters which makes it even harder to tell.  You won't be hurting anything if you feel you must remove it just to be sure.
 
Toyon
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have had a toyon shrub for 4 years. It has never flowered or developed berries and I have always assumed this is because it doesn't get enough sun. {I am in the Twin Peaks area} However this spring we took down a tree and the toyon received significantly more sun and it did flower heavily but still no berries. Do you think berries are a lost cause on this shrub?

- Charlene in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Charlene,

I would not give up hope on your Toyon. Getting it more sun so it would bloom was half the battle. I believe the problem was a lack of pollinators. The freeze we had last winter killed many beneficial insects.  As well, the bee population has been compromised by one disaster or another for close to 10 years now.  It is also possible that the young berries aborted early in the season right after flowering.  We had so little rain this past season, many unirrigated plants set poor fruit crops.
 
Pacific Iris and Brugmansia/Datura
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

A few years ago Sloat offered special varietes of Pacific Coast Iris (different colors, etc) Are they available this year? If not, what are the botanical names? Question #2 Do brugmansia and datura have different cultural requirements? What are they? Thanks so much!

- Grace in San Rafael
   
A: Dear Grace,

Sloat will indeed have many varieties of Pacific Iris. The greatest selection is to be had in March. There are so many named varieties that it would be difficult to list them all. Most of the stores still have a few 1g cans but they are dormant right now. As far as the difference between Brugmansia and Datura, the cultural requirements are very different. Brugmansia require a sheltered location from wind and hot sun. They grow naturally under the high canopy of the Amazon rainforest, so a part sun location suits them best inland. They will take full sun on the coast, provided they are out of the wind. Give them regular water and composted soil.  Datura are  desert loving plants that require fast draining soil. They will take more sun and less watering.
 
Dalia Tubers
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I have dahlia tubers that I have dug up since I saw that some were rotting but what about my dahlia hybrid that I've grown from seeds and the species bishops children. they're all dried up, do I just keep them in their pots till next summer when they'll come back?

- Margarita in Daly City
   
A: Dear Margarita,

Thank you for your question. You may want to lift the small tubers from the pots as well and store them in paper bags with some peat moss. This will allow you to replant them in fresh potting soil next spring. If you choose to leave them in the pots, store them dry until February when you can rewet them. I have had hybrid Dahlias last for years by doing both.

I hope this helps. As always, feel free to visit any of our Sloat locations for more expert advice.
 
Pyracantha
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

Can you please tell me what plant is in the December red pottery picture. I inheritedone of these plants when I bought this house and use the berries as Christmas decoration, but if it is an invasive, I would like to get rid of it. Also, the berries dry out quickly when cut. Any ideas on how to keep them looking better for longer?

- Barb in Oakland
   
A: Dear Barb,

The plant pictured was a Pyracantha. They are not considered invasive. Once branches have been cut, it is very difficult to keep them looking fresh for long if they are not in water.  Spraying your cut foliage and berry sprays with Cloud Cover will help seal in the moisture. Floral foam will also hold water. Try making arrangements on a plate or saucer. The greenery stuck in the foam conceals your plate and you can keep adding water as needed.
 
Caring for Fuchsias
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I'm somewhat worried about one of the potted Fuchsias I have. The one I'm worried about gets watered every day for about 10 minutes. About a month ago this plant was growing very well, then all of a sudden it's lost all of it's leaves and buds, have I killed this plant? I also need to know when is the best time to prune Fuchsias?

- Ritch in Hayward
   
A: Dear Ritch,

Is it that your Fuchsia still has no leaves after a month? And you are still watering it everyday? If this is the case, I think that your Fuchsia may be dead. Watering everyday, especially when the weather is hot will cause root rot. This is probably what happened to your plant initially. If you scrape the bark on the main stem of the plant, you should see some green, if the plant is still viable. If you see green, cut the plant back now by 60-80% and stop watering until it begins to grow again. If you don't see any sprouting by the end of 3 weeks, the plant will most likely not come back. As far as the best time to prune healthy Fuchsias, we suggest late February.
 
Mildew on Begonias
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I've had a Semperflorens begonia for many years that has been continuously beautiful and free of pests. This year it has become infected with mildew. What's the best, least toxic remedy?

- Debra in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Debra,

Begonias get mildew when the humidity increases and we have cool nights followed by warm days. The easiest and safest way to get rid of the mildew is to spray with Serenade. This is a non toxic (except to funguses) spray certified by OMNI. It is safe to use on Begonias and will not burn leaves.
 
Moving a lilac tree
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

We have a large lilac already in our back yard, but we are re-designing the garden in a modern/asian style. I would like to move the tree from the center of the garden to a place across the yard that is by the steps and therefore not the first thing you see. It will still get about the same light. Will it die if I try and move it? What steps can I take to ensure it's health and how do I dig out all the roots? thank you!

- Stephanie in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Stephanie,

You would be best waiting until late fall to transplant. Follow the steps below.
  1. Ensure that the plant has been watered in the previous 72 hours.
  2. The top growth of the plant should be pruned back at least 25% to lessen the stress on the soon-to-be damaged root mass.
  3. Have the new hole dug and prepared with organic material and some agricultural lime.
  4. Begin to dig around the plant (24-36" away form the trunk) with the goal of creating a root ball 18-24" across and 24-30" deep.
  5. You will need two people with shovels to gently work the root ball loose and surround it with an old sheet or burlap tote.
  6. Once wrapped, the plant can be moved to the new hole and planted at the same depth, adding Sloat Forest Mulch Plus, Agricultural Lime and Sure Start fertilizer
  7. Water heavily and wait. All remaining leaves may drop off but that is OK as long as the branches and stems remain firm and don't turn black.
  8. Come spring you should see a surge of growth. Don't be surprised if the plant does not bloom that first year after transplanting.
 
Rose Transplanting
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

We would like to transplant our roses. They are in an area that does not appear to be the best and the leaves are being eaten by something. When is the safest time to move them and what do we need to do to make sure the move is a successful one? Thanks for your help.

- Shauna in Pacifica

   
A: Dear Shauna,

If you can wait, the best time to transplant your roses is late November or early December. This is the time that they begin their dormancy. You can do all your pruning before you move them and treat them like a bareroot, meaning you won't have to get the entire rootball. It is best to have the holes already prepared, usually about 1' deep and 2' wide. You will want to amend your soil with organic matter such as EB Stone Rose Mix. Additional Alfalfa meal and or bone meal at the bottom of the hole will help the plants "bounce back" rapidly when the weather begins to warm again in February.

As for holes in the leaves, as a general rule, if the middle of the leaves are being eaten it is slugs or snails. If the outer edges of the leaves are being chewed, it is caterpillars.  At all of our Sloat locations near you (San Bruno - 675 El Camino Real; 2700 Sloat Blvd, San Francisco) we have products to help fight these insects/bugs. Of course, you can also try plucking them off your plants early in the evening or a bit later with a flashlight too!

I hope this helps steer you in the right direction.  And as always, visit our stores for more expert guidance.
 
Anigozanthos Care
Q:

Dear Guru,

I've purchased several anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paw) and after a beautiful bloom this summer, they've all turned brown, dry and look dead. Is this normal? Do I merely cut them back and wait for Spring? Last year I threw all of them away as I thought they were dead, but maybe I've been mistaken. Please advise. Thank you,

- Karen in San Francisco

   
A: Dear Karen,

Thanks very much for your question. It is normal for the flowering stalks of Anigozanthos to turn brown and dry up towards the end of summer. The leaves, however, should still be green. If the whole plant has turned brown, it may be that it was over watered or in soil that did not drain well or that it was too dry. They also do not like fertilizer with Phosphorous. Here is a check list to keep the plants alive:
  1. Plant in a sunny location. If you live where there is frost, plant under the eave of a house or high tree canopy
  2. Give excellent drainage (lots of compost or sand/gravel)
  3. Where it is dry in the summer, they need regular water
  4. Do not feed heavily and avoid Phosphorous (middle number)
  5. After the flowers have died, remove the stalks and leaves to almost ground level. Each "fan" of leaves only flowers once. Be careful not to cut or damage new fans that are forming. These will flower next year.
I hope this helps. As always feel free to visit any of our stores for more expert advice!
 
Feeding azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas
Q: Dear Garden Guru,

I feed many acid plants [azalea, camellia, and hydrangeas]. Is the same acid-based food good for magnolias and hibiscus?

- James in San Francisco
   
A: Dear Jaime,

Thanks for your question. With regards to Magnolias, they generally like neutral or SLIGHTLY acidic soil. So, yes, you can use your acid food for them, but you may want to dilute it a bit from regular doses, and don't use it as often as the instructions say for true acid-loving plants.

As for Hibiscus, I've referenced some instructions from the following website, as they are excellent. www.hiddenvalleyhibiscus.com/care/feeding.htm

"Hibiscus produce their most and best flowers with a fertilizer high in potassium - that is the third or last number in the formulas often given on fertilizer containers. Sometimes, people are tempted to use the "super bloom" type formulas which are very high in phosphorus - the middle number of the formula. This is NOT GOOD for hibiscus as research has shown that high phosphorus can prevent hibiscus from absorbing other nutrients it needs. These types of fertilizers may be sprayed on the leaves of the plant as a "foliar feeding" but should not be added to the pot.

If you use a local brand, it's good to check that the plant food is complete - that it contains "minors" which are small amounts of minerals that hibiscus also need. They will be listed on the side of the container. Look for ingredients like copper and iron. Be sure to follow the directions that come with the package of fertilizer. Hibiscus like to be fed small amounts often rather than large amounts occasionally. If you can hook up your water hose to a proportioner or fertilizer injector, you can water and feed easily at the same time. Otherwise mix your water and water soluble plant food in a container and pour enough of the solution into each pot so that some comes out the bottom of the pot. Fertilize when the pots are moist, not when they are dry. Use plenty of plant food in the summer and less during the winter."

At your local Sloat Garden Center, you will find that we carry a Hibiscus specific food that does meet these suggested requirements. And that is what I would recommend for success with growing yours.
Plant, Water, GrowPlant, Water, Grow