My Oriental Lilies aren't coming up!
6/9/03 Hi, I hope I am asking the right people! I bought 5 Oriental Lilies (Bergamo) and planted them according to the instructions. I know they like well drained soil and the place I planted them is generally that - but we have had SO much rain this spring and I have no shoots coming up. I planted them in the beginning of May - well after the last frost. I tried to dig one up today, but couldn't find right away and didn't want to damage them by digging around, since I only know which row I planted them in. I don't know whether to hope the weather will clear and that they will still sprout or to try to dig them up and return them (the company has a guarantee). I have heard that this variety sprouts later, but since they are supposed to bloom in July, and it's already June, I didn't know what to do! Please HELP!! Kathy.
Greetings, Kathy! Your feelings of trepidation may well be justified. In the ground in early May...and it's now nearly mid-June, late-arising or not, you should see some signs of life. In all fairness to the supplier, however, I'd give them until the first of July. If there's still no action, get in there with a spading fork (so you don't slice something in half with a shovel or trowel) and find out why.
There are a number of possible reasons: poor stock (though if your mailorder company offers a guarantee, I should think they'd consider it very risky to send out product that might force that option into play!); excessive soil moisture might have enhanced the possibility of bacterial rot (in which case they can't be held responsible for "acts of God or Nature"); a tunneling rodent-and-family could have dined on the bulbs (unlikely); a remote possibility is that the package may have been irradiated or subjected to excessive temperatures during transit...an act that could very well have "shut-down" the bulb's physiology (that's something the supplier might have anticipated and prepared...but, again, unlikely...yet not impossible); or the bulbs were planted too deep...in which case, they'll be a lot later coming up; or a combination of some or all of the above.
If I were forced into a choice (assuming they don't emerge by very early July), I believe I'd go for excess soil moisture around bulbs that had been "roughed-up" a bit in handling that allowed the entry of — and encouraged the development of — decay. Even the smallest scrape or broken scale or root can allow the entry of infectious bacteria (isn't that why we tell our kids not to pick at scabs?).
So...when you exhume the remains, and you find them intact but refusing to grow, contact the company, explain, and ask for replacements. If you feel mistreated or come up lacking in satisfaction from the experience, go to www.gardenwatchdog.com and post a negative entry for both the public (a LOT of the public) and the company to read. On the other hand, if they finally come up and perform well (albeit late), go to Garden Watchdog and leave a positive entry for the world to see. (I always go there first — to see what others have said about companies from whom I'm considering ordering. I suggest you add the site to your "favorites".) Fred
6/10/03 I just noticed that my lupine appears to be wilting. It was doing fine and is actually blooming, but we've had a lot of rain lately and when I finally got outside to spend some much needed time in my garden, I noticed upon closer inspection, that a lot of the leaves were wilting, almost like it needed water, which I know isn't the case. I read what was on your website about lupines and aphids, and I was wondering if that could cause wilting. Thanks for listening and I hope you can help! Karen.
Greetings, Karen! Your note is full of clues...not the least of which is that it's been raining a lot — with attendant reduction in the kind of very bright light lupines prefer. I doubt that aphids are a factor... unless, of course, the plant is covered with them; in which case a good blast with a hose and a dose of Safer's Soap will at least get rid of the insects.
Yes, aphids can — and often do — transmit diseases that can cause wilting, but I'm betting that it's more a matter of a combination of not-the-best drainage, and an over-abundance of water — and possibly food. Lupines must have almost the ultimate in drainage and soil depth. Think where they grow in nature or the wild: sandy, deep, side-of-the-road (where it's sandy-gravelly and usually deep), in the full sun, and with very little (if any) artificial food, manure, or compost. Their taproots can reach a depth of of 4' or more. Fresh out of a pot or dug from roadsides can restrict that taproot development (if not cut it off altogether).
Another possibility is that something wiggly or furry is chewing on it's root system...but I doubt it, given recent darkness and heavy rain.
So...watch and wait. And don't water it for a while....let the soil drain out and re-aerate. You might cultivate around it to assist evaporation. And no fertilizer...at least not until about mid-season. If the wilting doesn't correct itself in a day or two, get that flower (and its attendant "load" and stress) into a vase to give the plant a chance to recover. And, finally, look closely at drainage. Fred
For more about Lupines
(7/5/03) Hi- I have a bed of daylilies I need to move; about 17 plants. Is it ok to move them now or should I wait until they finish blooming in the fall? Joanne.
Greetings, Joanne!...Daylilies can be moved just about any time the ground isn't frozen. The very best time would be early Fall, after all flowers are gone and the foliage begins to look tattered (at the end of active growth and production). You can move yours safely now but must balance foliage-left-on with root loss and damage. For example...if half the roots have been cut, then half the total length of foliage should be cut back (and all flower stems removed). If you can get them out (and back in) with only minimal root damage, they might not need to be cut back at all.
All of this is assuming they won't be divided into very small divisions -- causing even more damage and shock. We dig, divide into single fan sections beginning in late summer (for next years' sales), cut them back to about 8 to 10", rebuild the soil with fresh compost and just a bit of low-nitrogen fertilizer, then replant. They come up in the spring tearing for the sky! They can also be divided in the early spring but there may be some flower loss.
Soak them very well the day before the move -- to "pump them up" and give them their best shot at avoiding serious shock. And do whatever is necessary to keep the roots moist while they're out of the ground. For more about Daylilies
Bleeding Hearts from seed.
(7/6/03) Hello there in Maine! I was searching the web for information on how to propagate bleeding heart from seed. We have a plant that my wife is so attached to that I am not allowed to divide it. Thanks to you, however, next year I may have some seedlings. Appreciate. No need to reply. Just wanted you to know. Bernard.
(Here's the paragraph in the article on Bleeding Hearts to which he referred.) You could also harvest a few seeds late in summer, and sow them right away in a prepared bed. By spring you'll have more bleeding heart seedlings than you'll know what to do with.
Lupine Maintenance & Seeds/Seedlings
6/30/03 Hi. I have 3 questions: 1. What is the best thing to do with bloomed-out lupines: cut them back or leave them to themselves? 2. When should seed be collected, how should it be treated, and how should it be planted to encourage the spread of an existing patch (in the garden)? 3. How long does it take a lupine seedling to take hold and begin producing flowers? We have a number of them that apparently won't get beyond a few inches tall this year. Thanks in advance for your response. Don in Maine.
Greetings, Don! Here's what we do in our gardens: Just as soon as the flower spike begins to look a bit tattered, I cut it down to about half its original length (from the ground) to remove all signs of seedpods before they begin to mature...give it a shot of a blossom-boosting fertilizer (a high middle number) that forces a second flush of flowers in a few weeks.
We allow that second blooming session to mature seeds, that we collect and store in a tight container in a very cool spot (crisper drawer of the fridge works well). After harvesting the seeds, we once again cut the stem short...but no more fertilizer -- let it rest.
In the early spring, scarify the seeds on fine sandpaper, soak them in room temperature water overnight, then sow1/2" deep in 1" to 2-1/4" cells, 2 or 3 seeds to the cell. They should be up in a few days. Then very bright light....and when they have produced their second set of true leaves, transplant them into the garden.
An alternative is to scatter the seeds in the fall...and hope for the best. You might get 1 in 10. Not good odds....so I prefer to retain a bit more control by starting them indoors in the spring.
They'll grow handsomely the first season....some may actually bloom, depending on cultural and nutritional conditions. All (at least all that survive the winter) will bloom the second season. Naturalized, they usually flower the second season without any heroics.
A note: The ones we sell in flower in the nursery in 3-quart containers (the so-called nursery "gallon") were sown very early this spring. If yours came up this spring but don't seem to be doing anything, you might take a close look at water and nutrition. They should be "movin'" by now.
Cheers...and have a great time in your summer garden! Fred
For more about Lupines
7/7/03 My neighbor pointed out to me that I have a weed variety of flox in my gardens. How do I tell the difference and is there such a thing? Curious, Robin.
Assumption: the phlox you're referring to is the tall garden variety with a panicle of flowers at about 3'.
Perhaps your neighbor has had an unpleasant experience with the tall garden phlox. If not dead-headed (spent flowers removed before seeds mature), these phlox will spread seeds all over the place. Since they're open-pollinated -- and pollinating insects fly from neighbor to neighbor -- succeeding generations mix colors....eventually overpowering the original hybrid varieties. Then, these rather bland seedlings do, indeed, can be classified as a "weed". They can also be more susceptible to mildew and other leaf diseases.
Actually, any plant in the wrong place can rightly be called weed. For instance, we have a common native orchid (very tiny flowers on tall thin stems) that has become a "weed" in our gardens. It produces prodigious quantities of seeds...and spreads everywhere! (You recall the old kernel: "One person's trash is another's treasure"?)
It comes down to this: Do you like the phlox you have? Do they appeal to you...and please your gardener-senses? Are they more attractive than dandelions, tall weedy grasses, or pigweed? If your answer is "yes", your choice is clear. Oh, by the way...don't bother attempting to adjust your neighbor's opinion of your garden and its varieties; I've learned by decades of experience that it's almost always futile.
Remove Daylily Seeds?
7/19/04 "Greeting from Northern Michigan. We are in zone 4 and have a very well established bed (about 10 square feet) of Stella D'oro Lilies. The bedding area is a layer of composted cow manure and sand covered with mulch. Below that is a VERY sandy sub soil. The plants are on the Southern side of our home and receive full sun and plenty of water. Our problem relates to blooming. The plants are VERY thick and healthy and they bloom great..... but for only a few days each year. This spring I treated them to some 10-10-10 after I cleaned out the Winter kill.... and it didn't help at all. From the first bloom until the last one was gone was a total of 7 days. (right around the 4th of July--- now they are covered with seed pods) Is there anything we can due to induce a longer blooming season???? Is it possible they need to be thinned out ??? We've tried plucking the old blooms and everything else we can think of... with no luck. Any suggestions you can supply would really be appreciated. Thanks. Mark"
Greetings, Mark....thanks for your question (and thanks also for telling us where you live; so few emailers offer that helpful bit of info).
If you truly have Stella d'Oro in the beds, and given the described condition of the clumps, they should remain in nearly full color throughout the season...right up to frost. Something is wrong. Daylilies should be dug, cleaned up, and divided every 3 to 5 years....they simply exhaust the soil beneath them, and get so crowded that they come very close to "shutting down." Here's what we'd do:
So....next season at the first sign of growth in the spring—and again on about July 4th—feed into the top 3 or 4 inches of soil a closed handful of 10-10-10 around each plant.......and when they begin their bloom cycle, remove spent flowers (including the base of the flower where the seed pod would otherwise form) daily. The real key is the understanding that a plant's only purpose in blooming is to make seeds—to reproduce itself. But, if you don't let it do that, it has to keep trying! Therefore: they'll continue bloom—but only if you religiously remove any sign of seed pods...daily. That ought to solve the short-season flowering! Good Luck.....and let us know how it all turns out. Fred
- Do a summer-dig-and-divide. Cut them back to about 6" or 8" tall, clean out all the old chaff, and dig the clumps...removing most of the soil. Set them aside and keep them moist while you do the next....
- Totally and deeply re-build the foundational soil (deep where the roots will want to go) with compost (or other quality organic material), adding lime to adjust pH to 6.5...and 10-10-10 at the rate of about 5 pounds to the 100 square feet of surface area. Mix it all together.
- Divide into 4- to 8-fan divisions (since most of the tops have been removed, you can be quite vigorous with a sturdy, sharp knife—just be careful to not divide any of your fingers or toes). Try to preserve as many roots as possible, but don't become suicidal if a few get sliced off.
- Re-plant those divisions into your newly-rebuilt soil foundation, water well enough to deeply saturate, and step back. An inch or two of light mulch will moderate soil temperature, prevent moisture loss, and discourage weed seedlings. Maintain moisture. You should see renewed growth within 7 to 10 days....and perhaps some late summer blooms.
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