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Overwintering exotic plants and other preparations for a new season

by Janet B. Carson | October 17, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.
Removing the seed pod from this small Angel's Trumpet datura would allow the plant to put more energy into flower production. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Seed pods a good sign this late in the season

Q: Is this a seed pod on my Angel's Trumpet? The plant is still small but it has had two beautiful white blooms since being planted a couple of months ago.

A: Yes, that is the seed pod of the Angel's Trumpet datura. Some gardeners dead-head or remove spent blooms to prevent seed production, which can take away from flower production; but this late in the season, I would encourage you to let the seed pods form. You can start new plants from the mature seeds next spring.

Poke weed, or poke salad? It's both!

Q: Is this a weed? [The reader sent a photo.]

A: The plant in question is poke-weed, or poke salad in the South. I consider it a weed, but some consider it a food source. Some people like to harvest the tender greens in the spring and early summer and cook them for greens. There is some toxicity with the plant, so many people cook them, drain the water and then add fresh water before they cook and eat them. I am not a fan, so I eradicate them from my garden when I see them. In Europe, the greens actually are cultivated as a garden plant. The seeds are toxic.

Wintering exotic petunias could be hard

Q: I have some beautiful petunias in a pot. I bought them out of state as I had never seen these particular colors for sale in Arkansas. Is there a way ... or is it even possible ... to winter them?

A: Anything is possible. Petunias have been known to overwinter outdoors in a mild winter, but don't count on that. You have several options. If you have access to a greenhouse, that is your best option. If you don't have one (most gardeners don't have that availability), you can move the container into your garage when a hard frost is predicted. If they can have some light and a little water, they should survive. They won't look fabulous at the end of winter, but they should be alive. I would also take some cuttings and root them indoors. Once they're rooted, move them to your sunniest and coolest location indoors. Low humidity, low light and warm dry heat indoors can take a toll on plants. If you have a sunny bathroom, that is ideal -- it is the most humid room in your house. Good luck.

Hydrangea death could be related to February freeze

Q: For a landscape college class, my granddaughter had a soil test done in a bed where I have hydrangeas. They didn't bloom this year, and two new ones died. What should I amend my soil with before I plant new ones?

A: Your soil sample doesn't have any red flags for me concerning growing hydrangeas. The sample was coded for a vegetable garden, so the pH is low for vegetables, but not hydrangeas. The pH is acidic, but hydrangeas can tolerate a wide range of pH -- it just changes the colors of the blooms. I was pleasantly surprised that many hydrangeas made it through last winter with flying colors, but if your plant got zapped by the cold, that would explain the lack of flowers. You do need to investigate why your new plants died. Is the drainage good? Did you water? They do like moisture but not standing water. Were they planted at the proper depth? Hydrangeas do like good soil, so amending with compost or other organic matter is never a bad thing.

Overwintering cacti for the first time

Q: This is my first year to have cacti, and I need advice how to overwinter.

A: I am assuming the cactus are in containers and not considered winter hardy. Any plants that you plan to move indoors need to start making the move this month. Find a spot inside that has bright light. Most cacti will do well with water only every 3-4 weeks indoors. Conditions inside a home are not as conducive to plant growth as is the humid outdoors in Arkansas. Many plants greatly slow down growth for the winter, so too much water can be a death sentence. Err on the side of too little water.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email [email protected]

Poke salad greens are edible, if cooked the right way; but the seeds are toxic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
Poke salad greens are edible, if cooked the right way; but the seeds are toxic. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
This soil report shows the sample was assessed for elements needed in a vegetable garden. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
This soil report shows the sample was assessed for elements needed in a vegetable garden. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

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