Browse below for common plant care and maintenance questions ::
Q. What is dividing, and how do I do it?
Dividing is the breaking up of a plant's roots. Most plants benefit from dividing every 3-5 years, or when you see that blooming has decreased over the last few seasons. Dividing is a way to promote new growth and healthy root production on a plant, along with giving it and other surrounding plants room to spread.
You simply dig up the root clump, shake off any excess dirt off the roots, and divide the roots with an old knife or with your hands.
Be sure to give each division enough root, and plant out the divisions as soon as possible. Dividing can be done any time of the year when the plant isn't producing flowers, but it is usually best done in the fall or spring when heat and moisture stress are less likely.
Q. What is dead-heading, and how do I do it?
Dead-heading is the pruning off of old or spent flowers/foliage. Most perennials and annuals benefit from dead-heading throughout the season to promote new growth, vigor, and new blooms. You can dead-head when a plant is finished blooming or when its appearance is unattractive.
Just take a scissors or garden shears, and trim off the top quarter or third portion of each stem. This will force the plant to produce new growth, and thereby new flowers will form.
Q. Does this plant spread?
All plants will spread in their own way. Some will spread differently or at a different rate, but all plants will need room to grow.
When planting, use the instructions on the label that was with the plant when you bought it. This will give you a good start as to how each particular plant will spread. You can usually expect a plant to at least double in size the next season after planting.
Q. How do I prune my Hydrangea?
That depends on what type of Hydrangea you have. Additionally, pruning is usually not necessary at all unless the plant has grown too large or has become unattractive. If you need to prune, the following are some types and how to do it ::
H. anomala petiolaris (Climbing) - These bloom on old and new growth/wood. No pruning is necessary unless shaping or a change in appearance or size is desired.
H. arborescens (Annabelle, Incrediball, Invincibelle Spirit, etc.) - These bloom on new growth/wood. Prune as necessary... generally halfway back yields good results.
H. grandiflora/paniculata (Limelight, Little Lime, Quickfire, Pinky Winky, etc.) - These bloom on new growth/wood. During the season, prune off dead flowers if unattractive and prune out any aggressive or unsightly stems that are produced. Then, prune as necessary... generally halfway back yields good results.
H. macrophylla (Big-leaf, Lacecap, and Mophead types) - Most of these varieties bloom on old growth/wood, or stems that were produced the previous year. However, some recently introduced hybrids ('Endless Summer', 'Forever & Ever', etc.) bloom on old and new growth/wood. For these varieties, no pruning is really needed. But if you want to get rid of some of the unattractive foliage, do the following : Each season, prune about a third of the stems halfway back. Try to do this after they have bloomed, but not much later than August if possible. This will leave some foliage to develop next year's blooms. If the plant is established and mature, you may selectively prune out some stems down to the ground each year. This will promote a more vigorous future bloom.
H. quercifolia (Oakleaf) - These usually bloom on old growth/wood, so if shaping is desired, avoid doing it late in the season and try to selectively choose the stems to prune instead of pruning the entire plant back.
For other facts and tips, you can view a recent article from Proven Winners on Hydrangea.
Q. What type of soil do I need?
Usually, any plant will perform best in loosened, rich, and well-drained soil. This is soil that is easy to work with, is rich in nutrients, and stays moist but not constantly wet.
Sandy or gravel-like soil drains and dries out rapidly. If you have mostly sandy or gravel-like soil, adding top soil or peat to the soil will give it a needed boost in nutrients, and give the soil the ability to retain moisture.
Clay or heavy soil does not drain as well and packs very hard, making it difficult for healthy root growth. If you have clay or heavy soil, adding peat moss or a good grade potting soil will break up the soil and make it more manageable, while giving it better drainage characteristics.
For containers, use only premium potting soil (not from your local gas station). Good potting soil will allow for excellent drainage (essential in a container), but also will have the ability to retain moisture and stay loose for good root development. If you use regular top soil or dirt from your own yard, over time it will get hardened, compacted, and not allow for vigorous and healthy plant growth/performance. For kicks, try potting one plant in top soil, and another in good potting soil... you will be amazed at the difference!
Q. Why doesn't my plant grow or do anything?
Don't expect too much from a plant until at least the following season after you plant it. It takes time for plants to get established. Most plants take at least 2-3 seasons to reach maturity, and some longer than that. Of course, purchasing a larger or older plant will give you a more instant size and presence.
Q. What does "full sun" really mean?
On many of our plant labels, you will see the light requirements for a particular plant as being "full sun," meaning that the plant requires full sun for healthy growth and blooming. However, this is not always the case. In fact, in our testing and experiences, just about any plant that says "full sun" on its label can actually be grown in shadier areas. So, any time you see a "full sun" plant, just keep in mind that "full sun" really means only 3-5 hours of direct sunlight are needed, not all day long as you might suspect. This applies to most perennials, but there are a few exceptions.
Q. Why do many of my plants look dead after they flower?
Many perennials often go dormant after they foliate and flower. This is normal, and it does not mean you killed them or that they are diseased. They can also briefly go dormant if they are exposed to any sort of stress like excess heat or drought. So, don't dig them out thinking they are dead, just give them the care they need.
Some plants that go dormant soon after flowering include almost all woodland and wildflowers, along with Dicentra, Astilbe and Aruncus (if they dry out), Convallaria, Mertensia, Aquilegia, and Papaver to name a few.
Q. What hardiness zone are we in?
Well, that depends on where you live, of course. In our Western Lower Michigan area, we are in varying zones of 5 and 6. Hardiness zones are always in the process of changing, you can check out the latest zones and maps from the USDA site.
Q. Why do so many of my plants look dead in the spring?
Many perennials do not break dormancy until very late in the spring, and even into the summer. They may seem dead and it may seem like there is nothing there, but be patient! Some plants that break dormancy late in the season include Hibiscus, Lobelia, Houttuynia, Asclepias, and Cimicifuga to name a few.
Q. When is it safe to plant my flowers in the spring?
For perennials, it is not really an issue, they may be planted at any time. We "harden off" our perennials as much as possible so they are already somewhat acclimated to our cooler April weather. Leaving them out during the day and taking them in at night is an option for a week or so if you are concerned about shocking them, but it usually isn't necessary. In the event that we do get a hard frost, the worst case scenario would be some foliage dying back, and the plant just needing time to grow back from the bottom.
For annuals, it is best if you can leave them out during the daytime, and take them in at night if temps fall below 40-45. Doing this for a week or two after purchasing them will get them adjusted to the cooler temps. After getting acclimated, they can then be left outdoors as long as temps do not vary too much or drop into the 30's. Obviously, keeping them from frost and cold winds is a must. Also, New Guinea Impatiens need at least 55 to stay healthy, so keep that in mind.
Q. Why do some of my perennials, which are supposed to be hardy, die out over the winter?
Some perennial plants, even those that are supposed to be winter-hardy for your area, may die and/or not come out of dormancy in the spring. This can be caused by 1) temperatures dropping below the normal winter lows of your particular area, which may be too cold for your usually "hardy" plants, 2) late planting in the fall which does not allow enough time for plant to get established, 3) sudden cold temperatures in the fall before the plant has enough time to store up sugars ("anti-freeze" protection) for the winter months, and 4) plants being too stressed out and unhealthy prior to the winter months thereby not having sufficient health to survive the winter.
To lessen the chance of winterkill, always choose plants that are correctly and accurately labeled as being hardy for your zone. Try to have all of your perennial planting done by late-October or early-November. Keep your plants as healthy as possible by adequate watering and feeding, especially during the late summer and fall when you may think everything is "done for the year."
Q. Why don't my peonies bloom?
The most common reason is that they are either planted too shallow or too deep. Try to plant the "eyes" (the new growth at the crown or base of plant) about 1"-2" below the soil surface. Other reasons may be not enough sunlight (need at least 4-5 hours), too much fertilizer or nitrogen (peonies don't require much nutrients), a late spring frost which may have killed the forming buds, or pruning too late in the fall before they have gone dormant.
Information displayed above is for informational purposes only. W.W. cannot assume responsibility for further plant problems resulting from actions taken as advised above.
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Dale Isenga, 1977 - 2005 ::
We remember Dale Isenga, a longtime employee of W.W. for over 10 years, who passed away on Friday, October 21, 2005. Dale was a dependable and diligent worker who went about his duties without complaining, and who quietly and happily did his job to the fullest. We lost not only a valued employee, but also a friend. †