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Q. I have a lot of vines that grew up my two trees. I noticed that one of my large trees is now dying. Would those vines kill them by taking all of the water from the bark? Also, I have a patio tomato plant that is big and doing great. Would it hurt the plant if I cut off a lot of the lower branches? Thank you. — Jerry Maquet

A. In the southern portion of the United States and in the rainforests of the world, vines commonly choke plants to death. In the Midwest, however, most of our vines use trees for structural support and are not likely to kill a large, healthy tree. The weight of the foliage can cause problems on small trees, so it is a good idea to keep vines away from tree trunks and scaffold limbs of small trees. Most of our vines are not parasitic and do not extract water from the tree, but there are a few, such as mistletoe and dodder, that are true parasites and do take water and nutrients from the host plant.

It is probably in the tree’s best interest to cut down the vine at ground level. You can leave the vine and its foliage up in the tree. As it decomposes, it will lessen its hold and will eventually drop off or can be pulled off. Proceed with caution, as one of our most common tree-climbing vines is poison ivy. You need to take great care not to touch it, or you’ll suffer the itchy consequences. If you’re walking through a carpet of the same foliage on your way to the tree, remove your clothing when you’ve finished cutting the vine, and take care not to let the outside of your clothing touch your skin.

Tomatoes produce all that foliage in order to maximize photosynthesis, which pays you back in tomatoes! Any foliage you remove will cause the plant to expend more energy to replace it and can reduce fruit production temporarily. Foliage also protects developing fruits from sunscale. Unless it’s necessary to remove diseased foliage, the lower limbs should remain in place.

Q. I have been trying to find information on whether or not to deadhead my many Stella D’Oro daylilies. Most of the information that I’ve found says that it is not really necessary, but one source stated that it would not make a difference for this year but may make a difference next year. However, it did not tell if the difference would be for the good or bad. I really prefer to keep them deadheaded, because they look so much nicer without the big seed heads and dead stalks. I always thought that if you prevent seeds from forming you would produce more flowers. Do you have any advice for the many of us who have this popular flower in our gardens? I look forward to your column every month. Keep up the good (and helpful) work. Thanks. — Carol Benson, Monticello, Ind.

A. Daylilies are so tough, they’ll survive whether you deadhead them or not, but deadheading is almost always a good practice. A plant’s goal is to produce seed. Allowing it to do so, signals its job is done. Not allowing it to do so, signals it to continue producing flowers. We call this removal of spent flowers “deadheading.” Many plants will rebloom after deadheading, including petunia, geranium, marigold, speedwell, coreopsis and more. Many faded flowers can simply be pinched off, while some need to be cut off with a knife, scissors or pruning shears. Remove the clippings to the compost pile or the trash to avoid insects and fungal organisms that will be attracted to the decaying plant material.

Deadheading is also done for aesthetic purposes, since the seed heads of many plants are not attractive. I choose not to deadhead two kinds of plants in my garden — those with attractive spent flowers like sedum, astilbe, baptisia and ornamental grasses, and those I want to have reseed, like cleome and poppies.

Q. How do I kill or get rid of yucca roots? I pulled big yuccas out of my yard two years ago. It seems like the more I dig out their roots, the more sprouts keep coming up. I dig some out and pull others but they just keep multiplying. Help! — Barbara Kimmel, Springville, Ind.

A. Persistence! When you see new sprouts, dig them up immediately. Try to get the root system each time. If you allow them to grow for a while before you remove them, they will gain strength, so remove them as soon as possible.

Herbicide application is difficult because of the waxy coating on the yucca leaves, but glyphosate (sold as Round-Up or Kleen-Up) is another option. Again, spray as soon as you see a sprout, and use care, since it kills anything green, not just yucca. Glyphosate is translocated to the root, so it will help you rid your garden of the root pieces.


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