July 1997 - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

July 1997

Q. I have this smoketree that is about 10 years old. It will get to the seedy stage, but then it won’t completely bloom out. There might be two or three that will completely bloom out. Do I need more than one tree? Is there such a thing as a male and a female? Please help me get that tree to bloom. — Shirley Sitek, Knox, Ind.

A. Smokebush has a rather ineffective flower, but after the flowers are done the remaining hairs give a spectacular show. From a distance, the plant seems shrouded in smoke. It adapts to a variety of soils and pH ranges, but prefers a sunny exposure. Only one plant is necessary for flowering.

If you’re getting seeds, you should be getting smoke. If you’re unhappy with the appearance, it must be an inferior plant. The cultivars ‘Royal Purple’ and ‘Velvet Cloak’ have dark purple leaves and are readily available. It sounds like it’s time to plant a new one!

Q. My strawberry red rhubarb plants seem to grow well, but there are stringy, thin stalks. I’d like to know what type of fertilizer is best for rhubarb. — Gertrude Hamstra, Wheatfield, Ind.

A. Rhubarb plants should be divided and reset every eight to 10 years. Use a sharp spade to divide the crown, leaving three or four buds undisturbed in the old location. Old plants that become thick only produce inferior, slender stems.

Each season after harvesting is completed, side-dress with 1 teaspoon of ammonium nitrate per 3 square feet of bed space to encourage top growth. It is important that the plant build up a good reserve of food during the growing season. This reserve food, which is stored in the root system, improves the quality and yield of next season’s early spring crop.

Q. I have a Bradford flowering pear tree that I planted three years ago. It is growing well in a sunny spot and appears to be healthy. However, it doesn’t flower. The first year, there were a half dozen flowers in a cluster. Then last year there were no blooms, and again this year it failed to produce flowers. Is there anything I can do to get it to flower? — Imogene Knight, North Manchester, Ind.

A. Trees can spend several years establishing themselves in their new site, so I’m not surprised by the lack of flowers. Also, the last few years have not been the best for flower production on pears due to frosts during a crucial time in the flower formation. Now that your plant is established, it may flower beautifully next year. If it doesn’t, consider the following possibilities: Pears need full sun for flower production. Too much nitrogen fertilizer, put on the surrounding lawn perhaps, reduces flowering. Late frosts can damage the buds. I hope this helps!


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