In the Grow (Q & A)

The following question and answer columns are currently written by B. Rosie Lerner, Purdue Consumer Horticulture Extension Specialist and are distributed to news media around the state by the Purdue University Agricultural Communications. Columns from June 1995 - January 2006 were authored by Bev Shaw, Advanced Master Gardener.


What’s killing the oak trees?


Q. In 22 years I’ve had more than a dozen oaks die because of a grub or larvae. Symptoms: First the leaves die and turn brown at the top of the tree. It slowly spreads down the tree until all the leaves are brown and have fallen off. Then the bark begins to peel away from the trunk, and then it falls off pieces at a time. You can see where it cuts off the […]

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Honeyvine – a native plant that can be both friend and foe.


Q: This vine has perennially volunteered in my garden for a few years now. I let it grow because it seemed to please the butterflies, and the small white flowers smelled nice. At present it has grown chartreuse seed pods. Can you tell me what this vine is? Is it something I should destroy? – W.B. A: Ah, beauty and function are in the eye of the beholder. I believe your plant is what is […]

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Mystery plant likely a flowering quince


Q: Can you help me identify this shrub that flowered this spring? We’ve lived on this property for over 10 years but have never noticed it because it is on a part of the property that is not mowed. I only noticed it because of the bright red flowers. – T.G., Noble County A: This looks to be one of the flowering quince species, most likely the common flowering quince Chaenomeles speciosa. Although the plant […]

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Don’t let sap-sucking squash bugs get old


Q: We have been battling squash bugs for years. This year we went to preventive measures. Well, they are back. I now need to know what can we do to apply to kill them on contact. We are totally organic here. – T.H., Bremen, Indiana A: Squash bugs can be a persistent pest on all of the cucurbits, but especially on squash and pumpkins. This pest overwinters as adults in crop residue or nearby weeds, then fly to […]


Her ‘Sensation’ lilac looks different this year. Enjoy!


Q: I have had a ‘Sensation’ lilac for several years. It has always produced lovely pinkish purple flowers edged in white. But this year it produced a few odd clusters that had only pale pink flowers. What causes this to happen? Should I prune off the odd branches? A: Many horticultural cultivars of plants, particularly those with interesting color variegation, begin as genetic mutations (sometimes called sports) of the species. If the sport with the […]


Remove errant branches to save ‘weird’ tree


Q: Please don’t think I’m totally crazy, but I couldn’t get anyone around here to answer this question and I thought someone at Purdue could. I have two trees in my backyard that are growing branches that are completely different from the rest of the trees. It is NOT another tree coming up under them, which is what most people tell me. Am I correct in guessing this is a cultivar that went wrong? Do we […]


Renewal pruning has immediate, delayed rewards


Q:  I have 2 Forsythias, 2 Spireas, a Ninebark and a variegated Dogwood that appear to be half dead. My thought is to cut them down now to regrow so they’ll have all summer to do this. What are your thoughts? Last year all of these bushes were lush and full. A: Although it could be done now, late winter is the ideal time of year to completely cut the shrubs to the ground. But […]


Fern is healthier than it appears


  Q: I received a potted fern as a gift from a friend, and it has done well in my home for over a year. But now it has what looks like a fungus on the bottom side of the leaves. Is there anything I can apply to prevent this from killing my plant? A: The growths on your fern are not from a fungus. They are fern spore cases and are not harmful to […]


Ornamental Pear Fallout


Q: I’ve attached pictures of the only tree we have on our property. Because it is our only tree, I am deeply concerned with the possibilities of irreparable damage to it. As you can see, one of the branches broke off during a November windstorm. Unfortunately, that left a bare gap on the trunk. Please let me know how to treat this damaged area so no further damage is done to it and tell me […]

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Early spring pruning will tame this hydrangea


Q: I have a hydrangea that is overgrown. It’s falling over and is too tall and wide. I would like it not to block the window. But I don’t know how/when/how much to prune to a smaller size. — T.B., Morgan County A: Pruning time and technique depends on the particular species of hydrangea. Yours appears to be the panicle hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata. Panicle hydrangea blooms on new wood, meaning the flower buds are produced on new […]


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