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.


When to Remove Maple Tree Sucker

Q. I have a maple tree (it is either an ‘October Glory’ or ‘Autumn Blaze’) that has (what I assume to be) a rather large sucker at the bottom. The diameter of the sucker is about 2 inches, and the tree trunk is 7 inches in diameter. I have attached pictures of it from different angles. I would like to know if it is OK to remove it? I’ve read quite a bit about these [Read More…]

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Prune Lavender at the Right Time

Q. I have two lavender plants by our front porch. I’m not sure when to trim them. One time in the fall, I pruned them back and it killed them. I replaced those and the plants are now about two years old. Should I trim/prune them in the fall or spring? If so, how much? – C.G., Knox County A. Since lavender is only marginally hardy in our area, I would wait to prune them [Read More…]


The Mystery of the Black Sacs

Q.I’m concerned about the black sacs shown in this picture that are on a tree in our yard. I’m not sure what type of tree this is, but it is approximately 8 years old. The leaves turn purple in the fall instead of any other color. Is this an infestation that can be cured, or does the tree need to be removed? – D. L., Muenster, Indiana A. This appears to be a fungal disease called [Read More…]


Getting Christmas Cactus to Rebloom

Q. I would like to know, how do you get Christmas cactus to bloom? – O.S., Floyds Knobs, Indiana A. A little extra care will help bring your Christmas cactus back to full bloom next year. Although a Christmas cactus can adapt to low light, it will produce more abundant blooms if you know how to manipulate the light they receive. For now, keep your plants in a sunny, indoor location away from drafts, heat [Read More…]


Mystery plants identified

Q. I have some leaves from a tree I would like to identify. It is roughly 8 to 12 inches in diameter and fairly tall. The leaves are alternating with lengths of 1.5 to 2 inches long. The leaf stalks are all really short compared to the leaf length. Can you identify? – M.R., Brookville, Indiana A. This appears to be Ulmus parvifolia – common name Chinese elm or lacebark elm. This species is quite [Read More…]

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Sprouted Squash Seeds and Stinky Ginkgo Fruit

Q. We cut open a spaghetti squash and it had green sprouts growing inside. Have you seen this before? Is it safe to eat the squash? – B.O., Rensselaer, IN A. Although uncommon, premature sprouting of seeds inside a fruit sometimes occurs in squash, tomatoes, peppers, corn, strawberries, and other species. This early seed germination inside the fruit is called vivipary. Normally, the balance of plant growth regulators inside a fruit inhibit germination until seeds [Read More…]


Showy hibiscus and mystery feathers

Q. Was wondering if you can identify this volunteer flowering plant. This is the second year it has come up. – H.G., Shipshewana, Ind. A. This is the perennial garden flower known commonly as hibiscus or rose mallow, botanical name Hibiscus moscheutos. This type of hibiscus is a hardy perennial that dies back to the ground each winter, and returns in the spring, reaching 3 to 5 feet tall or more. They usually begin blooming in midsummer and [Read More…]


Damage control for the yellowstriped armyworm; Transplanting trees from the woods

Q. I have a worm eating my flowers. The flowers are in a tall planter so I am wondering if I need to add something to the base of the planter to keep them from coming up the plants OR are they hatching out on the plants? Some of the damage is caused by small slugs as well.Can you tell me what kind of worm this is? Also, what do you recommend to deter them? – [Read More…]


Peeling sycamore tree bark is normal; Top heavy hydrangea plants; Should I treat my lawn for Japanese Beetles

Q.  We have a large sycamore tree in our yard. Every summer it sheds its bark over a few weeks’ time. I think as it grows it is growing new bark and losing the old bark. Am I correct? – J.C., Walton, Ind. A.  You’re on the right track. Peeling bark is normal, and is a key ornamental characteristic for a sycamore, also known as American planetree. The bark starts out a bit gray-brown and as the [Read More…]


Blueberry damage could be plum curculio, Reduced production of strawberries

Q.  I have a few blueberry bushes planted in the backyard, and they’ve done well until last year. They started getting brown spots almost like a bite (see attached photo). No evidence of a pest and sprayed them with Sevin just in case. But that did not stop the browning, and most of the late season berries could not be eaten. Unfortunately, they appear to be starting that again this year already. Please advise and thank [Read More…]


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