Garden flowers can be visually attractive right through
I have a lovely perennial Hibiscus bush. The flowers are
huge and beautiful, however I am having a problem trying to
germinate the seeds. Last spring I planted them in a flower pot and
kept them well watered. Nothing came up!! I planted some in the
ground and kept those well watered. Nothing came up but weeds. Now
I have a new crop of seeds for next spring. Please tell me how to
store them, plus how to get them to germinate next
Does my established bush need some kind of
Hardy hibiscus seed will germinate in warm, 70 degree soil if
you sow it as soon as it's gathered. You should see about a 50%
germination rate over 2 to 4 weeks.
The trouble with sowing seeds of this late summer blooming
species when it's fresh is that by the time the pods are brown and
the seed is ripe, it's October. You must sow the seed indoors to
provide that 2 to 4 weeks of 70 degrees. Then you would have to
raise the seedlings as houseplants that first winter, since
seedlings, hardy species or not, can't be moved from indoors to
outdoors in November and be expected to survive.
So clean the seed of chaff, put it in an envelope and store it
until spring at 40 degrees -- refrigerator temperature. Then sow it
Stored cool, it should have the same germination rate as fresh
seed. If stored at room temperature, that rate will fall way off.
This is often the case with seeds of late blooming native
perennials. They "expect" to be cool after ripening.
As a swamp native, the hardy perennial Hibiscus moscheutos
appreciates rich soil. You can use almost any type of fertilizer.
Or just keep adding compost to simulate the sludge deposits that
can be expected at swamp edge as this plant does what wetland
plants do, which is to slow down runoff water and filter out the
nutrients that water picked up along the way.
I have some hibiscus in my own yard that have managed very well
on compost alone for twenty years, as I rarely get around to buying
fertilizer for my plants. Being a professional gardener means one's
own garden becomes like the shoemaker's kids' feet! I give the
plants lots of compost by adding four to six inches of raw leaves
every fall which break down over winter and the next year.
So use any kind of a fertilizer in May as growth begins. At
clients' gardens I use slow release poultry manure or Osmocote so
that nutrients become available to the roots over a long period of
My redbud began to bud up last spring but the ice storm
in April killed it. In June I noticed a few leaves sprouting from
the base of the tree. Now I have a huge bush growing up from the
bottom. It's several feet across and about four feet tall. What
should I do with it? Wait until spring to see what happens or prune
it back now?
Isn't Nature grand? The top died but some dormant buds at the
base of the trunk survived and began to grow. Given all the energy
of roots that had been part of a big tree, those buds grew at the
fast rate you describe.
Now the roots aren't so thick with starch -- stored energy -- as
they were in spring, however. Where once they had thousands of
leaves making starch for them, they had fewer this year. So let the
roots take all they can from this year's foliage. Most of the
leaves' excess energy was socked away in the roots during the
growing season but even now, every day that it's above freezing,
starch may still be working its way down through the branches to
Let that happen. Then, on the first of April next year before
new leaf growth begins, prune off all the branches except those you
want to become the new trunk or trunks. As the roots begin
transferring the energy back to the top, it will go into only the
buds on branches you've decided to keep and you'll have a "new"
tree in short order.
Seniors should check for a community Chore Referral
C.K. of The Senior Alliance wrote in response to the question
from A.H., about where an older gardener might find garden help,
"We have a Chore Referral program for seniors who are looking for
assistance doing home maintenance tasks by giving them the names of
independent workers, who have been asked to charge reasonable fees.
Homeowners then make their own arrangements for the work and
payment of services. Many communities have such a Chore Referrral
list that could be obtained by calling the local senior
Green thumbs up
to using a magnifier now to check leaves of pest-prone indoor
plants. If winter's short days and lower light are weakening the
plant, its predators may be on the rise. Rinse off, rub out or
poison them before it becomes worse.
Green thumbs down
to mold on the soil surface of houseplants. You're overwatering!
Plants use less water when light is low. Any excess can fuel moss
growth or root rot, so back off and let the soil dry down between
Originally published 12/13/03