What's the deal with tulips?
By By Amelia O’Brian / horticulture columnist
May 25, 2003
Amelia O'Brian is a native of Meridian and a graduate of Mississippi State University. If you have a horticulture question for her, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Gardener: I planted tulips in my front flower bed. I've heard that you have to wait for them to "die off" before you can cut them back and plant other stuff in there.
My question is, are we talking "a little dead around the edges" or does the whole plant have to be brown/yellow. I want to make sure I don't do anything to curtail their return next year, but they aren't the most attractive-looking things at this point. Thanks in advance.
Dear Robin: You need to leave the foliage until it turns completely brown. Don't expect much from the bulbs next year, though. Tulips are really considered annuals this far south. It gets too hot, too quickly to get a lot of nutrients to the bulb. They will come back next year, but the blooms won't be as good as this year. And they will decline a bit each year after.
Dear Gardener: I have a beautiful white-blooming clematis vine. In fact, it is in bloom now with about 60 huge flowers. My daughter really wants a cutting or something from my vine, but I am not sure how to provide her with one. Do you have any advice?
Dear Dee: The easiest way to propagate clematis is by semi-hardwood cuttings, but now is not the best time to try that method. Layering is going to your next-best method.
Set a pot with some potting soil near the soon-to-be mother vine. Take a long tendril, preferably one with a little stiffness to it, and take the leaves off the middle few nodes. Pick a leaf-less node (the little knotty place where the leaves emerge) and dust it with some rooting hormone.
Dip that area into the pot and secure it with a piece of bent wire. Cover the secured area with a little more potting soil. With a small stake, support the end of the tendril upright, pruning it to about 6 inches if necessary. The other end of the vine is still connected to the mother plant.
The mother plant will provide nutrients and prevent too much water loss while the new plant is rooting. When the offshoot has rooted, you can severe it from the mother plant.
Dear Gardener: My mother recently received a gardenia bush as a gift. We were not sure if we should plant it in the ground or leave it in a pot to bring inside for the winter. Could you give us a little information on the gardenia?
Dear Reader: Gardenia jasminoides is not hardy in our area. It is hardy only in Zone 8 and below. There is a cultivar, a related variety, on the market called Grif's Select' which is hardy to Zone 6. If you have that cultivar, you may plant it outside in a sunny area. Any other selection should be left in a pot and brought indoors before first frost.
Dear Gardener: Last year, our hibiscus was spectacular. We were told that if we planted it, cut it off at the ground and mulched it really well it would survive the winter. We did all of this and have been anxiously awaiting the emergence of it this spring. So far it has not appeared. Did we do something wrong? Do you think it survived the winter?
Dear Reader: If your hibiscus was one of the really showy tropical ones that are so popular during the summer months, I can safely say that it did not survive the winter. Tropical hibiscus is hardy only to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is a perennial hibiscus that is quite attractive, although not as showy as the tropical ones. The flowers are larger on the perennial and it does not come in as May colors, but it does return year after year. Tropical hibiscus may be brought inside for the winter in a pot and returned to the patio once the chance of frost is passed in the spring.
Dear Gardener: I live in an apartment, so I do not have room to plant a vegetable garden. I have a few herbs in pots, but I would love to have a few fresh tomatoes this summer. Are there any tomato plants that do well in pots?
Dear Reader: There is a variety of tomatoes called patio tomatoes that are bred specifically to grow in pots. There stems are thicker and sturdier that regular tomatoes. Also, they will not grow as tall as most tomatoes.