A few readers share their plant worries, worries that many gardeners have. Here are suggestions to allay concerns.
Leggy plants hanging around
Perry M. of Greenwood, complains that all of his hanging baskets “get leggy in summer. They start out looking great when I buy them, but after a couple of months, they start to look bad. Someone told me to trim the plants back, but I’m worried about cutting off all of the flowers.”
Cutting back the hanging baskets is the way to go. Garden centers staffers do that in summer, too. Cutting back the plants by about one-half and shaping the basket a bit is an easy task. Use a scissors or pruners. Once the baskets are cut back, give the plants a shot of water-soluble fertilizer. Hang the baskets. Be sure to monitor their watering needs. The baskets should refresh and start blooming again in a couple of weeks.
The 3-year-old tropical hibiscus of M.C., of Indianapolis, has very little new growth. She winters it over indoors and usually the plant comes back full strength in spring. This year, she repotted it in a slightly larger container, and moved it outdoors in full sun, but still slow growing.
How to stimulate growth
Tropical hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis) is a popular summer plant for decks, patios and porches. A lot of gardeners M.C. does and bring the tender plant indoors for winter.
Consider pruning it a bit. Pruning stimulates growth, so shaping up the plant should help. Give it as much sun as you can in summer. Start fertilizing the plant and making sure it is watered regularly. Tropical hibiscus doesn’t like to be too dry. Always read and follow the label directions. Give this a sunny, warm space in your sunroom and the hibiscus will likely bloom off and on all winter.
Are there any non-invasive dame’s rocket varieties, asks Nancy C., of Fort Wayne. She posted on Facebook about volunteers removing dame’s rocket from a natural area, and “a couple of people commented that they’d just planted it in their gardens. So now I’m curious.”
Exotic and invasive
I could not find any named varieties of this early summer blooming perennial. All references indicate dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is invasive. There’s a lot of variation in the flowers, from dark to light pink to creamy white to white.
Dame’s rocket, an exotic invasive from Eurasia, is frequently confused with garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), a native perennial. Dame’s rocket has four petals on each flower, while phlox has five petals. Leaf arrangement is also different on the two plants. Dame’s rocket has toothed leaves that grow alternately along the stem. Phlox has smooth-edged leaves that grow opposite each other along the stem.
Dame’s rocket’s self-sowing, invasive tendency has landed it on the list of banned plants in Indiana that goes into effect in April 2020. The new Terrestrial Plant Rule lists dame’s rocket and 43 other plants that are not to be sold, gifted, bartered, exchanged, distributed, transported or introduced in Indiana. For a complete list of banned plants, visit Purdue’s Landscape Report.