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story.lead_photo.caption Special to the Democrat-Gazette/RON WOLFE

Q Have I missed my window of opportunity on dividing/moving my hostas? We live in Conway.

A Hostas can be divided in the fall as they are going dormant or in the spring when they are emerging. I suppose if you know exactly where they are you could dig and divide on a mild winter day, but they have died back now and are dormant. I would wait until they begin to grow this spring. Then dig up the clump and separate them. I typically use a serrated bread knife. I like to leave two or three crowns per division.

Q Do you think our potted tropical hibiscus will survive the winter in the garage in Conway? And how often should it be watered?

A The key to survival for a tropical hibiscus is to keep it from freezing. Some garages are more insulated than others, and some people do a better job of keeping their garage door closed. So far we haven't been that cold, and if this persists I think your plant should be fine. It will not look great at the end of the winter, but it should be alive. Cut it back severely in the spring as you move it back outside and repot it. Water needs will vary based on the size of the plant, container and warmth of your garage, but I would say a little water once or twice a month should suffice. You are not trying to keep overwintering plants actively growing, just alive.

Q We have a Yoshino cherry tree that appears to be in good health and is a wonderful bloomer, but the low trunk bark separates from the tree and reveals the veiny inside, which troubles me. Sometimes it splits and I have cut it back and placed tar on the area in question for protection. After a period of time the tree has grown new, stable bark, and the tar is peeling off, which I let it do on its own time. The tar doesn't look so great, but I can live with the tar; however I worry about the bark problem allowing bugs and worms to get into the tree — or winter damage if left unattended. It gets good sun, moisture and careful shaping. I would welcome your recommendations. The tree is about 10 years old.

A Yoshino cherry trees are beautiful trees but unfortunately not the longest lasting in Arkansas. Splitting can occur on fast-growing trees. Wounds should be kept as clean as possible, but painting them with wound dressings or tar will not help. Keeping them clean and as healthy as possible for as long as they last is your best bet.

Q Could you please tell me what this little evergreen weed is. [The reader sent a photo.]

A The "weed" in question is actually a seedling of an evergreen shrub called mahonia. Mahonia is an old-fashioned shade loving shrub that blooms in the winter with fragrant yellow flowers, which are followed by blue berries. The birds eat the berries and drop the seeds, which can result in seedlings finding their way into your garden.

Q I usually have luck with the Christmas cactus. I had a 40-plus-year-old plant that I inherited from my grandmother but when we were moving to Bella Vista from Iowa I left it with my brother until I could go back and pick it up. He left it outside and the frost killed it. I am trying to start over with some new plants. They are healthy at the start and they send out buds several times each year. They usually bloom for me twice a year. For an indoor plant, they are prolific and showy. However, after four or five years, they seem exhausted. The fronds or leaves lose their sheen, and they get a deep red stripe up the middle of each section. The plant then seems uncomfortable in the same pot with itself and it divides into clumps. Could it be possible that these new, showy plants were developed to fail after just so many blooms or so much time? If they are bred/programmed to last, say, four seasons then die, I won't try so hard.

A I don't think there is any difference in the newer varieties of the holiday cactus or the old ones. Zygocactus or Schlumbergia are interchangeably used as the genus of this plant. They are epiphytic plants found growing in trees in the rain forest. Although they are a true cactus, they do need more water than most cactus; but they will rot if the plants get too wet. Too wet or too dry could both lead to pale foliage. I also wonder if your plants are getting too pot-bound after three years. While the plants do bloom better if they are slightly pot-bound, if they are too constricted they will not grow or bloom as well. See if repotting them this spring might help.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72201 or email

jcarson@arkansasonline.com

HomeStyle on 01/12/2019

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