Q My question involves sending some amaryllis bulbs to a friend who shared them with me in Louisiana. I moved them to Conway about 20 years ago where they have thrived outside in pots during the summer — and they winter in my garage. I shared pictures of them this spring, and he expressed regret that he had lost his during a move. My intention is to divide and ship him some. My problem is I am unsure how to do this safely. None of my amaryllis bulbs die back totally at any time. I have trimmed them occasionally, but they stay in their pots all year. (I do have to divide them some years.) Can I take them out of dirt and let them dry? If so, when? I'd like for them to bloom next spring. How do I pack them? I need all the help you can give me because my friend is special and so are the amaryllis.
A Amaryllis bulbs are easily divided. Wait until fall and then cut back on your watering, dig up a pot and separate out some bulbs. Usually, you can simply pull off some of the smaller bulbs around the mother bulb, but if they are joined, use a sharp knife and separate them. Let them air dry for a few days. Then put them in shredded paper in a paper bag inside a cardboard box, and ship away.
Q I have been reading a lot about the seed packets that are coming from China. My neighbor got some seeds this week. How do we know if these are the seeds you are talking about? What do we do if we suspect we have these seeds, or how will we know? Are they safe to plant?
A This has been a common question lately. I visited with my friends at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture's Plant Industries Division and here is their reply: "The Arkansas Department of Agriculture encourages anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail that appear to have foreign origin, to place the unopened seed packet in a sealed bag and contact the Plant Industries Division at (501) 225-1598. Do not plant these seeds. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. Also, do not throw the seeds away. They have the potential to germinate in a landfill. When buying seeds, it should be from a domestic source or have assurances that any phytosanitary requirements have been met." Here is a shortcut link to a PDF with more information: arkansasonline.com/88seeds.
So, even if you ordered seeds from a website, if they are from any international source, it is important to check. Most seed shipments to the United States require a phytosanitary certificate from that country's Department of Agriculture. It is better to be safe than sorry.
QAre we still saying it's OK to plant butterfly bush in Arkansas? Read several things lately about it being invasive and actually not good choice for most butterflies. Should we consider removing existing plants?
A Invasive plant species vary state by state. In some states, buddleia (butterfly bush) is quite invasive. We have not seen it to be a problem at this time. Many of the new varieties of buddleia are seedless, which allows them to bloom more freely and prevents seed spread.
QI recently moved to Springdale and found these beauties in the yard. Can you tell me what they are so I can find out how to care for them?
A The plant in question is a perennial salvia, most likely Salvia guaranitica "Black and Blue." The flowers emerge from a purplish black calyx (behind the bloom). The plant will do well in full sun to partial shade and should bloom from now through fall. It will die back to the ground in the winter. Deadheading the spent blooms will keep it flowering more freely. It is easy to care for. Fertilize it two or three times a season and water when dry. There are many great perennial salvias for the garden coming in a wide array of colors, from blues and purples to pinks, reds and even a few yellow flowering forms. Most are carefree plants in the garden.
Q I have what I believe to be crape myrtle bark scale on my French mulberry. You may have come across this before but it's new to me and I could not find any mention of it researching online. I always thought of French mulberry to be pretty much pest-free.
A French mulberry or beautyberry — Callicarpa americana — is normally a pretty tough native plant, but it is a recognized host of the crape myrtle bark scale. We started seeing some a few years ago on plants in close proximity to infested crape myrtles. I personally have not seen any problems with plants in the wild and hope I don't.
Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email