Q: A friend gave me a handful of what she said were red buckeye seeds from a tree in her yard. She told me to plant them and I could have my own tree. I have no idea what to do with them. Just stick them in the ground and wait and see what happens? Do I want a buckeye?
A: Red buckeyes are lovely, small, spring-flowering native trees. They can grow readily from seed, but you do need to plant the seeds fairly quickly, as the seeds do lose viability rapidly. You have a couple of options. Buckeye seeds need to go through a cool, moist storage period before they will germinate. They get this naturally outdoors, so you could plant the seeds where you want the tree to grow. If you aren't sure where you want it to grow, then you could put the seeds in a container outside. Buckeyes form a taproot very quickly after they germinate, which makes transplanting them later a challenge. By containerizing them, you are containing the root system, so transplanting later will be easier. You can also put the seeds in a plastic bag with moist potting soil and store them in the refrigerator to simulate the outdoor conditions; then plant the seeds in the spring. Good luck.
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Q: I had great luck in planting impatiens in containers this year. I bought and planted in the spring and they lasted a long time. Are there flowers that grow well in containers in the winter?
A: Almost any of the winter annuals that we plant in the ground will do well in containers. The key is to water if we don't have natural rainfall — especially before a hard freeze. Plants in pots will dry out more quickly than those in the ground. Pansies, violas, dusty miller, flowering kale or cabbage are just a few from which to choose.
Q: I have some loropetalum shrubs that got much larger than I thought they would. Some are even impeding my walking on my sidewalk. How far back can I cut them without hurting them? I would like to do it now. Is that OK?
A: Loropetalum come in a wide variety of mature sizes based on which cultivar you plant. Some of the larger varieties can get huge. While you can cut them back, now is not the ideal time to do so. If we have a colder than normal winter, they can sustain winter damage — think back to a couple of years ago when they took quite a hit. If you prune them now, you expose more of the plant to damage, and you aren't leaving anything to cut back. If you can wait until after bloom in the spring, you can prune as much as you need to. I would go ahead and make your sidewalk accessible now, but do the main pruning later.
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Q: I found a bag of tulips I bought last year in the garage. Can I still plant them now?
A: Inspect the bulbs to see if they are still viable. I would be surprised if they haven't dried out. If the bulbs are still firm and have substance, go ahead and try planting. If they are soft or totally dry, toss them. Bulbs typically can't be stored the way seeds can.
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Q: In May I bought a miniature rose bush and planted it in a pot outdoors. My ground is so rocky that I try to grow everything in pots. The bush bloomed beautifully all summer and even into the fall. Now that it is getting cold, I am worried about it surviving in the pot on my deck this winter. What should I do? Move it into my garage or into my house?
A: Plants in containers are less winter hardy than those planted in the ground, but it depends on what type of winter we have and what size container your rose is growing in. Roses like to go dormant for the winter and usually will be fine in a pot outside. If you are worried the container is too small, you could move it to a more protected spot outside (behind other shrubs next to the house is protected). If the container is large enough, leave it where it is but don't forget to water when it is dry, and pay attention to winter weather. If temperatures are predicted to go extremely low, piling a little mulch around the pot won't hurt. Prune in late February before new growth begins.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org