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Question: Should I cut back my blue hydrangeas this fall?
Answer: No --- it's best to prune the blue- and pink-flowering hydrangeas right after they finish blooming.
Cutting back hydrangeas in fall, winter, or spring is actually one of the most common reasons for hydrangeas to fail to bloom. These plants produce their flowers on last year's stems --- so if you cut the plants back, you're also cutting off the branches with the flowers.
The exception to this is the new breed of hydrangeas that can flower on both current and last year's branches. Endless Summer is the most famous of these; there are other varieties (such as those in the Forever and Ever series), too. Because they can bloom on current-season's growth, you'll get flowers if you cut them back in fall or winter. But you'll get more if you leave the stems standing.
Question: My favorite daffodils haven't bloomed in two years. What can I do for flowers?
Answer: Long-lived daffodils are typically trouble-free. But there are a couple of reasons why they may not bloom.
First, be sure that your daffodils aren't too crowded. Like many other perennials, they do best when divided every few years. Otherwise, the bulbs start to crowd each other out. If you think this may be the cause of the problem, now's a great time to dig out your daffodil bulbs and replant them farther apart.
Also: Be sure they're not getting too much shade. Daffodils bloom best when their leaves get full sun. It may be that evergreen trees have grown to cast shade on an area where they hadn't previously? Or perhaps you or your neighbors have built a new garage or shed that casts shade where there used to be sun?
Question: Should I plant tulips and daffodils in fall or wait until spring?
Answer: You should definitely plant your spring-blooming bulbs now. Tulips, daffodils, alliums, crocus, hyacinths, and the other spring bulbs all need a period of winter cold in order to bloom and do well.
Gardeners in warm-climate areas that don't see enough cold temperatures in winter should look for pre-chilled bulbs to plant.
Question: I'm growing perennials in pots on my deck. Can I overwinter them in the pots?
Answer: You probably can, though it does depend on where you live, how big the pots are, and how hardy your perennials are.
The colder it gets in your area, the more precautions you'll have to take. If you live in Zone 7 or 8, you may have no problem overwintering your favorite plants in pots, for example. But if you live in Zone 4 or 5, it's not as easy.
The colder your Zone, the bigger the pot you'll need to keep your plants. In Zone 4, for example, you'll want pots that are at least 36 to 48 inches in diameter. In warmer Zones, a 24-inch-wide container may be just fine.
The hardiest plants will have the best chance of surviving in containers. So Zone 3 or Zone 4 plants will be better bets, no matter where you live, but they're must-picks if you live in Zones 3, 4, or 5.
You can also increase your chances by moving the pots to a sheltered spot, such as a garage or shed, over winter. That may provide an extra Zone or two of protection.
Continued on page 5: August Questions