Ask the Master Gardener: Easter Lilies, Peonies, and More – Brainerd Dispatch

Dear Master Gardener:

What could I get instead of an Easter lily that would bloom for Easter, but I could plant in my flower garden to bloom year after year?

Easter lilies aren’t hardy in Minnesota, so they probably won’t come back if planted in your garden. They are hardy to zone 5. You will often find Asiatic and Oriental lilies that have been forced into bloom for Easter. These would make a great alternative for an Easter lily so you can plant them in your garden. Asiatic lilies are the hardiest and easiest to grow for zone 3 gardens. Oriental lilies are hardy to zone 4 – some cultivars can survive (especially if mulched) and others cannot. I planted many Oriental Lilies in the spring and enjoyed them for a season. However, two oriental lilies have been coming back for years – Casa Blanca and Star Gazer.

Once your pot lily has finished flowering, when the ground is no longer frozen, plant it in the ground as you would any potted perennial. Just keep the pot in your garage until you can plant the plant in the ground. Plant Asiatic and Oriental lilies in full sun (6 to 8 hours of sunlight) in well-drained soil. Fertilize your lilies each spring with a 5-10-10 formula or slow-release fertilizer, following label directions.

Intersectional hybrid peonies (Itoh) hybrids have a beautiful upright form, withstand wind and heavy rain, and are highly disease resistant.

Contributed

Dear Master Gardener:

I was looking through plant catalogs and was enamored with the yellow tree peony. I would like to grow a yellow tree peony if possible. Will they grow here?

Unfortunately, tree peonies are not reliably hardy in zone 3 – they are classified for zone 4. However, there is an even better alternative – the intersectional hybrid peony (Itoh). In 1948, after years and years of trying, Toichi Itoh, a Japanese botanist, was the first person to successfully cross a tree peony with a herbaceous peony. Unfortunately, he died before his hybrid flowered in 1964. Four of his plants produced high quality dark yellow double flowers. These plants, called intersectional hybrid peonies or Itoh peonies, have inherited the best traits from both parents. They produce flowers and foliage that resemble tree peonies, but have the hardiness of herbaceous peonies. They emerge later in the spring than herbaceous peonies. These hybrids have a nice upright form, are resistant to wind and heavy rain, and are very disease resistant. They produce many huge blooms once they mature and the blooms last longer than standard tree peonies.

Intersectional peonies (Itoh) used to be very difficult and expensive to get and 20 years ago you were paying between $300 and $1000 for a plant. A Canadian company began producing them in the early 2000s, which made them more affordable and accessible. You can now find them for around $100 or a little less. ‘Bartzella’ is the most popular Itoh peony, a strong semi-double yellow with a lemon scent. ‘Garden Treasure’ is a light golden yellow, semi-double with very large flowers. “Sequestered Sun” has large, bright canary yellow flowers with showy stamens.

Dear Master Gardener:

Deer ate the tips of my apple trees this year. Will this harm my apple tree or affect the number of apples I get this year? Unless your trees are really small, I’m guessing the deer didn’t make it to the top. They probably just did some of your annual pruning for you. The branch will continue to grow from the bud closest to the tip. Fewer branches means fewer apples, but apples should be thinned to one fruit every 6 to 8 inches anyway. You will get bigger and better apples rather than lots of small ones. It’s hard to choose all these cute little babies, but it really pays off in the end. Now is the time to prune your fruit trees – open the center, remove any crossed or damaged branches and any water shoots that are straight up – they never produce fruit but consume a lot of the tree’s energy . The Extension website has plenty of information and diagrams to help you figure out the right way to do the job, or call a certified arborist to plod through the snow with their ladders. Just be sure to do it now, before things heat up and disease starts spreading.

Dear Master Gardener:

When is a good time to repot my houseplants and do you have any suggestions on how to do this? What suggests my houseplant needs repotting?

This is the perfect time to replant houseplants. If you see roots protruding from the bottom of the pot, or protruding from the top, water running through and the plant still seems dry, or the plant just looks sickly, now is the time. As daylight hours lengthen, houseplants wake up and begin to sprout new shoots. Even if you’re not repotting, now is the time to start fertilizing – just apply a little at first, half diluted.

To repot, water first, then gently slide the plant out of its current pot and watch the roots. If they are bunched up or too tight and there is little or no soil, separate them a bit and cut off any that look black, limp, or are just too long. If it now has plenty of room in the original (cleaned) pot, simply add fresh potting soil and water thoroughly, making sure the excess water drains away. No rocks, pottery shards, sand, etc. basically. Just potting soil, with a piece of coffee filter covering the drainage hole if desired. If you need a larger pot, only go up about 2 inches in diameter.

You can get your garden questions answered by calling the Master Gardener Helpline at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A master gardener will call you back. Or, by emailing me at [email protected]

and I’ll answer you in the column if space permits.

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. The information provided in this column is based on academic research.

You can get your garden questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Helpline at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A master gardener will call you back. Or, email me at umnmastergardene[email protected] and I’ll reply in the column if space permits.

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. The information provided in this column is based on academic research.

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