Tulips, Orchids, and Cherry Trees

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Q. I’ve planted a portion of my Tulip bulbs earlier. The rest are still in the refrigerator and they’ll be planted later this month. Will the flowering season be extended by the staggered planting?

A. November is an excellent month to plant spring flowering bulbs especially those going in containers. But, there is no advantage in staggering the plantings of tulips. Tulips are grouped into early, mid-season and late flowering varieties; such as Darwin (midseason), Parrot (late), Double (midseason), Lily (late), Fosteriana (early) and others. It is the early season varieties that emerge from the ground first, but it varies from year to year. With a warm October and November, it’s not unusual for bulbs to emerge early from the ground; however, that does not seem to be the case this year. Regardless, I would not be concerned about it. When winter arrives, the early sprouting tulips and bulbs, in general, will not be damaged by freezing temperatures. Thus, you extend the flowering period of tulips, by planting some of all the different flowering types but group them together. It is a point frequently overlooked when purchasing tulips. Besides the flowering time, another point overlooked is the stem length as it varies by type. Instead of a showy, uniform mass of color next spring, the tulips bloom randomly at different heights. The expectation from the effort is spoiled and it generates dissatisfaction. Packaged bulbs are better at avoiding this then selecting a mix selection of varieties from open boxes. This is also a contributor to the decline in residential, tulip bulbs being planted nationwide. There is a lot effort with little return. Unlike Daffodils and other bulbs, tulips take several years to rejuvenate themselves whether they are left in the ground or dug up. Hence, you should plant new bulbs each year for the best color presentation year after year.

Q. I have two Phalaenopsis Orchids that have finished flowering. The leaves are fine, but the stems are starting to turn yellow. Do I cut these stems off? How then do I continue to care for them?

A. It’s natural for the old flower stems on Phalaenopsis Orchids to turn yellow and die back. I would not cut the old stems off at the soil. Instead, cut them back leaving about four inches of the old stem. You should get a new flower spike developing from this point in about eight to twelve weeks. Next, I would start feeding them Orchid Food as they are now going into a growth cycle. Orchids are dormant when they are in bud and bloom. Gro More is one of several brands of Orchid Food available. Overwatering is a big problem now so watch the watering schedule. The growing medium is breaking down into smaller particles and holding more moisture. The days between watering need to be extended to prevent them from staying too wet. Replanting is the recommended method of avoiding this problem.Q. My Van Cherry tree is acting strangely. It was bought last spring but we haven’t gotten around to planting it. The leaves are drying up and falling off. Yet, there are new leaves forming and it is flowering again. Is this common with cherry trees?

A. Yes, this occurs periodically in the landscape but it is a more frequent occurrence with container fruit and flowering trees. Water Stress from irregular watering is the primary cause of the leaves drying up and falling off. They should be watered every other day or daily to avoid having problems depending on the temperatures. The rate that a plant loses water is affected by the temperature and the wind along with the container which heats up in the afternoon sun. All of these factors contribute to a plant suffering from water stress throughout the growing season. It starts in the leaves along the outer edges and top of the plant where they turn brown and get very crinkly. If the tree dehydrates completely, it dies. Cherry trees start to go dormant naturally in the early fall. Water stress increases the leaf drop forcing an earlier than normal dormancy. With mild temperatures, shorter days and moisture, the tree awakens from dormancy, flowers and begins a new growth cycle. Although, all of this is short lived. With cooler days and nights, the tree will go back into dormancy and that stops the growth. The tree drops any of the new leaves and the rest of the older leaves. There is no permanent damage done to the tree. Next spring, it will awaken again. Fruit trees should not be carried over into a second growing season in the same container, so, I’d plant it in the ground or a larger container by the end of February. There just isn’t enough room for all their roots.

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