Questions & Answers

This page contains questions (edited) we have received from our viewers along with our responses.  
We thought you might find this information helpful.   


   I live in southern WI, nearly on the stateline with IL. I am in an apartment with a cement patio and an air conditioner near the patio. The patio where I put my flowers and plants faces South. The sun arc in June/July and a part of Aug. and hits the patio from 9 am to 7 pm. I need some resistant plants to shield our patio door and the patio itself. What do you suggest?  Thanks J. J., Janesville, WI; 3/11/12

   Some plants to consider for shading your patio include Bamboo and Cannas - select really tall-growing varieties of Cannas. You might also consider putting a trellis in containers and planting fast-growing vines such as Mandevilla, Honeysuckle or Sky Vine. Use large, deep containers. Small containers dry out really fast. Also, I suggest using a potting soil that has moisture-retaining crystals in it.

   The weather has been so mercurial this winter that my spring bulbs are already starting to come up.  Should I water them or let them be?  K. T., 1/28/12

   If you haven't had much snow you should water the bulbs as well as all the other plants in your yard. Winter watering helps keep plants healthy.

   What are your favorite perennial flowers for part shade?  Is there a perennial hydrangea that does well in Colorado? H. H., Denver, 8/8/11

A:    Some perennial flowers for part shade include Bellflower (Campanula) - several kinds, Coreopsis, Daylily, Shasta Daisy, Sedum Autumn Joy, and Spike Speedwell (Veronica). Annabelle Hydrangea and Pee Gee Hydrangea do well here.

   I am a first year gardener and I am wondering what can I plant that will thrive during the winters here? This is just a relatively small plot which I am cultivating where I want to include the usual garden plants in spring of next year.  D. B., Lakewood, 8/5/11

   There are no vegetables that will thrive during the winters here. If you are going to plant the small plot with flowers, you may want to plant some bulbs such as crocus and daffodils to provide color in early spring. Pansies are another good choice. They tolerate cold weather and will bloom off and on from fall through spring.

   No matter what I plant in the flower beds in our front yard it fails to thrive because of the two hybrid cottonwood trees that are also planted in the front yard. Their roots invade everywhere and deprive other plants of water and nutrients. What plants might thrive in the shade and competition of those trees?  T. A., Fort Collins, 7/18/11

A:    Whatever is planted in the flower beds needs to be fertilized and watered regularly in order to thrive. Amend the soil in the beds with compost before planting the flowers. If the beds do not get afternoon sun you can use annuals such as Pansies, Impatiens or Begonias. The foliage of Coleus is very colorful and Coleus does well in the shade. Many annuals grow in part sun, such as Snapdragons, Lantana, Alyssum and Petunias. Perennials for shade include Bleeding Heart, Coralbells and Jacob's Ladder. Perennials for part shade include Mums, Daylilies and Catmint. Many other suitable flowers are available.

   I would like to create a hillside of wildflowers. The area has full sun, no sprinkler system and the soil is clay-like. We are just inside the foothills. I'm not sure where to start in finding information or ideas - any suggestions? S. C., Littleton, 7/9/11

   For information on growing wildflowers please see "Wildflowers in Colorado" at There is a company in Boulder that produces wildflower seed mixes, called Beauty Beyond Belief. You will find some tips on their site at

   I would like to know when and how short to cut the stems of tulips.  We let the flower fall off and we were told to leave the full stem.  They are still green.  Thank you. R. H., Denver, 6/4/11

A:    You should cut off the tulips' flowers when they are spent, rather than letting the petals drop off. Cut off the stems right above the leaves. Do not cut off the leaves until they turn brown.

   I have extensive gardens in Loveland, Colorado.  I am quite experienced as a gardener, but I have NOT had luck keeping my lavender plants alive over the winter.  I plant new ones, they bloom and appear to thrive, and then during the winter they die.  I have tried them in a raised bed that gets sunlight, in filtered light, in the ground in 3 different spots, and have the same thing happen.  I haven't cut them back in the fall---should I?  Any advice would be appreciated.  I dry the flowers for various projects, and this is so discouraging.  Thanks.  D. R., Loveland, 5/21/11

   When purchasing lavender check the label for hardiness.  Some types sold here are not reliably hardy.  Because hardiness is an issue with lavender, it is better to prune it in spring rather than in fall.  You might also want to place mulch around the base in late fall or early winter.  I have Hidcote lavender and it has over-wintered well.

   What do I do with bulbs after they've bloomed for the season?  Do I take the bulb out of the ground? E. E., Highlands Ranch, 4/24/11

   Clip off the dead flowers of tulips, daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs; then allow the foliage to die before cutting it off.  No, you do not take spring blooming bulbs out of the ground.  However, many summer blooming bulbs are not hardy and must be dug up at the end of summer and stored until the following spring when they are replanted.

   I put several inches of peat moss around each of my roses (over 50 of them) as mulch each winter to protect them, and am never quite sure when to pull it back.  I know I shouldn't prune until April, but should I pull the mulch back sooner if the weather is nice?  I also am unsure about pruning my creeping phlox, and my lavender.  Do I do this in the fall, spring, or ???? Thanks for your help.  D., Loveland, 3/13/11

   You can pull back the mulch around the roses in April when they break dormancy and new shoots appear.  Lavender should be pruned in spring.  Creeping phlox is pruned after it flowers.
Q:    I have a few questions regarding winterizing my outdoor plants. They are all so beautiful and doing very well even though the temperature is beginning to drop. Frost is on it's way...Can I winterize my Sedum cauticola, lobelia & Elph Nemesia?  K. H.; Boulder; 10/21/10
   Lobelia and Nemesia are grown as annuals and live for only one growing season in Colorado.  The sedum may survive as a perennial.  Placing a layer of mulch in the flower bed can help plants survive winter's freeze/thaw cycles.

   I've been given two hydrangea plants in containers and would like to transplant them to my garden in September. I live at 8000' and wonder if they will grow at that altitude? If they will, is there any special care they need over the winter months? Thank you!  A. A., ?, 8/7/10

   I doubt that the hydrangea plants can survive winter weather at 8000' elevation.  It would be better to use them as houseplants and set them outside only during summer.

   I live in Highlands Ranch and I think my delphiniums have finished blooming. I planted them last fall.  Should I cut the stalks now or leave until fall?  They aren't very attractive and I'm wondering what I should plant as a fall bloomer after the delphiniums finish blooming.  J.S., Highlands Ranch, 7/20/10

A:    You can cut back the delphiniums to newly developed basal foliage now.  Some perennials that bloom in late summer or fall include Joe-pye Weed, Sunset Hyssop, New York Aster and Obedient Plant.

   There were lots of bright colored Martha Washington geraniums at the stores this spring.  I could not resist but wonder about their care...lovely flowers now, but I don't see any buds developing.  M. K., Denver, 6/10/10

A:    Martha Washington geraniums like a spot that receives bright morning sunlight.  To promote flowering, remove spent flowers.  Avoid over-fertilizing plants, which results in lots of foliage and few flowers.  They don't like hot weather.  Water plants when the soil is almost dry.

   Last summer I moved into a house where the previous owner had planted a small perennial garden.  I have never gardened before and didn't know anything about preparing the garden for winter.  I'm afraid that the flowers have completely died and are not going to come back this summer.  Because I live at such a high altitude I have had a real problem finding useful information that is basic enough to help a beginner like myself.  I would really appreciate some kind of direction as far as what I should do.  When should I begin watering for the season?  Will my flowers come back?  Is there anything I can do at this point to salvage the flowers?  Should I start over from scratch?  I really have no idea where to start or what to do.  Any advice would be helpful at this point, as having a garden is something that I would like.  I'm just at a loss. (I also would like it to stay alive this time around!).  Thank you for your time.  J. L., Breckenridge, 4/19/10

   In Breckenridge this early in the growing season, you won't be able to tell whether the perennials have survived.  If they were established perennials they most likely have survived.  About all you can do to protect a perennial bed during winter is to put a layer of mulch over it in fall when the plants have died back after a hard frost.  In spring you can water periodically once the ground isn't frozen.  At this point you need to be patient and wait to see what, if anything, greens up.  There will probably be bare spots that you'll need to fill in.  For a plant list and other information on gardening in the mountains see 

   How can I correctly store Dahlia tubers over the winter without them getting moldy and/or going dry?  I pull the tubers in the Fall and stored them in an inert soil in a paper bag (last year) and a plastic container this year, both years with no success.  B. A., NV, 1/1/10

A:    Storing dahlia tubers can be tricky.  The American Dahlia Society website has some articles on this topic that may be helpful.  Please see  Click on Dahlia Articles for a list of titles. 

   My wife bought a packet of ranunculus bulbs in April 2009.  When is the best time to plant the bulbs?  Now in November or should she wait until April?  C., Denver, 11/10/09

   Ranunculus bulbs are not winter hardy in Colorado.  Therefore, they should be planted in late May.
Q:    My Stella D'Oro lilies did very poorly this year,  How should I remedy this for next year?  I usually cut them back at this time, put a slow release fertilizer on the soil surrounding them and then mulch heavily.  I also wonder if water was a problem.  My neighbor was sprinkling heavily and the bed is reached by her sprinkler.  K. W., Westminster, 10/3/09
   Next year avoid fertilizing the lilies.  Too much fertilizer results in fewer flowers.  Also, lilies require a sunny site.  Check to see if the site has become shaded as nearby trees and shrubs have grown.  You may want to trim them a bit if this has happened.
Q:    Hello, we live on the western slope of Colorado, Palisade, and have a small group of aspen.  They are doing great, but I wanted to plant a shade garden under them and everything I have planted dies, turns brown and seems like it dies from the roots up.  I have tried snail killer.  I'm not sure what else or what type of plants would work.  HELP! Thanks, M.W., Palisade, 3/21/09
   Some annual flowers that do well in shade are Impatiens and Wax Begonias.  Some perennials to consider are Carpet Bugle (Ajuga), Brunnera (B. macrophylla), Hosta, Coralbells (Heuchera sanguinea) and Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum).  Be sure to amend the soil with compost and keep the plants watered well, especially as they are becoming established. Fertilize periodically.
Q:    I live in an East facing high rise (5th floor) apartment. I get only a few hours of very bright unfiltered sun in the mornings (due to the railing around the balcony also). What would be the best flowers to plant on the railing (rectangular planters) and for large barrels that I want to put in the corners?  S., Denver, 3/14/09
   Look for plants that grow in part shade (or part sun) for the planters and barrels.  The following plants should do well: pansy, viola, torenia, lobelia, nemesia, coleus, impatiens, begonia.
Q:    I have just moved to S. TX and grew Marigolds.  I have bagged the dried seeds from the plants. When do I plant the seeds and how?  If I cut the existing plants at the roots will they re-grow in the spring?  L., Colleyville, TX; 11/17/08
   Marigolds are annuals that complete their life cycle in a year.  Therefore, the plants won't re-grow in spring.  You can plant the seeds in pots or containers indoors in spring and then transplant them outside once the danger of frost is past.  Or, you can sow the seeds directly in the soil outdoors once the danger of frost is past.  Keep the soil slightly moist while they germinate.
Q:    I just moved back to the area and have a lovely backyard that needs some wonderful May blooming perennials as my son is graduating in '09. The yard has been without perennial TLC for a number of years, so need to make it look lovely with room for later bloomers. Can you help with ideas? The yard is South facing.  Thank You!!  J. R., Littleton, 8/28/08
A:    Unfortunately, there are not a lot of perennials that are in bloom in May.  Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) 'Emerald Blue' and Dwarf Basket-of-Gold (Aurinia saxatilis 'Compacta') are two low growing ones that are covered in blooms.  I suggest using pansies.  They are an annual that would be blooming in May.  Also, the garden centers start selling many colorful annuals in late April and early May that you could plant in containers to place around the yard or patio. 
Q:    I am babysitting my neighbor's hanging fuchsia basket. It looked fabulous when I got it but is now pathetic and entering its death throes. I have already damaged two of my own so obviously I am doing damage to these lovely plants.  How often and how much should I water? Either I am over or under watering.....plants have stopped blooming and foliage is sickly and turning yellow. It's hard to know in this continuing dry heat. Thanks for your help.  E. S., Littleton, 8/1/08
   It is really difficult to raise fuchsias in dry, hot weather.  They do best in warm, humid conditions.  While the weather is so hot, try to mist them in the morning and afternoon or evening.  Keep the soil slightly moist.  Do not let it dry out completely nor keep it constantly soggy.  The plants should receive only morning sun.  Afternoon sunlight is too hot and intense.
Q:    My petunias are suddenly full of holes. I have found tiny black bugs about the size of a poppy seed (maybe even smaller) on them. The petunias were absolutely beautiful but now are very sparse. I have also seen some caterpillar-like creatures on them (only 1 or 2). I have sprayed with insect killer but it hasn't helped. Is it to late to save the petunias & if not how?  M. L. F., Bear, DE; 7/17/08
   The black specks on the petunias are probably droppings from the caterpillars (tobacco budworms).  You can control them with an insecticide containing Bt.
Q:    Is it true that pulling off spent petunia blossoms encourages more blooms?  I remove the dead blossoms every other day or so.  Am I doing this simply to maintain the beauty of the flower bed or am I actually doing some good for the plants?  M., Aurora, 6/27/08
   Pulling off spent petunia blossoms not only improves the appearance of the plant but keeps it flowering.  The spent flowers will produce seeds if left on the plant and the plant will cease flowering.
Q:    I have two trumpet vines that grew over my trellis last year. This year I see that the bottom of each vine has begun to have new growth but the rest of the vines are brown and crispy. Should I cut the vines back and let them grow or just wait and see what they do?  Thank you.  D. C., Centennial, 5/23/08
   The trumpet vines probably weren't fully hardy and died back down to the ground this winter.  Cut back the dead vines close to the ground, being careful not to harm the new shoots.
Q:    I am getting ready to plant some perennials in my front yard and I am wondering if soil preparation (i.e. fertilizer, rototilling, etc.) is really necessary for the entire amount of soil or if I can put fertilizer in when I put in the plants. What do you think?  B. K., Boulder, 5/14/08
A:    It is better to prepare the entire flower bed.  The roots of the plants are going to spread and grow beyond the planting holes.
Q:    I live in Northern Colorado and I have an area in my yard that is completely shaded by large trees. Could you please give me some ideas of what would grow in such an area. I have added good soil and fertilizer to improve the quality of the soil.  L. C., Loveland, 5/10/08
   There are some groundcovers that do well in the shade.  For example Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) and Bishop's Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum' are aggressive growers for shade.
    Annuals that do well in the shade and are quite coloful include Impatiens and Wax Begonias.
    Some perennials to consider are Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) and Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis).
Q:    Hello, I'm new to Colorado and we planted lots of zinnias last spring.  Now that they're dead, do we need to completely remove them, or just cut them down?  I can't seem to find an article that tells me what to do with them in the fall.  B. G., Parker, 11/2/07
   You can completely remove the zinnias that are dead.  Zinnias are annuals that complete their life cycle in a year.
Q: Hello,
I live in the Chicago area.  Each May around Mother's Day I go to my local nursery and purchase my plants for the season.  My flowers are all in pots and hanging baskets.  My problem is with the direct sunlight they endure for half of the day they don't hold up well and are "unsightly.''  I have tried different varieties of flowers but the results are the same year after year.  I would appreciate your suggestions.  M. J., Chicago, 10/17/07
The following are a few tips for containers that must endure summer heat:
1) Use large pots.  Small pots dry out very quickly.
2) Use a good quality potting soil mix, not dirt from the yard.
3) Use a soil mix that contains slow-release fertilizer granules or add these to the potting soil when you plant the containers.
4) Use a soil mix that provides for moisture retention.   Check the containers regularly - even daily - to make sure they are getting enough water without the soil being soggy.
5) Select heat-tolerant plants such as Ageratum, Mont Blanc Nierembergia, Rose Moss (Portulaca), Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), Cockscomb (Celosia), Dusty Miller (Senecio) and Zinnia.
6) Deadhead dead flower blossoms and trim or pinch back foliage to prevent it from getting leggy.
Q:    I am so glad I found this website!!!  I am new to the Denver area and to flowering plants in general. The home I recently purchased has about 9 rose bushes in total (3 in front & 6 in the back), 4 aspens, an odd apple tree variety, and ground cover. I would like to continue the care that the previous owners started with the roses and introduce some new plants to both the backyard and front. We are south facing and receive a lot of sun. How should I winterize my roses? What other flowers do you recommend for my Aurora backyard? Can you recommend an arborist for my aspens? I believe two are dying.  L. B., Aurora, 9/11/07
   There are several steps to winterizing roses.  Clean up fallen leaves to prevent disease organisms from over-wintering.  Prune bushes to about three feet high.  Place a layer of soil or mulch over the crown of the plant.  A rose collar helps to keep the mulch in place.  Water the roses once or twice a month during winter when the ground isn't frozen.
    Many flowers grow well here.  A combination of perennials, annuals and bulbs provide months of color.  Plant spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips and daffodils in late September or early October.  Pansies are nice in fall and spring when little else blooms.  Check your local garden centers and home improvement stores for plants in spring.
    I am not familiar with arborists in Aurora.  Look for "tree service" in your phone directory or  Chose a company that has "certified arborists."
Q:    Where can I find a plant list for growing in Estes Park, CO.?  P. M., Washington, D. C., 8/10/07
   The Gilpin County Master Gardeners' Mountain Gardening website has plant lists that would be appropriate for the Estes Park area.  Please see
Q:    Why are my flowering plants not flowering?  M. B., Grand Junction, 7/14/07
A:    There can be several reasons for flowering plants not to flower.  Too much nitrogen fertilizer can result in lush growth but few flowers.  Weather conditions affect flowering.  Some plants don't flower in hot weather, others don't flower in cool weather.  Too little sunlight can cause poor bloom.  It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause for a specific plant.
Q:    I would like to know if I can grow Hens and Chicks inside in the winter in a planter.  Thank you, K. Iowa City, IA; 5/12/07
A:    Hens and Chicks can be grown indoors in winter.  They will need a spot that gets lots of bright sun.  They prefer dry conditions, so you will need to be careful not to over-water them.
Q:    Can you split clematis?  J., Johnston, IA; 3/27/07
A:    Yes, you can propagate a clematis by root division.  Clematis is often propagated by softwood cuttings taken in spring or by semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late spring through late summer.
Q:    When is a good time to start planting bulbs and flowers?  I am new to Colorado and unsure when to plant and what sort of plants do well here.  Thank you.  S.,  Brighton, 2/24/07
   Spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils should be planted in late September or early October.  Summer-blooming bulbs such as cannas, gladiola and dahlias are planted in mid-May after the danger of frost is past.  Please click on Articles in the menu on our website to find more information on these.
    Most annual flowers (examples: petunias, marigolds, lobelia, etc. that grow for one season) and many perennials are planted in mid-May.  Local stores such as Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Home Depot and garden centers will carry a large number of plants in spring and summer that do well here.  A word of warning -- don't plant them too early, even if they are for sale at stores and garden centers in April.  A late frost can kill them.
Q:    Do you have any suggestions for rare and unusual plants for hanging baskets?  Not something you'd see at Home Depot or the small local nursery.  G. L., Denver, 2/22/07
   If you have a sunny location, small varieties of Bougainvillea are stunning in hanging baskets.  They are tender, so don't put them out until mid or late May.  Succulents are also suited to sunny sites in hanging baskets.  A unique look is a hanging succulent ball (sphere).
    If the hanging baskets are going to be in the shade, look for unique houseplants that can spend the summer outdoors.
Q:    Hello! This site is great.  I have some Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) and was wondering how I should take care of them. They bloomed wonderful their first summer, and I do not know what to do for them next summer. Can you please give me some suggestions? Also what type of other sages do well as a plant grouping for a border with color? Thank you.  L. W., Canon City, 12/24/06
    Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) needs little water.  During the growing season water it about once a week.  Be careful not to over-water it or it will die.  Pinch or lightly prune the plant and deadhead spent flowers to encourage the plant to keep blooming.  The plant may die back to the ground in winter, but hopefully it will grow back from its roots.  There are several cultivars of Autumn Sage, so you may be able to find one that works well with the one you already have.  Silver Sage (Salvia argentea), Meadow Sage (Salvia pratensis) and Salvia x sylvestris 'May Night' are other options.
Q:     My indoor paperwhites are done blooming now since Thanksgiving.  My question is, how do I save them for future projects.  A. F., Golden, 12/1/06
    Unfortunately, the paperwhites will not bloom again indoors.  You can try planting them outdoors, and they may bloom in a couple of years. 
Q:    I have 2 fuchsia hanging plants and was wondering how I can winterize them.  Will they grow inside for the winter?  D., Tiverton, RI; 10/18/06
A:    Fuchsias can be grown inside as a houseplant during winter.  In the house it does well with four hours of direct or filtered sun daily.  Keep the soil slightly moist, not soggy.  When the plant stops blooming and takes a winter rest, it requires less water.  You can prune it to a height of 6 inches at that time.  Fertilize monthly.
Q:    Are you supposed to cut back the flowers on Asters now or late?  I have 4 different varieties and this is the first year they blossomed.  Now that the blooms are dying, should I cut them back to the ground?  J. M., Tacoma, WA; 10/3/06
   Aster frikartii 'Monch' is a tender perennial that is more likely to survive winter when it is pruned in spring after the danger of frost is past.  A lightweight mulch (e.g., pine needles) should be place over the base of the plant after the ground freezes.
    New York Aster (Aster novi-belgii) should be cut to the ground after it flowers.
Q:    Have you ever heard of an old wives tale stating you shouldn't transplant flowers in months with no "R" in them? EX: May, June, July, August?  K., 8/22/06
A:    I haven't heard the old wives tale.  However, transplanting in summer is not recommended.  Due to hot weather, plants with disturbed or damaged root systems can't absorb sufficient water.  This may have been the origin of the wives tale.
Q:    What perennial plants would grow under trees?  We already have a green plant (It's an ivy type of ground cover) under the trees but would like to add a plant with some color?  M. J. C., Lakewood, 8/17/06
Some perennials to grow in shade or part shade include these:
        Columbine (Aquilegia) - yellow, purple, white flowers
        Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) - white flowers
        Primrose (Primula) - many bright colors
    For a really nice splash of color considering using an annual such as impatiens or wax begonias.
Q:    I live in Denver. I would like to plant flowers and shrubs in my front yard. Can I plant throughout the summer months?  N. P., Denver, 7/6/06
A:    Try to avoid planting in hot summer weather.  It is better to plant perennials and shrubs in fall or spring.
Q:    Hi.  I have been living in Colorado Springs for nearly 25 years and have been fairly successful gardening at this altitude; however, I have a flower bed that faces north east or if you want exact, it faces east north east.  The past 9 years I have had no luck growing anything in this area.  I have tried annuals, perennials, bushes, etc.  It receives 1.5 to 2 hours of afternoon sun.  The patch is 2 feet wide by 15 feet long.  Could you give me any suggestions as to what to plant in this area.  I am open to bulbs, annuals, perennials, or just about anything available.  One note:  This is below my front porch so height needs to be taken into consideration.  M. R., Colorado Springs, 6/18/06
    You didn't mention if the shady area receives water from a sprinkler, soaker hose or drip system.  Whatever is planted there will need regular watering, especially the first season it is planted.  The following are plants that grow in shade.
Groundcovers:  Bishop's Weed (Aegopodium podagraria), Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), Creeping Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia repens), Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Perennials: Hosta, Spotted Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum)
Annuals: Impatiens, Coleus
Q:    Can you please tell me if the flowers should be cut off of wild daisies after replanting them? Thank you.  P. Y., Bridgeville, PA; 6/15/06
A:    Cutting off the flowers after re-planting the daisies is a good idea.  Removing the flowers will allow the plant to use its energy to establish roots rather than seeds
Q:    What kind of perennials grow best on the west side of a home?  My house is in Westminster and my flower beds only see sun after noon. If you could suggest flowers and other plants I would really appreciate the advice. Everything I've bought has died.  A. R., Westminster, 6/14/06
    Because the plants will receive hot afternoon sun, select only plants that say "full sun" on the label.  Amend the soil of the flower bed by mixing in compost.  Water frequently to keep the soil slightly moist, not soggy, while the roots become established.  You may need to water daily in hot weather like we've been having.  You should gradually reduce watering after a few weeks.  Mulch helps the soil to stay cool and retains moisture.
    Some perennials for sunny sites include Yarrow, Coreopsis, Coneflower (Echinacea), Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Daylily, Iris, Catmint (Nepeta), Russian Sage (Perovskia), Penstemon, Black-eyed Susan, and Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa).  You may also want to use some shrub roses and flowering shrubs.
Q:    Can you please tell me what it means when the leaves turn yellow on my mandevilla?  Am I watering too much or not enough?  They do get the hot afternoon sun.  B., 5/31/06
     A rule of thumb for determining if a yellowing plant is getting too much or too little water is to observe what part of the plant is yellowing.  If a plant yellows from the outer tips of the plant inward and from the top of the plant down the plant needs more water.  If the plant yellows from the inner part of the stems to the outer part and from the bottom of the plant upward, the plant is getting too much water.  Often when we see a plant looking sick, the first thing we do is to water it, which is the worse thing we can do if it is already getting too much water!  Do not keep the soil constantly wet.
Q:    I just bought double impatiens and re-planted them in large whiskey barrels on my front east facing covered porch.  They get morning sun but by 11:00 a.m. they are in complete shade.  The day after I planted them they looked horrible.  The leaves look weak and spotty and the flowers appear to be dying.  I fertilized them with the granules that came with the plants and have watered them each day.  What do you recommend?
K. B., Fort Collins, 5/18/06
   When planting newly purchased plants it is important to harden them off.  For about one week set plants in the area where they'll be planted for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the number of hours.  I suspect the plants were accustomed to full shade and are in shock.  If you can provide more shade temporarily it may help.
    You may be over-watering the plants.  The soil should be moist, not soggy.  Too much water suffocates plants.  Unfortunately for gardeners, wilting can indicate too much water and also too little water!
Q:    I am having a problem with a raised bed of blackeyed susans and daisies and have a question on this.  There were some small black bugs (really small) that were on them and we used a bug spray to get rid of them, but there is this really weird fungus that is light brown in color (tan) on the plants still.  It seems like it is smothering the plants (particularly the blackeyed susans).   Do you have any suggestions on how to completely rid this problem?  A. B., Lafayette, 5/16/06
    If the plants in the raised bed have a fungus you can spray them with a fungicide.  Local garden centers will carry it.  Try to improve air circulation by thinning the plants.  Gather up any fallen leaves that could harbor disease organisms and then re-infect plants.
Q:    I have an area where I've been growing wildflowers.  Now lawn grass is growing there too.  What is the best way to get rid of it?  M. J., Greeley, 4/11/06
A:     If you don't have lawn edging between the lawn and the area for wildflowers I suggest you put some type of lawn edging between them to help limit the spread of the lawn grass.  There are herbicides that kill grass; however, herbicides that kill lawn grasses are also likely to kill some of the wildflowers that belong to the grass family.  Therefore, the herbicide would have to be applied very carefully to only the lawn grass.
Q:    We just moved to Platteville, Colorado, and I wanted to know if the shrub roses you buy at Wal-Mart are a good choice for me to plant here.  What is the best way to plant them in my area?  Also, are the miniature boxwood hedges a good idea for this area?  I love the English garden/cottage look.  Any advice and additional plantings to achieve this look would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you very much.  A. G., Platteville, 3/29/06
    Shrub roses are a good choice.  I'm not sure just what varieties they sell at your Wal-Mart.  Just be sure to check the labels to see that they are suitable for USDA hardiness zone 5.  You should wait to plant roses until mid-May unless you are buying bareroot roses.  Bareroot roses should be planted by mid-April.  You should amend the soil with compost before planting them.  Be sure to keep them watered well.
    Boxwood hedges need a protected site in part shade to perform well.  I hesitate to recommend them.
    Cottage gardens rely heavily on perennials.  Try to select some that bloom in spring, some that bloom in summer and some for fall.  For example,
Spring choices: Columbine, Basket-of-Gold, Iris
Summer choices: Daylily, Purple Coneflower
Fall: Asters, Autumn Joy Sedum.
You will probably want to use annuals to fill in bare spots until the perennials mature.  This fall try to plant some bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths and tulips for spring bloom.
Q:     I'm from back east and I LOVE hydrangeas - those big, fat purple/blue ones especially.  Can we grow them here? As perennials?  Color? Site?
   Thank you so much for any advice you can give me!  L. G., Denver, 2/5/06
A:    There are some hydrangeas that grow in Colorado.  Pee Gee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora') grows 4 - 6' tall and wide and has large white flowers.  It takes sun but prefers part shade and it likes regular watering.  A smaller shrub, Annabelle Hydrangea (H. arborescens 'Annabelle') grows 3 - 4' high and wide.  It also has white flowers and the same growing requirements.  Both should be planted with plenty of compost mixed into the soil.  Lacecap hydrangea (H. macrophylla coerulea) has blue flowers in acid soil and pink flowers in alkaline soil.  It blooms on new wood; therefore, it should be pruned regularly.  It will be about 4' tall.  It requires a protected planting site near a building or other shrubs.
Q:    My sister is moving from Virginia to Colorado. She now grows iris and lilacs from cuttings taken from our family farm in Iowa.  Will those perennials grow well near Lakewood?  Thanks for any information.  M. H., Marshalltown, IA; 2/2/06
A:     Irises perform very well in Colorado.  Lilacs also do well here, and because of the low humidity tend to have fewer problems with mildew than in Virginia.
Q:    What is the process for winterizing a potted Martha Washington Geranium?  I did bring it inside, but it is getting leggy and yellow now.  Can I cut shoots off and root them and prune the main plant back now?  Thank you for your help.  P. K., Littleton, 1/17/06
A:     If the geranium is getting leggy it isn't getting enough sunlight.  Place it near a south or west facing window where it will get plenty of bright light.  Avoid over-watering it.  Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  You can cut off shoots and root them and prune the plant back now if you wish.
Q:    Can Columbine be transplanted to a different area successfully, and if so, what is the best time of year and method?  P. C., Beulah, 11/1/05
A:     You can dig up and divide Columbines in the fall and plant them in a new location at that time.  Or, you can dig up the plants in early spring when new growth has emerged and re-plant them.  They tend to reseed, so you may have new seedlings in spring that you can also transplant.
Q:   I was wondering if you could help me out on the care of kalanchoes.  I brought them inside for the winter. They still have flowers blooming, but basically they are starting to die off.  What should I do when they all fall off?  I would like them to bloom next spring.  Are these plants dangerous to dogs?  W. P., 10/24/05
A:    I suspect the kalanchoes are having trouble adapting to conditions inside, especially the reduction in sunlight.  Try to provide as much bright light as possible.  Kalanchoes are often used as houseplants, so hopefully yours will adjust and survive inside.  Water them regularly.  You can prune the flowers on the kalanchoes by pinching or snipping them off near the base of the plant.  Kalanchoe is on the ASPCA's list of plants that are toxic to pets.
Q:    What do I do to "winterize" Canna lilies?  L. C., St. Thomas, Ont; 10/5/05
A:   Canna lilies are not hardy.  After the foliage is killed by frost and has dried you need to trim off the foliage to about 3" and then dig up the bulbs.  Allow the bulbs to dry several hours.  Store them in a cool, dry place where they won't freeze.  They can be stored in mesh bags, old nylons or other ventilated fabric or containers.  Replant the bulbs next spring after the danger of frost is past.
Q:    After I dig up gladiolus bulbs do I put them in burlap and hang them up in the basement?  Do I have to keep them moist during the winter?  If there are two or three bulbs stuck together can I separate them now or should I separate them before replanting in the Spring?  Thanks...They sure are pretty.  W. R., Landisburg, PA; 9/30/05
A:    After you dig up the gladiolus bulbs, clean off any excess dirt and spread the bulbs out to dry in a single layer in a ventilated tray for several weeks.  After the bulbs dry, trim off dried stalks and roots and baby bulbs.  Place the dry bulbs in a burlap bag, old nylon stocking or paper bag.  Store the bulbs in a dry, cool area (40 to 50 degrees) until spring.  Do not moisten them during winter.  Keep the bulbs dry so they don't mold or rot.  You can replant the bulbs in late spring after the danger of frost is past.
Q:    I have 3 butterfly bushes that don't look that great.  I know some bugs got a hold of them this year.  What kind of watering and fertilizing do they like?  How do I winterize them?  Prune?  Thank you kindly.  L. M., Englewood, 9/23/05
A:    Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) can adapt to limited watering but perform best with regular watering, especially when the weather is hot.  Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  Fertilize the bushes in spring with a fertilizer for flowering plants.  Prune them in early spring to about 6 - 12 inches high.  To winterize them, place a layer of mulch over the root zone after the ground freezes.  They are likely to die back to the ground in cold weather but will sprout again in spring.
Q:   How do I care for bleeding hearts? They came with the house and I'm not sure how to "over-winter" them.  K. O., Aurora, 8/23/05
A:    Bleeding hearts (Dicentra) will die back in winter.  You can clip off dead foliage when it dies or wait until early spring.  Once the ground freezes, cover the plants with a layer of mulch about four inches high to prevent them from heaving during our freeze/thaw cycles.
Q:    What flowers will grow well in a low sunlight environment such as an office?  J. H., Lincoln, NE; 8/12/05
A:     Some flowering plants that do well indoors include Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum), Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera), African Violets, and Cyclamen.  You can use azaleas, miniature roses, mums, begonias and other plants usually grown outdoors, but eventually they will cease blooming due to the low level of light.
Q:    What is the proper way to care for our Coral Belle and Clematis vine?  K. O., Aurora, 8/6/05
    Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea) grow in full sun or partial shade.  They prefer regular watering.  Deadheading encourages continued flowers.  Plants will need dividing after 4 or 5 years.  Keep plants mulched to retain moisture in summer and to prevent heaving in winter.
    Clematis likes to grow in the sun, but prefers to have its roots shaded.  A thick layer of mulch should be placed over the roots.  They like moist (not soggy) soil.  Deadhead to encourage continued flowering.  Pruning method depends on the type of clematis.  Spring blooming varieties that flower on the previous year's growth are pruned right after they flower.  Summer and fall blooming varieties are pruned in early spring.
Q:    I live in Northern Virginia and have vincas planted in a new area of landscaping.  The leaves are turning very yellow; however, the plants themselves seem very healthy.  Might this be soil or nutrient related?  Thanks in advance for your help!  J. P., South Riding, VA; 7/31/05
A:    Yellowing leaves can be a sign of too much water or too little water.  Poor drainage can also be a factor.  Monitor the moisture level of the soil to see if this is the problem.  Soil needs to dry out slightly between waterings or plant roots won't get enough oxygen.  If the veins of the leaves are green, poor absorption of iron (iron chlorosis) may be the problem and adding chelated iron may help.
Q:    I live in Farmington, Utah, and have planted some Russian sage.  The leaves are starting to turn yellow and fall off, even though I am watering daily with all the hot weather.  They get full sun for a good part of the day.  Does this mean I am not watering enough?  They still have some purple flowering on them, so does that mean that they are still alive?  Should I put mulch down?  Thanks for any help you can give.  A. C., Farmington, UT; 7/11/05
A:      You should reduce the frequency of watering.  Build a basin around each plant, fill it with water, and let the soil dry out so that it is only slightly moist before watering again.  Too much water will suffocate the plants.  Mulch is a good idea.  It will help prevent evaporation.  Once established, Russian sage requires little water. 
Q:    Hi, after this last hail storm I am thinking about changing some of the plants that I had in a shade garden. I love my hostas but the hail just tears them up. What are some good perennials for shade that will hold up when bombarded by hail?   I would love to have a mossy forest type garden. Appreciate any help you can offer.  Thanks, B., Colorado Springs, 6/23/05
    As you have discovered, plants with large leaves do not fare well in hail storms.  The following plants for shade (Sh) or partial shade (PS) should do better than the hostas.
Monkshood (Aconitum) - PS, Sh
Aster - PS
Columbine (Aquilegia) - PS
Bergenia - PS, Sh
Bellflower (Campanula) - PS
Corydalis (Corydalis lutea) - PS
Tickseed (Coreopsis) - PS
Hellebore (Helleborus) - PS, Sh
Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) - PS
Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium) - PS, Sh
Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla) - PS
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa) - PS
Q:    I have/had a beautiful bed of petunias.  I just noticed that something is chewing the petals.  I have looked and looked and can only see tiny black residue that does not look like insects on the leaves.  I have examined the plants during the day and in the evening and can find nothing.  I was told by an employee of a nursery that the insect responsible for the destruction is in fact the tiny black "residue" that I see on the leaves.  Please advise.  K. C., Wilmington, DE; 6/16/05
A:     I suspect the black specks on your petunias are not bugs, but the droppings of geranium budworms.  The geranium budworm attacks geraniums, petunias, nicotianas and several other flowers.  The caterpillars tunnel into the flower buds where you can't see them and they are hard to reach with pesticides.  The budworms are most active at dusk, so that is a good time to spray or pick them off of the plants.  You can try to control them by removing buds that show signs of damage and spraying with Bt or insecticides containing pyrethrin or carbaryl.
Q:    I recently bought a fuchsia basket and put it in part sun.  It is dying and I am not sure why.  Can it not handle the strong Colorado sun?  Should it be in full shade?  Thanks, S. D., Centennial, 5/25/05
A:    The fuchsia should be put in a shady location.  Our intense Colorado sun will be too strong.  A bit of morning sun might be acceptable, but definitely no mid-day or afternoon sun.  Mist the plant daily if you can.  Fuchsias like higher humidity than we have here.  Keep the soil slightly moist.
Q:    When planting annual plants in pots on a patio:
     1. Can you mix different type of plants in the same pot (e.g. Geraniums, Sonic Lilacs and Marigolds)?
     2. How many plants should be planted in each pot (e.g. how many Geraniums in a 11 inch diameter pot, 15 inch pot, 21 inch pot)?  J. G., Oceanport, NJ; 5/23/05
A:    Yes, you can mix different types of plants in the same pot so long as the plants have the same sunlight and water requirements.  (Don't put plants that need full sun and plants that require shade in the same pot.  Also, don't put plants that like moist soil with ones that prefer drier soil.)  The number of plants used in the container depends on the size of the plants.  Disregard the label instructions on spacing between plants -- that applies to planting them in the ground.  Plants in containers are packed closely together.
Q:    I was wondering if you could suggest some brightly colored annuals for part sun- from about 3 onward to sunset- and it gets hot!  Thanks for your help. 
J. M., Denver, 5/19/05
   Because of the hot, intense sunlight in Colorado, I've listed plants that do well in full sun as well as part shade:
      Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum)
      Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)
      China Pinks (Dianthus chinensis)
      Lantana (Lantana camara)
      Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
      Nemesia (Nemesia strumosa)
      Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana)
Q:    Can you send me some info on impatiens -- what kind of sun, how often to water, etc. Thanks, W. B., Kennard, IN; 5/9/05
A:    Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) is one of the best annuals for shade or partial shade.  If plants become leggy, pinch or cut them back.  Water them regularly, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.  They don't like dry soil or soggy soil.  Fertilize them lightly with a fertilizer designated for use on flowering plants or use a slow-release granular fertilizer for flowers when you plant them.
Q:    What flowers can grow in direct, full sunlight, very dry soil and next to a cement sidewalk?  P. S., Kenmore, NY; 4/8/05
A:    Some flowers that like sun and tolerate dry conditions and heat include Cosmos, Lantana, Petunia, Verbena and Zinnia.  These plants require regular watering while they become established and then you can reduce the amount of water.
Q:    It's early April, and all my perennials are rapidly leafing out.  Is it too early to subdivide and transplant established perennials?  I have a couple of yarrows that need to be moved.  Thank you!  P., Masonville, 4/2/05
A:    Spring is a good time to divide and/or transplant perennials.  You can do these tasks as soon as the ground no longer is frozen. 
Q:    What plants (vegetables and flowers) grow best in Bailey, Colorado?  C. H., Bailey, 3/7/05
   With an elevation over 9500 feet, vegetable choices are somewhat limited.  Vegetables that prefer cool weather are best, such as peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach and green onions.
    There are a number of flowers that grow at high elevations.  For growing tips and a list of these please see  Click on "Horticulture."  Click on "Fact Sheets."  Click on "Flowers."  Click on # 7.406 "Flowers for Mountain Communities."
    You might consider using flowering shrubs in your yard.  Some hardy shrubs for high elevations include Lilac (Syringa vulgaris), Persian Lilac (Syringa persica), Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), Siberian Peashrub (Caragana arborescens) and Jamesia (Jamesia americana).
Q:    I have a very dry, hard flower bed encircling my mailbox post.  It's maybe 1 1/2 feet long by 1 foot wide.  It's edged on two sides by concrete.  Full sun, all day.  What should I plant in it?  Also, I have a bed that is on the east side of my home.  It's 7 feet long and 3 feet wide.   It currently has 3 rose bushes, 1 mini rose, some irises, grape hyacinths, a few tulips and creeping phlox.  I want to get rid of the hyacinths, irises, and phlox.  Any recommendations?  What is a good groundcover for under roses?  I live in Ft. Collins.  Thank you!  D., Ft. Collins, 3/7/05 
  The small area by your mailbox would be a suitable spot for these annuals that like a sunny, dry site: Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), Lantana, Petunia, Verbena and Zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia).  Some perennials to consider include Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Evening Primrose (Oenothera), and Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum).  Be sure to add compost to improve the soil before planting.  Also, you will need to water the plants regularly until they get established.
    Some groundcovers for the bed on the east side of the house include Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) -- bronze foliage with blue flowers in late summer, Creeping baby's breath (Gypsophila repens) -- white or pink flowers, Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) -- white flowers, several varieties of Thyme (Thymus) -- white or pinkish flowers, and several types of Veronica -- purple flowers.
Q:    I live in Colorado Springs and am new to gardening. Since I have large evergreens on the south side of my yard, much of it is in the shade or part shade. I also love the idea of flowers in the winter. Will Helleborus grow in my area? If not, can you recommend something that will keep winter interest?  A. D., Colorado Springs, 2/25/05
   Helleborus will grow in your area.  However, keep in mind that all parts of the plant are poisonous.  Other plants that will bloom off and on during winter are pansies and violas.  Some bulbs that will provide color in partial shade by February or March include these:
    Glory of the Snow (Chinodoxa)
    Snowdrop (Galanthus)
    Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)
    Puschkinia (P. scilloides)
    Winter aconite (Eranthis)
    Siberian squill (Scilla siberica)
    Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda)
    Tommies (Crocus tommasinianus).
Q:    I live at 7800 feet altitude in zone 4-5, five miles from Evergreen, Colorado.  WHEN can I plant bare-root plants from the chain stores.  Today (2-18-2005) I purchased some bare-root packaged peonies, bleeding hearts, clematis.  How should I store them until planting time?  I have an unheated small barn that stays about 38-40 degrees and is dark.  Although I have been successful potting up roses and growing them indoors it is a lot of trouble.   Thanks!  P. H., Evergreen, 2/18/05
A:    Store the bare-root plants in a cool, dark place where they won't freeze.  Due to the short growing season in the mountains, it would be a good idea to give the plants a head start by potting them up.  If the varieties you bought are hardy you can plant them once the ground isn't frozen in May or June.  Be sure to harden them off before planting them outside.
Q:    I'm having a hard time finding bright flowers and herbs (i.e.: dill, lavender, etc..) that are good for box-planting on our balcony.  The balcony faces east and gets all of that bright intense morning sun, but then has shade the rest of the day.  Is there a specific watering routine that we should adopt because of the location?  R. L., Aurora, 2/11/05
A:     Because the containers on your balcony receive only morning sun, plants that perform well in partial shade are a good choice.  Impatiens, pansy, lobelia, wax begonia, coleus and geranium (Pelargonium) should do well.  Plants that require full sun (marigolds, zinnias, petunias, etc.) won't flower well.  Most herbs, except for mint, prefer full sun.  Don't over-fertilize the plants or you'll get lots of leaves and few flowers.  Most shade-loving plants like soil that is slightly moist, but not soggy.
Q:    "Some bulbs don't have to be planted in potting soil.  Instead, they will grow in water.  To grow paper-whites (Narcissus tazetta) in water, fill a shallow bowl about 2/3 full with pebbles or marbles..."  How long will it take to first see roots and then shoots (this is for my son's science experiment) when grown just in water?  T. D., 1/10/05
    Paperwhites planted in water should root within a couple of days and flower in about 3 to 5 weeks.

Q:    I am wondering if I need to winterize my spikes, daisies and small shrubs.  Should I cut them back now or wait until spring?  We live in Parker, CO.  B. S., Parker, 11/06/04
A:     Here are a few tips regarding winterizing your plants.  Place a layer of mulch around your plants once the ground freezes.  This will protect them during freeze/thaw cycles.  Water the plants once or twice a month if there is little or no snow and the ground isn't frozen.  You can wait until spring to cut back perennials and prune shrubs.  Flowering shrubs are usually pruned right after they complete blooming.

Q:    How do I keep my lavender over the winter?  I have them in planters.  Should I trim them
all down and place them in a cool place?  Do I keep watering them?  J. T., Dowagiac, MI; 11/05/04
A:     To keep the lavender plants compact you should trim them back by one third to one half.  They can be placed indoors in a sunny spot during winter.  Water them periodically, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.  They do not like soggy soil.

Q:    What causes Impatiens to get leggy?  Is this a virus?  If so, can anything be done about it.  Thank you.  M. R., Columbus, OH; 10/4/04
A:     Some plants just naturally tend to be leggy.  Others become leggy when they do not get enough sunlight.  When buying plants look for a term like "compact" on the label, which indicates that the plant doesn't tend to be leggy.  The best way to deal with leggy plants is to pinch them back regularly.

Q:    I have several Blue and White Clips Campanula and really like them except as soon as they get nice and big they separate in the center and sprawl out leaving a large bare center with just the bare stems showing. I can't find out any information about pruning them or dividing them so they keep looking attractive. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks, L. A., Soda Springs, ID; 9/20/04
A:    Blue Clips and White Clips Campanula die out in the center as they age.  Shear plants after they bloom to encourage compact growth.  Plants should be divided every three years.

Q:    I live in Littleton and I have a spot that has full sun until mid-afternoon and then it is shaded by a tree the rest of the day.  It also receives lots of water from the run off of rain.  Roses are doing fine there, but the mums die from too much water.  What perennial flower could grow there?  Thanks.  J. P., Littleton, 9/7/04
   Some perennials that like moister conditions include these:
        Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
        Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium)
        Cranesbill (Geranium)
        Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri)
        Coralbells (Heuchera)
        Siberian Iris (Iris siberica)
        Gay Feather (Liatris)
        Bee Balm (Monarda)

Q:    I have some Shasta daisies.  I wonder how to care for them, and when and what do I do to winterize them?  B., Denver, 8/19/04 
A:     Shasta Daisies like moist, well-drained soil.  They grow in full sun or part shade.  Fertilize them in spring prior to bloom and again while they are blooming.  Deadhead spent flowers to encourage plants to keep blooming.  Pinching keeps plants compact.  You will need to divide the plants in spring every two or three years.  When the plants die back in fall you can trim them at almost ground level.  After the ground freezes spread a layer of mulch over the soil.

Q:    I have petunias in hanging baskets and want to know the correct way to deadhead them.  When I just pull out the dead flowers the ends seem to go to seed instead of making a new flower.  Should I be cutting off the whole flower end and adjoining stems?  L. P., Anna, IL; 8/19/04
A:     Yes, you should pinch off dead petunia blossoms, being sure to include the whole flower end so that the plants don't form seedpods.  The petals pull off easily.  However, removing just the petals doesn't prevent seed formation.

Q:    Hi,  I am new to Gladiola.  After the bloom, there is some kind of pod growing where the bloom was. Is this something I should keep or is there something I should do?  Thanks in advance for your answer.
L. H., St. Louis, MO, 7/25/04
A:     When the gladiolus flowers fade, cut off the stems below the lowest bloom.  Uncut stems develop seed pods that divert energy from the corm.  Therefore, you should try to trim the stems before the pods form.  Once the foliage yellows completely, dig up the corms.  Dry them in a dark, dry area for a couple of weeks.  Then store them until spring in a cool spot where they won't freeze.

Q:    What type of flowers can I plant in the front of the house that has direct sunlight all day long.  I. T., Englewood, N. J.; 7/19/04
    Some sun-loving perennials include Echinacea, Daylily, Iris, Lupine, Bee Balm, Catmint, and Scabiosa.  These will die back in winter and come back again next year.
    Some annuals that do well in full sun include Petunia, Periwinkle (Catharanthus), Marigold, Zinnia, Cleome, Cosmos, Geranium (Pelargonium), Moss Rose (Portulaca), and Snapdragon.  Annuals tend to bloom much longer than perennials, but they will not come back next year unless they happen to self-sow.

Q:    I need some advice on deadheading my Stella D'Oro Daylily and Rocky Mtn Penstemon. 
I typically pull off the spent flowers from the Stella's, but have noticed if I don't get to them in time they've formed a seed pod.  To promote additional blooms, should I cut off the  seedpod at the base of the stem?  Also, my Penstemon was glorious this year, but I know you can cut it back to promote another flowering, do I cut the entire flower stalk back to the base?
Thank you for all your help!  C. F., Erie, 7/8/04
   To promote continued blooming you should cut off the Daylily seed pods that have formed as soon as possible.  Ideally, it is better to remove spent flowers to prevent seeds from forming, but few gardeners have time to do this daily.  Cut the seedpod at the base of the stem.
    Regarding Penstemons, you can cut off stalks that bloomed at the base.  This will encourage new shoots to form, and possibly a second blooming.  You want to direct the energy of the plant into new shoots that will help it survive winter, rather than seed production.

Q:    We recently were hit by hail and my Impatiens were pretty beat up.  Will they regenerate?  E. B., 6/2/04
A:    To salvage what you can of the Impatiens, trim off the damaged parts of the plants.  Fertilize them lightly and keep them well watered for the next couple of weeks.  Hopefully they will recuperate.  You may want to read the article "Gardening in Hail Country" on our website.

Q:    Could I transplant full grown and healthy hostas now?  D. P., Montreal, Canada; 6/10/04
A:    As hot summer weather approaches, it is better to postpone transplanting.  Because the root system of a plant is usually damaged when it is transplanted, it is difficult for the remaining roots to absorb enough water to support the plant.  In hot weather a plant's water needs increase.  Transplanting at that time puts the plant at risk.

Q:    I would like to plant a flowering climbing vine on the south side of my home near the foundation (wall area is as high as 20 feet). Very hot and sunny wall, poor soil (clay), no direct irrigation system but gets overspray. Willing to build trellis support. Near walkway, so prefer something that doesn't attract lots of bees (especially since I have two small children)!! Any suggestions?  J. L., Littleton, 4/29/04
   Any flowering vine is likely to attract bees, unfortunately.  You may want to reconsider placing a flowering vine beside a walkway.
   A vine that is very drought tolerant and a fast grower is Silver Lace Vine.  It has lots of white flowers in late summer and needs a trellis for support.  Because it flowers on new wood it should be pruned in early spring.
   Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) is also a good choice for a sunny, dry spot.  It will attach itself to the wall or a trellis.  It has orange, trumpet-shaped flowers.

Q:    I am wanting to buy some bright, colorful flowers and transfer them into my medium sized pots in a full sun area and I am not sure what kinds of flowers do well in sunny Colorado weather or do well after being replanted.  Also, can I reuse the soil that is already in the pots from years past or do I need to empty the old and refill my pots with new soil?  P.S. I love your web site!!  It is so helpful!!  K. M., Parker, 5/9/04
   If you had geraniums, petunias or nicotianas in the pots previously you would be wise to replace the soil in the pots.  Tobacco budworms over-winter in the soil as eggs.  Otherwise, you can reuse the soil.  You might want to take out a portion of it and replace it with new potting soil.  Be sure to mix it in well with the old soil.
    Because you have medium sized pots that will be in full sun you will have to water them often, possibly daily, when the weather is hot.  The following can tolerate sun and heat:
Calibrachoa, Periwinkle/Vinca (Catharanthus roseus), Lantana, Pentas, Portulaca, Scaevola, and Verbena.

Q:    Like many others maybe (with the weather)....when can I transplant irises and ornamental grasses I planted last spring.  They are about 6 inches high already.  They will be going to a spot that is as or warmer than the current spot.  I also would put a good layer of mulch on them.
   Any general rules for other perennials that may be coming up?  R. B., Denver, 3/22/04
A:     It is best to transplant irises in July or August.  However, you should transplant ornamental grasses in spring.  Now is fine.  Most perennials can be transplanted in early spring when new foliage is about two inches high, or they can be moved in early fall when their foliage begins to look shabby.

Q:    We're having a Luau wedding reception in our back yard on 7/17/04 and I'm wondering if you could give me any suggestions for bedding plants that would be in bloom at that time.  We have Day Lilies and are planning on Impatients for shady spots and petunias in pots.  Do you have any other suggestions?  Thanks so much for your help!  P. M., Littleton, 2/19/04
   The following is a list of annuals that should be in bloom in July:
     Bacopa (Sutera cordata) - trailing plant with small white or lavender flowers, use in pots or beds
     Calibricoa 'Lyrica Showers' - also called 'Million Bells,' trailing plants, good in pots, covered with tons of small petunia-like flowers
     Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) - a taller plant, use in beds, many colors
     Godetia - use in pots or beds, several pastel colors
     Lobelia - plants are covered with blue, lavender or white flowers; use trailing varieties in pots and more upright ones in beds, does best in part shade
     Marigold (Tagetes) - use in pots or beds, yellow and gold flowers
     Pelargoniums - commonly called geraniums, use in pots, many colors
     Scaevola - trailing plant, use in pots or beds, lavender and purple flowers
     Verbena - many vivid and pastel colors, use in pots or beds
     I would avoid planting pansies, violas and snapdragons.  They do not like heat and slow down production of flowers if the weather is hot.

Q:    I'd like information on growing edible flowers and herbs in a town home setting and planter pots. I cook lots of Mediterranean dishes and want to use more edible flowers. I'm hoping you can provide information on where to purchase seeds or plants to get started. Thank you.  A. P., Arvada, 1/21/04
    To purchase seeds or plants for an herb and edible flower garden please visit one of these garden centers in Arvada.  Echter's Garden Center is located at 5150 Garrison St., phone number 303-424-7979.  Timberline Gardens is located at 11700 W. 58 St., phone number 303-420-4060.  Both places have trained staff that can assist you. 
    It would be better to purchase seeds rather than plants of the flowers that you want to use for food.  Ornamental flowers may have been treated with pesticides, making them unsuitable for eating.  Either plants or seeds are fine for the herbs.  Select good sized containers for your planter pots.  Larger containers will require less frequent watering.  You should also purchase a good quality potting soil to use in the containers.
    An excellent resource that you might like to see is the CSU Cooperative Extension fact sheet on edible flowers.  Please go to  Click on "Gardening."  Click on "Fact sheets."  Click on "Flowers."  Click on # 7.237 "Edible Flowers."  They also have one on herbs.  Follow the same steps, but instead of clicking on flowers, click on "Fruits & Vegetables."  Then click on # 9.335 "Growing, Preserving and Using Herbs."

Q:    I have potted some paperwhites in soil.  While they have all sprouted, only one has bloomed.  All the other ones seem to be stunted.  Is there anything that I can do to encourage the others to bloom?  R., 11/17/03
A:    Paperwhites generally bloom five to seven weeks after being planted.  They should be kept in a cool location (around 50 degrees F) until the blooms are ready to open.  They can then be moved to a warmer location.  Avoid direct sunlight.  Keep the soil slightly moist, not wet.

Q:    I'm moving from a home in Denver to a home in Lakewood later this month (December 20) and I want to take at least part of my garden with me--some of my perennials, including roses, irises, peonies, and clematis. Would you provide some tips on the best way to do this at this time of year? Should I put things directly into the ground at the new site or pot them up until spring? Any advice would be helpful!  Thank you.  R., Denver, 11/23/03
A:    Because roses and perennials are dormant at this time of the year, you hopefully will have success transplanting them.  To prepare the plants for transplanting, water them well one or two days before you dig them up.  Prune back the foliage of the perennials to four to six inches above the ground and cut back the canes of the rose bushes to about 10 inches.  Next, using a spading fork if possible, dig up the plants.  Trim any broken or damaged roots.  Pot the plants in containers using a good quality potting soil and water them thoroughly.  If you wish, you can keep the plants in the containers until early spring.  Place them where they won't freeze, and keep the potting soil slightly moist, not wet.  Or, you can plant them in the ground if the ground hasn't frozen yet.  If you decide to plant them in the ground you need to plant them immediately so the roots can become established before the ground freezes.  Water the plants thoroughly when you plant them and water them periodically during the winter when the ground isn't frozen.  The plants will lack a fully developed root system and, therefore, will need extra water.  Place a layer of mulch several inches thick over the plants.  Good luck with your new garden!

Q:    How do I do a container garden for tulips?  I had seen the idea in a magazine and wanted to be sure that it would work in CO before I did it.  Will the bulbs freeze too hard in a container over the winter?  Or, will they start growing too early in the year when it starts to warm in the early spring?  Please help.  B. P., Lakewood, 9/26/03
A:    You can plant tulips in a container, but you'll need to protect them and the container from freezing temperatures.  Begin by selecting a container that has drainage holes.  Bulbs will rot in soil that doesn't drain well.  Place a piece of landscape (weed barrier) fabric or pebbles over the holes to prevent the soil from washing out.  Fill the container at least half full with potting soil.  Place the bulbs on top of the soil, pointed end up.  The flat side of the tulip bulbs should be placed facing out.  You can position the bulbs close together, but they shouldn't touch.  Fill the rest of the container with potting soil and water it thoroughly.  Keep the soil slightly moist, not wet.  Store the container someplace cool, such as in an unheated garage, where the temperature is between 35 - 45 degrees.  If the container must remain outside you will need to protect the bulbs from freezing.  Cover the soil with several inches of insulating material; for example, straw, bagged leaves, styrofoam pellets, or newspaper.  Also, wrap the container with something to insulate it.  In mid spring, stored containers can be set out and insulation removed from containers left outdoors.  Be prepared to come to the rescue if there is a forecast of freezing temperatures.

Q:    I have purchased a plant from the fuchsia family. It is named SENDENS. It was large, and when I bought it this spring I cut it back. I have a large amount of green growth but, No Flowers. Any help?  S. G., Victoria, 8/26/03
A:    I have not found any information on the plant named Sendens. Information that I have on fuchsias indicate that they bloom on new wood.  Therefore, pruning should be done before spring growth begins.  Plants should receive morning sun or day-long filtered shade.  Plants won't bloom if they get too much shade.  Keep the soil moist and mist the plant when the weather is hot and dry.  Plants in containers need to be fertilized regularly because frequent watering washes out nutrients in the soil.  Use a fertilizer for flowering plants.  Fertilizers high in nitrogen promote leafy growth and can limit flower production.

Q:    I live in Colorado Springs and I have tried to grow delphiniums for 3 years now.  Every year I get the same result:  the plant grows a little, dies almost completely back, then produces new shoots again.  This cycle repeats over and over all summer until they finally wither away completely in late summer.  What am I doing wrong?  A. M., Colorado Springs, 9/6/03
A:    It is difficult to identify what is unfavorable in the growing environment of the delphiniums based on the information provided.  It could be the soil, light, water, fertilizer, or other factors.  They require full sun.  They prefer rich, porous soil and will perform poorly in heavy clay soil.  Clay or sandy soil should be amended with compost.  Delphiniums need regular fertilizing.  Be sure to follow label directions.  Too much is worse than too little and can result in fertilizer burn.  (The symptoms sound a bit like this.)  The root crown should not be covered with soil.  Plants should be watered regularly.

Q: 1.  Can you plant Chrysanthemums under or near walnut trees?
2.  When and how to divide purple cone-flowers, black-eyed susans, Russian sage?  S. B., Union Grove, WI; 8/13/03
A:    Yes, you can plant chrysanthemums under or near walnut trees.  While many plants will not survive when planted by walnut  trees, this flower is one that does well.
    A sign that a perennial needs dividing is the center dies out.  Many perennials need to be divided every 3 or 4 years.  Lift out the plant with a pitch fork.  Separate the clump into sections with a sharp knife.  Throw away the unhealthy sections from the center of the plant.  Amend the soil in the hole with compost before replanting one of the sections there.  The remaining healthy sections should be planted in other spots.  Water them thoroughly and keep them well-watered while they become established.  Divide Purple Coneflower and Black-eyed Susan in spring.  Instead of dividing Russian Sage, try keeping it compact by cutting it back in the spring when the leaves first emerge.

Q:    I live in zone 7, Western North Carolina, new resident.  I planted zinnias from seed in late March and reseeded in early mid-April.  We had a late frost in early April which is why I reseeded.  I have not touched them since.  In articles I have read, they talk about root rot, and not planting too close.  Since I did not understand what I was doing I have not touched them since except to weed.  I am now seeing blooms, but they appear rather small compared to what I am used to seeing with zinnias.  I do not know anything about "pinching" the leaf of the seedling off as per some directions nor do I understand what it means to "clip" them.  I feel pretty fortunate since this is my first time planting them from seed but feel as if I am not doing something correctly.  I planted a range of types including Thumbelina, Whirligig, State Fair, Giant Double, and Lilliput.  I am seeing lots of buds but as they bloom, the bloom is not very large, and the plants are very tall and stalky.  They are in an excellent plot with plenty of sun and I have not watered them; only the rain has, which has been unusually plentiful here this spring.  I am a novice at this so I would appreciate any assistance in helping to develop the best blooms.  Also, what does "root rot" look like?  Thanks so much for the assistance as I have loved zinnias for a very long time but have never grown them myself.  M. L., Sylva, N. C.; 6/25/03
A:    There are some steps you should take to improve the tall, stalky zinnias.
       1) Thin the plants.  Pull out some of the plants so that the remaining ones are about 10 inches apart.  Thinning allows plants to grow larger and healthier.
       2) Pinch off the tips of the plants.  Use scissors or your fingers to snap off a small portion of the shoots back to a set of leaves.  This will encourage the plant to produce more leaves and branches, resulting in bushy, sturdy plants.
       3) Water if the weather is dry.  Water early in the morning so leaves will dry during the day.  Avoid watering in the evening because the leaves will stay damp during the night.  This can lead to problems with diseases.
       4) Fertilize the plants with a product made for flowering plants.
Zinnias perform best when the weather is hot.  They should do better in July and August.
   Root rot may cause plants to wilt, even if they are getting plenty of water.  If you pull up the plant you are likely to see black, mushy roots.  This condition is caused by disease organisms in the soil.  Over-watering promotes it.

Q:    I want to hang some flowers on my front porch this spring/summer (in hanging pots) but my porch is shaded all day long.  What type of flowers should I purchase that can handled the shade, be full & colorful?  Thank you.  D. P., Cincinnati, OH; 4/28/03
A:    The following are some plants that should do well in hanging pots in the shade:
       Tuberous Begonia
       Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)
       Busy Lizzie/ Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)
       Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
       Wishbone Flower/Torenia (Torenia fournieri)
       Monkey Flower (Mimulus)

Q:    When is the last average frost date in Denver?  When can I plant my annual seeds?  And when is it safe to plant my dahlia tubers?  Thanks so much.  M. S., Denver, 4/13/03
A:   To be 80% confident that there will be no more frosts, use May 12th as the last spring frost date for Denver.  For 90% confidence, use May 18th.  You can plant frost-tender annuals and summer flowering bulbs, including dahlia tubers, at that time.

Q:    I live in Aurora, CO. I have a large planter on my patio with a trellis for vining flowers. What type of vining flowers would you recommend for this? I used morning glories last year, but I'd like to have flowers blooming more often. I also tried moon flowers, but they never blossomed!  T. S., Aurora, 3/23/03
A:    Several types of Honeysuckle (Lonicera) should perform well on a trellis.  Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) is another good choice.  An annual you might consider is Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus).

Q:    I'm writing a paper on Papaver dubium and would like to know if it's considered a noxious weed in Colorado.  Would this plant be harmful if it started growing in an open space?  If so, why?  What is the best way to find internet information on plants and plant protocols?  S. K., Louisville, 3/9/03
A:    Papaver dubium is not on the list of noxious weeds in Colorado.  A plant is considered a noxious weed if it is invasive, detrimental to crops and native plants, poisonous to livestock, or is a carrier of insects, diseases or parasites.  Information that I found on this plant indicates it could become a noxious weed.  It is not a native plant, but was introduced in the U.S.; it is poisonous, it self-sows prolifically, and grows readily.  It has been named as a noxious plant in Tennessee.
       For a list of noxious plants in Colorado please see the State of Colorado Dept. of Agriculture website at  Go to "Select an Agricultural Link" and click on "Plant Industry."  Counties in Colorado also publish lists of noxious plants, and you will find that information in this section.  A very informative site on plants is the USDA National Plants Database at  More informal sites composed by gardeners, such as, may help.

Q:    Thank you for your reply and research.  I have one last question.  You mentioned that Papaver dubium is poisonous to livestock.  I live next to open space in Louisville, CO, and don't want to grow plants that will hurt the cows that often graze there.  Is there a list of poisonous plants that I shouldn't use?  S. K., Louisville, 3/9/03
A:    There are several lists of poisonous plants available online.  I suggest you see the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine site at  Click on "Search Plant Data" to see a list.  Another informative site is

Q:    I have some iris bulbs that I would like to plant in time for blooming this season.  When should I get those into the ground?  Thank you.  L. T., Northglenn, 2/20/03
A:    Dwarf Iris (Iris reticulata) bulbs should be planted in the fall in October or November.  They develop a root system during fall and winter so they are ready to bloom in early spring.

Q:    I was given three Paperwhite bulbs that flowered nicely, and have been clipped off after a week or so.  What am I to do next?  Do I let the stems be as they are, or dry the bulbs out or just keep watering them until they bloom again?  J. P. F., Brecksville, OH; 2/1/03
A:    If the bulbs were grown in pebbles and water, discard them when they stop blooming.  They will not perform well again.  If they were grown in soil they can be saved for the garden.  Do not cut off the foliage yet.  Put the pot in a cool, sunny spot and keep the plants watered until the foliage turns yellow.  Then, gradually reduce watering.  Once the foliage is dead, cut it off.  You can leave the bulbs in the pot until fall.  (Don't water them.)  Or, you may remove them from the pot, lightly brush off any soil, and store them in a cool, dry spot that has good air circulation until fall.  In September or October, plant them outside in the yard.  It may take a year or two before they bloom well.

Q:   Having purchased some chrysanthemums from a local nursery, I was wondering if I need to deadhead these plants in order to keep them in bloom?  I intend to keep several potted chrysanthemums indoors until I can plant them in the spring after frost ends.  What are your recommendations for keeping these plants healthy throughout a dry indoor environment without much direct sunlight?  Thanks for any advice. C., Buena Vista, 10/22/02
A:   Yes, you should deadhead the chrysanthemums to prolong the period of bloom.  When the plants cease to bloom cut them back to about six inches tall.  They prefer cool temperatures -- around 50 degrees F. at night and 65 degrees F. during the day.  Keep the soil moist.  Try to place them where they'll get at least four hours of sunlight each day.  In spring, harden off the plants by placing them outdoors for increasingly longer periods each day for about two weeks before you plant them.

Q:   Can you force gladioli to open after you cut them, say at an elevated temperature?  R. L., 10/4/02
A:   You should try to cut the flower spikes of gladioli when the lowest buds begin to open.  Placing them in a warm room and putting them in warm (not hot) water may encourage the remaining blooms to open more quickly.

Q:   We're buying retirement property near Walsenburg, Colo., 25 miles north and west of there. Can you please tell me what kind of perennials I can plant there? It's in the country on 35 acres. Will Columbine grow there?  What trees and shrubs?  Something low maintenance.  Thanks. Your web site is very informative.  C., Arvada, 10/18/02
A:   The area you are moving to is probably in USDA hardiness zone 5.  When selecting plants, you should be sure they are suited to that zone or to zone 4.  I've tried to select plants that require less water and minimal care.  Keep in mind that perennials do require a bit of work such as deadheading to keep them in bloom longer, dividing when they begin to look shabby after a few years, etc.  Don't forget to add some compost to the soil before planting and work it in well.  Lots of trees, shrubs and perennials should perform well.  I have listed only a few of the many possibilities.  (And yes, Columbine will grow there.)

Evergreen Trees:  Pines such as Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis), Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis), Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)

Shade Trees:  Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triancanthos inermis)

Ornamental Trees:  Hawthorn (Crataegus), Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum)

Shrubs:  Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii), Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyi), Cotoneaster, Potentilla/Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), Leadplant (Amorpha canescens), Peashrub (Caragana), Sumac (Rhus), Currant (Ribes) 'Alpine' or 'Golden'

  Shade: Columbine (Aquilegia), Campanula
  Sun:  Yarrow (Achillea), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia aristata), Coreopsis, Daylily (Hemerocallis), Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), Beebalm (Monarda didyma), Beard Tongue (Penstemon), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Scabiosa

Ornamental grasses:  Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)

Bulbs:  Daffodils, Crocus, Hyacinths

  Shade:  Pansy, Lobelia
  Sun:  Marigold, Zinnia, Cockscomb     

Q:   Can you help?  My petunias are being eaten by some unseen pest.  The damage is done to the blooms either before they bloom or right after.  The blossoms are riddled with holes.  Some blooms are almost totally "eaten", others survive but have great holes all around.  The damage only appears to be on the bloom itself--the plants are doing great otherwise.  I have looked early morning, late at night, etc, and have never seen anything that could be doing this. The damage looks like a big worm or grasshopper kind of damage.  What is it and what should I do?  Thanks.  J. M., 7/19/02
A:   Your suspicion that the damage to the petunias is caused by a worm is correct.  The geranium budworm attacks geraniums, petunias, nicotianas and several other flowers.  The caterpillars tunnel into the flower buds where you can't see them and they are hard to reach with pesticides.  The budworms are most active at dusk, so that is a good time to spray or pick them off of the plants.  You can try to control them by removing buds that show signs of damage and spraying with Bt or insecticides containing pyrethrin or carbaryl.

Q:   I want to plant some wild flowers that don't require much maintenance in the wooded area in my back yard.  I saw something on TV, mixing the seeds with (??) and throwing the balls out into the woods.  It was something sticky so that the seeds would have a chance to get into the ground.  Do you know what I could mix with the seeds to hold them together and allow me to make "seed balls"?  C. M., Sterling, MA; 7/18/02
A:   I found a recipe for seed balls that hopefully is what you are looking for.  It is used in arid sections of the country where rainfall during the rainy season allows germination to occur.  I don't know how well it will work in your area.
Mix together:
       2 parts wildflower seeds (the mix should be appropriate for your locale)
       3 parts dry compost
       5 parts red terra-cotta clay (a dry powder available from a potter's suppy)
       Add just enough water to slightly moisten the mix so it will form balls.  Roll marble-sized balls and let dry.

Q:   I have just purchased a bougainvillea hanging basket.  Can I put it outside for the summer in Woodland Park, CO?  I know that it will not tolerate freezing and that it likes lots of sun.  C., Woodland Park, 7/10/02
A:   You should be able to put the bougainvillea outside for the summer.  As fall approaches you would be wise to move it indoors before we have frost. 

Q:   I would like to create a rock garden in an area near two very large and old pines.  The area is covered with pine needles most of the year.  The soil is acidic.  What blooming plants would thrive and require little water?  C. H., Denver, 6/11/02
A: In sections of the rock garden that are sunny you might use these plants:
Alyssum montanum, Thrift (Armeria maritima), Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum), Alpine Rockcress (Arabis alpina), 'Munstead' Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Penstemon (many types), and Sedum (many).
  Where there is partial shade you can use these:
Campanula (several types), Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), and Viola cornuta.
  Keep in mind during this time of drought and watering restrictions that all plants, including ones used in low-water landscapes (Xeriscape), require water until established.  This includes the first and possibly the second growing season.  Once the root system is well developed you can begin to reduce watering.

Q:   I purchased some spring perennial bulbs last fall from one of the school sales and planted them hoping to have spring flowers.  This spring only two tulip bulbs flowered and a few tiny purple flowers (crocus - I think).  The rest had greenery - but no flowers.   Will I have to dig them up and replant new ones - or - will they flower next year? M. S., Aurora, 5/24/02
A:   If the bulbs didn't flower this year, I wouldn't count on them flowering next year.  If you want to give them another chance, leave them planted and fertilize them with bulb food this fall.  Avoid fertilizing them with a fertilizer high in nitrogen.  Too much nitrogen will result in lots of leaves and few or no flowers.

Q:   I would like to know if you can transplant Irises if they have already bloomed. I live at a altitude of 6000 feet in Nevada and winter weather is still not over here.
J.C., Round Mountain, NV; 5/23/02
A:   You can transplant iris while they are blooming or after they have bloomed.  Anytime between June and September is fine. 

Q:   Last year I purchased Pink Crystals Ruby Grass (Rhynchelytrum nerviglume- a 1998 Plant Select) from a local nursery here in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. I am not able to locate it this year and am trying to find a source where I can purchase either seeds or plants.  I would appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks. A. W., Overland Park, KS
A:   A mail order source for Pink Crystals Ruby Grass is High Country Gardens in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (They have an excellent reputation.)  Go to  Do a "Quick Search" for rhynchelytrum and this plant will come up.

Q:   I am looking for a plant I know only as a "Chilean Trumpet Vine," but it is not really a vine.  In Colorado I have seen them in white color, but in Canada I have seen them with a pink/red colored flower.  Do you know what these flowers are called and where I can find them?  R., Loveland, 5/14/02
A:   The plant you are looking for may be a member of the Mandevilla family.  One member of that family is known as Chilean Jasmine. It is a vine.  Another type of Mandevilla that stays smaller and isn't so vine-like is Mandevilla sanderii, also called Dipladenia.  This may well be the one you are looking for.  These plants are tropical plants that can be used outside in the summer in our area, but need to come indoors and be used as a houseplant in cold weather.  I suggest you contact Fort Collins Nursery (970-482-1984) or Paulino Gardens in Denver (303-429-8062) to see if they have the plant you are looking for.

Q:   We have a very clay-based soil in our area, and our backyard gets 95%+ sunshine.  One side of the yard is almost always wet, and the other side is watered by our sprinkler system.  In the front yard, we have several planter boxes, as well as a few areas that get some shade.  I am wondering if Shogun Dahlias will grow well in this environment.  L., Northglenn, 5/14/02
A:   My knowledge of dahlias is limited.  Therefore I'd like to suggest that you look at the Colorado Dahlia Society's website for information on growing dahlias.  The address is  For specfic questions, please contact

  I have an approx. 15' x 20' flower bed that has a 24" diameter white maple tree that is towards the back of the bed.  So the tree is not giving a lot of shade yet, but some.  The bed is on the west side of my house, therefore the problem.  Portions of the bed are in shade for half of the day or more, then is exposed to the late afternoon blistering heat. The bed is actually "raised" and therefore the soil is amended and excellent!  Over the last 4 years I have tried a variety of plants, but nothing has really done very well.  Petunia's don't get enough sun, impatiens get fried, pansies have done OK, but got leggy in mid summer, plus rabbits ate the ones I planted last fall!  The area that gives me the most problems is where there is shade, but still gets the late afternoon sun and heat.  In other parts of the bed I have had success with maiden pinks, daylilies, blue fescue, wooly thyme, mums, shasta daisy , lupine, spiked speedwell, scabiosa, coreopsis (although the last 3 of these could use more sun.)  Also have some little blue stem grass and Siberian Iris that all do pretty well. Results are still pending for my bellflowers that get more shade than the area I'm describing- I'm looking for something that will give some all summer color at the borders. I want a cottage garden feel, but at this point, anything that would grow & give all summer color would be great!!  Suggestions PLEASE!  Thanks for your help!  J. W., Littleton, 5/7/02
A:   A nice, long-blooming plant to put at the borders might be Horned Violet (Viola Cornuta).  There are several kinds of violet so be sure to check the Latin botanical name when shopping.  The flower looks a lot like a pansy, but this plant can take more sun and heat than pansies.  This plant grows well in the sun as well as in partial shade.
  Some other plants that can grow in both sun and partial shade include Bellflower (Campanula), Lupine (Lupinus) and Bee Balm (Monarda).

Q:   If you are just starting to plant a garden in an area where one has never been, and the ground is hard and dry, what would you recommend planting?  What steps would you take to turn the small weed-infested ground into a quaint garden?  What will grow well and survive these dry conditions?  K. F., Colorado Springs, 5/6/02
A:   To convert the weed-infested ground into a garden, you first need to get rid of the weeds.  I recommend that you spray them with Roundup.  You may need more than one application.  After the weeds die, clear the area with a rake.  Next, spread a layer of compost or aged (not fresh) manure about 1 1/4 inches deep over the area and till it thoroughly into the soil.  You should select "xeric" plants, ones suited to dry areas.  Initially, whatever you plant will require water.  Plan on watering the area for the first couple of years until the plants become established.
  Some plants that you might use include Yarrow (Achillea), Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia aristata), Bearded Iris (Iris germanica) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).  For additional suggestions, please call your county CSU Cooperative Extension office and request these free factsheets: # 7.229 Xeriscaping: Trees & Shrubs, # 7.230 Xeriscaping: Ground Cover Plants, and # 7.231 Xeriscaping: Garden Flowers.)  The phone number for El Paso County is 719-636-8920.

Q:   I am in Idaho, (although my brother happens to live in Erie!!) and I am new to the area. I have flower boxes surrounding my back porch with a southwest exposure. I have filled them with herbs and edible flowers, etc, all planted within the last month. Why has some of my purple Kale grown straight up to a tall ugly looking plant?  Can I cut it back and will it continue to flourish?  S. L., Eagle, 5/1/02
A:   It is indeed a small world.  Most people haven't even heard of Erie!!
  According to Sunset Western Garden Book, evidently some kale plants do grow to be 2 - 3 feet tall.  What size did the packet of seeds or plant tag say the mature plants would be?  It is quite possible the seeds (or plants) were mislabeled.  I suggest you try cutting the plant back to encourage it to branch out instead of grow straight up.  If that doesn't produce a desirable plant you may want to replace it with something more suitable for the containers.

Q:   Every year I buy beautiful lobelia baskets...and every year I kill them by July.  I either over water or under water ...and I destroy them routinely.  I am addicted to them and figure the joy of having them for even a few weeks or month is worth it...but would love to know how to keep one going.  Can you help me?  E. S., 5/7/02
A:   Lobelia performs best in partial shade.  Avoid afternoon sun.  It also prefers cool weather, which is probably why you lose the plants in mid-summer.  Plant lobelias in rich potting soil and water them regularly -- especially as the weather warms up.  You might also try misting them with water to cool them off on hot days.

Q:    For the first time this year I began an indoor garden (started plants from seed) and have been quite successful (I think) with the help of a grow light and a mini greenhouse.  One annual, though, puzzles me.  The petunia (multiflora).  The leaves are so large (larger than I would expect)-a little smaller than the primrose?  Have I killed off the flowers by over fertilizing?  Or is it just to early to show flowers?  Can the plants be salvaged, or is it my lesson learned?  M. S., Littleton, 4/23/02
A:    I wouldn't worry at this point about the petunias.  They will probably flower once you plant them outside when the weather gets warm.  If you are concerned about having over-fertilized them, don't apply any more fertilizer.  Excess fertilizer will gradually leach out of the soil as you water the plants. 

Q:    I have a question about the Gerbera Daisy.  I bought a stunning yellow/gold with burgundy center for my daughter-in-law and she'd like to plant it outside.  She lives in the Parker area.  Can this be successfully planted outside?  Will it bloom again this year?  What are the chances that it would winter well and come back next year?  S. W., Aurora, 4/21/02
A:    Unfortunately, while Gerbera Daisy is a perennial, it cannot survive our cold winter weather outdoors.  Your daughter should wait until mid-May to plant it outdoors.  She should harden it off prior to planting it by setting it outside for a few hours each day for about a week.  Gerbera Daisies require excellent drainage, so it should be planted in soil that has been amended with compost.  Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
   Rather than planting it in the ground, another option would be to plant it in a container and set it outdoors for the summer.  Wait to put it outside until mid-May or later.  Harden it off as described above.  In the fall, bring the plant into the house before frost can damage it and continue growing it as a houseplant.

Q:    Can you suggest some perennial plants for FULL SHADE areas?  Low maintenance, full height of about 12/18 inches.  Something that may spread some to fill in a small area.  I am planting on the north side of the house, up against the house in an area that requires little water.  I am thinking mostly shades of green.  J. H., Thornton, 4/17/02
A:    Some plants that can tolerate a dry, shady area include Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum), Creeping Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia repens) and Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).  Some plants that can tolerate full shade but prefer a bit more moisture include Hosta, Snow-on-the-Mountain (Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum'), Purpleleaf Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus') and Periwinkle (Vinca minor).

Q:    I have zinnia seeds given to me last fall and would like to plant them this spring but do not know how. Some tips please.  D. C., Loveland, 4/13/02
A:    Zinnias should be planted in a spot that gets lots of sun.  Prepare the soil by spreading a one-inch layer of compost over the flower bed and mixing it well into the soil.  Rake the surface to smooth it out, breaking up any dirt clods.  Zinnias are a plant whose seeds do best when planted directly outdoors rather than starting them in containers indoors.  Plant the seeds when the weather warms up -- no earlier than the average frost-free date, as they need heat to grow.  (In Loveland, this will be in mid May.)  Use a stick or other pointed tool to make a shallow trench about 1/4 inch deep.  Drop the seeds in the trench about two inches apart, then cover them lightly with soil.  Using a fine spray, water the planted area.  Keep the area moist.  When the seedlings are about two inches high, thin out the plants so they are about twelve inches apart.  Hopefully the seeds you received are good.  Old seeds or seeds collected from the garden do not always germinate and flower as desired.

Q:    I am new to Denver and am in the process of creating some garden areas. Unfortunately I am in a townhouse and limited to a courtyard and roof patios (no dirt/ground) and will attempt container gardening - preferably perennials, small shrubs and trees (would love some roses) as well as annuals.  I find info on planting and maintenance but very little on winterizing.  Any advice (or suggestions on books, courses) for winterizing container gardens is most appreciated.  Perhaps I'm not finding info because it's not possible to successfully winterize container perennials?  A. M., Denver, 4/11/02
A:    According to resources I consulted, very few perennials can successfully be left outdoors in containers during winter.  The soil in the containers is likely to freeze completely, damaging the roots of the plants.  Spring is especially hard on plants (both in the ground and in containers) due to alternating freeze/thaw cycles.  Another problem with container gardens is that ceramic and clay pots tend to crack.
   There are a few steps you can take to limit winter damage.  If you have a garage with space for the containers, move them there after the plants go dormant in the fall.  Select containers that are rated as frost proof, that is, resistant to cracking.  Avoid containers with narrow necks.  As the potting soil freezes it will expand, creating pressure that can crack the pot.  Buy large containers because larger containers provide more insulation for plant roots -- both in summer heat and winter cold.  For additional winter protection, wrap the pot with bubble wrap, tying it with string or stretch tape.  The plant itself can be protected by mounding straw over the plant and securing it in place with plastic netting.  Good luck.

Q:    What flowers grow best under pine trees and evergreen-like bushes?   I know they give off something that kills grass.  I wonder this because I'm doing some landscaping and want to put rings or circles around the trunks of the trees and along the edge of the front of the bushes, but I'm not sure what I have to choose from.  L. B., Westminster, 4/10/02
A:    I am not aware of any chemical that pine trees and evergreen shrubs, such as junipers, give off that kills plants.  (I know black walnut trees do this.)  More likely, other factors are at work.  For example, grass won't grow in heavy shade created by trees.  Also, the grass would compete with the tree for water and soil nutrients.  While popular, planting flowers around the trunks of trees is detrimental to the health of trees because delicate roots are disturbed and damaged.  Before planting below the trees and in front of the bushes, you need to find out how much sun/shade the flowers will receive.  Also, determine how much water these areas will receive.  Flower selection should be based on these factors.

Q:    Living in Canon City and need to know what flowers are best to attract butterflies and humming birds.  Would appreciate any help you can give.  Thanks.  L. F., Canon City, 4/8/02
A:    For a list of plants that attract butterflies please see the Butterfly Pavilion website:  Click on "Horticulture."  Then click on "How to Create a Butterfly Garden."
   Hummingbirds tend to prefer red, pink, and orange flowers.  Some plants that attract hummingbirds include the following:
       Columbine (Aquilegia)
       Coral Bells (Heuchera)
       Lupine (Lupinus)
       Bee Balm (Monarda)
       Geranium (Pelargonium)
       Beard Tongue (Penstemon)
Some flowering shrubs that attract hummingbirds are Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), Lilac (Syringa) and Weigela.

Q:    I have a "Lady Betty Balfour" clematis.  When is the proper time to prune it?  Please add details of how much to prune also. Thank you.  M. B., Centerburg, OH; 4/1/02
A:   Lady Betty Balfour clematis forms flowers on new growth each year.  Therefore, you should prune it back to about two feet tall in spring.  Cut off the canes just above large, healthy buds.

Q:    Is it too early to clean up my flower beds?  C. B., Englewood, 3/30/02
A:    Now (late March or early April) is a good time to clean up the flower beds.  You should cut back dead stems and clear away debris before new growth appears.  Otherwise, the new growth may be damaged by clean-up activities. 

Q:    As a novice gardener, I'm wondering if I should be protecting crocus, daffodil, and tulips from cold night time temperatures as they are coming up through the ground and starting to bloom?  Thanks so much for your service; it's extremely helpful!  A. K., Boulder, 3/24/02
A:    Cold night temperatures shouldn't be a problem for these plants.  However, heavy wet snow is a major concern.  It will crush down the flowers and foliage, and is especially damaging to tall tulips and daffodils.  You might want to protect these flowers during snowstorms when the snow is heavy and wet by placing wastebaskets, buckets or similar containers over them.  
   I'm glad you find our website and the Q/A service helpful.  It's nice to know we're appreciated!  

Q:   After 23 years Active Duty in the USAF we're finally retiring and building a home.  I'd appreciate any assistance you could provide  on the types of perennials and grasses that will grow in Westcliffe, Colorado.  C. C., Layton, UT; 3/5/02
A:    Fortunately, many perennials can be grown successfully in Westcliffe.  This community is located in USDA hardiness zone 4, so keep that in mind when selecting plants at a garden center or by mail order.  The following plants are all rated suitable for that zone, and there are many others. 
       Beard Tongue (Penstemon) - several types
       Bellflower (Campanula) - several types
       Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)
       Cranesbill Geranium (Geranium sanguineum)
       Columbine (Aquilegia)
       Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida)
       Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea)
       Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
       Daylily (Hemerocallis)
       Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
       Iris (Iris sibirica)
       Japanese Anemone (Anemone) - also called Windflower
       Lupine (Lupinus)
       New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
       Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)
       Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
       Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
       Veronica (Veronica spicata, V. liwanensis)
       Yarrow (Achillea)
   Ornamental grasses to include in beds and borders include Blue Fescue (Festuca ovina), 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora), and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).
   Lawns in Colorado are usually Kentucky Bluegrass or Tall Fescue.  If you want a low-maintenance lawn that requires little water, you might consider Buffalograss.  A native grass, it is brown much of the year, however, and it has a slightly different appearance than the typical lawn.  Best wishes on your move to Colorado.  Hopefully my website will be of assistance with your gardening endeavors.

Q:    Where can I purchase Statice plants?  I had a beautiful lavender plant & it died on me several years ago.  It was wonderful for dried arrangements.  Thanks!!!!  J. S., New Raymer, 3/4/02
A:    Statice latifolium, also known as Limonium latifolium and Sea Lavendar, is available as a bareroot plant at Wayside Gardens through April 27, 2002.  You can order it through their website:  You can order the seeds from Burpee at or from Park Seed at  Another source this spring or summer might be at larger garden centers.

Q:    Hi, I would like to know how to store gladiolus until planting time. It has been very cold.  I have them in the bag they came in when I bought them. Thank you for your help.  V. F., Knoxville, TN; 3/3/02
A:    You should store the gladiola bulbs in a single layer in a ventilated tray.  Good air circulation is necessary to prevent the bulbs from rotting.  Put the tray in a cool (40 - 50 degrees F), dry place such as a shed, basement or garage where they won't freeze.  Plant them as soon as the danger of frost is past.  Some gardeners like to plant a group of the bulbs every few weeks in order to have color all summer. 

Q:    My question is:   I have 5 1/2 circle gardens in my backyard that gets FULL sun from about 11:00 a.m. on.   What kind of annual flowers can I plant in these gardens?  Your help is much appreciated.  J. L., Mississauga, Ontario;  2/7/02
A:    There are many annuals that perform well in full sun, as well as several long-blooming perennials that can be treated like annuals.  I suggest you combine them for maximum effect.  Some possible choices include: 
   Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)               
   Swan River Daisy (Brachycome)
   Million Bells (Calibrachoa)                       
   Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)
   Cockscomb (Celosia cristata)
   Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
   Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)
   Gazania (Gazania rigens)
   Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
   Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
   Geranium (Pelargonium)
   Gloriosa Daisy -- a type of Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
   Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
   Marigold (Tagetes erecta or T. patula)
   Zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia) -- look for ones that are resistant to rust

Q:    I want to plant hyacinths to bloom in May so that the flower will last at least until mid June.  When is a good time to start chilling the bulb?  About which month should I put the bulb in the forcing vase?  How long should I keep it in a dark cool area before taking it to a warm sunny area?  What if the flower is blooming earlier than expected?  What can I do?  And once the flower has bloomed, what can I do to keep the flower living as long as possible?  And when it says "a cool area", what is meant by cool?  H. T., Irving, TX; 11/6/01
A:    Information that I have on forcing bulbs pertains to getting them to bloom early (in winter), not later.  I don't know if the directions will work for coaxing bulbs to bloom in late spring, but you can try.  Hyacinths only bloom for about two weeks.  You will not be able to get blooms to last from May to mid June. However, you can start several bulbs, each one a week later than the prior bulb, to get a succession of blooms.  Store the bulbs in a paper bag in a cool (55 - 60 degrees F), dark place until time to chill them.  In early to mid February, depending on the desired date of bloom, place them in the refrigerator for 12 weeks.  Then, after each bulb has chilled 12 weeks, place it in a water-filled hyacinth forcing vase.  Place the vase in a 70 degree F room.  The bulb will flower in two or three weeks. Once the bulb blooms, keep it out of direct sunlight.  Place it in a cool place (50 degrees F) at night to lengthen the time of bloom. Good luck!

Q:    I have purchased Daffodils called "Cheerfulness".  Can I force them in pebbles similarly to the way one would for Paperwhites?  I was planning to keep these daffodils in the fridge (planted) for 12-14 weeks but noted that this style (Cheerfulness) does not get listed on the 'best daffodils to force lists...  Will they still work?  Also, do I need to water them periodically?  I have read 2 different messages - thanks for clarification.  Much appreciate your help.  S. S., 10/29/01
A:    If you plan to force bulbs it is best to buy only varieties of bulbs recommended for forcing.  Some varieties do not perform well when forced. Daffodils do best when planted in soil, rather than being planted in pebbles like Paperwhites.  You should water potted bulbs so that the soil stays moist, but not overly wet.

Q:    What should I clean my gladiola corms with?  I just dug them out and I know that they should be cleaned but with what - water or some solution?  S. O., 10/10/01
A:    Allow the gladiola corms to dry for a week or two after you dig them up. Brush off any dirt with your fingers.  You don't need to use water or a solution to clean them.  To prevent disease and rot, put the bulbs in a paper bag with a small amount of fungicide powder and shake the bag to coat the corms lightly. Next, place the bulbs in a ventilated tray, being careful that the bulbs don't touch.  Store them in a cool place.

Q:    When is the best time to split Hostas?  We have some very large Hosta plants in our back yard, and we have split others before.  We just want to make sure that the season is right when we split them next.  Thanks!!  T. R., North Haven, CT; 9/30/01
A:   You should divide Hostas in spring before the leaves have opened fully.

Q:   Do you recommend Preen for controlling weeds in flower gardens?  
  What is the best fertilizer and what is the best formula one should be looking for to feed flower gardens in Fort Collins?  C. L., Fort Collins, 7/7/01
A:   I have used Preen to control weeds and found it effective.  Keep in mind that it prevents seeds from germinating, including flower seeds.  Therefore, you won't get new plants from plants that self-sow, such as poppies.
  For established perennials CSU Cooperative Extension recommends applying a 5-10-5 fertilizer in early spring.  A 5-10-5 fertilizer contains 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorous and 5% potassium.  You may want to fertilize with a light application every few weeks of the growing season.

Q:   Is it true that it takes clematis one year to settle in?  Also, am I to deadhead the spent blossom sprigs on my butterfly bushes?  N. B., Denver, 1/17/01
A:   Vines in general take two years to become well established.  This is especially true of clematis.  I hope you received information on the proper pruning techniques for your clematis when you purchased it.  The manner for pruning clematis varies depending on the type that it is.  Pruned incorrectly, you will have few, if any, flowers.  Clematis vines should be planted in a sunny spot, but with something to shade the base of the plant.
  I deadhead the spent blossoms on my butterfly bushes.  Toward the end of summer when the bushes are no longer flowering very much I leave the spent blossoms on the bushes for winter interest.

Q:   I just moved to Carbondale from the southern Oregon Coast.  I had a beautiful, colorful garden before I left 3 weeks ago.  The house we recently moved into has absolutely no color, just some evergreen shrubs surrounding the foundation of the house.  We live in a very hot and dry area and the annuals I planted have already died.  Please tell me what I can plant to transform this yard, or at least the area in the front, which is east facing with a lot of southern exposure as well.  Thee are ample mini boulders/large rounded river rocks around this entire yard that I could somehow incorporate into the landscape.  Any help would greatly be appreciated.  I am not afraid to take drastic measures!  N., Carbondale, 7/8/01
A:   Your situation is common in Colorado.  Given the intensity of the sunlight, the dry climate and summer heat, one must water very frequently and select plants that can survive in these conditions.  For long-term summer color I'd recommend bushes such as the shrub roses "Meidiland" or "Bonica", Butterfly Bush, Clematis, Spiraea and Caryopteris (Blue Mist Spiraea).  Some colorful, long-blooming perennials to consider include Achillea, Threadleaf Coreopsis, Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower), Gaillardia (Indian Blanket) and Oenothera speciosa (Pink Evening Primrose).  Some colorful annuals that should perform well include the annual forms of Indian Blanket and Black-eyed Susan, Brachycome (Swan River Daisy), Marigold, Zinnia, Petunia, Nicotiana, Verbena, Catharanthus (Vinca), Chrysanthemum, Pelargonium (Geranium), and Calibrachoa (Million Bells).  You will find additional suggestions on my website in the Questions and Answers page on flowers.

Q:   I am looking for an easy care (no care) low growing plant for a bed that faces east and is next to a brick wall, so gets a lot of heat this time of year.  Dianthus (?) have not stood up to the challenge.  The bed is 16'x18" and the soil is not the best by any means.  I am thinking of a flowering ground cover or roses.  Thanks!  J. J., Montrose, 6/10, 01
A:   An east-facing area would be a good location for shrub roses, such as Meidiland or Carefree varieties.  You would need to amend the soil with organic matter prior to planting them.  A flowering ground cover to consider might be Periwinkle (Vinca minor) if the area is shady in the afternoon.  It has blue flowers in the spring. Another possibility is Pink Panda Strawberry (Fragaria 'Pink Panda') which has pink flowers in the summer, but doesn't bear fruit.

Q:    Hi there....I'm fairly new to Colorado. I lived in Pennsylvania before and had no problem growing flowers of all types in pots and in the ground. Obviously, moisture is not a problem there. HOWEVER, it is here!! All my flowers died last year from the potent heat and hot sun. I watered them regularly, but they died anyway. What types of flowers grow well here in the hot sun? I live in Golden. The front of my house faces north; however, the morning sun is just so intense that the flowers died anyway. I know last year was extraordinarily hot. Anyway, any help would be appreciated. THANKS!!  C. G., Golden, 5/5/01
A:    Colorado does have intense sunlight and heat in the summer.  In fact, flowers that require full sun elsewhere will grow in part shade here!  Watering can be a problem if you have clay, rocky or sandy soil.  Beware of over-watering plants in clay soil, which retains moisture.  Too much water will cause plants to turn yellow and look wilted.  Seeing wilted plants, one assumes they need more water. Additional water kills them.  Before watering, check to see if the soil is still moist. Sandy soil drains rapidly.  In hot weather you will have to water very frequently. Check soil daily.  For a list of some plants that might do well, look at my Questions and Answers page on flowers.  Scroll through the page and you will find several responses that list plants. 

Q:    We have a small southern facing balcony and have purchased and planted several pots with annuals.....what are your suggestions for watering (night vs. morning  etc.) and how do we keep the birds away from eating them without shooting them (Just kidding.)  We put foil in the pots, but neither of us remembers why we do this?  Thanks in advance for your help!!!!  C. B., Niwot, 5/16/01
A:    You can water the pots of annuals either in the morning or the evening. Avoid watering in the afternoon because much of the water will evaporate rapidly.  I tend to prefer watering in the morning because the sun's heat dries off the leaves, lessening the chance for mildew.  Unless you have berries or other edibles, birds shouldn't be a problem.  Reflective materials such as foil strips are sometimes used to scare off birds.

Q:    Hello - I live in Telluride, Colorado...elevation approx. 9,000.  I want to plant some canna bulbs, and was wondering if they would do alright in big pots.  I have several very large pots about 15 inch diameter and 18 to 20 inches high.  What do you think?  Also, my garden area is mostly a very large boulder wall that stays shady most of the time.  What kind of perennial plants do well in this situation?  I have had success with (I think its called) snow on the mountain.  Do forsythia bushes grow at my altitude?  I'd like to try some of those as well as the bushes that have red leaves and pink flowers in the spring.  Thanks for your help.  G. M., Telluride, 5/1/01
A:    Dwarf cannas can be planted in large pots.  Keep in mind that they are tender and need protection when it is cold.  Some perennials that do well at high altitudes and in the shade are Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis), Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), Columbine (Aquilegia), Lupine (Lupinus), Bluebell (Mertensia) and Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis).  Unfortunately, Forsythia won't do well at your altitude.  Siberian Peashrub (Caragana arborescens) which has yellow, sweet-pea-like flowers might be an alternative.

Q:    I wish to know what type of perennial flowers would be best for my flower garden in La Junta.  3/18/01
A:    I suggest that you select perennials with a tolerance for heat and ones that have low water needs.  Popular perennials include Yarrow (Achillea), Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia aristata), Daylily (Hemerocallis), Beebalm (Monarda), Penstemon and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).  Be sure to amend the soil with compost before planting perennials.

Q:    I live in Fort Collins and have a garden spot that is primarily shady in some areas and sunny in others.  The limitations are large oak trees that shade the area as well as the fact that it sits by a garage.  So I need ideas for beautiful flowers that do well in mostly shady areas (like right up next to the garage) as well as others that will bloom with partial sun underneath an apple tree.  Thanks for your help!!  S.C., Fort Collins, 4/4/01
A:    Some perennials that do well in shade or partial sun are Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), Columbine (Aquilegia), Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium), Japanese Anemone (Anemone hybrids), Aster, Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis), Daylily (Hemerocallis), Coralbells (Heuchera sanguinea), and Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum).  Some annuals you could use include Impatiens and Begonias.

Q:    Are you able to tell me whether I am to cut Dusty Miller all the way down during my spring clean-up?  H. F., Aurora, 3/7/01
A:    During spring clean-up, cut back Dusty Miller to about two inches above the ground.  If it has survived winter, it will begin to re-grow this spring. Cutting it back will keep the plant compact and attractive.  While this plant is an annual, it often over-winters successfully.

Q:    Greetings.  Thanks for the helpful site.  I have two nagging questions.  I like dianthus and have lots of it.  It blooms swell initially then I'm not sure if I should cut spent blossoms or leave them or give the plant a haircut to start the blooming all over again.  It seems they're a one shot wonder and take forever to get blooming again.      Second question:  Would large dahlias do well in a large pot?  Thanks kindly for your time and expertise.  J., Eucha, OK, 2/25/01
A:    Dianthus prefer cool weather and many varieties bloom in May and June. You should give them a haircut or cut off spent blossoms to encourage them to bloom again.   
   Dahlias should do well in a large pot.  Just be sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the full grown plant.  You might enjoy reading more about dahlias on the website

Q:    Where can I order Sweet Autumn Clematis?  It sounds like a great one for my area.  I have a big Jackman clematis on the north side, but it didn't bloom this past year.  I don't know why.  As big as the vine is, it should have been covered with blooms.  Someone told me to cut it down to the ground next spring and see if that would help.  What do you think?  S. L., Holyoke, 1/23/01
A:    Two catalogs I received this month carry Sweet Autumn Clematis: Park Seed and Wayside Gardens.  Both companies ship this plant in a 3 inch pot.  It should be planted in spring, but don't expect it to do much the first season that it is planted.  To request a free catalog from Park Seed write to P.O. Box 46, Greenwood, S. C. 29648-9982, call 1-800-845-3369 or visit their website at  To request a free catalog from Wayside Gardens write to 1 Garden Lane, Hodges, S.C. 29695-0001, call 1-800-845-1124 or visit their website at
   Jackman Clematis belongs to the group of clematis that requires annual pruning.  It flowers on new growth.  Prune it to 12" from the ground in March.  Sweet Autumn Clematis will need to be pruned the same way.

Q:    I live in Colorado Springs and am wanting to add to my perennial garden.  I would also like a small section to plant tomatoes and potatoes.  I am wondering how I should prepare my soil, mainly for the perennials.  What amount of top soil, compost, and peat moss should I use?  R. E., Colorado Springs, 1/23/01
A:    You should spread a layer of compost a little over one inch deep on the garden bed and thoroughly till it in.  Another measurement you can use is to add 3 cubic yards of compost per 1000 square feet of garden bed.  If you use peat moss buy coarse sphagnum peat, not native sedge peat which can create rather than solve problems with the soil.

Q:    Hello - I live in Englewood, Colorado.  I purchased some bulbs last fall with every intent to plant them and time has gotten away from me.  I found the bulbs in my garage this afternoon.  I was wondering if it is too late to plant the bulbs?  If in fact it is too late to plant the bulbs, what is your suggestion?  I would hate to lose them all.  D. T., Englewood, 1/10/01
A:    Mid-January is too late to plant bulbs.  In order for bulbs to sprout and bloom in spring they must spend several months in the ground establishing a strong root system.  I suggest that you store the bulbs until next fall. Spread them out in a box or tray that contains dry peat moss or vermiculite. (Do not keep them in a closed plastic bag because they will tend to rot.) Keep them in a cool, dark, dry place until next fall. Discard any bulbs that have become diseased and plant the healthy ones in October.

Q:    We have a flower bed in the front of our house that faces west.  It gets shade in the morning and full sun in the afternoon.  We have tried planting several types of flowers, but have not been happy.  Any suggestions on types of flowers that would do well and how they should be arranged (such as tulips to the front because they bloom in the spring, etc.)?  J. S., Aurora, 9/30/00      
A:    I recommend that you plant a combination of bulbs, annuals, long-blooming perennials and low-growing rose bushes in the flowerbed. Before planting, be sure to amend the soil with organic matter (compost). Plant the rose bushes toward the back. Do not plant the bulbs at the very front of the bed. You want to have other plants in front of them to hide their foliage as they die back after blooming. Group several plants of one variety together rather than placing one here and one there. The plants I have suggested tend to be pastels. 

ROSES:                                                ANNUALS:
"China Doll" (pink)                                     Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) 'Sonata'
"Bonica" (pink)                                           Zinnia (Zinnia elegans or Z.                                                                   angustifolia)
"Gourmet Popcorn" (white)                         Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
                                                                  Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) 'Silver Queen'
Viola (Viola corsica)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)            BULBS: 
'Hidcote' or 'Munstead'                                 Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus, Hyacinth, 
Yarrow (Achillea) 'Moonshine'                      Grape Hyacinth
Moss phlox (Phlox subulata)
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa caucasica)
'Blue Butterfly' 

Q:    Where would I find the Sweet Autumn Clematis?  I haven't seen them in any of my garden catalogs.  How do you winterize clematis?  How do you suggest I save my geraniums over the winter?  I have four that are still in the ground and would like to hopefully save them for next year.  Any ideas on the best way to store them?  I love your page of questions and answers.  That is where I found out about the Sweet Autumn Clematis.  Keep up the good work.  S. L., Holyoke, 10/12/00 
A:    I will try to find out where you can order Sweet Autumn Clematis and let  you know. Garden centers carry them in spring and summer.  You should prepare clematis vines for winter the same way you prepare other perennials.  Clean up fallen leaves, if you wish, and place a 4" layer of mulch around the base of the plant. 
   There are two ways you can save your geraniums for next year. One, you  can dig them up, pot them and use them as houseplants. Be sure to dig up as  much of the rootball as possible. After potting the plants, carefully rinse  them off before bringing them indoors. Water the plants well and place them  in a bright, sunny location. Or, you can take cuttings from the plants. Cut  off a stem, remove the lower leaves, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone,  and plant it in perlite, vermiculite, or a mixture of perlite and peat moss.  Keep the soil moist. To improve humidity, place a plastic bag over the  potted cutting, taking off the bag for a few minutes each day to ventilate it. New growth is an indication that the cutting has rooted and is ready to be transplanted into a pot containing potting soil.  Good luck!

Q:    When should I start thinking about planting my annuals and bulbs (tulips, etc.)?  Can I plant my perennials at the same time?  Someone told me that they will "winter over" and come up in the spring.  Thanks!  S. K. J., Evergreen, 8/31/00  
A:    Bulbs that flower in spring must be planted in fall.  September and October are the best time to plant crocus, grape hyacinth, narcissus (daffodil), tulip, glory-of-the-snow and snowdrop bulbs.  Perennials do "winter-over" and can be planted in the fall along the Front Range.  However, at higher elevations you should plant them in spring or early summer.  Wait until spring to plant annuals. 

Q:    I would like a list of perennials that grow well in full sun and mediocre soil quality.  Also flowering bushes that grow to a height of 3-4 feet and others that grow very full and tall.  These plants should be on hardy stock and not need special attention.  Thanks.  M. S., Federal Heights, 9/1/00
   I hope you find the following plant lists useful.  There are many other plants that fit in each category.
Yarrow (Achillea)                                        Aster
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)            Coneflower (Echinacea)          
Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)                 Showy Fleabane (Erigeron)  
Sulphur Flower (Eriogonum umbellatum)       Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Bearded Iris ( Iris germanica)                       Lupine (Lupinus)
Beard Tongue (Penstemon)                         Ozark Sundrops (Oenothera missouriensis)
Phlox (Phlox paniculata)                             Black-eyed Susan (Rucbeckia)
Columbine (Aquilegia)                                 Goldenrod (Solidago)
Daisy Mum (Chrysanthemum x rubellum)
Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris) 'Dark Knight' or 'Bluebeard'
Spirea (Spirea x bumalda) 'Anthony Waterer,' 'Groebelii,' or 'Goldflame'
Spirea (Spirea japonica) 'Little Princess'
Potentilla/Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) -- several varieties
Honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum)
Annabelle Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle')

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia alternifolia)
Forsythea 'Meadowlark,' 'Northern Gold,' or 'Northern Sun'
Arnold Red Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica 'Arnold Red')
Canada Lilac (Syringa x prestoniae 'James McFarlane')
Chinese Lilac (Syringa x chinensis)
Common Lilac "Syringa vulgaris 'Charles Joly')

Q:     I'm looking for a partial shade climber with flowers (perennial or annual).  Any ideas?  From C., Louisville, 4/6/00
   These are a few vines that do well in partial shade:
        Honeysuckle (Lonicera)--Grows in shade or partial shade.  Excellent for use on trellises and arbors. 'Dropmore Scarlet' Honeysuckle has reddish orange flowers. 'Goldflame' Honeysuckle's flowers are red outside and yellow inside.  'Hall's' Honeysuckle has white flowers.
        Silver Lace Vine (Polygonum aubertii)--Grows well in sun or shade.  Drought tolerant; fast growing. Requires a trellis, fence or other support.  Vine is covered with small white flowers.
        Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clelmatis paniculata/maximowicziana)--Blooms in August and September. Has clusters of small white flowers.
        Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)--Has large orange, trumpet-shaped flower clusters.

   If the site where you will be planting the climber gets at least six full hours of sun during the summer, you might want to consider a climbing rose.  An eastern exposure with morning sun is ideal.  The Denver Rose Society suggests the following climbers:
Altissimo (red), Blaze Improved (red), Dynamite (red), Fourth of July (red blend), Golden Showers (yellow), Handel (red blend), New Dawn (light pink), Victorian Memory (pink blend), White Dawn (white). 

Q:     I need some ideas about doing a perennial garden.  It will be south facing--very sunny, hardly any shade.  I would love some flowering plants and bright colors.  When should I plant these perennials?  I am looking to get going ASAP.  From C. S., Highlands Ranch, 3/29/00
    Your sunny backyard is an ideal location to plant perennials.  Be sure to prepare the soil by adding compost and mixing it into the soil.  A drip system or sprinkler system on an automatic timer cuts down on watering chores.  When selecting perennials, try to choose some that bloom in spring, some that bloom in summer, and some that bloom in early fall.
     Spring: Basket-of-Gold (Aurinia saxatilis), Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata), Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), Bearded Iris, Penstemon, Columbine (Aquilegia)
     Summer: Coreopsis 'Baby Sun,' Threadleaf Coreopsis, Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia 'Munstead' and 'Hidcote'), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
     Late summer:  Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
     Fall: Asters, Chrysanthemums
    Leave lots of space between the plants.  You'll be amazed at how big they get when they are 2-3 years old!  Use annuals to fill in empty spaces.  You can begin to plant perennials in mid-May after the danger of frost is past.