Question #1

Sierraskier asks: Any idea what's wrong with this Rose of Sharon? I planted 2 of them a year and a half ago. They were the same size, planted the same day on the same fence line and the same drip line, so they're getting the same amount of sunlight and water. The first one hasn't grown at all and looks sickly while the second one is almost 6 ft tall, healthy and covered in blooms.

ImageAdina Dosan answers: Your plant seems to have a root rot problem. If this bush was sick in the first place (even if it didn't show), it got even sicker from too much watering (it didn't absorb water anymore while the root started to rot). Since you've continued to water both of them regularly, the issue went on until the root started to rot. I don't think it's too late to fix it. Just stop watering for a few days and see how that goes. If you
see whole branches getting dry, you better dig out the bush and check its roots. Cut back any rot roots you find in there and leave the healthy ones, if it still has some. If the whole bush is dying, just throw it away and take cuttings from the other one; stick them in the ground in spring. Water them regularly and you'll have more bushes to enjoy.

Question #2

ImageGin888 asks: I have 2 Sweet Gum trees in my back yard. They shed 25 million leaves each year. If I shred the leaves, could I use them as mulch?

Melody answers:Yes indeed. Shredded leaves make great mulch, especially around acid-loving shrubs and trees. The leaves will decompose and mimic the conditions of a forest floor, which is a huge, nuitrient-rich compost pile. Oak leaves should be used in moderation because of their high tannin content and Black Walnut trees produce juglone, which is a growth inhibitor to many shrubs and perennials. Sweet Gum leaves however, should be a great mulch, so consider yourself lucky!

Question #3

Imagerastgurlz1 asks: My girlfriend works at a local walmart. They put all of their lillies and a ton of other bulbs on clearance. ( I assume because you can not plant them now) gave them to me. I have about 70 double lillies and more dahlias and other bulbs than I can count. My question is, is their anything I can do with them? Fall is a month away.

Carrie Lamont answers: You CAN plant them now. They may not bloom well or at all, if they bloomed this year, especially if they were bred as Easter Lilies and were forced to bloom at Easter. I can't think of any other holiday that would have them selling lilies in pots...July Fourth Lilies? The most important thing with any type of bulb is to allow the foliage to "ripen" after the flowers are done blooming. Foliage should be permitted to photosynthesize as long as it's green, because it's storing energy for the next blooming season. Your store-bred bulbs won't have been treated well, I imagine, and they probably weren't allowed to have their foliage mature naturally in the sun. Also, if they were tricked into producing flowers at what is not their normal time of year, they will go back to their normal schedule now. The reason they are on sale NOW and not earlier is more probably because they were taking up space needed for a display of back-to-school, Christmas ornaments, Halloween costumes, or something. Big stores usually do not have their plants' needs first and foremost.

Melody adds: Lilies can be planted in the fall, but if you live in a climate where dahlias aren't hardy, they will need to wait until spring. That may be tricky to keep them alive a full two seasons before planting them, so you might want to plant them in containers that can be moved indoors once it frosts.

Question #4

Imagearekaybee asks: Can I put those little desiccant capsules in with my seeds over the winter to keep moisture out? I don't know if it will dry out the seeds too much. I put them in marked baggies and keep them in a cookie jar over winter. Is there a better way I should be storing them? Thanks.

Melody answers: I use desiccant packs in my seed boxes all the time. They are often found packed with electronics and shoe boxes and I consider them free seed protection. I use plastic bins that I keep in a closet for my seeds (I have a serious seed-hording problem, you may not) I tuck the desiccant packs among the seeds, which I keep in paper coin envelopes. You can also keep a vented container of rice in your seed box and it will serve the same purpose. Make sure your seeds are in a dark area and in a cool part of your house. (my closets aren't heated) Light, moisture and heat are your worst enemies.

Question #5

Imagemicrob asks: What do folks use for plant labels. I was using permanent black marker pen on plastic picnic knives. Now I have no names on my Stapelias as "permanent" turned out to be not so. I also have a stack of plastic knives. I have hundreds of pots but don't want to invest in a label printer.
Any ideas?

Melody answers: We've all been in your shoes, but it doesn't make you feel any better about the situation, I know. UV rays are the enemy of your so-called permanent marker and will burn the names right off of your tags. I write my plant names twice. Once on the end that goes into the soil and then on the end that sticks out of the ground. I use old mini-blinds that I cut into label-sized pieces. Plain old #2 pencil is sun-fast and is a good choice rather than the markers, but you can use your knives and markers as long as you bury the name out of the reach of the sun's rays. A coat of clear nail polish over the name will help a bit too. It will still weather, but it will save the writing a bit longer.There are also specialty markers that are UV and chemical resistant and metal tags that you can use a pencil to press the name into the soft surface too. Here are the Garden Watchdog vendors that specialize in plant tags and labels. Our members are quite happy with many of the products.

Remember, if you have a gardening question that you would like to suggest for this feature, post it here.

Our writers and admins will handpick a few of your questions and answer them in an upcoming Ask-a-Gardener, one of our Saturday morning features. Other questions may be moved to one of our other forums so your fellow members can help you.

All images are Melody's except for sierraskier's rose of sharon.