| Beverly Shaw
Question and Answer
Q. We decided to build a sunroom this winter. Unfortunately, this means
moving some hosta. Can I transplant them at this time of year? Some others
are planted where they will be run over by heavy machinery. Since they're
dormant, will they survive? -- Jeff All, West Lafayette Ind.
A. Transplanting in the winter can be hard, cold work. If the ground
is not frozen, dig up each hosta clump, and sink it in the ground in a
safe location. It doesn't have to be the permanent home of the plants
but a temporary resting place until spring. Pack dirt around the roots
and water them in, not to provide moisture to the dormant plant, but to
help the dirt settle, thus removing air pockets that can allow damaging
cold temperatures to the roots. Add a layer of mulch over the top, and
leave them until spring. When the plants first begin to break bud, lift
and plant them in their new homes.
Spring is an ideal time to divide them, if you would like more hosta.
Take a knife or shovel and cut each clump into smaller sections, making
sure each section has both roots and shoots. Plant them in their new location,
spacing them to allow for their eventual growth.
Perennials, including hosta, seem like they wouldn't be damaged by heavy
weight since their tops have completely died down for winter. However,
they have delicate crowns where the growing points emerge in the spring.
These probably cannot survive heavy equipment running over them, so these
plants should also be transplanted.
Q. A friend just gave me seven pots of garden mums! If I plant them
in the ground this spring, will they live and bloom? What should I do
with them? I have them stored in our barn now. Thanks! -- via e-mail,
A. Just like the hosta in the previous question, it's the root temperature
that can kill otherwise hardy perennials held above ground. I don't know
the lowest winter temperature experienced in your barn, but I would recommend
planting the mums outdoors, if the ground is not frozen. The status of
the ground changes day by day, as we go into the coldest parts of winter.
Eventually, this will be very difficult.
The other option, which is much easier, is to mulch the mums and keep
them in the barn. Add a thick layer of leaves or bark mulch. In the spring,
plant them in the garden. Watch out for mice. They like to eat the roots
when they're easily accessible like this! Bait or exclude them.
Q. Traveling in North Carolina, including a visit to the Biltmore Estate,
we collected some fruits of a hardy orange (Citrus trifoliata). We would
like information on them, including how to germinate the seeds and any
special growing conditions that they require. We would like to landscape
with a few hardy orange specimens as focal plants for their exotic look
and for their strong scent of orange blossoms, which remarkably is still
present on the fruits long after they have fallen from the tree. -- Karen
Dearlove, Bristow, Ind.
A. These "hardy oranges" have been reclassified and are now
called Poncirus trifoliata. They're hardy to zero F, so they will require
a very sheltered location to survive here. Eventually, they will produce
'near-citrus' fruits with a bitter, lemony flavor that is often made into
jelly, marmalade and lemonade. Interestingly, North Carolina State University
lists it on their poisonous plant list! The university's Web site says,
"Causes only low toxicity if eaten. Skin irritation minor, or lasting
only for a few minutes." The fruits provide a great deal of seasonal
interest if left on the plant, which sounds like your best bet! They make
an incredible hedgerow with strong thorns. In Venezuela, they are marketed
along with alarms and motion detectors for property protection. The fruits
and thicket provide superior wildlife habitat.
Seed germination is best when the seeds are planted immediately after
removing them from the fruit. If necessary, however, you can remove them,
wash them with clean water and put them to dry in a cool, shady place.
They can be stored in bags at 40 F for several weeks.
Indoors or in a greenhouse, plant them in potting mix, about 1 inch below
the soil surface. Put them in a sunny place, and water regularly. Eventually,
you'll need to transplant the seedlings to a regularly moist or wet location
in full sun. Outdoors, plant seeds 1 inch below the soil surface and irrigate
to supplement rainfall.