| Beverly Shaw
Question and Answer
Q. I have a lot of vines
that grew up my two trees. I noticed that one of my large trees is now
dying. Would those vines kill them by taking all of the water from the
bark? Also, I have a patio tomato plant that is big and doing great. Would
it hurt the plant if I cut off a lot of the lower branches? Thank you.
-- Jerry Maquet
A. In the southern portion
of the United States and in the rainforests of the world, vines commonly
choke plants to death. In the Midwest, however, most of our vines use
trees for structural support and are not likely to kill a large, healthy
tree. The weight of the foliage can cause problems on small trees, so
it is a good idea to keep vines away from tree trunks and scaffold limbs
of small trees. Most of our vines are not parasitic and do not extract
water from the tree, but there are a few, such as mistletoe and dodder,
that are true parasites and do take water and nutrients from the host
It is probably in the tree's best interest
to cut down the vine at ground level. You can leave the vine and its foliage
up in the tree. As it decomposes, it will lessen its hold and will eventually
drop off or can be pulled off. Proceed with caution, as one of our most
common tree-climbing vines is poison ivy. You need to take great care
not to touch it, or you'll suffer the itchy consequences. If you're walking
through a carpet of the same foliage on your way to the tree, remove your
clothing when you've finished cutting the vine, and take care not to let
the outside of your clothing touch your skin.
Tomatoes produce all that foliage in order
to maximize photosynthesis, which pays you back in tomatoes! Any foliage
you remove will cause the plant to expend more energy to replace it and
can reduce fruit production temporarily. Foliage also protects developing
fruits from sunscale. Unless it's necessary to remove diseased foliage,
the lower limbs should remain in place.
Q. I have been trying to
find information on whether or not to deadhead my many Stella D'Oro daylilies.
Most of the information that I've found says that it is not really necessary,
but one source stated that it would not make a difference for this year
but may make a difference next year. However, it did not tell if the difference
would be for the good or bad. I really prefer to keep them deadheaded,
because they look so much nicer without the big seed heads and dead stalks.
I always thought that if you prevent seeds from forming you would produce
more flowers. Do you have any advice for the many of us who have this
popular flower in our gardens? I look forward to your column every month.
Keep up the good (and helpful) work. Thanks. -- Carol Benson, Monticello,
A. Daylilies are so tough,
they'll survive whether you deadhead them or not, but deadheading is almost
always a good practice. A plant's goal is to produce seed. Allowing it
to do so, signals its job is done. Not allowing it to do so, signals it
to continue producing flowers. We call this removal of spent flowers "deadheading."
Many plants will rebloom after deadheading, including petunia, geranium,
marigold, speedwell, coreopsis and more. Many faded flowers can simply
be pinched off, while some need to be cut off with a knife, scissors or
pruning shears. Remove the clippings to the compost pile or the trash
to avoid insects and fungal organisms that will be attracted to the decaying
Deadheading is also done for aesthetic purposes,
since the seed heads of many plants are not attractive. I choose not to
deadhead two kinds of plants in my garden -- those with attractive spent
flowers like sedum, astilbe, baptisia and ornamental grasses, and those
I want to have reseed, like cleome and poppies.
Q. How do I kill or get
rid of yucca roots? I pulled big yuccas out of my yard two years ago.
It seems like the more I dig out their roots, the more sprouts keep coming
up. I dig some out and pull others but they just keep multiplying. Help!
-- Barbara Kimmel, Springville, Ind.
A. Persistence! When you
see new sprouts, dig them up immediately. Try to get the root system each
time. If you allow them to grow for a while before you remove them, they
will gain strength, so remove them as soon as possible.
Herbicide application is difficult because
of the waxy coating on the yucca leaves, but glyphosate (sold as Round-Up
or Kleen-Up) is another option. Again, spray as soon as you see a sprout,
and use care, since it kills anything green, not just yucca. Glyphosate
is translocated to the root, so it will help you rid your garden of the