Question and Answer
Q. I enjoy reading your column every month in our Daviess-Martin County REMC Electric/Consumer Magazine. I have learned so much about flower gardening and share several articles with friends.
My Amish friends in the Montgomery community have mentioned a "Busy Lizzy" plant that sounds similar to a pink begonia, since it was planted in shade and then taken in for the cold weather. They are no longer able to find any seeds or plants. It appears this was an "old" plant from years back. I would love to find this for them and me, too. Can you help?
A. The frustrating thing about common plant names is that they have regional variations, and the same common name may be used to refer to more than one plant. To the best of my knowledge, "Busy Lizzy" is what most folks call ordinary garden impatiens, one of the most commonly used bedding plants for shade. It is easy to understand why impatiens are so popular. They are really easy to grow, thrive in shade, adapt to most reasonably well-drained soils, look great in containers as well as in the flower bed, bloom all season until frost, and come in a wide variety of colors. Now how do you beat that? Any garden center is likely to carry impatiens, and you might find some great bargains now that summer heat has arrived. Perhaps some of our readers will know of other plants that are also called "Busy Lizzy."
Q. I planted daffodils 15-20 years ago. Since then, I also planted pine trees and deciduous trees nearby. About the last five years, the daffodils have quit blooming. I was wondering if the bulbs have gotten too crowded over the last 20 years or maybe it's too shady. I did divide some bulbs one time about 3-4 years ago and only a few got a bloom on them. I also wondered if you can dig up bulbs (in summer or fall after foliage is dead) and replant immediately.
I also have a forsythia bush that only blooms once in a while. Are they supposed to bloom every year? Perhaps they, too, are getting too much shade.
A. Both daffodils and forsythia are likely to get lots of foliage, but little to no bloom if they are in too much shade. Depending on your situation, it may be possible to thin out some of the tree branches and/or remove some of the lower limbs entirely to allow more sunlight. But if this is not feasible, you can dig up the bulbs and replant in a sunnier location. The smaller the bulbs, the more years it will take them to build up enough food reserves to be able to bloom again, perhaps a year or two. The best time to transplant the bulbs is in September or October. You might want to mark the area where the daffodil foliage is now so you'll know where to dig in the fall.
Q. My husband was doing yard work and noticed something on our cedar trees. They were these unusual bright orange "things" -- blobs hanging from some of the branches. They looked like something out of the sea -- leg-appearing appendages, gelatinous to the touch. Could you please help us identify them and tell us if any treatment is necessary?
A. You've just perfectly described one of the stages of a fungal disease known as cedar rust. There are actually several strains of this fungus, and they all require two different plant hosts to complete their life cycle. The fungus overwinters as large, brown, globular galls on the cedar. The brown galls turn into the orange, gelatinous "sea-creatures" during spring rains and are releasing fungal spores that will infect apple, hawthorn or quince trees. While they are unsightly, the fungus generally does not cause very much damage to the cedar, but can cause considerable damage during the stage that infects apples, hawthorns and quince. More information on this disease is available at
Q. This year we have a new insect eating and laying eggs on our asparagus. It is about one-eighth inch long and is orange and black. We do not know of any control safe for humans and pets. Any ideas?
A. There are two types of asparagus beetles, spotted and common. Yours sounds like the spotted asparagus beetle adult, which has black spots on their orange wing covers. This is the better of two to find on your asparagus! While the spotted type does lay eggs on the asparagus spears, the larvae primarily feed on the red berries. The common asparagus beetle adult has a black body with a metallic blue head and six rectangular yellow spots on its wing covers. The adults and larvae of the common type do feed on the asparagus spears.
If you only have the spotted asparagus beetle, no control is really needed; the eggs can be washed off of the spears. For control of the common asparagus beetle in small backyard plantings, remove the eggs and larvae by hand. Brushing the plants with a broom will knock many of the larvae to the ground, with few finding their way back to the spears. Lady beetles and parasitic wasps provide some natural biological control; avoiding the use of insecticides will help conserve these natural enemies. If damage is significant enough to warrant use of an insecticide, spinosad, carbaryl and malathion are labeled for use on asparagus. Be sure to read and follow all the label directions in regards to application rates, timing and waiting period between application and harvest.
Q. In the May 2009 issue, you answered a question from Jo Foltz about a little tree covered in pink flowers. You identified it as Robinia hispida or Robinia pseudoacacdia. I believe it may be a clammy locust (Robinia viscosa). I found it in my "Trees of North America" Golden Field Guide from St. Martin's Press. We have also tried to transplant, without much luck from our neighbor's woods.
A. Robinia viscosa is not commonly found in Indiana; it is native to more southeastern states such as the Carolinas and Tennessee. But it can be found in Indiana occasionally, and the USDA indicates that it has been reported in Lake County, Indiana. It is easy to distinguish from the other Robinia species due to the very sticky glandular hairs found all over the leaves, stems, flowers and pods. The stems are also usually armed with rather wicked thorns.