Darrell Blackwelder: July lawn and garden questions

Published 12:05 am Saturday, July 23, 2022

It’s July and you can expect it to be hot with high humidity that always keeps homeowners busy. Below are questions posed by friends at local restaurants and church over the past few weeks about their plants and other problems.

Question: I got these really odd plants with no leaves but large, orange seed pods coming out of the ground. Do you know what these unusual plants are?

Answer: These are seedpods to arum (Italian Arum). It was introduced as a groundcover but now some areas consider the it an invasive plant. It grows in mostly in woody locations with ample water. Wear gloves when handling this plant because all the plant parts can cause skin irritation. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/arum-italicum/ for detailed information about this plant.

Question: When I mow my lawn, limbs from our dogwood always slap me in the face as I try to mow around the tree. I want to prune the tree, but my wife’s afraid it will kill the tree. Would it be OK for me to go ahead and prune the tree now and not kill the tree?

Answer: Yes, you can judiciously prune the tree limbs back now. The key word is judicious. Removing a small limb or two this time of the year will generally not harm dogwood trees.

Question: What are those white shrubs I see blooming all over the county? Are they some type of snowball bush?

Answer: The landscape plants you see are probably hydrangea paniculata. There are many cultivars from small plants to tree form types. “Limelight” is a very popular cultivar grown in this area that is in full bloom now. These hydrangeas adapt well to sunlight better than the older grandiflora hydrangea cultivars. They are tough plants that can adapt to dry weather conditions. Go to the website at https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/hydrangea-paniculata/  for more detailed information about this cultivar.

Question: Can I grow ferns as perennials in my landscape? I’ve seen them planted in magazines and was wondering if they would live in our climate.

Answer: Yes, there a large number of ferns commercially available that will grow and survive in our climate. Cinnamon, autumn, Christmas, maidenhair and Japanese painted ferns are just a few that grow well in our area. They may require a bit of judicious pruning in the spring to remove dead or old frons. Landscape type ferns do well in shady locations with ample water supplies.  Go to  https://extensiongardener.ces.ncsu.edu/extgardener-not-so-delicate-ferns-add-versatility-and-texture/ for more detailed information on ferns in the landscape.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu .

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