Delicious Fresh Figs

As summer ends, it’s time to enjoy the flavor and freshness of homegrown figs. Figs are perfect if you want a sweet fruit that you can pick off the tree and eat fresh. They will ripen over the span of about two weeks or so.  Delicious fresh figs are succulent, yet fragile while fresh with rich dark hues and elegant shape. To prepare, wash well, and lay on a paper towel to dry. Use ripe figs as soon as possible to experience their awesome flavor or refrigerate up to three days. Figs are rich and chewy when dried or freeze them for up to six months for later use. Most of all, enjoy your figs.

Check out our post on Brown Turkey Figs and these amazing recipes at FoodNetwork!

freshFig1

 

Video Explaining Apple Tree Scab Disease

Symptoms Of Apple Scab Disease

Apple Scab Disease is a plant disease commonly found in domestic apples and ornamental crabapple trees.  Symptoms include dark brown or black lesions on the surface of leaves and fruit. Apple scab is caused by the ascomycete fungus, Venturia inaequalis. An aggressive infection of this type will eventually reduce fruit quality, rendering it inedible. Fruit quantity is also affected.  Apple Scab may occur over successive growing seasons; however, this fungus rarely kills its host. So if you are interested in planting apple trees or have a home orchard, then watch the video explaining the Apple Scab life cycle.

apple scab disease
Apples with dark lesions are infected with Apple Scab Disease. By Shuhrataxmedov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39951147

Video Explaining Apple Scab Life Cycle

Watch this easy to understand video explaining the critical stages that occurs during this fungal infection.

It all about moisture and temperature when it comes to apple scab infections. The wetter and warmer the weather is during springtime, the more vigorous the disease will become.

When the ascospores from Venturia inaequalis land on wet apple buds, leaves, or fruit, they germinate and grow into the apple tissue. The time required depends on temperature and the presence of a wet surface. At 39°F and 28 hours of continuous moisture will result in an infection, while between 61 to 75°F, only 6 hours are required.

After the fungus has penetrated, it continues to grow and enlarge within the plant tissues. It takes approximately 9 to 17 days for a visible scab to form. Development occurs more rapidly at higher temperatures. This initial infection is known as the primary phase.

If left untreated, a secondary infection will eventually develop on the plant surfaces, which appear as asexual conidia. These new conidiospores are easily dislodged when the lesions are wet and transferred by the wind to new leaf and fruit surfaces on the tree. This is known as the secondary phase.

Choosing Disease Resistant Varieties

Many attractive and tasty apple varieties are available that have resistance to apple scab disease. Some varieties have more resistance than others. However, these apples are still susceptible to other fungal diseases like powdery mildew and cedar apple rust.  That said, gardeners may still have to use fungicides on these trees.

Apple Cultivars: Scab Resistance Selections
Crimson Crisp Gold Rush Querina
Crimson Gold Novamac ** Redfree
Crimson Topaz Otava Rubinola
Freedom ** Enterprise ** Williams Pride **
** suitable for home orchards

Links

Purdue University explains chemical management using conventional fungicides

Some easy tips on how to get rid of Apple Scab Disease

Brown Turkey Fig Trees Facts

I can remember from when I was a young child that fig trees were special.  I would go with my dad and visit his friends.  Everyone was proud of their fig trees.  Some people even had a story to tell about their trees, how it came from the old county in a grandmother’s suitcase or something like that.  Back in the day, most figs trees were gifts from neighbor to neighbor. Over the fence, from one yard to another. A specialty plant that was not easy to buy. A friend would say to you “try my figs, they taste delicious!” or “you never had a fig quite like this…these are the best!” But enough of that, the whole purpose of this article is to teach you about brown turkey fig trees. So read on to learn more brown turkey tree facts.

figLeaves
Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’ Fig is an attractive deciduous tree with fragrant foliage 5 to 10 inches long and 4 to 7 inches wide. The leaves are deeply lobed.

Brown Turkey Tree Facts

The Brown Turkey Fig, Ficus carica, can be purchased at your local garden store. If you are interested in growing fig plants I recommend finding your hardiness zone first. This will give you a better understanding if brown turkey figs are is right for your location. They are heat-tolerant and require full sun all day to ripen palatable fruits. That’s why most gardeners will plant their figs with Southern exposure to optimize light and protect the tree during the winter months from freezing.

Fruit Color Brown
Fruit Size Small to Medium
Taste Mild and Sweet
Texture Fleshy and Soft
Pollination Self-pollinating
Ripens June – September
Light Requirements Full Sun
Soil Composition Loamy and well-drained
Soil pH 6.0 – 6.5
Years to bear figs 1 to 2 years
USDA Growing Zone Range 5 – 9

Caring For Brown Turkey Figs

Here’s how to grow a fig tree in your garden. Plant fig trees outdoors in the early spring or late fall, when the tree is dormant. The soil needs to be well-drained and with plenty of organic material. You will need to water young fig trees regularly to help them become established. Adding a layer of mulch around the tree will help to prevent weeds and keep in moisture for the roots. Depending on your growing zone, it’s not the summer but the winter that is the killer of fig trees.  If you have several very cold winters in succession, chances are that the fig will die back but the roots will survive.  It will then grow back next spring and bear fruit. Most gardeners wrap their fig trees for protection during the winter months.

Do Brown Turkey Figs Have Wasps In Them?

Common figs such as Brown Turkey Figs do not require pollination from another tree, they are self-pollinating.  However, you may want to plant pollinating partners to increase your crop yield, but doing so is optional. There are no wasps inside a brown turkey fig because this variety is self-pollinating and does not require the service of insects.  However, some varieties such as Calimyrna figs do require Pleistodontes wasps as insect pollinators.

The Taste Is Amazing!

The Brown Turkey Fig is perfect if you want a sweet fruit that you can pick off the tree and eat fresh. They are succulent, yet fragile while fresh with rich dark hues and elegant shape. To prepare, wash well and lay on a paper towel to dry. Use ripe figs as soon as possible to experience their awesome flavor or refrigerate up to three days. Figs are rich and chewy when dried or freeze them for up to six months for later use. Most of all, enjoy your figs.

 

Propagating Shrubs From Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings provide an easy and reliable method of plant propagation. We will be discussing its use with shrubs. Hardwood cuttings are taken in the dormant season from mid-autumn until late winter. With Deciduous trees, the ideal time is just after leaf fall or just before bud-burst in spring. Although this type of propagation may be slow to develop roots, it is usually successful. So let’s read on to learn more about hardwood cuttings.

Hardwood Versus Softwood Cuttings

We like making hardwood cuttings; it is a simple propagation technique to make more plants, mainly the shrubs in your landscape. Since these cuttings went dormant with no leaves, there is not a requirement to provide a high humidity environment as with softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings require correct lighting and humidity conditions. It is a technique that is more labor-intensive. It needs constant attention and must never dry out. However, with hardwood cuttings, you “stick it in and let it sit until Spring!”

tools for hardwood cuttings
The tools needed to prepare hardwood cuttings are simple. Sharp pruning shears to make a clean cut, a trowl to make a trench and rooting hormone.

Making Hardwood Cuttings

Select vigorous and healthy shoots that are free of any disease.  Shoots should be close to pencil-thickness in diameter and from the current season’s growth.  They will be mature, woody, and dormant. Cut straight across at the base below a bud. At the top make an angled cut to shed water and as a reminder to tell which end is the top.  By the time you are done, the cuttings should be about six inches long.

An additional step that often helps difficult to root plants is to make a “wound” at the cutting’s base. Use a sharp knife here and remove the bark. The additional cut exposes more of the light green cambium under the bark. The cambium has meristematic tissue that will differentiate into roots.

Wet the end of the cutting and dip the lower cut end in a hormone rooting powder. The addition of the hormone promotes root formation; it also contains a fungicide that protects against rot.

picture of hardwood cuttings
Cuttings should be about 6 inches in length when complete. Make the bottom cut just below a bud.

Hardwood Cuttings In Containers

Insert the cuttings into a container with two-thirds of the cutting below the surface. As a medium, we use mason sand. The roots will form along the buried portion of the stem. A few buds remain above the ground to allow the plant to grow and leaf out in the spring. Hardwood cuttings are often grown outdoors, but depending on your region, you may require a cold frame. Even though hardwood cuttings take more time to develop roots, there is enough food stored in the stem to keep the cutting alive through the winter.

growing hardwood cuttings in containers
A) Make a trench in sand using a tool. B) Insert cuttings with root hormone about two inches into the sand. C) Finish by closing up the trench. D) Complete by filling the container with cuttings.

 

 

 

 

 

Plants That Make A Good Hedge

A hedge is a living wall made from neatly aligned plants.  Hedges can be functional, serving as security, sound, and privacy barriers to separate properties and shield against street traffic. Sometimes hedges can be used as windbreaks in gusty locations and even as a living snow fence to reduce snowdrifts. They may also serve a decorative function showing beautiful seasonal flowers.  No matter how you look at it, hedges are a benefit to the homeowner. However, be prepared for maintenance, routine pruning and trimming to keep hedges at the correct height and shape. Read our article and choose the type of plant that best suits your needs; these top hedge picks make your choice easy.

green hedges

Best Evergreen Hedges

Evergreens are easy, fast growers that provide green screen elegance all year long. Tall, thick, and dense evergreen shrubs provide a sense of solitude and all-season privacy. They make a beautiful backdrop for flowering plants in Spring and add Winter interest when everything else is leafless and dormant. Here is our list of the best evergreen hedges.

English Boxwood is perhaps the oldest known ornamental plant in western gardens. Boxwood parterres and hedges can be seen in many of the great gardens of Europe and America.

Holly makes the perfect plant for hedging in the garden. Its spiny foliage quickly grows into an impenetrable mass that makes an excellent intruder deterrent.  Japanese Holly and Inkberry Holly are ideal for short hedges.

  • Ilex
  • USDA Growing Zone: 5 – 9
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun
  • Related: The American Holly

Junipers are coniferous plants that are members of the cypress family.  Junipers are among the most popular conifers to be cultivated as ornamentals for gardens. These cultivars have been selected and bred to produce a wide range of forms, and colors. Junipers are also a deer-resistant hedge.

  • Juniperus communis
  • USDA Growing Zone: 4 – 11
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun

Arborvitaes are a very popular hedge variety for privacy due to their dense evergreen foliage and hardiness. With a narrow, pyramid shape arborvitae make a natural choice for windbreaks.

  • Thuja
  • USDA Growing Zone: 3 – 8
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun

Best Deciduous Hedges

Deciduous hedge shrubs look great while in bloom but make for less-than-ideal privacy screens in Winter. These hedges provide opportunities for wonderful seasonal color changes. Listed below are several lovely varieties that boast flowers, fruit, and other interesting characteristics. Here is our pick of the best deciduous hedges.

Privet hedge sets the standard in the USA and is perfect for neat and formal landscape styles. Planted close and grown tall, privet quickly forms a lush, living barrier that’s a great way to trim your property. Privet can be easily trimmed into smooth curves or sharp designs.

  • Ligustrum
  • USDA Growing Zone: 5 – 8
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full Sun

Spireas are among the easiest flowering shrubs to grow. Plant sizes vary by species and cultivar. Spirea shrubs are deciduous shrubs that can be divided into two categories: spring blooming and summer blooming.

  • Spiraea
  • USDA Growing Zone: 4 – 8
  • Sun Exposure: Light Shade to Full Sun

Hydrangea has flower heads that are large, colorful, and striking in appearance. They are great for privacy hedges and the blooms look spectacular throughout the summertime.

Forsythia: Forsythia is the earliest blooming shrub at springtime and is used primarily for its showy brilliant yellow blooms. Forsythia is very hardy, fast-growing, and makes a good screening for borders and living fence. Border Forsythia or Forsythia x intermedia is a common cultivar.

  • Forsythia
  • USDA Growing Zone: 5 – 8
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Related: Forsythia Facts

Lilacs produce delicate, fragrant blooms yet they serve as excellent sound barriers and windbreaks. Their dense foliage makes them an attractive choice for an informal hedge. Medium-sized lilacs such as dwarf Korean lilac make the best hedges.

  • Syringa
  • USDA Growing Zone: 3 – 7
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun

 

 

 

 

Five Best Christmas Trees You Can Grow in Containers

As everyone knows, Christmas does not feel like Christmas unless you have a festive tree for the holidays.  Most people fuss over such an important decision by inspecting each tree on the lot; spending time looking for the fullest, most perfectly shaped, most beautiful tree that Mother Nature can supply. Read on to find the five best Christmas tree species you can grow in containers. Enjoy them for the holiday season then plant them outdoors to enjoy for a lifetime. NBC channel 4 news even the 77 foot tall Norway Spruce now at Rockefeller Center started out as a 4-foot tall container tree on someone’s coffee table.

There are approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold every year in the United States.  Almost all of these come from Christmas Tree plantations. It can take anywhere from 7 to 15 years to grow a tree to a typical height of 6 feet. These cut trees are eventually cut and sold and in a few short weeks end up in a landfill eventually producing methane when they decompose or are incinerated. Many cities collect, chip and mulch Christmas trees which is considered more environmentally friendly. Check with your local recycling center.

There are two types of potted trees, those grown directly in containers and those dug up and transferred to containers. With container-grown trees, their roots are stronger and healthier. You should bring your potted tree indoors as late as possible, the weekend before Christmas is best. Remember to water your tree regularly so it does not dry out and avoid placing your tree too close to a heat source which will cause excessive needle drop.

Instead, the Plant King has compiled a list of trees that can be grown in containers, decorated with seasonal ornaments while being enjoyed year after year.  Let us show you how to pick the best Christmas tree this holiday season while reducing our burden on landfills. Eventually, these trees will need transplanting so we included information on height at maturity, growth rates, light requirements, and growing zones.


Balsam Fir, (Abies balsamea)

balsam fir branch

The Balsam Fir has needles are ¾ to 1½ inch in length that last a very long time. This tree has a dark-green appearance and retains its pleasing fragrance throughout the Holiday season.  Their attractive needles have two colors on top and bottom, adding shades of silver to their dark green appearance.

Height: The balsam fir grows to a height of 45–75′ at maturity.

Growth Rate: This tree grows at a slow rate of less than 12″ per year.

Light Requirements: Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree.

Growing Zones: 3 – 5


Douglas Fir, (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Douglas Fir

Douglas fir trees have soft needles that are approximately 1 to 1 ½ inch in length. The needles are dark green in color and radiate in all directions around the branch. When crushed, these needles have a wonderfully sweet fragrance. Douglas fir is one of the top Christmas tree species in the United States.

Mature Size: The Douglas fir grows to a height of 40–70′ at maturity.

Growth Rate: This tree grows at a medium rate with increases of 12–24″ per year.

Light Requirements: Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree.

Growing Zones: 4 – 6


Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

Colorado Blue Spruce

Colorado Blue Spruce has needles between 1 to 1 ½ inch in length. Blue spruce trees are popular as a Christmas tree due to its symmetrical appearance and attractive blue foliage. This species has an excellent natural shape and requires little pruning to attain its form. Another positive is that needle retention is among the best for the spruces. Its popularity as an ornamental leads many individuals to use blue spruce as a living Christmas tree to later be planted outdoors.

Mature Size: The Colorado blue spruce grows to a height of 50–75’at maturity.

Growth Rate: This tree grows at a slow to medium rate of 12″ to 24″ per year.

Light Requirements: Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree.

Growing Zones: 2 – 7


Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)

Fraser Fir

The most popular Christmas tree species in the country these days. The Fraser fir branches turn slightly upward giving it a beautiful form. Their soft needles are dark blue-green in color and have a pleasant scent. The tree has good needle retention. Fraser firs are known for staying fresh and fragrant throughout the season.

Mature Size: The Douglas fir grows to a height of 40–70′ at maturity.

Growth Rate: This tree grows at a medium rate of 13–24″ per year.

Light Requirements: Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree.

Growing Zones: 4 – 7


Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine

The tallest pine in the northeast United States. White pines have soft, flexible needles that are between 2½ – 5 inches long. White pines have good needle retention but have less aroma than other trees on our list. They have flexible limbs that are not recommended for heavy Christmas ornaments.

Mature Size: The eastern white pine grows to a height of 50–80 feet.

Growth Rate: This tree grows at a fast rate of more than 24″ per year.

Light Requirements: Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree.

Growing Zones: 3 – 8


 

Annual, Biennial, or Perennial Plants. What is the difference?

daisy flowers in a book

Horticulture and botany, like any science, has its own terminology. Whether you’re an inexperienced newbie trying to unravel gardening instructions or a professional, here are some horticultural terms decoded.  Let’s begin with annual, biennial and perennial plants- what’s the difference? At The Plant King Blog, we always have new posts so check regularly for additional gardening terms, that you’ve always wanted to learn.

Annuals: Plants that complete their entire life cycle from seed to flower to seed again within a single growing season. Marigolds, zinnias, and impatiens are typical examples of annual flowering plants that gardeners plant every year to add vibrant color to their gardens. These plants produce beautiful flowers that bloom profusely during the entire season.  All roots, stems, and leaves of annuals die back each season and it is only the dormant seed that begins the next generation.  If gardeners are planting annuals there are two options for next season: either buy a new flat of annuals each springtime or direct sowing of seeds in order to see those colorful creations again.

Biennials: Plants that require two years to complete their life cycle. The first year biennial will produce leafy growth but second-year plants produce flowers. Typical examples of biennials include Black-eyed Susan, California poppy,
Canterbury Bells, Hollyhock and Sweet William. Non-flowering in their first year can be frustrating to gardeners growing ornamental flowers. However, you can get around their two-year cycle by starting seeds in the summer instead of the spring.

There are delicious vegetables that are biennials too.  Some examples of these biennials include onions, cabbage, carrots and herbs such as parsley.  Typically biennial vegetables are usually eaten in about a few weeks after planting. We do not eat second-year plants because they develop wood parts, but if you continue to allow them to grow they will develop flowers and seeds. 

Perennials: Perennials are flowers or plants that can live for more than two growing seasons.  Perennials form a wide assortment of plant groups from ferns to the highly diverse flowering plants like orchids, grasses, and herbs such as hops and lavender. The term is used extensively to distinguish plants with little or no woody growth from trees and shrubs, which are considered perennials.  Woody perennials consist of trees such as pine, maple and apple trees as well as shrubs. Herbaceous personals die back at season’s end but regrow the following year. Plants of this type include daffodils, alfalfa, red clover, and lemon balm.

 

 

 

 

Growing Crabapple Trees

There are several reasons to consider planting a crabapple tree this season. Their ability to help pollinate other apple trees, their tasty fruit can be used to make jellies, preserves, and cider, as well as their amazing blooms,  make a beautiful addition to your yard or orchard.  If you are interested in planting a crabapple tree and learning about its many uses then read on.

The history of apples is tangled, gnarly and otherwise difficult to understand. It has taken scientists with their knowledge of DNA and archeologists decades to unravel the origins of this fruit.  The cultivated sweet apple, Malus domestica, was domesticated from Malus sieversii, a wild apple that thrived in the Tian Shan mountains in Central Asia. Apple cultivation expanded along the Silk Road trade routes linking both Europe and Asia.  On its migration to Europe, these apple trees further hybridized with other wild apple species to develop the European crabapple, Malus sylvestris.  From there crabapples expanded into many different varieties from ornamentals to pollinators.  So as you can see, it was a tangled mess of cross-pollination and human intervention over many centuries that gave us these trees as we know them today.

The English generally used the fruit from crabapple trees to make hard cider. In fact, the word crab comes from the old English crabbe, meaning bitter or sharp tasting.  Eventually, the colonist brought crabapples to settlements in America. Starting as early as 1623, colonists brought seeds from Europe to plant crabapple trees. As in England, the orchards planted in America were used primarily for making hard cider, as the fermentation process sterilized cider through the addition of alcohol. This made the cider safer to drink than the water in early America.

crab-apples-fruit
Crabapples are deciduous, their leaves are simple and arranged alternately. Their fruits are small usually between 1/4″ to 2″.

Growing Your Own Crabapple Tree

Most temperate climates from USDA planting zones 4 to 10 will support the growth of crabapples. These trees vary from a large shrub-like plant, 6 to 8 feet, to a medium tree, 15 to 35 feet tall. They prefer to inhabit relatively open areas with lots of sun exposure and good air circulation. Crabapple trees do not have a particular soil preference. They do best in moist, well-drained and slightly acidic soils. The site for planting should be prepared a year ahead so that early spring plantings can be made into weed-free locations. For the best success, the hole for planting needs to be approximately two feet larger in radius than the seedling’s root system.   If the tree was grafted to a rootstock then the graft must remain above ground.

Ornamental Crabapples Make A Lovely Addition To Your Garden

Adam’s Crabapple Marilee Crabapple
Cardinal Crabapple Pink Princess
Ivory Spear Crabapple  Prairie Rose Crabapple
Lollipop Crabapple Royal Beauty Crabapple
Louisa Crabapple Show Time Crabapple
crab-apple-flowers
The fragrant, five-petaled, white, pink, carmine or purplish flowers appear early in showy groups, some cultivars producing semi-double (6–10 petals) or double (more than 10 petals) per blossom.

Can You Eat Crabapples?

Absolutely! They’re perfectly edible.  The difference between edible crabapples and ornamental crabapples is the size of the fruit. Edible varieties have fruit that are about two inches in diameter or less. These varieties are excellent for making cider or jellies, whereas ornamentals have tiny fruit or no fruit at all and have not been bred for flavor. If you are going to eat your crabapples, plant a variety with large fruit to get the largest yield from your tree.

Crabapple fruits are high in pectin. Pectin is a natural fiber found in plant cell walls and is most concentrated in the fruit skin. It is water-soluble and binds with sugar and fruit acid to form a gel. So what does all this mean? It means that to make crabapple jelly all you need is fruit, sugar, and spices. Additionally, crabapple fruits are a good source of malic and tartaric acid which gives the fruit its sour flavor and may have some medicinal benefits.  With so many different varieties of crabapples and their unique flavors, I can’t think of a single reason for not having a few crabapples in the yard.

Crabapples As Pollinators of Sweeter and Larger Apple Varieties

Some crabapples can be used for cross-pollination if they flower at the same time as the larger, sweeter commercial apple varieties.  Almost all apple trees require pollen from another compatible apple variety to set fruit, we call this cross-pollenation. This is because the majority of apple trees are what we call self-incompatible, that is they need another variety called a pollenizer to make fertilization happen. It just so happens that crabapple tree pollen will pollinate most larger and sweeter commercial apple varieties provided that they blossom at the same time. However, there are a few triploid ornamental crab apple varieties with sterile pollen or little to no pollen. So if you are buying new trees, check to see whether the trees you are purchasing have viable pollen for cross-pollination.

So think of a crabapple tree as some type of universal apple pollenizer. Crabapples are so effective at pollinating other apple varieties that growers can add them to their orchards to promote fruit set. When you are planting apple trees in a new garden, plant a crabapple within 50 feet of your other apple trees to ensure good pollination.  In fact, just a few cut branches of crab apples in bloom in a bucket of water in the middle of an apple orchard is enough to promote pollination.  It turns out these trees are magnets for the honey bee. The bees visit the crabapple blossoms and then visit the apple blossoms as they open on the sweeter and larger apple trees, thus improving fruit set.

Good Crabapple pollinizers for domestic apples. 

Chestnut Crab Blooms early to midseason
Crimson Gold Blooms midseason to late
Frettingham Crab Blooms mid to late
Indian Summer Blooms same time as Red Delicious
Manchurian Blooms early to midseason
Mt. Blanc™ Blooms late
Mt. Evereste™ Blooms early to midseason
Simpson 10-35 Crab Blooms mid to late
Snowdrift Blooms midseason to late

 

 

 

 

 

Fruitless Sweetgum Tree Facts

American sweetgums are deciduous trees prized for their star-shaped leaves that turn a brilliant mix of fall colors. Sweetgums are native to the southeastern United States. It is classified according to its Latin name Liquidambar styraciflua and it belongs to the Altingiaceae family. From many perspectives, the American sweetgum is a good tree for the urban landscape. It grows fast in acidic loamy soil and has few insect or disease issues. American sweetgum trees are best grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.  However, the one major flaw of this tree species is that it produces large amounts of fruit or seedpods.  These spiky seedpods litter lawns which ultimately makes the tree much less desirable for any landscaping.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fruitless sweetgum tree, that is to have everything except the spiky mess.  Sometimes a plant may grow that differs substantially than others in a population. We call this genetic mutation a “sport” and if that mutation happens to be desirable then we can make many exact copies of it through propagation techniques. So, Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba,’ is a sterile, non-fruiting cultivar of the American sweetgum that does not produce the famous spiky seed pods. A cultivar is a plant selected from the wild or intentionally bred that differs from the typical member of the species it was selected from or bred.  If you are interested in planting a fruitless sweetgum tree then this article is for you.

sweetgum tree leaves
The fruitless American Sweetgum tree, Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba’ with its characteristic lobed leaves.  This cultivar is sterile and does not produce seedpods.

A problem with growing ‘Rotundiloba’ has been its lack of symmetry. Instead of having the cookie-cutter appearance, the fruitless sweet gum has a more free form habit, especially with lateral branches. In formal plantings, let’s say like at mall parking lots, where exact size duplicates are needed, this has caused some disappointment.

fruitless sweetgum tree form
Fruitless Sweetgum trees require corrective pruning especially with lateral branches as seen here. Mature trees reach 50 feet in height.

As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found at a large discount nursery, instead, it is more likely found in select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries. Below is a list of other cultivars that are considered nearly fruitless and may be considered as options to the sterile ‘Rotundiloba’.

Liquidambar syraciflua Cultivars Fruit Production
‘Ward’ Nearly Fruitless
‘Slender Silhouette’ Nearly Fruitless
‘Worplesdon’ Nearly Fruitless

 

Bottom Line:  If you are planting a sweetgum tree then most likely you interested in it as a specimen tree.  The main drawback of using a native tree is the large amounts of fruit or seedpods that it produces and the extra cleanup work that it entails.  The alternative is the sterile ‘Rotundiloba’ cultivar.  Just be prepared for some additional pruning early in the tree’s development and losses due to cold temperatures in Northern latitudes.

native american sweetgum tree distribution
Native American Sweetgum tree distribution

For additional information regarding Sweet-gumfs_list2can be found here.

Propagating Azaleas Using Softwood Cuttings

In our previous post, we discussed the care of azaleas.  In this post, The Plant King tells you how to propagate azaleas using softwood cuttings.  Why use cuttings?  In simple terms, we are making a duplicate or exact copy of a plant.  We may like the flower color, or plant height or another characteristic that intrigues us.  We make exact duplicates or clones of plants by using softwood cuttings.  If we were to plant from seed, then there is no telling what mother nature would give us, smaller flowers or other variations that are not interesting. It is, for this reason, that plant nurseries and home gardeners use cuttings instead of seeds.  They know exactly what plant they are producing for a particular and fickle market of buyers.

Azaleas are easy-care flowering shrubs that reward gardeners with massive blooms.  They’re a must-have in your garden. Azaleas are closely related to Rhododendron, in fact, they are in the same genus. There are literally thousands of azalea varieties and cultivated hybrids available. They come in many flower colors, including red, pink, yellow and white. Though most plants flower for about two weeks in April and May, there are also summer-blooming varieties that add color and grace to any garden later in the season.  Keep reading to find out more about propagating azaleas using softwood cuttings.  After all, who doesn’t want more azaleas?

azalea-blue-bush

Let’s get Started: Azaleas and other ornamental shrubs in the home landscape can be propagated by softwood cuttings. In most cases, plant propagation is dictated by the calendar.  Softwood cuttings are taken in June and July and sometimes into early August from the current season’s growth. Cutting material should be flexible but mature enough to snap when sharply bent.

Here’s what you’ll need for propagating azaleas using softwood cuttings:

  1. With pruning shears remove 3″ to 5″ of new growth.  I usually add the cuttings to a plastic bag with a wet paper towel inside to prevent excess water loss from newly cut stems. Choose only healthy plants with no insect damage, no leaf discoloration, or disease.
  2. Bring the cuttings back to your garden bench and cut them again at the base with a sharp knife just below the point where one or two leaves are attached to the stem (node).  This clean cut will have much less tissue damage and will increase success rates so it is worth the extra time.
  3. Remove the leaves from the lower half of each cutting and scrape the bark from one side of the stem. This wound will help to induce root production.  Wet the lower portion of the cutting with water then roll the end of the cutting in rooting hormone. Tap off any surplus material. Softwood cuttings root more successfully when a rooting hormone is used.
  4. Stick the lower end of the cutting where the leaves were removed about 2″ into the rooting medium. Firm the medium around the stem to make the cutting stay in place.
  5. Mist with water regularly and cover with a clear or white plastic bag. The bag prevents excess water loss and will again increase success rates.  Place in a location with bright but indirect light. Rooting should take approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

Things to keep in mind when choosing plant material:

  • plants must be healthy pest and disease-free
  • younger plants work better than older plants
  • lateral shoots work better than terminal shoots
  • take cuttings in the early morning when plants are well hydrated
  • if not planting immediately refrigerate cuttings

azalea-softwood-cuttings

Rooting Medium: There are many options for rooting medium. It must not only retain moisture but also drain well and provide physical support.  For our example of propagating azaleas from softwood cuttings, we find it best to work with masonry sand or potting mix.

  • peat – partially decayed vegetation or organic matter
  • vermiculite – a mineral used in soilless growing systems
  • perlite – a form of amorphous volcanic glass that looks like styrofoam
  • masonry sand – all-purpose sand used for masonry work
  • potting mix – most potting soils are made of peat, vermiculite, and bark

It will take several years for a rooted cutting to become a nice size plant. That is definitely delayed satisfaction.  Still, many gardeners find rooting cuttings and growing the young plants to be fun and rewarding.

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