ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Ask the Master Gardener: Easter lilies, peonies, and more

‘Bartzella’ is the most popular Itoh peony, a strong, yellow semi-double with a lemon fragrance.

A potted Asiatic lily in a landscape
Asiatic lilies are the hardiest and easiest to grow for Zone 3 gardens. Plan in full sun in a well-drained soil.<br/>
Contributed

Dear Master Gardener:

What could I get instead of an Easter Lily that would be blooming for Easter, but I could plant out in my flower garden to bloom year after year?

Easter lilies are not hardy in Minnesota, so they will most likely not come back if planted in your garden. They are hardy to Zone 5. Often you will find Asiatic and Oriental lilies that have been forced to bloom for Easter. These would make a great alternative for an Easter lily so you can plant them in your garden. Asiatic lilies are the hardiest and easiest to grow for Zone 3 gardens. Oriental lilies are hardy to Zone 4 – some cultivars may survive (especially if mulched) and some won’t. I have planted many Oriental lilies in the spring and enjoyed them for one season. However, two Oriental lilies have been coming back for years – Casa Blanca and Star Gazer.

After your pot of lilies has finished blooming, when the ground is no longer frozen, plant it in the ground as you would any potted perennial. Just keep the pot in your garage until you can get the plant in the ground. Plant both Asiatic and Oriental lilies in full sun (6-8 hours of sunlight) in well-drained soil. Fertilize your lilies each spring with a 5-10-10 formula or a slow-release fertilizer, following the instructions on the label.

A closeup of an intersectional peony
The intersectional hybrid (Itoh) peony hybrids have a nice upright form, stand up to wind and heavy rain and are very disease resistant.<br/>
Contributed

Dear Master Gardener:

ADVERTISEMENT

I was looking at plant catalogs and was enamored by the yellow tree peony. I would like to grow a yellow tree peony if possible. Will they grow here?

Unfortunately, tree peonies are not reliably hardy in Zone 3 – they are rated for Zone 4. However, there is an even better alternative — the intersectional hybrid (Itoh) peony. In 1948, after years and years of trying, Toichi Itoh, a Japanese botanist, was the first person to successfully cross a tree peony with an herbaceous peony. Sadly, he died before his hybrid flowered in 1964. Four of his plants produced deep yellow, double flowers of high quality. These plants, which are called intersectional hybrid peonies or Itoh peonies, inherited the best traits of both parents. They produce flowers and foliage that are similar to tree peonies, but have the hardiness of herbaceous peonies. They emerge later in spring than herbaceous peonies. These hybrids have a nice upright form, stand up to wind and heavy rain and are very disease resistant. They produce many enormous flowers once they are mature and the flowers last longer than standard tree peonies.

Intersectional (Itoh) peonies used to be very difficult and expensive to obtain and 20 years ago you would pay anywhere from $300 - $1,000 for a plant. A Canadian company began producing them in the early 2000s, which made them more affordable and accessible. You can now find them for around $100 or a little less. ‘Bartzella’ is the most popular Itoh peony, a strong, yellow semi-double with a lemon fragrance. ‘Garden Treasure’ is a light golden yellow, semi-double with very large blossoms. ‘Sequestered Sunshine’ has large, bright canary yellow blossoms with showy stamens.

Dear Master Gardener:

The deer have eaten the tips of my apple trees this year.  Will this hurt my apple tree or affect the number of apples I get this year? Unless your trees are really small, I assume the deer didn’t reach the top. They’ve probably just done some of your annual pruning for you. The branch will continue to grow from the bud nearest the tip. Fewer branches mean fewer apples, but apples should be thinned to one fruit every 6-8 inches anyway. You’ll get bigger, better apples rather than a lot of small ones. It’s hard to pick off all those cute little baby ones, but really pays off in the end. Now is the time to prune your fruit trees - open up the center, remove any crossing or damaged branches and any watersprouts that go straight up — they never produce fruit but take a lot of the tree’s energy. The Extension website has a lot of information and diagrams to help you with the right way to do the job, or call a certified arborist to trudge through the snow with his/her ladders. Just make sure to do it now, before things warm up and the diseases start spreading.

Dear Master Gardener:

When is a good time to repot my houseplants and any suggestions on how to do that?  What things suggest my houseplant needs repotting?

Now is the perfect time to replant houseplants. If you see roots hanging out the bottom of the pot, or sticking out the top, if water just runs through and the plant always seems dry, or if the plant just seems sickly, it’s time. As the daylight hours get longer, houseplants wake up and start to sprout new growth. Even if you don’t repot, now is the time to start fertilizing — apply just a bit at first, diluted to half-strength.

ADVERTISEMENT

To repot, water first, then gently slide the plant out of its current pot and look at the roots. If they are circling around or are too tightly packed and there’s little or no soil, tease them apart a bit and cut back any that look black, mushy, or are just too long. If it now has plenty of room in the original (cleaned) pot, just add fresh potting mix and thoroughly water, making sure the excess water drains out. No rocks, pottery shards, sand, etc. in the bottom. Just potting mix, with a piece of coffee filter covering the drainage hole if you want. If you need a larger pot, only go up by about 2 inches in diameter.

You may get your garden questions answered by calling the Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Master Gardener will return your call. Or, emailing me at umnmastergardener@gmail.com and I will answer you in the column if space allows.

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.

You may get your garden questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Master Gardener will return your call. Or, emailing me at umnmastergardener@gmail.com and I will answer you in the column if space allows.

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.

What To Read Next
Linsey Strand, Tanya Bergman and Aaron Schmidtbauer are among the 131 nominees.
Thousands expected for annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza Saturday, Jan. 28, on Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake.
Little Falls Flyers Nordic Invitational at Camp Ripley.
Attention teachers: Don't forget to submit your students' weather drawings to the Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401