IN THE GARDEN

Posted: January 27, 2018 at 1:45 a.m.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Rose Illustration

Q This winter weather confuses me about when to trim my roses. Mine are about 7 feet tall. I want them to be about 4 feet tall. When can I do it?

A Regardless of the type of winter we have -- warm or cold, hot or dry, we still need to wait until late February. Waiting until the bulk of winter is passed is best before you begin pruning. In milder winters, they could be growing by now, which prompts people to want to prune early. This can open them up to winter damage if the mild weather switches to harsh -- which can happen. The reason we like to wait until late February is, typically, that is long enough to get past the potential wintry weather. This year we have had much lower temperatures than we are used to, and there may be some damage to the plants. Leaving the tall canes on will serve as a buffer. It is recommended that you prune bush roses back to within 8 to 18 inches off the ground each year. If you only want mature roses at 4 feet, I would consider pruning them back to 8 inches to allow plenty of room for them to grow this next season.

Q We planted Indian hawthorn around our house last spring. The plants on the north side have done well with only some black spot fungus, but the plants on the south side have much worse black spot infestation. We have sprayed fungicide routinely and removed diseased leaves until the dead of winter. Now we need advice about the spring. Do we remove all the diseased leaves, which would defoliate the plants before spring? Do we spray for the fungus now or just before spring?

A Indian hawthorn shrubs can suffer from entomosporium leaf spot disease. There are several new varieties that are resistant to the disease, but it doesn't sound as if you have those. I would not take off all the damaged leaves, but do good sanitation around the plants, removing any leaves that have fallen. I would spray with a fungicide in early spring as growth is about to begin. Then wait and spray again four weeks later. While it may be necessary to spray on a regular basis to keep them totally disease free, I personally would not want to do that. I would try a preventive spray and then see what happens. A general fungicide such as Daconil, Bayleton or broad spectrum fungicide should work.

Q We have two fiddle leaf figs sitting side by side. They are beautiful plants, but recently one is getting brown spots. Some spots are near the edge and some are in the center of the large leaves. What am I doing wrong? Overwatering? Underwatering? Should I remove the damaged leaves? Should I cut out the brown spots?

A Overwatering would be the most common cause of houseplant damage, but to be sure, take a leaf sample to your local county extension office. They can send it to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service's disease diagnostic lab and find out for sure. Most houseplants require very little water indoors in the winter. Most plants slow down their growth during the winter with the lower light, lower humidity and constant temperatures indoors.

Q About eight years ago I bought a 4-foot-tall banana plant. The plant was simply labeled "Banana Plant" so I don't know the variety. I planted it in a large pot, and it lives in a protected corner of our deck. It has never had any fruit or flowers. Each November, we haul it into the garage (I assumed freezing weather wasn't good for the plant) and then haul it back out at the end of February. This year when we wrangled it into the garage, we had to bend some of the leaves since the plant was scraping the 12-foot ceiling. I've read online that you can cut potted banana plants down to 12 inches before spring, but I'm hesitant to take a knife to it. When and how should I trim this lush beauty to get it down to a more manageable size?

A Many of the varieties of banana plants that are sold at local nurseries are now winter hardy, if planted in the ground, but they die back to the ground with a killing frost, and would benefit from a little extra mulch to cover them after a frost. It would not survive outdoors in a container. That being said, this winter may give us different results. Many gardeners do move their banana plants to a protected spot each winter. While you can leave them tall, you also can cut them back to make room for them in storage when you move them inside. Another option is to take them out of the pot, roll them in an old bed sheet and store them under the house. Banana plants that don't die back can bloom and set bananas, but they probably won't do so in a container, unless it is really large. They also need full sun to bloom and plenty of moisture and nutrition. Once a banana plant bears fruit, the mother plant dies, but pups or daughter plants are produced in abundance, usually -- whether they bear fruit or not. Again, that will be more common where there is room to spread and grow in the ground. Your container could be limiting their spread.

Janet B. Carson is a horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Write to her at 2301 S. University Ave., Little Rock, Ark. 72204 or email her at

jcarson@arkansasonline.com

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