Grumpy Instantly Solves Your Vital Gardening Questions for Spring!

Discusses Hydrangeas, Roses, Pruning, Houseplants, Herbs, Weeds, Transplanting, More!

All Answers Guaranteed Or Your Money Back!


Question: I came home this afternoon to see my hydrangeas pruned to the ground by my family. What is going to happen? Paula Poe

Answer: That depends on how violent a temper you have and whether your family left their machetes lying around. As for your hydrangeas, I'm guessing you mean the ones with blue or pink flowers. If you have reblooming types like 'Endless Summer,' 'Forever & Ever,' and 'Pennymac,' they'll bloom anyway. If you have once-blooming kinds, like 'Nikko Blue,' you'll get lots of leaves this year but no flowers.


Question: Is it possible to grow cilantro during summer in the South? It's so popular in Mexican cuisine, it seems it should be easy. Kelley Anderson

Answer: Cilantro is the name we give to the foliage of the coriander plant. The problem with growing it in the South is that it prefers cool weather. As soon as the temps rise into the 80's, it quickly blooms, sets seed, and dies. To grow it here, start seeds in fall or winter. You can start harvesting leaves in early spring. Once your plants start to flowers, let them. Save the seeds that form -- they're coriander.


Question: I just moved into a house where the azaleas are all bunched together and starting to flower. Would it hurt them severely to transplant them in bloom? I plan on keeping them watered and fertilized once I transplant. Jeff Droughitt

Answer: Transplanting them while they're in bloom will pretty much ruin the blooms for this year, but otherwise the plants will be fine. One thing I would advise is not fertilizing them for several weeks after transplanting. Transplanting stresses a plant and fertilizer makes this worse -- it's like giving a stroke patient Red Bull. Once the azaleas are settled and growing well, then fertilize them.


Question: I want to get your expert opinion on what houseplants would be most suitable for a dorm room. I need to find something that is low maintenance and does not need a lot of sunlight. Elise Holman

Answer: I have a friend who kept a snake plant in his dorm room, never watered it for a year, and it lived. With that in mind, here's a list of low-light houseplants you can't hardly kill. You can find them at most garden centers and greenhouses.

1. Snake plant (mother-in-law's tongue)

2. Chinese evergreen

3. ZZ plant

4. Corn plant

5. Diffenbachia

6. Pothos (show above)

7. Heart-leaf philodendron

8. Rubber plant


Question: My husband says the weed pictured above is nutsedge. Mind you, I'm not arguing since I wouldn't have a clue, but how do we kill it? It's in our Bermuda grass lawn that is just starting to awaken. Diana Hoffmann

Answer: That's not nutsedge -- a good thing too, because nutsedge is perennial and difficult to control. What you have is annual bluegrass (Poa annua). This is a cool-weather grass that germinates in late winter, sets seed in late spring, and the dies when it gets hot. You can spot-treat the annual bluegrass with Roundup to kill it, but be careful, because Roundup kills all grasses. So if I were you, I'd concentrate on keeping it from coming up next year. You can do this by growing as thick a lawn as you can, because annual bluegrass seed needs bare soil to germinate. Most importantly, apply a preemergent weed preventer, such as Scott's Halts, according to label directions in the fall.


Question: My husband and I are moving from Alabama to Atlanta in May and have lots of heirloom plants I want to take with us, like hostas (above), cannas, roses, and bulbs. Should I dig up the plants now and put them in pots or wait to pot them up in May? Susanna

Answer: Dig and pot them now. This will minimize transplanting shock as long as you keep them watered and cared for. Moving actively growing plants in May is problematical in the Lower South.


Question: Because of the bad weather, I was unable to get out and prune my roses this winter. Now since everything is budding, is it too late to prune my 'Knockout' roses? Willie Steele

Answer: No. 'Knockout' roses (above) bloom on new growth. By pruning them now, you'll encourage lots of new growth. Your first flowers may come a little later than normal, but you'll get plenty.


Question: I have a huge maple in my front yard that causes lots of problems. The roots protrude from the ground, making it hard to mow. The roots are also starting to buckle the walkway. And limbs fall off anytime the wind blows or it rains hard. Can you suggest an alternative? The tree company recommended 'Bradford' pear. Kate Fisher

Answer: from your description, Grumpy guesses you have a silver maple, which is famous for surface roots and brittle wood. DO NOT PLANT A BRADFORD PEAR or you will have the same problems! I recommend 'Allee' Chinese elm (above). It grows fast, does not have weak wood or surface roots, has beautiful bark, makes a great shade tree, tolerates drought, and has no pests. You can find it at most garden centers.


Question: Is there a weed-killing product that is safe to use in flower beds? I would also like to use a weedkiller on weeds in my pebble path. Mike Gilroy

Answer: Go to your garden center and pick up two bottles of ready-to-spray weedkiller. The first should be Roundup. Follow label directions carefully and don't spray it on anything you don't want to kill, as it kills almost everything. Use this on your pebble path. The second should be Ortho Grass-B-Gon. This product kills only grass, so if you have grassy weeds in your flower beds and don't warm to harm your flowers, this is a good choice.


Win A Brand New Garden!

Do you have a really awful yard? Would you like it to look a lot better? Grumpy hopes so, because the people at Encore Azaleas are holding a contest and offering a lucky winner a garden makeover. All you have to do is go to and send photos of your garden and write a short essay about why your garden is awful. Don't wait! The deadline for entries is April 4, 2011.

Thanks to jbachmann for the cilantro and Tony Rodd for the chinese elm pix.