We often receive inquiries from folks wanting to add landscape plants that will attract birds. Most folks primarily think of plants with edible berries. Birds require not only food such as fruits and seeds, but also shelter and water. Planting a variety of plants that offer these resources across the seasons will help attract more birds to the yard. Some native shrubs to consider include: Aronia (chokeberry) Callicarpa (beautyberry) Clethra (summersweet) Cornus (dogwood) Corylus (hazelnut) Ilex (winterberry) Lindera (spicebush) Rhus (sumac) Sambucus (elderberry) Symphoricarpos (snowberry and coralberry) Viburnum (several species) More information on attracting birds and other wildlife to your yard in Purdue Forestry & Natural Resources publication FNR-247-W.
It’s not unusual for Indiana weather to have trouble deciding what season it is. Warm spells during the dormant period often lead to bulbs poking their foliage (and sometimes flower buds) through the soil. While we’re more used to seeing this happen during February warm spells, our frigid temperatures arrived a bit early in the Fall of 2019 followed by intermittent unseasonably mild weather. Indiana temperatures widely fluctuated in November and December, with the low temperature at the Purdue ACRE Farm (West Lafayette) of 25º F on November 7, 3º F on November 14, and 41º F on November 21! And the alternating pattern of below and above freezing continued through December. Correspondingly, soil temperatures also fluctuated from 63º on November 7, 36º on November 14, and 45º on November 27 at ACRE. There’s not much you can do about bulbs that have sprouted, but the good news is that[Read More…]
Deicing salts can save your neck this winter, but they can spell disaster for landscape plants. Whether the salt is sprayed on the plants from passing traffic near the road or is shoveled onto plants near the sidewalk, the salt can cause damage. Salts can adversely affect plants in several ways. Salts deposited on the surface of twigs, branches and evergreen leaves can cause excessive drying of foliage and roots. They can be taken up by plants and accumulate to toxic levels. Sodium salts in particular can also cause a nutritional imbalance by changing the chemistry of the soil and harm soil structure. The most apparent damage is death of buds and twig tips as a result of salt spray. As the tips of the plants die, the plant responds by growing an excessive number of side branches. However, accumulation damage is more slowly manifested and may not be noticeable[Read More…]
Just as sure as you try to predict the weather, it is likely to change. But going out on a limb, I predict that we will have a bit of a dud for fall color display this year. Not a very risky prediction, considering that many plants already are starting to turn color and/or drop leaves in some areas of the state. So why would the colors be early and/or a bit duller than usual? Certainly, some of the reason why plants display fall colors has to do with the genetic makeup of the plant. That doesn’t change from year to year. But the timing and intensity of fall colors do vary, depending on factors such as availability of soil moisture and plant nutrients, as well as environmental signals such as temperature, sunlight, length of day, and cool nighttime temperatures. The droughty conditions experienced during much of the second half[Read More…]
If you’re looking to add native shrubs to your home landscape, fall is an excellent time to look for those with good fall color. While many factors affect the display of fall color, there are a number of native shrub species that perform reliably in our area. Here’s a short list to consider including their mature height as well as flowers and fall color. Most can adapt to either full sun or partial shade, especially morning sun with afternoon shade with the exception of Dirca which prefers shade. You can look up more details for each of these species at the Purdue Arboretum Explorer website, including location of these shrubs on the West Lafayette campus. Photo Credits: Purdue Arboretum https://mlp.arboretum.purdue.edu/ecmweb/findPlant.php Selected Native Shrubs for Fall Color
Plants differ in their adaptability to different growing conditions. Sunshine is one of the most significant factors. We often think of light as being either sunny or shady, but, in fact, there are many “shades” of light in between. Your garden may experience light shade, such as that filtered through an overhanging tree; dense shade, such as that found in woodlands; or intermittent shade from an object, such as a building that blocks the sun for only a portion of the day. Some sites vary in their light exposure, depending on the season. Wooded areas usually have much more sunlight in winter and early spring when the trees are bare than in spring and summer when foliage blocks the light. Most horticultural plants perform best in full sun but may be able to tolerate semi-shady conditions. Trimming nearby trees and shrubs may help increase the light. Some plants may produce[Read More…]
Q: I’ve attached pictures of the only tree we have on our property. Because it is our only tree, I am deeply concerned with the possibilities of irreparable damage to it. As you can see, one of the branches broke off during a November windstorm. Unfortunately, that left a bare gap on the trunk. Please let me know how to treat this damaged area so no further damage is done to it and tell me what can be done to preserve its longevity. I do not know the name of this tree but it’s local. It is found almost everywhere in this area. It blooms white flowers in the spring that fall off shortly after and changes to beautiful colors in the fall. As you can see, it is a beautiful tree. Please help and thank you so much. – L. G., Valparaiso, Indiana A: To answer the second part of[Read More…]
It is easy to confuse Hemlock (Tsuga spp.) and Yew (Taxus spp.) unless you can see the overall plant habit or have them both side by side. Further confusing them is that both species may be pruned into hedges or other shapes that obscure the natural plant habits. Hemlock has short needles, 1/4 – 3/4″ long, green above and distinctly whitish silver below due to prominent white stomatal bands. Cones are 1/2 – 1″ long, ovoid, and pendulous. Yew has a slightly longer and wider needle -about 1/2 – 1 1/4″ long, dark green above and light green below, overall coarser texture compared to hemlock. Cones resemble berries, the brown seeds are covered by a fleshy red aril (seedcoat).
Burning bush is so named for its brilliant red foliage display in autumn. But we sometimes get questions asking why their shrub fails to color up, with leaves that remain green until they drop from the plant. Fall color or lack thereof is affected by a number of factors, including genetics of the plant and environmental conditions such as temperature, soil moisture, nutrition, and sunlight. If a particular specimen fails to perform over multiple years it is likely that the plant lacks the genetic disposition for good fall color. This is not likely to improve over time. Burning bush, also known as firebush, is considered an invasive plant in many states and is listed as a medium threat on the Indiana Invasive Species Council invasive plant list. https://www.entm.purdue.edu/iisc/invasiveplants.html This could be an opportunity to consider replacing burning bush with one or more of the following alternative shrubs with attractive fall[Read More…]
Although most “conifers” are “evergreen”, a few species are “deciduous”. Confused? Perhaps a review of these terms will help. conifer = cone-bearing evergreen = retains at least some green foliage year-round deciduous = all leaves die and are shed annually at same time Evergreens provide green color all year long but that doesn’t mean that the individual needles live forever. Evergreens shed their older needles to make room for new growth, but what makes these plants evergreen is that they retain some foliage all year long instead of shedding all of the leaves at once. Conifer needles have varying life spans, depending on the species and environmental conditions. White pine and arborvitae needles live for 2-3 years, Austrian and Scots pine needles live for 3 years, red pine needles live for 4 years. Firs, Douglas fir, and hemlock needles last about 3-4 years. Spruce needles live 3-10 years depending on[Read More…]