Ask the gardener: Watch the soil, and picking the right coneflowers

Ask the Expert Gardening
Wild pink coneflowers are most likely to return.
Wild pink coneflowers are most likely to return. AP FILE Photo/Gillian Jones

What to do this week: Keep watering! If soil in pots has dried so hard it won’t absorb water, completely submerge them in a tub for a thorough soaking. Water vegetables — especially tomatoes — three times a week in early morning (to discourage fungus growth). Harvest corn when the silk at the end of the ears turn brown. Harvest zucchini squash any time, but they are best when still small with glossy skin. Pick cabbage worms off broccoli and other brassicas (including arugula, cabbage, kale, turnips). Pull weeds before they go to seed. Roots slip out more easily in slightly damp soil, so weed after rain or watering. This is the best time to plant peonies or dig up and move them to a full sun spot if they are shaded.

Q. I always thought coneflowers (echinacea) were perennials and in the past have had beautiful ones that came up in successive years. Now when I planted them in the same spots, they didn’t return the second year. This was true last year of an orange and red. Are they annuals now?

A.E.A., Waltham

A. Wild pink coneflowers are usually perennial. But since they became popular, plant hybridizers have bred new colors such as orange and red that are not as tough as the original. For perennial dependability, stick with the old fashioned plants that have stood the test of time. My new coneflower varieties didn’t return, either.

Q. I have 16 2- to 3-year-old tea roses in my backyard, each full of green leaves with new growth. However, not one rosebud. Do you think they will flower next year, or do I need to pull them all out and plant new ones? Any suggestions?

L.L.F., Quincy

A. I suggest patience, and no fertilizers high in nitrogen, which promotes leaf growth at the expense of flowers. (Do not fertilize lawn adjacent to your rose bed, either.) If you apply a special rose fertilizer now such as Epsoma Organic Rose-tone and keep your roses watered, they may be coaxed into bloom when the weather cools. In any case, they will probably bloom next year after more growth. They’re still young.

Q. Last year my linden tree was filled with yellow flowers and was a magnet for pollinators, which is great. This year the linden is very green and healthy, but not one flower. Do you know why?

B.H., Stoughton

A. Lindens and some other types of Tilia trees don’t always bloom every year. One reason is because a smaller percentage of their seeds will be eaten by birds if they produce no flowers one year and twice as many the next year, increasing the odds of baby tree survival. It’s safety in numbers! You are smart to recognize those yellow flowers. Most trees bloom but their flowers are not very showy so people usually don’t notice them. Linden flowers are pretty, make great honey, and are even edible themselves. This is a great tree.