Here are answers to problems puzzling gardeners in the valley.
■ Pruning red yuccas: The red yucca has become very prominent in our landscapes as it’s so carefree. Removing the flower stalks is the only care it needs. When the stalks finish blooming, remove as much of the stub as possible back into the bush. These stalks make excellent additions to dried-flower arrangements. There is a new variety called “brakelights” — its bright pink flowers cause people to stop and take a second look. It’s very striking.
■ Watering fruit trees: There’s a belief we don’t need to water fruit trees during the winter. Because of our warm winters we must continue to water, but not often. Let’s take a page out of the Southern Nevada farmers’ watering guide. They use winter waterings to flush away the soil salts so plants get a fresh start next spring.
■ Overwatering and fertilizing palo verde trees: We all overwater desert-adapted trees. Let’s take a page out of the plant’s book: They get rain during the winter and summer monsoons and do just fine. We constantly water them, causing a constant need to prune them. Dennis Swartzell of Horticulture Consultants found that when he watered desert trees monthly at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he had to prune them only once a year; he was pruning them four times a year before reducing the water. Here’s another advantage of desert-adapted trees: They produce their own nitrogen so you don’t have to fertilize them.
■ Growing amaryllis: They do very well in our gardens. Don’t throw away the bulbs after Christmas. Plant them next spring in a well-drained, highly organic soil. The number of blooms you’ll get will astound you. I’ve seen more than two dozen blooms on each plant.
■ Lady Banks rose didn’t bloom: It has a lot to do with when you pruned them. I suspect you removed this year’s flowering wood last year. I use this rule of thumb on when to prune: “If in doubt, prune after bloom.” Post-blooming pruning makes it easier to train the bush.
■ Tall Mediterranean fan palms: Sometimes these palms get up into the overhanging eaves of homes if planted too close. Remove the entire trunk causing the problem. If you remove only the growing point, the stump will become a canker to your soul. Remove it at the trunk to the base of the tree.
■ Pruning and fertilizing roses: It’s not the time to prune or fertilize your roses. Besides, they are still blooming. So enjoy them, especially if we have a mild winter. Don’t fertilize them until spring.
■ Apples best for valley: I’ve had good luck with Dorsett Golden and Anna. They have low chilling requirements so you can expect crops each year; they’re easy to maintain in small yards. Both yellow-fruited trees are self-fruitful. The fruits have excellent flavor once you get past the first bite. Apples ripening in the summer are a bit tart until after the first bite. The Cooperative Extension recommends new improved varieties; call 702-257-5555 for a list.
■ Pruning lemons: Citrus needs little pruning. But if you must prune, do it after harvesting. You can see the new fruit, so you’ll know what not to prune it out.
■ Pruning Japanese boxwoods: This bush is very low maintenance, so it doesn’t require much pruning. Right now, plants are putting on their fall spurt of growth. Anytime you see branches growing faster than others, pinch them back with your “green thumb.”
■ Desert Green Conference: I am constantly hearing people say, “All my gardener knows is how to mow and blow,” and other inappropriate gardening practices. If you have this kind of gardener, encourage him or her to attend the Desert Green Conference coming Thursday and Friday to the Springs Preserve gardens, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Experts from all over the southwest will address subjects we confront in Las Vegas. Many classes will be in a laboratory setting in the Preserve’s gardens. For more information and to register, visit desert-green.org.
■ Good bugs, bad bugs: The Sunset Garden Club invites you to learn more about good and bad bugs. Master gardener Bill Hodson will help you learn about the many good bugs that help you control the bad ones. The free event is at noon Tuesday at the Paseo Verde Library, 280 S. Green Valley Parkway in Henderson. For more information visit www.sunsetgardenclubofnv.org.
Linn Mills’ garden column appears on Sundays. You can reached him at email@example.com or call him at 702-526-1495.