Fielding Questions: Rabbit-chewed branches should be pruned in spring

Q: I have several varieties of panicle hydrangeas, which are at least 4 feet tall. They've never been touched by rabbits - until last night when they chewed the bark off nearly every branch. I placed chicken wire around as many as I could and mad...

Q: I have several varieties of panicle hydrangeas, which are at least 4 feet tall. They’ve never been touched by rabbits – until last night when they chewed the bark off nearly every branch. I placed chicken wire around as many as I could and made a slurry of hot pepper sauce and sprayed on them, which is probably too late. If every branch is girdled and I have to prune them all off, will they produce new growth and achieve a reasonable form? – Steve Sebesta, Fargo
A: Paniculata hydrangeas are wonderful shrubs for our region, forming pyramid-shaped flower clusters creamy white or pinkish in color. The more common Annabelle hydrangea has huge round, white blooms. While the Annabelles regrow each spring from the lower base or ground level, the above-ground branches of panicle hydrangeas can be hardy to the tips, allowing them to grow to 8 feet or higher.
When rabbits destroy the branches of panicle hydrangeas, they must regrow from the base, and form a new structure. If the rabbits gnawed all bark cleanly down to the roots, they might not regrow. If enough lower buds are undamaged, the shrubs can grow back quickly this summer, and the structure can be regained with selective pruning.
It’s probably best to wait until spring growth begins to determine where living buds are located. That will tell you how far back to cut your hydrangeas. Remove all dead branches back to the point of live growth at that time. Good luck, and please keep us posted.

Q: I enjoyed your article on getting poinsettias to bloom again. It can be done! I received a plant for Christmas in 2012. I planted it outside on the east side of the house. In fall, it looked so good I took it back in and it bloomed in February 2014. I planted it back out in the same place, it did well, and I took it back in again.
Currently it’s doing fine. When transplanted directly, it did not like all the moving. It stressed a little but recovered just fine. – Eva Jefferson, Litchville, N.D.
A: Thanks, Eva, for sharing another poinsettia success story. As you mentioned, when given their summer vacation outdoors, they can be stressed if planted directly into flowerbed soil. Roots are lost when they’re dug and potted in fall. This can be avoided by sinking pot and all into the outdoor soil with the rim of the pot slightly below ground, which helps maintain moisture within the pot. In the fall, it’s easy to lift the pot and bring indoors.
Poinsettias develop colored bracts in response to short days and long, dark nights, which happen naturally in winter. But to bloom by Christmas, it is often necessary to do as the commercial growers do, and provide dark cover for 15 hours per night (about 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.) beginning Oct. 1.
Several months ago I challenged us to save our poinsettias and experiment with rebloom. You’ve got a good head start on us Eva. 

Q: I have a young jade plant that developed wrinkled drooping leaves. Could this be from overwatering or from being too close to a window during these cold nights? – Nancy Peterson, Warroad, Minn.
A: Because jade plants are native to South Africa, they probably resent chilly nights next to cold windows. But most jade plant problems are water-related. Wrinkling and drooping of leaves can be caused by becoming too dry, but it’s usually the opposite.
Being a “succulent” with thick leaves, they can go for long periods without watering in their African habitat. If watered too frequently, roots can rot. With fewer roots for water uptake, the plant’s leaves dehydrate, even though overwatering was the initial problem, and soil might still be moist. It’s always best to err on the dry side with jade plants. You might also want to repot into new, well-drained soil labeled for cacti and succulents.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at . All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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