Q. We planted several holly plants last year. When is the best time to fertilize these plants and what fertilizer should we use?
— C. G. of Oakdale
For the holly plants, you can use an Azalea and Rhododendron fertilizer (5-10-10), which contains iron and sulfur to keep the soil slightly acid. Hollies usually lose their leaves in late spring and form new leaves from the overwintering buds. Most people don’t notice the hollies losing their leaves while the other spring-flowering shrubs are in full bloom. A yearly mulch can also be applied in late spring and can be spread on the soil as far out as the branches spread out on the plant.
— S. L. of Belleville
Some gardeners plant other perennial plants in the same bed, masking the leaves of the spring flowering bulbs. Some use Virginia Bluebells, also known as cow slip (Mertensia virginica), which blooms right after the spring bulbs finish flowering. Other gardeners use hardy ferns to fill these open areas. Commonly available ferns include Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), Toothed Wood Fern (Dryopteris spinulosa), Lady Fern (Athyrium felix-femina), Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), Cinnamon fern Osmunda cinnamonea and Leatherwood Fern (Dryoteris marginalis). The ferns will require some shade, especially in the afternoon.
Ferns do not produce flowers but give a great leaf display and will cover a pretty good area. They will also not compete with the spring bulbs.
— F. M. of Collinsville