Q: I purchased a dark cherry tree five years ago. I do not have the packaging anymore, but I thought it would produce cherries. It has never bloomed. It is planted on the west side of the house at the edge of a wooded area, slightly in the shade. Is there anything I can do to help it bloom? I have a similar problem with a raspberry bush that is also planted on the west side along the garage. I have had it for two years and it has bloomed, but has not produced anything. Any help in getting these plants to produce fruit?
E.H. of Belleville
A: Your description of a dark cherry indicates that you are probably trying to grow a sweet cherry cultivar, something like a Bing cherry. These usually require another cherry cultivar to pollinate them. These sweet cherries also bloom earlier, making them subject to a spring frost that damages the flowers and prevents pollination. Tart cherries are self-pollinating, which means they do not need a pollinator.
The western exposure may speed up the flowering process, making your tree even more susceptible to a killing frost because the flowers open earlier. I recommend going to a local nurseryman to purchase fruit trees and plants because they choose plants appropriate for this area. Local plant people have good knowledge of their plants and can give advice to acomplish what you are trying to do.
Your raspberry plant has a different problem. The plant is producing flowers, but the pollinator insects are not fertilizing by carrying pollen from one flower to another and/or the wind pattern is not helping to distribute the pollen from flower to flower. Give it this year to see if pollination occurs. If not, transplant the raspberry plant to a more open area to help with the pollination.
Q: As I was cutting back my butterfly bush, I broke off some dead stalks to open the plant a little. I could see larvae inside one of these hollow stalks. Any idea what kind of larvae these might be?
P. H. of Troy
A: You sent a great photo, but unfortunately this shows a pupa stage of an insect, which is hard to identify because this stage is between larva and adult. You can collect these pupas and place them in a glass jar with a material cover to prevent them from escaping. They should complete development and turn into adults some time this spring. Then, take another photo to show what the adult looks like. If the larva are no longer in the stalks, they already have completed this stage.
Butterfly bushes usually do not have too many pests bothering them.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do it now
- Deadhead tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs when they are finished blooming to prevent all the leaf energy going to form seed pods and not going to the floral buds for next year’s spring bloom.
- Check your wilder areas because the spring flowering ephemerals are in bloom right now. You should not mow them until they are finished blooming and have formed seeds to increase the number of plants for next year.