Red bud’s brown pods are no cause for alarm

Red bud trees devolop seed pods that turn brown when they mature.
Red bud trees devolop seed pods that turn brown when they mature.

Q. I am sending you two pictures of my redbud tree. The tree is about 8 years old and it bloomed this past spring as usual. This weekend, I noticed that all the seed pods are a dried-looking brown color. I’ve never noticed this in the past years. Did all the rain produce more pods than in past years or do I have a problem. What is it and how do I remedy it?

— K.Z. of Shiloh

A. Your redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) is starting to reach maturity with seed production this year, and with the extra rain it has produced a large number of seed pods. There is nothing to worry about. The seed pods are beginning to mature when they turn brown. This will be a normal occurrence every spring and fall unless a spring killing frost destroys the flowers. Some years, the tree will bear a heavy amount of seed and seed pods and other years there may not be as many. If the appearance bothers you, prune the pods off or they will fall off during the winter or early in spring.

Q. I would like to know something about the flower in the picture. It grows from a bulb that has to be protected from freezing. Every few years, I have to replant it because it gets overcrowded. The bulbs came from my grandmother who had these plants in the early 1900s. It has flowered five times this summer.

— W. E. of Belleville

A. Your photo shows the zephyr (Zephyranthes candida) flower, other common names are “flower of the west wind” and the fairy lily, which can flower white, or in your case, pink. This plant originates in Uruguay and was very popular to be grown in the United States from 1888 through the early 1900s. Because of its origin in the Southern Hemisphere, it blooms in the spring, which would be fall in that area, and can bloom repeatedly during the summer as long as the weather stays warm. Because the bulb is not winter hardy, you have to bring the bulbs inside or they can be killed with in the frozen soil in our plant zone 6 just as you stated. The flowers are borne on 1-foot stalks.

Q. Could you identify this pretty foliage that seems to be slowly popping its way up here and there in the backyard over the past three years? It is growing through my periwinkle.

— L.N. of Belleville

A. Your vining plant is a variegated English Ivy (Hedera helix). It has a creamy yellow contrasting with the dark green leaf, which also stands out with the pointed leaves of your periwinkle. This plant will sometimes flower in the fall. There are so many different varieties of the variegated forms that unless you bought a labeled plant the variety might be difficult to tell. The leaf shape also helps determine the variety. The periwinkle should keep the ivy in bounds and make the ivy an accent plant. This is the time of the year to make cuttings of ivy to propagate more plants to have them spread faster over the periwinkle. Make cuttings and place the cut ends into a soil media and dip the cuttings into rooting hormone available at most local garden centers. Overwinter the ivy cuttings inside and plant them in the spring after the danger of frost is over.

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

Do it now

CUTTINGS: Begin making cuttings of any tender plants you may want to overwinter, such as coleus, wax begonias, impatiens and fuchsias.