Doug’s mailbag: Rehoming daylilies, butterfly bush, amaryllis and more

Posted on: March 29, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Gardening editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)


Question 1: Rehoming daylilies

Jan: This past November we dug up clumps of daylilies to take with us when we were supposed to move to another home in early April. We cleaned them off, and kept them in boxes with air holes and vermiculite in our shed. The plan was to get them in the ground as soon as we got there. These lilies came from my father-in-law’s house. Some are common, some were very expensive. Now our move has been pushed back to July, and I don’t know what to do with them. My first thought was to pot them, but I would be looking at close to two dozen pots. Of the three kids who took the lilies he had, ours are the only ones left. Thank you in advance for any help or insight you could offer.

Doug: There are a couple of things you could do. One would be to pot them up as you mentioned. You could share big pots with three or four plants if you had the containers. An easier way to do this would be to plant them in a nursery bed. That’s just an area created to hold plants until they are ready to go into their permanent home. The plants will be much happier in soil, whether it’s pots or a garden spot. Daylilies are tough and can be moved anytime. When you make the move in July, try to look for a cloudy day if there’s an option. If that doesn’t work, plant the daylilies toward the end of the day and give them some water so they can get established.

Question 2: Butterfly bush

Judy: When can I trim my butterfly bush down, and should I cut it low to the ground? It is about 4 foot high.

Doug: It can be done right now. Cut it down to abut 18 inches. I know it will seem crazy, but you’ll get better blooms out of the resulting growth.

Question 3: Blooming amaryllis

Char: I don’t know if this is supposed to be happening right now, but I cut back my amaryllis and it’s now putting out new leaves. What do you think or what should I do?

Doug: That’s exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. Once it’s done blooming, remove the flower stalk, then the foliage will emerge.

Grow the amaryllis as a houseplant until May and then take it outside. It could probably use some good organic liquid fertilizer over the summer. In August, stop watering and fertilizing and put the pot in a cool dark place to put it into dormancy. In about eight weeks bring it back into the light, give it a little water and hopefully it will bloom again.

Question 4: Mystery plum tree

Ray: I had a plum tree for 35 years (bought it at Harts, aka Big Bear Stores). It kept getting lichens on it for six years until it finally died. Do you know ‘Avery early plum’? This one was ripe by July 4 and sweeter than any store-bought plums. It was red on the outside and yellow on the inside (and purple when fully ripe, almost rotten). It’s not real big like baseballs, kind of like a plum tomato shape. Any clues would be a great help.

Doug: I haven’t heard of that one. Take a look at ‘Early Magic,’ ‘Early Golden’ and ‘Methly.’ See what you think of the size and color of the fruit. They all ripen in July. EG readers, any ideas about the Avery plum?

Previous mailbags

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Blackberry bush, garlic sprouts and a gardenia tree

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Poison ivy, amaryllis troubles, tomatoes and more

Memorial gardens, orchids and tomato advice

Unknown plants, Christmas cactus and raised bed gardens

Christmas cactus, gnats, shredded leaves and more

Leaf size, no-light plants and grubs

Canna lilies, elephant ears, daffodils/garlic and more

Hibiscus care, tomato seeds, daffodils and succulents

Early garlic, pencil holly, hydrangeas and tree locations

Bellflowers, sweet potato vine, deer/garlic and more

Lemon tree, Knockout roses, soil repair and more

Butterfly weed, tomato seeds, rose bushes and more

Roses, Japanese beetles, planting garlic and more

Artillery fungus, heliotropes, crown gall and more

Skunks, pawpaws and a memorial tree

Mushrooms, harlequin bugs, fall planting and more

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”