Pale, spindly growth can mean too much water

Some of my tea roses have kind of lime green leaves and really spindly growth. Could it be from too much water? I had some problem with drip lines that weren’t closing properly.

— Doris

You didn’t mention how old your plants are or how long this has been going on but I’m going to assume that they’re fairly new and that this is a problem that’s shown up this spring.

If that’s so, then I’m thinking that they’re getting too much water. I’ve been fooled in the past, but pale, spindly growth usually is due to that.

You mentioned some drip lines that weren’t shutting off so this makes sense. The best thing you can do is to dig and check soil moisture to determine how often and how much to water.

Seven years ago, we bought a flowering crab and planted it in the back corner of our lot that is bordered on two sides by a farmer’s irrigated hay field. The ground around the crab has now settled making a natural bowl six to eight inches deep centered and maybe eight feet in diameter.

When the farmer over irrigates, the water will come in and fill the whole bowl several inches deep a couple times per season. When I see this I get out an old sump pump and pump out the excess water out, thinking that the excess water could smother the roots if left to stand too long. What I would really like would be for the tree to be planted a foot higher and the dirt hilled up to make natural drainage away from the tree.

I cannot just bring in fill dirt because it would cover the graft, right? Could I make a donut-shaped dike around the tree to keep this water away from the graft without covering the graft?

— Tom

You’re right to be concerned about drowning the tree. Having the tree in a bowl like yours invites run-off water from other places to collect there and problems with overwatering usually ensue.

If the tree is out on its own with no lawn growing around it, you could simply build a dike to block or divert the excess water from your neighbor. That way, you have control of the water the tree receives.

If, however, there’s lawn growing around the tree, the only way to properly fix the problem is to dig the tree up and reset it at the proper height. This is not the time of the year to be doing this. The best time is early spring, sometime in March, but you could also do it this fall after the leaves have dropped off the tree.

If you want to try doing this, be sure to get as big of a rootball as you can handle around the roots of the tree and work to keep the soil intact so it doesn’t crack apart. Understand that doing this is risky, you’re going to be cutting off a majority of the roots of the plant and there’s a possibility you could lose it, but continuing the way it is often leads to the death of the tree.


I cut down an overgrown honeysuckle bush in October and have shoots coming up. Should I dig them out or let them grow?

— Dennis

I guess the answer depends on whether you liked the shrub and if it’s in a good place for you. If the answer is “yes,” then by all means leave it alone to develop into a “new” shrub.

Shrubby honeysuckle are fairly attractive plants and are certainly tough and hardy but they can develop problems with a specific aphid that causes distortion, dieback and even death of the plant. If you haven’t experienced that in the past with the old plant, I’d leave it.

However, since the spray schedule is fairly rigorous to keep this little monster under control and since the plant is usually considered “nothing special,” most people dig them out and plant something else.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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