QUESTION: "When a description says the plant is deciduous, does that
always mean it loses its leaves? Does it lose both its flowers and
leaves or just flowers? I plan to landscape the front of our house,
which faces east, and down the side of the house, which faces north.
My husband and I want color and the foundation planting that will keep
its leaves, which I always considered evergreen, but now I'm not so
sure I'm understanding what to call different plants. How do I know
what part of the plant is "deciduous"? Or is this a stupid question? I
hope not. I just need help." - Libby Sexton
ANSWER: It can be confusing sometimes. A deciduous plant (tree or
shrub) will go dormant (its rest period) beginning when either the
weather starts becoming colder (40's to 50's) or when an area
experiences a hard frost (temperatures dropping below 32 degrees,
usually overnight). It will begin to lose its leaves at this time.
Blooming plants have specific periods when they bloom. They aren't
always in bloom. Many will bloom either in spring or summer.
"Evergreen" is used to describe plants (trees/shrubs) that do not go
dormant and retain their leaves or needles. This generally refers to
pines, spruces, boxwoods, junipers, yews and holly. Broadleaf
evergreens are plants that retain leaves (very thick leaves) year
round. But, they do shed the leaves periodically. This will apply to
plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and photinia.
Perennials are (usually) smaller plants which die completely back to
the ground after cool weather or frost sets in, then return the
following season. Annuals are plants that you have to set out every
year as they will die completely. These include marigolds, pansies,
geraniums, and other decorative often flowering plants.
QUESTION: "I have three holly bushes in shade (at least one female and
at least one male, though I do not remember whether we have two males
or two females), and they have had no berries for the last several
years. What can I do to fix this problem?" - Janet Furey
ANSWER: Actually, this is one of the most frequent questions that I
receive. I am so used to answering it that I guess I just didn't think
about including it in the column or newsletter. Thanks' for the idea.
But, so as not keep you in suspense, I'll share it with you now.
Not all hollies enjoy shade. If your varieties prefer sun, the shade
can limit any blooming. You would have to move the plants.
One male plant can pollinate 4-6 female plants. But, both sexes must
be in bloom at the same time and planted within 100 feet of each
other. If several did produce berries at one time, the one holly bush
that didn't have berries that year will be the male (male hollies
don't produce berries).
Hollies don't usually begin flowering until after the 4th year. If
your plants are younger, that might be the reason for no berries.
Hard frosts during their blooming period can cause the blooms to fall
off before pollination. Cool and rainy spring weather will limit
insects from pollinating effectively. Plants can be covered during
blooming if cold weather is anticipated.
Recently I read that too much nitrogen in the soil can cause the
blooms to fall off before pollination takes place. This can be caused
not only from direct application of fertilizer to the plants, but run
off from lawn and surrounding bed applications as well. Test your
These are the most common reasons that holly shrubs will not produce
fruit. I hope the list helps you find the cause of your plants not
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org