Pansies are no winter wimps, but could succumb to problems of a different kind -- fungi

Backyard Q&A

January 19, 2003|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

My pansies were buried in the recent snowfalls and look kind of pitiful. Will they come back, or should I pull them out and plan on replacing them in early spring?

Pansies have weak branches and appear to be wimpy plants, but they are very resilient and can tolerate most winter weather. If your only problems were snow and cold, I would expect that your plants will slowly recover from the piles of snow and will come back strong in the spring.

On the other hand, there are several fungal diseases that thrive in cool, wet weather and can kill pansies. I would keep an eye out for evidence of disease and remove any plants that appear infected. The evidence would be dead and dying leaves and stems. If you do not see evidence of disease, but see only plants that have been flattened by the snow, I would leave them in the ground and plan on spending your money on other plants for the garden.

During the holidays I was traveling in the Midwest and saw a number of Austrian pines planted in landscapes. Is this a good pine for our area and do you recommend them for planting?

The Austrian (Pinus nigra) is a stiff and somewhat coarse tree that has been planted throughout the Midwestern and Northeastern states. It begins with a pyramidal shape and then broadens with age. Eventually, it loses all of its lower branches and maintains only a high canopy. It is very adaptable and will tolerate urban conditions and poor soil.

Though the Austrian pine is generally regarded as a cold-weather tree, it will grow here, and I have seen several nice specimen trees in the Baltimore area. However, this pine is prone to several diseases that are killing large numbers of trees. The white pine (Pinus strobus) has several of its own problems, but I think it is better adapted to our area, and is more likely to grow well here. I would suggest planting a white pine rather than an Austrian.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.


1. Did you bring in your outdoor furniture for the winter? This is a great time to refinish wood and metal furnishings. It can be done in the warmth of your basement or garage.

2. Are leaves falling from the hibiscus tree you brought in for the winter? This is natural and is not a cause for concern. Your tree will put out a flush of new leaves and branches in the spring.

3. It is not too late to clean up your flower or vegetable garden. Removing dead and diseased plants will help prevent problems from recurring in the spring.

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