Leafless plant with lilylike, pink flower probably 'naked lady'

Backyard Q&A

September 04, 2005|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to the Sun

A lovely pink flower that looks like a lily is emerging in spots around my yard. The flowers sit on the ends of 2-to-3-feet-long curved green stems -- but there are no leaves! This is our first year in this house, and we want to know if this is something someone planted or if it just grows here naturally. Any ideas?

You seem to be describing "naked ladies," also known as the belladonna lily. Both are common names for Amaryllis belladonna, a popular and easy-to-grow bulb. The flower stalk appears in late summer, and strappy leaves will follow. It is a native of South Africa and was almost certainly planted by a former occupant. It grows best in full sun, and the bulbs can be divided and replanted this fall.

I am growing sweet potatoes for the first time. The plants are very vigorous. How do I know when to harvest? And is it true you can eat the leaves?

Sweet potato foliage is very nutritious. In fact, the leaves have twice the protein content of the roots on a dry matter basis. Foliage can be sauteed or steamed. The roots continue to grow until frost kills the vines. It takes at least 90 days from the time you planted your slips for good-sized roots to develop. Go ahead and gently dig under one of your plants to check their current size. Harvest all the roots before the first frost for best storage and eating quality.

My azaleas are so big that they're growing above my kitchen windowsills. I know you're not supposed to prune until after they bloom in spring, but I can't wait that long. Will I ruin these shrubs by pruning now?

It's best to wait until the plants are fully dormant in November, because late season pruning can stimulate your shrubs to produce new shoots. This makes it harder for them to prepare for winter survival. If you must prune, do it as soon as possible and don't just prune off the end of straggly twigs. Instead, make thinning cuts at the junction of the overgrown twig and the larger branch to which they are attached. This will stimulate less new growth now.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information and answers to plant and pest questions. Call its hot line at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail questions to www.hgic.umd.edu. (You can also download or order publications and diagnose plant problems online.)

Checklist

1. Plan now to fertilize your cool-season turf (fescue, bluegrass) lawn in September and October. Read our online lawn publications at the Web address below.

2. Plant lettuce, spinach, and other salad greens for a healthy fall harvest. Spinach, arugula and cold-hardy lettuce varieties will survive the winter and regrow in the spring.

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