Garden Q&A: Pruning hydrangeas depends on variety

Two of my three mophead hydrangeas have no flowers. I pruned all of them to the ground this spring like the nursery told me when I bought my Blushing Bride hydrangea. Now only the Blushing Bride has blooms. Are the other two getting too old to bloom?

The nursery was right about how to prune Blushing Bride hydrangea, but it is not like your other mophead hydrangeas. They cannot be pruned the same way. All three are Hydrangea macrophylla, but Blushing Bride is an Endless Summer variety. This recently developed variety blooms on new growth put out in the spring.

Common mophead hydrangeas make flower buds in late summer the year before they bloom. In other words, they bloom on one-year-old wood. If you prune off too much in the spring, you cut off all the flower buds. It's best to plant a common mophead where it will never need pruning.

Varieties of hydrangea that bloom on new growth are great for gardens that suffer deer browsing or dieback during the winter, because they'll still bloom beautifully in the summer. Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle is a native hydrangea that naturally blooms on new growth.

I tapped my pepper plants and all the blooms and little fruits fell off! What happened?

Heat. Night temperatures above 75 degrees or day temperatures above 95 can cause flowers and small fruits to drop off peppers. Also, plants often stop producing blossoms and fruits during mid-summer if temperatures are high. Fruit production resumes on healthy plants in late summer and early fall. This includes tomato, eggplant and beans. Arranging plants so they get some relief from sun in the hotter parts of the day can improve production. A shower in the middle of the day can help cool the plants down.

How often should I have my trees and shrubs sprayed for insects? My neighbor said he found mites on my plants and I should have it sprayed regularly.

Finding mites is not a problem in and of itself. Yes, there are bad mites, but there are also good mites, such as predatory mites, that eat the bad mites. In a balanced landscape, there is a constant fight ongoing between insects, parasitoids and predatory insects. It really is a jungle out there, and that's the way you want it to be.

We never recommend applying insecticides to a healthy landscape on a "schedule." We recommend the method known as IPM — Integrated Pest Management, which entails diagnosing a problem, pinpointing the offender, and only then choosing a solution, starting first with the most non-toxic approach.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the week Dwarf Lilac 'Bloomerang'

Syringa x Penda 'Bloomerang'

This dwarf rebloomer delivers classic purple-pink lilac blooms and fragrance either in your spring garden or as a cut flower indoors. Then, unlike traditional lilacs, it goes through a rest period and reblooms sporadically through summer until frost. The size of the summer and fall flower heads are not as large as the spring display but are still showy and fragrant. A compact growth habit with leaves smaller than the species, Bloomerang reaches about 4-5 feet in height and width, fitting nicely in smaller gardens, mixed borders, large containers, or as a short hedge. Bloomerang is easy to grow in full sun to light shade in average well drained soil. The shrub is resistant to powdery mildew and deer, and the blooms attract butterflies. Light pruning or dead heading is recommended to encourage reblooming. — Marian Hengemihle

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