Cannas need to be dug up and stored for winter

I planted cannas this year for the first time. Do I have to dig up the bulbs and store them for the winter?

We hope they haven't turned to mush yet. Cannas are tropical. In mild or sheltered areas of zone 7, you can get away with cutting the cannas down and heavily mulching them each winter. Otherwise, when frost has killed the foliage, lift the rhizomes.

Dig gently, removing as much soil as comes away easily. Cut stems and foliage back to 2-3 inches and rinse off remaining soil. Let rhizomes air dry for a few days, then place in a paper bag and store in a cool dark area of your home where the temperature stays between 40 and 50 degrees F. In spring, divide the rhizomes into 6 inch pieces, making sure each piece has at least one bud when you replant.

Some pines in my area are dying. Lately I noticed needles on my white pine yellowing and falling off like crazy. Is there a blight I should know about?

The interior needles of many evergreen species turn yellow, then brown, and drop in the fall. This is the normal shedding of 3 to 5 year old needles. On white pine this shedding is especially noticeable, because they only hold their needles one year before dropping them. If they produce a lot of needles one year, then the following autumn they drop a surprising amount.

If the tree continues to die back however, and no new growth is visible next spring, there may be other factors involved. White pines do not tolerate drought or saturated soils well, i.e. the past five years in Maryland. Other possible causes of browning are mites, scale insects, borers, etc. Standing dead pines can attract bark beetles that can infest other weakened pine trees, so it is important to determine whether your pine is dying or not. Call or email us if you see new symptoms.

Any new ideas for keeping deer off my plants?

Recent research shows that fertilized plants are more palatable to deer than unfertilized plants. This principle applies to plants regardless of how attractive they naturally are to deer. When offered two of the exact same species and variety side by side, the deer will go for the fertilized one. The fertilizer seems to make it more nutritious. Since fertilizer is not recommended for young woody plants and not necessary for established ones, skip the fertilizer and stick to compost.

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

Plant of the week Spicebush

Lindera benzoin

Maryland forests light up in fall with foliage of our native spicebush. It continues to contribute year round. Chartreuse flowers the size and shape of peas announce spring, appearing on bare branches in March. Green leaves breeze through summer without pest or disease. Glossy red berries arrive in early fall, eagerly snapped up by birds. Year round, any part of the plant will release its piquant fragrance when crushed. A vase-shaped shrub reaching 6 to 12 feet high and wide, spicebush survives in spite of deer. Plant it in shade to sun, wet to moderately moist soil, for borders or naturalizing. It grows easily from seed.

—Ellen Nibali

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