What do I do with the stalk on my amaryllis, now that the flowers are gone? Will it flower again?
The stalk will wither and die, but allow it to transport its carbohydrates down to feed the bulb before you cut it off. When it's yellow, remove it. Give the bulb plenty of sunlight (not direct if it's outside in the summer) and fertilize until fall to bulk up the bulb again.
Then you have two choices. You can make it go dormant for a few weeks by withholding water and sun, then resume water and sunlight, aiming for a winter holiday bloom again. Or you can continue water and sunlight and let the bulb go dormant and leaf out again on its own schedule, resulting in a spring bloom time. They're spectacular for spring holidays.
I live in an 1830s Baltimore rowhouse and want to plant in the backyard. I dug down 12 inches and removed eight pickup trucks' worth of junk, brick and rocks. The leftover soil is sand, pea gravel, clay, and 150-plus years of wood and coal ash. I need a soil test and a prescription for how to make it fit for plants other than weeds.
Our online soil testing help includes videos, frequently asked soil questions, and information on selecting and using a soil testing laboratory, including a list of soil labs in our region. Soil samples can be sent in sandwich-type baggies. You'll probably want to test for lead, too. See the publication at http://www.hgic.umd.edu/content/documents/hg18.pdf.
Once you receive your soil test results, contact our horticulture consultants for the best way to proceed. We foresee lots of organic matter in your future.
We need to find out what kind of tree is in the yard of our new home. We were told it is a fruit tree. How should we care for it now?
Send us a digital photo through "Send A Question" on our Home and Garden Information Center website. It's possible to identify trees by their bark, but usually difficult. Otherwise, send the photos when it has leaves and flowers. Annual pruning is normally done when a fruit tree is dormant, but in this case, wait until you know the species, because species determines how it should be pruned. You can apply a dormant spray regardless of species. And test the soil now so you can amend or fertilize in spring according to the test results. You're welcome to send us photos of any other mystery plants you may have.
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 hgic.umd.edu.
Plant of the Week
Tulip poplar is not a tree to plant under a power line. Up to 200-foot-tall specimens of this magnificent native have been recorded, with an average height of about 100 feet and spread of about 50. However, if you want a rapidly growing shade tree that tolerates most conditions, this is a good choice. In the spring, it sports yellow, orange and green flowers that are the shape and size of large tulips. Fall foliage is a pleasing golden yellow. An important tree for wildlife, it is somewhat weak-wooded and tends to harbor aphids that secrete honeydew, so don't plant it over your parking space. — Ginny Williams