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How to care for Easter lilies

Friday - 3/29/2013, 7:45am  ET

easter lily (Thinkstock)
Lilies are popular Easter gifts. (Thinkstock)

Easter lilies and cats don't mix

WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath


Editor's Note: Meet Mike in Dover next weekend. He will appear April 6 and April 7 at the Delaware Home and Garden Show at the Sheraton Dover Hotel..

Mike McGrath,

Make Easter flowers last longer

Happy Easter weekend, everyone!

Now, if you're going to buy some Easter plants, look for potted spring bulbs and Easter lilies that still have some buds that haven't opened, or at the very least, flowers that are very newly opened. You'll get a much longer show than from plants with fully opened flowers.

Spring bulbs like it cool. The cooler the room they're in, the longer they'll last. You can even display them outdoors if you like. They love this weather.

Easter lilies don't bloom naturally at this time of year. They're summer blooming plants that have been forced, so don't leave them outdoors. But they'll also last the longest in a cool, 60- to 65-degree room.

Don't overwater Easter plants. They drown easily. The best way to water is to remove any wrappings, let the pots sit in a sink with a few inches of water for an hour, drain and then re-wrap. Don't let water build up inside the decorative cover wrap. The plants will quickly wilt.

And don't give Easter lilies to people who have cats or bring them home to your own, cat house. Many cats like to chew on plants, and lilies are poisonous plants that can make cats really sick.

If you must mulch trees, at least don't hurt them

Rob in Clarksville writes: "Do I really need to mulch around my trees? I don't like the mulched circle look around the base of trees, but a tree trimmer recently said that my trees looked dry and that I should mulch them. Sounds crazy to me. What do you think?"

I think he's got a really big load of wood mulch to move, Rob.

Of course trees don't need mulch. Just look at the woods. There isn't mulch around any of those trees and they do just fine. In fact, many ill advised modern mulching practices are real tree killers.

If people feel they must use mulch, don't let any touch the trunk of the tree. Those volcano mulched trees with big moist piles around their trunks are guaranteed to have shorter lives. Tree bark needs to be open to the air so it can stay dry. Moist bark invites rot, insects and vermin to kill the tree. And don't let any mulch be deeper than 2 inches. Overly deep mulching prevents rainwater from reaching the roots.

Groundhogs are a menace that should not be ignored

George in Vienna writes: "Since my dog passed away last fall, I have found three bowling ball-sized tunnel entrances in my backyard, which backs up to a park. I have seen a few groundhogs foraging in previous years, but without a dog to keep them at bay, it seems like a groundhog hotel has opened up. Are they anything to be concerned about? I don't mind them if they're harmless."

Unfortunately, they are not harmless, George just the opposite. They eat massive amounts of plant material, their extensive burrows can undermine the foundations of buildings and their tunnel openings are a nasty leg break hazard. Because of the design of the opening, people unfortunate enough to step in a groundhog hole often suffer compound fractures that are very nasty and hard to repair.

You need to either fence them out with a very specialized design (see below) or get a new dog of the same breed, preferably from a rescue service. I'd suggest trapping them, but with that park behind you, there's an endless supply of underground immigrants to take the place of any you trap.

Groundhog fencing should be strong, welded wire fence and preferably 6 feet tall. The bottom 18 inches should be buried straight down in the ground, the middle section should be strongly staked and the top foot should be bent outward and left unsupported. Groundhogs are excellent climbers and you need that "baffle" at the top to keep them from climbing over.

A low to the ground electric fence will also do the job. Many modern designs run off a solar panel, so no house current is required. Plus, it is cheaper and safer for people.

Liquid corn gluten foils corn-eating dogs

Carol in Silver Spring was very pleased to hear last week's report about crabgrass preventing corn gluten meal finally being available in liquid form.

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