DEAR JESSICA: I've had a gardenia plant for two years. It flowered when I received it, and has never done so again. What is its problem? -- Mary Nicotra, Flushing
DEAR MARY: Gardenias are tricky. They require a lot of humidity, bright but indirect sunlight and a very specific temperature range in order to bloom properly (65-75 degrees during the day and 55-60 at night). This is pretty difficult to attain in the home.
In addition, they are very heavy feeders. A balanced fertilizer should be applied twice a month and an acid-based product should be applied three or four times a year, following package directions.
Most likely, it was blooming when you received it because it had been growing in a nursery or greenhouse at ideal conditions until you brought it home.
DEAR JESSICA: Would you know what plant is in this picture? I have it in my yard and have been meaning to remove it, but I thought I should find out what it is first. -- Katherine Rasmussen, Medford
DEAR KATHERINE: That's Phytolacca americana, commonly called pokeweed. The herbaceous red-stemmed perennial, which is toxic if ingested, typically grows 3 to 10 feet tall. Take care when removing it, as its sap can cause skin irritation. It's best to cut the plant completely at ground level and dispose of all plant parts, including any fallen seed-containing berries, in the trash. Then dig out the taproot.
DEAR JESSICA: I want to plant all my bulbs in pots. Can these pots be kept outdoors for the winter? Should they be covered? -- Sharon Eckhaus, Holbrook
DEAR SHARON: Yes, you can keep container-planted bulbs outdoors over the winter as long as the pots used are large enough to contain enough soil to insulate them from freezing temperatures. A container with a diameter of 18 inches should be fine, but bigger would be even better. Smaller pots should be moved into a protected unheated area, such as a garage or shed, over winter. Unheated basements are usually too warm for overwintering planted bulbs.
It's important not to leave terra cotta planters outdoors over winter (whether they're filled or not) because they tend to crack in cold temperatures.