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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden Detective: Seeding lilies

Bulbils that develop along the stems of Asiatic

Bulbils that develop along the stems of Asiatic lilies can be planted like seeds. (Aug. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: Jessica Damiano

DEAR JESSICA: When reading your garden calendar for August, I see you mentioned "collecting seeds" from daylilies on the 25th. I have several varieties of daylilies (Stargazer, Casablanca, etc.). Please tell me how to do this. -- Barbara Serenita, East Northport

DEAR BARBARA: Your plants are Asiatic, or Oriental, lilies, not daylilies, but you still can collect seeds from them. Some varieties of Asiatic lilies produce stem bulbils, pea-size dark brown or black balls that form in areas where the leaves meet stems. They typically fall to the ground and root on their own, but if you want to pick them up and plant them elsewhere, you can do that. Just dig a shallow trench and plant them in rows. After they finish blooming, green pods will take the place of flowers. When the pods turn brown, remove them and store in a cool, dry spot indoors for two to three weeks to dry. The tiny, beige, papery seeds that spill out should be stored in a paper envelope in the refrigerator, away from fruit, until spring.

Daylilies also produce seedpods, but they should be allowed to remain on the plant until they dry out, turn brown and split open; seeds that are pried out before the pod splits likely won't germinate. Store them in a paper envelope in the refrigerator -- away from fruit -- until early next spring, then start them in small pots or cellpacks indoors. You can move fledgling plants outdoors after the danger of frost has passed, in mid- to late May, but they won't bloom until at least the following year. Just be aware that if your lilies were hybridized, the plants you grow from seeds very likely will bloom a different color than their mother.

DEAR JESSICA: Can you identify this plant? -- Josephine Platania, Farmingdale

DEAR JOSEPHINE: That's Doreanthus 'Mezoo,' a trailing succulent that's reminiscent of an ice plant. Native to southern Africa, it's quite heat- and drought-tolerant and sports small, red, daisylike flowers when the sun is very hot and strong (or, if grown indoors, when the light is kept very close).

DEAR JESSICA: Last year, we planted a fig tree, which produced figs. I followed your instructions on how to wrap it for winter, and this year it doubled in size and once again has produced figs. However, the leaves are now turning a light green. It gets sun most of the day and plenty of water. The tree is planted between two outside air-conditioner condensers (we live in a condo) and close to the building for protection. Is there any kind of fertilizer or food we should give it? Other than the leaves, it seems to be doing well. Also, no bugs are eating it. -- Joey and Helen Tomeo, Medford

DEAR JOEY AND HELEN: Fig leaves turn light green or yellow when they're under attack by insects, which you have ruled out, or when they're receiving too little or too much water. Because you mentioned it gets plenty of water, I'm going to bet it's the latter. Figs should get about an inch to an inch and a half of water once a week, either from rainfall or supplemental irrigation. I'm concerned the air-conditioning might be a source of dripping water, which could be causing the problem. If you find that's the case, move the tree after it has gone dormant in the fall. Cut down on watering and give it a dose of 5-10-5 fertilizer. Top-dressing with some composted manure will help, too. The yellowing leaves can't be saved; they'll drop off. But following these recommendations should result in the production of healthy green foliage going forward.

DEAR JESSICA: My pussy willow tree has some long branches that almost touch the ground and should be pruned. When will it be OK to cut them? -- Ann Lantier, Oakdale

DEAR ANN:Wait until late winter, after you've enjoyed the season's catkins, then remove the oldest branches -- the gray ones -- and cut back the younger ones, which will be brown.


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