Q: Two domestic dogwood trees I planted 12 years ago have failed to bloom. My nursery gardener here in Magalia has instructed that I fertilize them with 0-10-10 in the fall and they will bloom the following year.
I live in the foothills at 2,200- foot elevation, and the dogwoods are planted under pines and fir trees. Neither tree has grown or bloomed to date. When I bought the trees, I followed the planting instructions provided. Can you suggest a solution?
Peter Gaudino, Magalia
A: According to UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce, fertilizer that does not contain nitrogen but has phosphorus and potassium such as plant foods marked "0-10-10" is used to promote blooms particularly in perennial plants and works well with flowering trees and shrubs.
However, there may be other factors affecting your dogwoods. If you have Eastern dogwoods (Cornus florida), they need morning sun and afternoon shade in our hot, arid climate.
If the lower branches of your pines and firs are blocking the morning sun, remove some of those branches so that the sun's rays directly strike the dogwoods. Sunlight as well as fertilizer will promote bloom.
By "domestic," do you mean California native? That would be the Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii). In their native range, this California tree grows at 4,000- to 5,000-foot elevations with abundant winter moisture in soil that retains moisture during the summer.
Pacific dogwoods prefer a sheltered location as you have provided and benefit from morning sun. So, in addition to fertilizer and pruning the sheltering trees, some summer irrigation a deep watering about once a month may bring these dogwoods into bloom.
Q: Please give me information about the resurrection plant. I don't know what to do to make it flourish.
Nita Prewitt, Roseville
A: Resurrection plant (Selaginella lepidophylla) also known as rose of Jericho, siempre viva or everlasting is native to the deserts of Arizona, Texas and northeastern Mexico. According to UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce, they are living fossils and their presence on Earth goes back millions of years.
Since they live in sand or on rocks in their native habitat, they should be grown in a cactus soil mix that can be purchased at most nurseries. This type of soil allows the water to drain away quickly and avoid root rot that would develop in heavier soils.
Their fertilizer requirements would be minimal, perhaps a liquid fertilizer applied at half strength a couple of times a year. They are ideal plants to have when you go on vacation because no one needs to water them in your absence, Pierce added.
Its Latin name means "small scaly-leafed juniper," because of its foliage. But it's actually a primitive plant that fits somewhere between mosses and ferns. They reproduce by single-cell spores and lack flowers, fruit or seeds. Even their "leaves" aren't really leaves but extensions on their stems. Its ancestors date back at least 400 million years and once dominated the plant world.
This desert dweller has adapted well to its native environment. During hot summer months, the plant curls up to conserve moisture and goes into dormancy. When it rains, the plant absorbs water and grows rapidly, appearing to come back from the dead.
This plant should give you lots of pleasure letting it grow, drying up and then springing back to life.
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