Garden Docs: How to care for cyclamen, apricot trees and more

Joan N. writes: My cyclamen are dying back since the weather has turned beastly hot. Is it possible to propagate the plant?

The easiest way to propagate a cyclamen is by dividing the corky-like cyclamen tuber, which can be done at almost anytime. But for success, the tuber must have a least two obvious growing points, meaning shoots or buds.

Following is the recommended propagation procedure from The Cyclamen Society:

– Choose a medium-sized pot and fill with a moistened potting medium.

– Dig up the tuber and verify the number of growing points.

– With a sharp knife, cleanly slice the tuber into two or more pieces, with each piece having one growing shoot or bud.

– Don’t plant the pieces immediately, but let the tuber pieces callus over (dry) for a few hours.

– Dip the base/bases of tuber pieces in a rooting hormone and plant the pieces so they rest halfway above the moist potting medium.

– Cover the pot loosely with a plastic bag for two or three weeks and new roots should form. Keep the pot out of direct sun. The plastic cover should keep the soil moist, but check on moisture and new root formation.

Deb asks: I was given an old cyclamen plant but the buds and leaves are somewhat deformed. I have never seen any cyclamen with this problem. Do you have any ideas on what could be causing the deformities?

The cyclamen mite could be the culprit. The mites do this damage by feeding and injuring the plant tissues. Mites are especially attracted to the new growth.

First try washing off the plant foliage with a strong spray of water every other day for three weeks. If you persevere, this will help get rid of the mites.

Now for the bad news. The best solution is to discard this severely infested plant. Cyclamen mites can spread to other plants simply by touching the infected leaves. Then the mites can inadvertently be transported elsewhere.

Bud writes: Are you familiar with the Chilean lily-of-the-valley tree? I was told it is a great tree for a small garden.

The Chilean lily-of-the-valley tree, Crinodendron patagua, is an evergreen broad-leaf tree that can reach 25 feet in height when mature. The leaves resemble a leathery oak leaf and it is covered with masses of pendulous and fragrant white bell-shaped flowers in the summer that sometimes last until fall, depending on the weather.

It should be planted in an area that has some shade and away from sidewalks, since the blossoms and seed pods that drop can be messy.

When young, Crinodendron patagua has a shrubby growth habit, so it will require early shaping and training. This unusual and popular small tree, grown at the UC Davis Arboretum, has proven it can accept a variety of growing conditions as long as the soil is not compacted and receives ample water. If you have compacted soil that does not drain adequately, it may not be the perfect selection for your small garden.

It may take some research and calls to local nurseries to find out if it is easily available in our area.

Ellis asks: Can you tell me why apricot trees should not be pruned during their dormancy period? Last fall we purchased a home that had three apricot trees. My new neighbor advised me to wait for warmer weather before pruning, but he could not give me any reasons for delaying the pruning. I followed his advice and will wait before I prune the trees. All seems to be going well with the apricot’s health and their fruit production.

Your neighbor gave you good advice. Apricot trees should be pruned when there is no chance of rain, such as in a dry late fall. If you prune your trees during the winter, your trees could fall victim to the fungal disease Eutypa. This is a dieback disease that attacks apricots during the rainy months. The fungus lives on old diseased wood, is spread by rain and then infects the trees through pruning wounds.

Limbs start to die during the summer, showing rough, dark cankers at the pruning wounds. Also, there may be some oozing from the cankers.

Trees that show symptoms of this disease should have their infected limbs removed (during the summer or fall) by cutting at least 6 inches below any obviously discolored areas. Pruning tools should be sterilized before each new cut by dipping the tool in a water/bleach solution. Spraying the tools with Lysol is another easy sterilization tip and prevents rust formation and lengthy cleaning of the pruning tools after the job is completed.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors at The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and at

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