EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 26, 2007

'Why isn't my holly bush covered in red berries?'

Q: My male and female holly bushes have gotten along well over the past five years. But for some reason this year, the female has no berries (or blooms). I did prune them both somewhat this past spring. Any thoughts on what might be the cause?

A: You sound like you know your holly, so I assume you didn't miss seeing the tiny, insignificant holly flowers this spring.

If you had flowers, but no berries this past year, I would have blamed the lack of pollinators. A hard frost in late spring as well as periods of unusually dry weather could have also.destroyed the flowers, and therefore the berries as well. But you say you had neither flowers nor berries.

Pruning could.certainly be partially to blame because holly does fruit and flower on the previous year's wood, which you may have mistakenly removed.

The most logical reason, however, .is because hollies can be cyclical bloomers. After a great season of.flowers and berries, they often take a rest. You'll know for sure next year when they will hopefully be back to normal.

Q: A friend recently gave me a very interesting Christmas plant, but she did not know what it was called..I've looked in plant books, but can't find a picture of it. It has heart-shaped leaves and thin branches. The blossoms are bright pink and look like a squirrel's bushy tail, with the longest about 3 1/2 inches.. It seems to love the new pot and soil I planted it in..I give it some water about twice a week.

A: From what you've described, I think.you have a chenille plant (Acalypha hispida), but the leaf is more like that of a poinsettia than heart-shaped. Check out the Logee's Greenhouse Web site (www.Logees.com) for a great picture of a chenille.plant, sometimes called a foxtail.

Like poinsettias, the plant is of the.euphorbia family, and has the same.white, milky sap in its leaves and stems. The sap can cause a skin rash on some gardeners and if a child or pet eats the leaves or any.other part of the plant, he or she would probably get quite sick.

This charming plant with the red/pink tails lives on a sunny window and can bloom almost year-round. Don't overwater it, though; allow it to wilt. And keep it in normal warm-room temperatures.

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