The Q&A Archives: Dead In The Middle

Question: My flowers that survived from last year are all gross. They are turning white and dieing, or are dead, in the middle of the plant only, but halfway up the same stalks, they are alive and blooming. It happened to my petunias, a mum, a geranium ... What is my problem and can it be fixed?

Answer: It sounds as though your plants made it through the winter season and are developing new growth on top of the old - which probably looks pretty shop-worn by now. If you had cut back the foliage after the first frost last autumn, or very early in the spring, the plants would have produced new stems and foliage from their crowns rather than from the tops of the old stems. You can cut your plants down now so they'll produce new stems, or you can put up with their appearance over the summer and cut them back at the end of summer.

Chrysanthemums are perennial plants so you can expect them to show up year after year, but petunias and geraniums are considered annuals in the Pacific Northwest. They rarely survive the winters here, but last winter was mild and your plants lived over. It may not happen again, but if there's no pronounced frost, the plants may continue to live over another winter. If so, cut the old stems back in March and new foliage should appear.

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