Happy cupflower can be an perennial delight - Albuquerque Journal

Happy cupflower can be an perennial delight

Q: Last year, in a couple of my annual pots, I planted some cupflowers. They have come back! I didn’t know that the cupflower is perennial. Is there anything special I need to do for them this year? – E.B., Albuquerque

A: Like you, I always thought of the Nierembergia, commonly known as cupflower, as an annual. Maybe it’s because I usually emptied all my pots of spring and summer annuals in order to make room for the annual pansy planting, so I didn’t allow the plants to over-winter. Silly me!

Well, this spring, not only are my Nierembergia growing again, they are already rewarding me with a showy first bloom of this season. The cupflower I have is a variety called Purple Robe and the bloom color is a terrific purple color. The blooms, although sorta small, are a pointy five petal affair with bright yellow delicate pollen stamen in the center.

The plant itself has stiff branches shooting up from the crown and they are covered with wispy green-grey leaves. The whole plant, flower and all, does look delicate to me, but evidently it isn’t a wimpy plant.

My Nierembergia has also self-sown. I have a couple that have come up in other spots in my gardens. It’s suggested that you trim the whole plant back after the bloom so it is more able to regroup, grow and set another bloom series.

I think my cupflower overwintered so well because the pots they are growing in sit right below two hanging feeders that I keep filled with water. With each refilling I’m in the habit of dumping the old water into those pots before filling with the clean water to keep my finches happy.

By offering the water during the dormant period, the roots of the Nieremgergia stayed insulated and were kept comfy. I don’t know if the cupflower will handle too much hot sun, but since yours have popped back up you are doing something right. My pots get a mixture of dappled shade and sun.

I will strongly suggest that if you are going to choose to add annual plants to your pots, be mindful as to where the roots are on the existing cupflower. Don’t be too rough when setting in this year’s companions.

Also, if the potting soil in your pots is two or more growing seasons old, consider removing some of it and adding fresh potting soil so whatever you choose to grow this year will have new nutrients to feed off of.

Just consider yourself blessed that the Nierembergia you’ve already invested in likes where it’s growing and continue to enjoy this looker.

Q: I headed out to cut some of the roses from my peace rose bush to bring in and was horrified to find that they are covered with aphids. How should I get rid of those bugs? – P.Y., Albuquerque

A: For the time being and since your rose is in bloom, I’ll suggest you spray the rose bush with the hardest stream of water it can possibly stand. That will help dislodge a lot of the aphid so the plant can stay healthy.

Next, as soon as this bloom is complete, trim off all the spent blooms and spray the whole plant with a horticultural oil. Most know this oil as dormant oil, but it’s usually a finer grade of oil that won’t be as susceptible to scorching if it gets really hot, really soon.

The oil is mixed with water and run through a hose end sprayer. You need to spray the whole bush, top to bottom, stem to stern, inside and out, and get as complete a coverage as you possibly can. The oil-based spraying effectively clogs up the breathing apparatus of the aphid causing their demise. The oil coats the bodies so they can’t fly away too. Horticultural oil is quite safe as far as other good bugs go but I do suggest you spray either the very first thing in the morning or wait until dusk. Certainly don’t spray during the heat of the day.

Spray the rose a couple of times, ten to fifteen days apart, monitor the aphid population, and then tend the bush as usual. Just as it sets a new flush of buds, consider yet another spraying to keep on top of any aphids. You can win the aphid war.

Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.


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