ago, gardeners relied almost solely upon the knowledge of previous
generations. Today, information about the optimal cultivation of
plants comes from traditional print, websites and blogs, podcasts
and television shows. Advertisements tout “superior” plants or
products that will make your garden the envy of the neighborhood.
Regardless of the source, gardeners must
ask if the information accurate. Can it be a myth that persists
despite scientific knowledge to the contrary? Should it be
buried in the gardening graveyard of questionable information?
Myths may have no basis in science. They may be tied to products
with no benefit to the consumer, and they may ultimately harm
the plant. As spring is now upon us and gardeners
trade snow shovels for garden spades, here are some gardening
myths that have endured for decades...
spreading of mulch creates a more perfect garden
Double shredded mulch
This ritual is one of the worst
landscaping activities. Tree health can be greatly impacted by
the use of excess mulch. Annual piling of mulch at the base of a
tree creates a moist environment promoting rotting of the bark.
Rotted bark provides an entrance for insects and disease. Excess
mulch also provides a home for mice, moles, voles and other
rodents, allowing them to gnaw the bark off the tree and gain
access to the living tissue that intact bark was intended to
protect. Tree roots will grow upwards into the mulch, creating
roots that may encircle or “girdle” the bark at the base of the
tree. Girdling roots lead to compression of the bark and the
eventual strangulation of living tissue under the bark. Over a
course of months or years this process will lead to the decline
and possible death of the tree.
BOB'S NOTE: All trees become wider at the base,
an area called the root flare. The root flare must always be
visible, whether the tree is newly planted or long established.
If the root flare is not visible, the tree base has been
over-mulched, or the tree has been planted too deeply. Be sure
to check that containerized trees have a visible root flare.
plant on a sunny day can cause leaf burn
It was thought that sun shining through a
drop of water on a leaf would act as a magnifying glass, causing
a burn spot on the leaf. But for the water drop to act this way,
it has to be at a ‘specific focal point distance’ to concentrate
the sun’s rays. Sun shining through a drop of water on a leaf
does not meet this criteria, and such a theory for leaf burn is
a garden myth.
Drought-tolerant plants do not need to be watered
All plants must be watered until they are
established, over the course of one or more growing seasons.
Once established, some plants can handle extended dry periods
better than others. The key word is “tolerant.” Plants may
tolerate various moisture conditions, but they will not perform
their best. The bottom line is that a drought-tolerant plant
needs to be watered regularly to thrive in, rather than
tolerate, its growing environment.
plants like sedum
need to be watered regularly to thrive
feeders must be red
Some scientists believe that hummingbirds
are attracted to red and purple flowers because blossoms of
these colors have the ‘sweetest’ nectar. Experiments using
feeders in a range of colors have indicated that the feeder
color is not important. Provide fresh nectar using a solution
with a 4:1 ratio of water to sugar and the hummingbirds will
flock to your feeder. Be sure to keep the feeder clean and add
fresh solution every four days.
helps to prevent transplant shock and stimulate new root growth
There are products on the market being
sold as “root stimulators.” Products containing rooting hormone
and/or fertilizer can help get plants off to a good start. The
addition of the vitamin B1 sounds extra healthy, but it is of no
value to a plant.
Penn State Nittany Lion
Get the facts. The Penn State Master
Gardener volunteer program supports the outreach mission of Penn
State Extension by using unbiased, research-based information to
educate the public and our communities on best practices in
sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship.
Straw Bale Gardening
Gold-colored perennials for shade