Ask the Expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
Rain drops drip off of tree buds.

Q: What can you tell me about growing zinnias?

A: Zinnias are one of my favorite annual flowers since they come in such a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They grow best when direct sown in a sunny location. Do not cover seeds too heavily with soil. Simply scatter and sprinkle a few handfuls of soil on top to hold them in place. Zinnias generally do not like to be transplanted. They are long-lasting and will often bloom until Halloween or beyond, as long as we don't have a hard frost. They are an excellent source of fall nectar for migrating monarchs.

Q: My lilac has buds. Should I be concerned?

A: No need to be concerned. Most trees and shrubs are now showing swelling buds. This is actually quite normal for this time of year. People just don't notice. The buds will open at the appropriate time.

Q: Can I pot bareroot lilies now?

A: As long as you have a bright sunny location indoors, or growing lights, you can begin to pack them up in containers where they will begin to grow. The bulbs dry out quickly if not planted relatively soon upon purchase.

Q: I saw you speak at the Wild Ones conference last month. What are the names of some native ferns for shade?

A: My favorite is northern maidenhair fern. Ostrich fern is another. This is the giant, arching fern most are familiar with. Royal Fern is a great choice for moist areas. Sensitive fern is great for part sun and shade. Lady fern is the classic small to medium sized fern many grow in woodland or shade gardens.