Ask a Master Gardener: Buttonbushes, privacy trees and tomatoes

  • Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Readers can pose questions or get more information by calling 417-874-2963 and talking to one of the trained volunteers staffing the Mas¬ter Gardener Hotline at the University of Missouri Extension Center in Greene County located inside the Botanical Center, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, MO 65807.

Q. Any suggestions for privacy trees or tall bushes that are edible and fast growing?  J. F. in Springfield 
Answers offered by several gardeners.  

Elderberry, Serviceberry, Pawpaws, High bush Blueberry, hazelnut, wild plum, mulberry.  Hazelnut bushes grow to about 10-15 feet tall in an umbrella shape.  Plant them close together to have a food source hedge. High bush blueberries would be great. But you really need to acidify the soil first and provide well drained but moist soil conditions.  

Serviceberries grow fast with little fuss in our heavy clay soil, flower in spring, berries in the summer, lovely fall color.  Elderberry- now would be a great time to plant cuttings.  They can take sun or shade, attract bees and have super fruit. 

Try George O. White State Forest Nursery they are nearing the end of their season as they cut off orders April 15.  Seedlings are 10 for $8.95 with free shipping to MO residents. Native trees and shrubs are fast growing because they are acclimated to Missouri soil conditions. 

Q. I planted two bare root buttonbushes in 2018. Last year they grew to about 4 feet tall and had lovely foliage but didn’t flower. I’m considering moving them to a different place in my yard but I am nervous it will stress them and keep them from flowering again. I want to see those blooms!  - E. H. In Springfield 
Answers offered by several gardeners.  

As with many native plants, these bushes put down a very deep tap root.  I am afraid moving would set them back.  Buttonbushes do like a lot of moisture so if they are in a rather dry area make sure to keep them watered well. Mine is not a vigorous grower or bloomer since it’s near a dogwood and gets a lot of shade.  Full sunlight is preferred, although it will tolerate partial shade.  

I planted bare root button bushes about 4 yrs ago. They didn't bloom for a couple of years. The first time they bloomed they didn't have many blossoms but last year they had quite a show.  
If yours are growing well where you have them,  I would say they were happy and wouldn't move them.

Q.  Is it too late to start tomatoes and peppers inside?  C. D. In Nixa.  
Answers offered by several gardeners.  

It’s not too late. This year, I started mine in late February and some in early March, but last year I started in late March. They did great.  

Use a heat mat on low under the seed starter cells.  Watering with warm tap water will work well in the absence of a heat mat. Grow lights are a big help once you have some leaves sprouted up.   

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Kelly McGowan
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