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The Cup Plant Really Brings The Butterflies To The Yard

A yellow flower
Hardyplants
/
Wikimedia Commons
The cup plant can be a bright (and tall!) addition for early fall.

Late summer's yellow-blossomed favorites like goldenrod, asters and rudbeckia are certainly lovely, but if you're looking for golden petals plus drama, pick a posie that can grow as tall as some adults! The cup plant is a native species and grows up to 6 feet tall, with scads of daisy-like bright yellow flower.

Cup flowers bloom from late July till the first frost, and because of their tendency to grow so big, when it comes to location, you'll want to choose wisely. These look great when paired with plume poppies, meadowsweet or Joe-Pye weed.

The cup plant's name comes from the fact that the leaves on the stem grow together in a way that resembles a small cup. After a rain shower, the leafy cups collect water and provide a protected space for a quick sip for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

The cup plant is both drought-tolerant and will thrive in wet areas. After it blooms and the petals drop, the cup plant's seeds will also fall off, providing a treat for the birds.

Q: I have two old azalea bushes which were getting tall, leggy and ugly. After they finished blooming I cut them way back, leaving branches I wanted with very few leaves. I put in cottonseed fertilizer, flooded them with water, covered the soil with cedar mulch, kept them moist all the time. Now they look like potted plants with green shoots everywhere! What do I do? — Sarah, in Williston

Right now, do nothing. This time of year, you don't want to be pruning any shrubs or trees. Pruning envigorates them when they are trying to prepare for winter dormancy. Instead, wait till next spring, then prune out some branches, trying to envision a nice structure of a whorl of branches around a main trunk in the middle. That way, you'll start your plant off on the right foot!

Q: We have mature blueberry bushes that have always yielded a bountiful crop, but this year we have lots of berries that are not ripening. Is there an explanation for this and is there something we can do to prevent this happening again next year? We live in Hardwick and my friends' bushes are all ripening. — Kathleen, in Hardwick

This is a bit unusual! Several possibilities might cause this, though. One is that the berries aren't getting enough sun, though that doesn't seem to be what's happening in this case. You can also check to see that the pH level in the soil is low, around five, which blueberry bushes love. Perhaps do a soil test to see if any key nutrients are missing.

And then there is the fact that birds love blueberries and they may pick off berries before they are fully ripened. Perhaps it is the birds who are flying in and clearing out all of the ripened berries off the bushes in the early morning hours, and then you just see all the green, unripened berries they left behind!

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

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