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Don Kinzler, Published April 04 2014

Fielding questions

Q. My jade plant is about 15 years old and 24 inches tall and wide. It had become top-heavy, so I took it out of its pot to reposition it.

An alarming number of the oldest bottom leaves have been dropping ever since. I’ve also read that jades are susceptible to root rot. Should I pull it up and search or would I have noticed root rot when I was repositioning it?

– Cassandra Dick, Englevale, N.D.

A. You must be doing everything right to have kept your jade plant happy for so long. As you’ve experienced, they grow like little trees that become top-heavy with age. The root systems aren’t very stout, so toppling is common, and they don’t like to be grown in huge pots, which can promote overly wet soil.

Using a planting mix heavy with sand helps keep the pots stable and promotes good drainage, which is preferred by the succulent leaves of jade. Heavy stoneware pots also help.

Leaves probably dropped because of a little stress during repotting, but it should recover. I think you’d have noticed root rot, so I wouldn’t disturb the plant. Healthy roots are white or light tan. Root rot causes dark brown-black roots that break easily, leaving only a small clump near the stem. It’s often accompanied by soil that stays wet and swampy smelling.

Q. Is it too late to prune apple trees, and do I need to treat the cut surfaces with anything?

– Charlotte Knittel, Mandan, N.D.

A. Any time before trees leaf out is fine for pruning. If done after buds open, trees waste energy producing foliage that is cut away, causing unnecessary stress.

Apple trees can be pruned to keep them from getting too tall. Selectively removing crisscrossing inner branches opens up the tree to allow sunlight and air to reach fruit for better development.

If apple trees have developed a habit of biennial bearing by producing a too-heavy crop one year followed by a sparse crop the next, pruning prior to a heavy year can reduce the crop and level out yearly production.

Pruning paints are usually not needed, and in some cases have been shown to cause more harm than good. If pruning cuts are made at branch junctions to create flush surfaces rather than stubs, wounds heal nicely without additional treatment.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city, and state for appropriate advice.