Gardening FAQ

Gardening F.A.Q

There are a lot of questions we get asked about plants and what we do here at Van Wilgen’s.  Here is a collection of answers to questions we get very frequently.

Why isn’t my hydrangea blooming?

The most common reason hydrangeas do not bloom has to do with when you prune.  If you prune your hydrangeas in the fall you are most likely not going to have many flowers if not at all.  The Endless Summer collection of hydrangeas is famous for its reblooming abilities because it can bloom on old and new growth.  Older varieties bloom on only older growth so when you prune in the fall you are pruning off all the flowers for next year.  Other common reasons include the need to fertilize as well as too much shade.

What is CANP?

CANP is an acronym for Connecticut Accredited Nursery Professional.  Van Wilgen’s is proud to have a long list of employees who have passed this challenging exam facilitated by the Connecticut Nurseryman and Landscape Association (CNLA).

Are your plants/products local?

Van Wilgen grown plants are produced right here on our farm in North Branford, it doesn’t get more local than that!  We do source some material from as far as Oregon but predominantly our plants do not have to travel far to get here.  Our biggest suppliers are right here in Connecticut. 

Can I charge my electric car?

YES! We have an electric car charging station right in our lot.  During business hours charging is free.  Look right up front for the reserved spot for electric vehicles

Can I buy mulch online?

Yes!  Under the “Shop” drop-down you can purchase truckloads of mulch and soil.  We will receive your order and call to schedule.  Make sure you put special instructions and list a few dates and time windows that would best suit you. 

Can I buy gift cards online?

YES!  Click here to purchase.

Why do we love Van Wilgen’s Planting Mix?

Van Wilgen’s Premium Planting Mix is a blend of peat moss and compost formulated for our soil.  Everything you need to get your plants started off right.  Developing a strong root system is the key to any healthy plant.  Combine with our Van Wilgen’s Jump Start and you have a winning combo.  These two things combined give your plant a jump start to establishing strong roots.  A few years back and we planted a row of large Zelkova trees in the middle of the summer heat, of course, we used both VW planting mix and jump start.  One of those trees was a few inches out of line, it finally got to us enough that we decided to move it.  It was only in the ground for less than a month and the root system almost doubled in size.  We knew with Planting mix, Jump Start, and proper water success is almost guaranteed.   

Is this deer-resistant?

When a deer is hungry there is almost nothing you can do to stop them.  We offer a well-rounded selection of repellants which is always a good idea when you have a large deer population as well as choosing plants that are known to be deer resistant.  A quick rule of thumb includes anything fuzzy, fragrant, or sharp.  Look to our deer-resistant tree and shrub list as well as shop our deer-resistant perennial bench. 

When should I prune my spring-flowering shrubs?

Azaleas, Lilac, Rhododendron, and others, are best pruned immediately after flower and before the fourth of July. This timing allows them to set flower buds for the next spring season.

When should I prune my evergreens?

Boxwoods, spruce, hemlock, and others, should be pruned after the plant is showing new growth in early spring. Avoid pruning in the fall, as this will promote new growth which can be damaged by early-season frosts and freezes.

When should I prune my Hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas are difficult to nail down one good pruning time. For your classic varieties of mophead hydrangea that only bloom on old wood, prune while they are in or immediately after flower. For newer varieties, such as the Endless Summer series, prune at any time during the growing season after new growth appears, as they bloom on old and new wood growth. Panicle Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) should be pruned as much as one-third in early spring or late fall.

When should I prune my Roses?

Roses are best pruned in spring after winter before the plant break dormancy.  If you have older roses prune after flowering.  Some older roses like older hydrangeas only bloom on older wood.  You wouldn’t want to miss out on a bloom cycle!

How much water?

Trees, shrubs, perennials, roses, etc. should receive about an inch of water a week, whether it be with rain, irrigation or hand watering.  Remember long soaking waterings and letting the soil dry out between watering is the best.  Avoid short frequent watering, this does not promote root growth.  Your annual containers may require water every day depending on the location, size of the container, and types of plants.  You can check out our helpful guide on watering here.

When should I seed my lawn?

The soil temperature needs to be about 50 degrees in order for grass seed to germinate.  We recommend seeding in spring when the soil temp reaches 50 degrees.  Seeding in the fall is also a great time because days are cooler but the soil temperature is still warm.  The key to germination is water water, water.

How do I plant?

When planting almost any type of plant, it is important to keep a few things in mind: depth, root preparation, amendments, and fertilizer. Be sure that you’re not burying any of your woody or herbaceous plants too deep in the ground. Instead, make sure that your planting height is level with the top of the ground (The only major exception to this rule is clematis, which prefers to be planted deeply). You also want to make sure that you remove any burlap, wire baskets, or containers that the plant’s root system is currently stored in. You should also be sure to amend your existing soil with premium garden soil, such as Van Wilgen’s Premium Planting Mix, and to use a transplant fertilizer, such as Van Wilgen’s Jump Start, at the rate indicated on the bottle. For additional tips, be sure to reference our Planting Guide.

How much mulch do I need?

One yard of mulch can cover a 10 x 10 area at 3 inches thick.  Use our mulch calculator on the mulch, stone, and topsoil page.  Determine how many square feet you have.  For a square, this is Length time width. (L x W).  If you have a circular bed use this handy formula, πr².  This is 3.14 x radius².  Remember the radius is half of the diameter.

How much sun is considered is full-sun?

Generally, six hours of sun would be considered “full sun”.  Afternoon sun is much stronger than morning sun so take that into consideration.

Can someone help me design my container plantings?

Yes! Pay a visit to the greenhouse and our team of experienced staff can show you what plants go best together and where they will thrive.

When can I plant my veggies?

Cold weather veggies like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, etc. are good to plant in early April.  The warm weather veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, etc. are best to plant around May 15th.  These vegetables do not like to go below 50 degrees. The plant may survive but you can compromise yield. You can also reference our veggie planting guide here.

What is a perennial?

A perennial is a plant to come back year after year.  Perennials can bloom once in a season or multiple times.  All perennials benefit from deadheading spent blooms.

Do you deliver?

Yes!  For those large plants or bulk materials that won’t fit in your vehicle, we offer delivery throughout Connecticut.

Do you plant?

Yes! We understand that some projects are a little too much to take on by yourself. Whether your project is large or small, we’re here to assist you with getting your plants in the ground. 

Does preen really work?

Preen is great at weed prevention.  Whenever mulching we suggest applying it.  Some things to consider: It will last for just a few months so remember to reapply throughout the season for best results.  Preen will not kill existing weeds it only prevents new weeds from germinating.

Can I mix topsoil and compost?

We highly recommend it.  We suggest not mixing more than 50% compost.  Anytime you add organic matter to your soil you are doing it a great favor.  Compost is very rich in organic matter and beneficial microbes.  If you pick up or have delivered, we can load a scoop of topsoil followed by a scoop of compost which mixes the two together perfectly when you dump or shovel it out. 

How much Mulch/Topsoil/Stone can I get in my truck?

Mulch has an average weight of around 600 pounds a yard.  Generally, you are limited by volume rather than weight

Short Bed: Between 1 to 1.5 yards

Long Bed:  Between 2.5 to 3.5 yards

Stone has an average weight of 2700 pounds per yard.  It is very heavy.  We recommend understanding the weight limits of your vehicle when transporting bulk stone.

Light Duty: Half yard

Heavy Duty: 1 yard

Topsoil has an average weight of 2500 pounds.  While compost has an average weight of 1300 pounds.  Topsoil is very heavy.  We recommend understanding the weight limits of your vehicle when transporting topsoil.

Light Duty: Half yard

Heavy Duty: 1 yard

Why should I use mulch?

Mulch is like tucking your plants into bed.  Mulch retains moisture so you have to water less, it covers exposed soil reducing soil erosion as well.  Plus, it’s great at reducing weeds.  As mulch breaks down it can add organic material back into the soil.  We love the way it accentuates plants too.

Can I plant now?

For most hearty outdoor plants, the only time you cannot plant is when the ground is frozen. There are of course some exceptions to this including tropical plants, houseplants, and tender annuals which can’t tolerate colder temperatures. Otherwise, you’re safe to grab a shovel and head outside!

How do I take care of my citrus?

For the best citrus fruit around, keep your tree in a minimum of 6 hours of sun a day, the more the better! Citrus do just fine up here planted in pots. You can keep your citrus tree outdoors in temperatures above 50° F, and indoors in a south-facing window when outdoor temperatures get too low. We use Espoma’s Citrus Tone to keep our trees healthy and happy for a bountiful harvest year after year.

How do I take care of my fig?

 Figs thrive in hot sunny summers.  Make sure you fertilize with Espoma’s 5-10-5 every 4 weeks during the growing season.  Water moderately to keep the soil moist.  If you need tips on overwintering, give us a call or email us and we can talk you through it. 

When is it safe for tropical plants to go out?

Tropical plants need to be kept above 50 degrees. As their name suggests they really prefer to be warm. We try to tag all of our tropical material with a yellow tag that says “Keep me above 50 degrees”. Usually, the temperature stays at 50°F and above around May 15th, but we recommend you keep an eye on the nighttime temperatures for a week or two after, just like we do at the garden center.

When should I bring my tropical plants in?

Our New England weather can be pretty unpredictable, but once the nighttime temperatures begin to drop below 50°F you should bring your tropical plants inside. For our area, this could be anywhere from the last few weeks in September to the beginning of October. 

What products do I need when planting?

The two major products you need are a high-quality garden soil, such as Van Wilgen’s Premium Planting Mix, and a good transplant fertilizer, such as Van Wilgen’s Jump Start. These two products combined give the plant a good boost of B vitamins to get the roots going, and a high-quality, nutrient-rich soil to get those roots established.

When do I plant bulbs?

Bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinth should be planted in the fall to enjoy them in the early spring.  Summer flowering bulbs like Canna, Elephant ears, Gladiolus, Liatris, Dahlia should be planted in spring.  You can start them indoors and move them outside after the threat of frost.

How long will my Christmas tree last inside?

Your Christmas tree should have no problem lasting from Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas with the proper care.  Make sure you keep your tree well-watered.  A fresh cut on your tree will help it drink up water which is the best.  We also recommend keeping your tree away from heating ducts and vents which can cause your tree to dry out more quickly.   

When can I cut my bulb plants back?

It’s important to let bulbs go through their full life cycle.  About 8 weeks after your bulb is done flowering is adequate time for the leaves to send energy back down into the bulb.  This is important for the bulb to have enough energy to flower next year.  

When do I treat my fruit trees?

You should start treating your fruit trees in early spring.  The more applications the better chance for a higher yield.  Go organic and you can treat right up to the day of harvest.    

When do you get ornamental grasses in?

Ornamental Grasses truly love warmer weather.  We often wait to get grasses into the middle or later part of May.  We like to make sure they are growing happy and pushing new growth before we bring them in. 

What is magnimoist?

Magnimoist is the organic basket liner that helps your baskets stay consistently wet.  The basket liner deflects water into the basket until the soil is wet, it then releases only the excess water it traps when plants start to need it.  Every Van Wilgen’s basket has this organic liner in it to help you have the best hangers on the block.

When is it safe to plant annuals?

Of course, living in New England it is difficult to predict the weather. However, if we had to put a date on it I would say May 15th.  There are plenty of annuals that can handle a chilly night here or there but if you want the “fun stuff” we suggest waiting.  The most common tender plants are New Guinea Impatiens, Coleus, Sweet Potato Vine, Begonia’s (other than Dragon Wing), Zinnias, Lantana, and Ageratum.  Ask us if you have any concerns about when to plant.

When can I plant herbs?

There are some herbs that are very tender and sensitive to cold temperatures, including everyone’s favorite, BASIL!  We recommend waiting to plant Basil, French Tarragon, Nasturtium, and Stevia.  Almost all the other herbs we carry can handle cool nights.  I would make sure the soil temps are above 50 degrees before planting.  For more information, check out our herbs and veggies page.

How long will my mums last?

We grow over 70 varieties of mums. This means you can have mums blooming in your fall gardens as early as the end of August, if you chose one of our early blooming varieties, and as late as November if you take home one of our later blooming options. The easiest way to tell the difference is to stop by and see what’s in color at the garden center!  A typical Mum will last 4-6 weeks in bloom without weather extremes (Heat/frost)

What is the correct light for my houseplant?

Most of our houseplants do well in what we call indirect light. This means that there are windows in the room, but the sun doesn’t shine through the window directly on your plant. We have dozens of plants for this vague-seeming setting: peace lilies, dracaena, Boston fern, pothos, bromeliads… and the list goes on! We’ve also got recommendations for those little niches in your home, like your north-facing window covered by that tree, or your south-facing window with the view, who wants curtains when you can have plants instead! For more in-depth information on houseplant lighting, head over here.

Will you repot my houseplant?

Yes! We are equipped to pot or repot any of the plants we carry at the garden center, as well as your indoor plants from home. All we ask is that you bring us plants free of insects or other pests.

Are Orchids hard to grow?

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!  Not at all, put them in bright but not direct light and give them a shot glass of water a week.  For success, use an orchid pot and orchid soil when transplanting.  The orchid pot has an attached saucer that holds water, evaporates, and creates humidity which orchids love!  Orchid blooms can last up to several months…Enjoy!

Can the hydrangeas in the greenhouse be planted outside?

The hydrangeas we have in full bloom in our greenhouse are great for adding a splash of spring color to your home, and would even be nice potted on a porch or deck to put out for the day. In fact, since these guys don’t bloom forever, we recommend putting them in a pot and placing them wherever they will be most enjoyed, even if that means moving them around! As for being planted or left outdoors, wait until it’s consistently 40 to 45°F, and keep in mind that these hydrangeas aren’t the same as the Endless Summers we have blooming in June. We would never tell you not to give it a try, but these hydrangeas aren’t always hardy in our zone.

Where do I get loaded?

There are large signs in the parking lot designating loading areas.  We have a  sign for sod pick up, plant pick up and bagged goods pick up.  Look for the large signs to direct you.  We keep hay, salt hay, mainly mulch, cocoa shells, and lime in the barn with 3 garage doors.  Our bulk yard is straight out the back driveway.  If you are looking at the Bagged Goods sign, the bulk yard is beyond that and the “back driveway” is towards your left.

How long does it take to grow a Christmas tree?

Anywhere between 8-10 years from the time we plant a tree in our field till it can be harvested.  It is already 2 to 3 years old by the time we receive the seedling and then it goes into the field for 8-10 years.

Do you have any plants that attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, as well as hummingbirds?

YES! Be sure to visit our themed benches in perennials and displays in the nursery yard to check out all our great butterfly, hummingbird, and bee gardening choices!  We also have annuals in our greenhouse that will attract pollinators as well. These are great for your veggie garden to promote more pollination as well plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. These are great for container mixes so you can bring the butterflies and hummingbirds to your porch, patio, or yard!

What are the best plants for along the shoreline?

Shoreline gardening is a way of life here in Southern Connecticut, and we have a wide range of plants that can help you accomplish that. From Black pine and ornamental grass to Sand Cherry, Beach Roses, and Hydrangea, we have a wide selection of seaside-loving plants to choose from.

What are the best perennials for shade?

Some of our favorite perennials for shade include Heuchera, Lady’s Mantle, Hellebores, Solomon Seal, Astilbe, Dead Nettle, Hosta, Hackonechloa, Liriope, and much much more.  Check out our shade perennial area, you can almost see the large sign directing you from the parking lot!

What are the best native plants?

Native gardening is a great way to take an active role in wildlife conservation in your own backyard. We carry a wide selection of native plants, including favorites such as Red Twig Dogwood, Arrowwood Viburnum, Winterberry, Mountain Laurel, Eastern White Pine, and many more!

Why are Knock Out roses so good?

Knockout is the brand name of a series of roses that, in our experience, outperform any other rose on the market today. They have excellent disease resistance, cold hardiness, sun tolerance, and even self-deadhead their own spent blooms!  Also, check out Drift Roses.  They are bred by the same people who brought us Knock Out but they are a low-growing, spreading rose that is just as easy to grow.

What makes Endless Summer® Hydrangeas so popular?

Endless Summer is a group of Hydrangea bred by Dr. Michael Dirr that perform exceptionally in our area. They have an incredible bloom period, with excellent reblooming from June all the way to dormancy. They also bloom on both old and new growth, ensuring excellent flower production, even if you prune them in mid-bloom!

What makes Proven Winners Plants so good?

Proven Winners has a rigorous training program that tests plants longer than most.  You can say that each plant is “proven” before it gets to us.  Proven Winners is great at listening to what you want and finding plants that fit.  You can be confident that if it’s a Proven Winner, it will be easy to grow and care for and perform all season.   Look for our Proven Winner displays in Shrubs, Perennials, and in the greenhouse.  Proven Winners and Van Wilgen’s; it doesn’t get any better than that. 

Do you have sod?

We do carry sod when it is available.  The cutting season for sod varies every year.  Our sod is 100% Kentucky Blue Grass and is sold in 2’x5’ strips equaling 10 square feet.  We do keep sod in stock throughout the season with regular deliveries arriving during the week.  For orders over 50 pieces (500 sq. ft.), we highly suggest having us arrange a drop-ship straight to you direct from the sod farm.  It is a huge time saver as well as big cost savings.

What do I need for a raised vegetable bed?

The key to a great raised bed is great soil.  You want to make sure you have topsoil that is high in organic matter.  Check out our recommended mixture here.

What are the best vegetables for small space gardening?

Most herbs are great for small space gardening.  The key is to keep using the herbs as it is beneficial for the plant as well as keeping the plant a manageable size.  We have a few veggies that are great for small space gardening.  I would recommend Eggplant, Patio Tomato, Bellina Pepper, Cute Stuff Red Pepper, All lettuce, Bush Pickle Cucumber, Bush Beans. 

What is Van Wilgen Grown?

Van Wilgen Grown is our own line of plants that are grown right here on our farm and greenhouse.  It does not get any more local than that!  For more information on what makes VW Grown special click here.

Do you have pots?

Yes.  We carry a wide selection of pottery including terra cotta, wood, glazed ceramic, lightweight fiberglass, and plastic pots. 

Can I leave my pot outside for the winter?

Nine out of ten times yes, however, it only takes one rough winter to cause a crack.  Moving large, heavy containers is difficult.  If you do leave ceramic pottery outside we suggest making sure there is no moisture in the soil.  If you can remove the soil and allow water to drain you should have no issues.  You can tip them over or try to cover your pots so that no water can get in.