It’s time to admit there is no life in the growing tips of my Tetrapanax. How could they do this to me? Last winter brought multiple cold spells, the first one came on suddenly with no warning, and the last one was late, potentially after they had started to grow. But these were all established plants! The one in the front garden isn’t a complete loss as it is resprouting from the roots. Still I had hoped this year was the year of height (something in the front garden with height please!). These foot-and-a-smidge tall trunks with huge leaves bursting from the top would have been an incredible sight. Maybe those little guys will grow fast!?
My most established/oldest plant is giving me a little renewed hope with these small nubbins along the trunk. Last year there were no leaves at all along the trunk, everything came from the growing tip. Maybe since that end seems to be crunchy and lifeless it is going to sprout along the trunk instead? Like Mother Nature pinched back my tall Tetrapanax? I have hope. I’ve been keeping an eye on the ground around this plant looking for babies, after all Tetrapanax have a thuggish reputation to uphold. Last year there were a couple but something ate the sprouts before they could amount to anything. I caught this one early and protected it from the leaf munchers. It’s looking good! Not the ideal location right up against a Euphorbia but I’ll take what I can get. I spotted this next one too late. Leaves gone…but I put my handy dandy plastic deli container protection device around it and hoped for the best. It’s responding with a little green! There is hope. I’ve spotted (and dispatched) a few cutworms in this area; I believe these are the evil culprits responsible for my lack of a Tetrapanax forest. (photo from Clemson University Extension via the University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program)
And lest you think I have any knowledge about critters in the garden let me show you how I know they were cutworms: One birthday I received Mac’s laminated Field Guide to Good Bugs and Bad Bugs of the Pacific Northwest from the husband. It hangs on a nail in the garage for quick “to kill or not to kill” reference. Bad guys… Good guys… After waiting and waiting with no signs of life I did break down and buy a replacement Tetrapanax weekend before last. After I had smugly passed up several cheaper ones earlier in the season not realizing my plants were failing, it’s now planted in the large stock tank with the emerging babies and trunk with nubbins. The last of my original Tetrapanax trio is in a very protected area with Bamboo all around and overhead, as well as a Laurel and Fir canopy. I was in denial for quite awhile looking at the top and thinking it was showing potential. Then I touched it and it fell off in my hand. So much for that. However now I see there is at least on leaf sprouting along the trunk. So my question for you folks with much more Tetrapanax experience is…do I cut the trunks back close to where the last leaf emerges? And does this mean it is going to branch now and no more growth will come from the end? Please tell.