Removing blooms prevents bitter basil

Remove flowers from basil plants as soon as you see them. Bushy plants have sweeter leaves.

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I’m growing sweet basil in a pot but the leaves taste very bitter. Any idea what may be causing this, and how to prevent it so it’s more enjoyable? Amanda Fiebach, email

A: Bitter basil most often occurs when a plant is allowed to flower. Even the tiniest flower buds at the end of a branch can affect flavor in nearby leaves. If you have been good about removing flowers immediately, but the leaves are still bitter, you can prune each branch back to four leaves and give the plant some houseplant fertilizer. Since you already have a large root system, the buds at the base of the leaves will sprout new, vigorous growth. It won’t be long before you have new sweet basil leaves to enjoy.

Q: Spiderwebs are everywhere! Not traditional spiderwebs where you can see the web design. These look like Christmas “angel hair.” They are on my windows, my creeping fig, boxwoods, etc. Sandi Harsh, email

A: Midsummer is the high point for spider populations in the landscape. There are plenty of insects around, so spiders build a web wherever they can find a productive site. Some species of spider consume the old web each morning, but others leave them up a while and repair them daily. When the web becomes dirty and no longer sticky, the spider abandons it and it becomes a cobweb. I think that is what you are seeing: cobwebs from spiders that have abandoned their trapping site.

Q: We have a spot where an azalea and a privet have grown together in the exact same spot. Knowing how strongly privet sprouts after pruning, could I make cuts into the stump and kill it with Roundup without harming the azalea? John Moore, Decatur

A: I think your solution would work fine. You can slide a piece of cardboard between the privet stump and the azalea stem to avoid getting any Roundup on the azalea. Since these two plants are not close kin to each other, there will be no connection through root grafts either.

Q: I have several camellia cuttings trying to root in an east window since early June. Now the leaves have fallen off some of my cuttings. Wanda Cothern, Jonesboro, Arkansas

A: If you have kept the cuttings indoors all this time, there has not been enough light to keep the leaves healthy and also grow new roots. The best place to start cuttings is outdoors in a spot where the container doesn’t get full sunshine but bright shade instead.

Listen to Walter Reeves’ segments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.