QUESTION: I would like to share my large pampas
grass plant with a friend. How can I safely give her a cutting
that will hot damage my plant? I would like to give her
a good healthy starter plant.
ANSWER: Pampas grass can be propagated and is done
so commercially by root or clump division. This is easiest
done during the early spring, when the top of the plant
is being removed because of winter damage. Simply dig out
sections of the main clump on which roots are attached.
It will not damage the Mother clump. Size of sections can
be from one root per section to larger clumps with many
roots. The smaller the clump section, the longer the plant
will take to enlarge, obviously.
QUESTION: We have been looking for an easy answer
to the question "What is the difference between a pea
and a bean?"
While both are part of the legume species, we have not found
an answer to what would seem a simple question.
ANSWER: Bean is the name of many herbs of the Legume
or Pea Family and their edible pods and seeds. But bean
is also loosely applied to the pods or seeds of various
trees and shrubs (as tamarind?coffee). In America, when
used without qualification, the term refers to horticultural
varieties of Phaseolus. The term pea refers only to the
genus Pisum when used for the true peas. These are closely
related to the very popular southern pea in that both are
legumes (Family: Leguminosae). Southern peas are actually
beans (Vigna sinensis) Also, peas have tendrils and beans
do not. Also, vine growth patterns are different. Seed food
storage structures (cotyledons) on beans emerge from the
soil whereas on peas, they do not.
QUESTION: All summer my photinias have looked terrible.
What is wrong with them and what can I do to help them now,
and to prevent it in the future?
ANSWER: If the photinias are yellow with black spots
on the leaves, the plants are in a highly alkaline planting
area and will never get better??only worse. Plants in such
an area should be removed and replaced with an adapted shrub
such as Standard Yaupon or Burford holly if a screen of
shrubs is desired. Photinias in good condition (and they
may be just feet from a sickly plant) can remain and will
perform well. Once a photinia begins to show signs of "a
bad location", no amounts of iron supplement or fungicide
spray will solve the problem.
QUESTION: I recently became the owner of a Hoya
plant. It has light pink with dark, red-centered flowers.
It has light to medium green leaves about 2 to 3 inches
long and fairly thick. The leaves have brown spots that
do not come off, like something has been eating them. Is
this something that I can cure?
ANSWER: Since hoya is a tropical evergreen, and
a mostly climbing shrub that belongs to the Milkweed Family,
there is a very good chance that some insect larvae (worm)
or beetle has been eating them. For larvae control, you
can use the organic insecticide that contains a Bacillus
(Bt) and sold as Thuricide, Dipel or Biological Worm Control.
This product will not work for beetles, so if you use it
and the damage continues you will have to get something
for beetle control. If the pattern is irregular and does
not look like it's been eaten, the damage may be fungal
rather than insect. Use Ortho Daconil every 7 days for 3
consecutive sprays and put a teaspoon of a liquid detergent
such as Joy or Ivory Liquid per gallon of spray. This should
prevent the damage from spreading, but will not cure the
already damaged leaves. If these suggestions don't work,
get a new plant!!!
QUESTION: I had a Locust tree (thorny variety).
I cut it back close to the ground. This tree has an extremely
aggressive root system. It appears that the tree had sent
out roots in all possible directions all over my yard (even
the back yard) and in my neighbor's yard. Even though I
have chopped off the tree, the below-ground root system
is continuously sending out small seedlings all over my
yard. There are literally hundreds of these seedlings sticking
out all over my yard. I am trying to pull them out one by
one but it gets to be very tiring. I added a 'brush killer'
concentrated on the stump of the cut tree but that did not
seem to work. How can I stop these little seedlings from
coming off ? Also, these seedling's growth rate is extremely
vigorous. Within 3 to 4 days, they grow to be about 3 to
4 inches tall. Somebody suggested to paint each individual
seedling with a weed killer. But again, painting hundreds
of seedlings each time they come out will be an enormous
task. Is there any simple way to inactive all the root system?
ANSWER: You did what I would have suggested (use
concentrated Ortho Brush Killer on the stump) but I would
have suggested you do it immediately after cutting the tree
and drill holes 4 to 6 inches deep into the tree and continue
to fill the holes with the herbicide as long as they emptied.
With a tree know for this type of sprouting, you could have
also drilled slanting holes all around the trunk of the
tree and fill with the tree herbicide. With this method,
allow the herbicide to circulate throughout the system of
the tree and actually kill the tree before you cut it. (Note:
You will have to be very careful that the root system of
the tree you are killing is not intermingled with the root
systems of desirable trees or their roots can be damaged
Now that the chemical cannot be circulated, I am afraid
you will have to continue to mow the sprouts every 5 to
7 days before they can feed their roots with the photosynthesis
of the leaves. Eventually you and your neighbors will weaken
the remaining root system until it will no longer have the
energy to sprout.
QUESTION: I live on a one-acre lot in a subdivision
in NW San Antonio. I have planted a row of fruit trees at
the rear of the lot (the lot is on the top of a hill and
slopes slightly from front to rear). I presently have 2
each of peach, pear, and plum and want to add a few more.
My specific question is, can I build a raised bed around
these trees when I plant the additional trees without digging
them up and replanting them? I know that if you put very
much, if any, dirt around the base of live oaks that you
can kill them. If I can apply additional soil and/or mulch,
how deep can I safely apply it around the existing trees?
I forgot to mention, the trees are only 6 months in the
ground, and are approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
ANSWER: The standard recommendation is no more than
2 inches of soil on the root system of an established tree.
I have seen much more and the tree survives after a prolonged
period of root readjustment. The problem you will have with
trees that haven't yet established a good root system is
damage to the trunk. If I were you, I would spade a circle
around the trees about 2 feet out from the trunk and about
2 feet deep. I would then lift the plant up to the desired
level without breaking the root ball around the tree if
possible. After only 6 months in the ground, the trees do
not have that extensive a root system. Be sure to water
well after the digging process.
QUESTION: I was just looking at some information
on this web site about mums. It said they bloom once and
then should be discarded. This has not been my experience
at all. My mums have been in the ground since last fall,
and have bloomed 3 times. I would like to know how many
times, and when, to pinch them back. Also, should they be
cut back in the winter, or left alone?
ANSWER: The comment about discarding mums after
they have bloomed was meant for florist mums-like the blooming
ones normally bought gifts, table center pieces etc., or
that we use when we need the instant gratification that
pots of blooming flowers give. Florist mums are normally
not garden hardy. However, the garden mums that most nurseries
sell are certainly a fine addition to any garden. They are
normally fall bloomers and that is when we expect the most
spectacular display of blossoms. They do bloom sporadically
at other times as well, but it is not something that we
can depend on. You should start pinching the growing tips
when the plants are about 6 to 8 inches high. When the new
growth gets about 4 to 6 inches long, pinch again. Continue
this until the last pinching is done about mid-July.
I would just leave the plants through the winter unless
they get to looking too bad. They should be cut back severely
just before the new growth starts in the spring. You can
do this about Valentine's day when you are doing the majority
of your other pruning. Here are a couple of web sites with
quite good articles on chrysanthemum culture.
QUESTION: I have just planted several columbine
in a partial shade area of my garden. They are growing nicely,
but they do not have any flowers yet. Also, the leaves have
developed a strange, light-green, flat, string-like condition
on the tops of the leaves. What is that? Is it harmful?
And why have they not gotten any flowers?
ANSWER: The 'Texas Gold' Columbine should be planted
in the shade of a deciduous (loses leaves in winter) tree
so it will get summer shade and winter sun. Hopefully your
"partial shade" is enough shade or the plants
will burn and die. Columbines bloom only in early spring
after the plants are a year old. If the plants survive this
summer, they will bloom beautifully next spring. It has
been called to my attention that what you are describing
as "a strange light green flat string?like condition
on the tops of the leaves" is caused by a small larvae
(worm) called leaf miner which actually mines the green
pigment from the insides of the leaf. The resulting damage
resembles trials or "string?like" conditions.
The only control would have been a weekly application of
a systemic insecticide such as Orthene. The unsightly foliage
can be removed to allow the new foliage not affected to
replace it. This is commonplace on columbines.
QUESTION: Is there a way to make compost without
the use of store bought chemicals or animal manure?
ANSWER: Sure there is! Just pile organic material
like grass clippings, leaves, weeds, kitchen vegetative
waste and etc in a pile and let it rot. That is the simplistic
answer. Certainly your compost production can be more orderly
and sophisticated than that. See this excellent primer on
QUESTION: My husband and I bought three crape myrtles.
are We planted 2 last year and 2 this year and they are
doing very well. How do we take care of them? Do they need
to be pruned? I don't want them to turn into huge trees,
because as trees, they don't get the full pretty blooms
that you see on smaller bushes/trees. A friend told me that
if we cut off the old flowers, it will keep making newer
ones. Is this true? How do we protect it from any fungus?
Do we need to fertilize it often? I don't know what type
of crape myrtle they are. I looked at your listing when
we bought them because they were only tagged with their
ANSWER: Crape myrtles need only be pruned to remove
dead or broken branches, crossing branches that rub, branches
that are in your way, or those branches that are rubbing
your house or causing a safety problem. Yes, you may get
more blossoms by cutting of the spent blooms before they
set seed, but since they bloom on new wood, they will bloom
next year whether or not you cut off the seedpods. The best
way to control the size of a crape myrtle is to buy a variety
that you can determine its growth habits. They come in all
sizes from ground cover type to large trees and to try to
prune them to a size that is abnormal for that variety is
not a very good solution.
There are also many powdery mildew resistant varieties
Those that are only marked with their color are probably
not of the resistant type. These must be planted in a location
with full sun and good air circulation to keep the mildew
to a minimum. Otherwise it is going to take a spray program
with a fungicide that is labeled for powdery mildew. Your
nurseryman can assist you with this.
Fertilizing the crape myrtles when you fertilize your yard
is sufficient. Use the same fertilizer t hat you apply to
your yard. You will know if the trees get thirsty, because
you will see wilting leaves. Otherwise, no additional water
is required. See this fine PLANTanswers article on proper
pruning techniques. It includes a section on pruning crapemyrtles:
QUESTION: I have a problem with a row of crape myrtles
along a street and sidewalk. They seem to wilt all the time
except after rain or watering them. They are mulched in
an area about 6 feet wide by about 40 feet long, next to
a sidewalk. I thought they were a xeriscape plant.
ANSWER: Crapemyrtles are fine xeriscape plants.
However, that doesn't mean that they can go without water.
They are as quick as any tree to show their displeasure
by wilting, aborting their blossoms and looking very sad.
I am afraid that in that small area where they are planted,
you are going to have to supplement their water frequently
in the absence of rain.