Search For The Answer
Click here to access our database of
Plant Answers
Search For The Picture
Click here to access the Google database of plants and insects

Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Return to Gardening Columns Main Index

Questions for the Week

Slide Show


QUESTION : My Christmas cactus blooms heavily but once the first crop of buds bloom, it quits. The rest of the buds on the plant start dropping off. I do not fertilize when blooming and almost underwater the plant. Got any idea what I'm doing wrong?
ANSWER :You are probably depriving the plant of needed moisture and fertilizer. The plant should be kept very moist during growth and flowering. At other times it should be allowed to dry between waterings. Also it should be fertilized only when actively growing or flowering. Bud drop could also be caused by lack of humidity. Perhaps you can place it in a shallow saucer of water with gravel or marbles to keep the roots above the water level. This will help to humidify the air surrounding the plant.

QUESTION : What is the constituent compounds that give the red leaves their brilliant color? Can it be extracted and used as a dye? Is this the same compounds that give the Cardinal plant its red striking colors?
ANSWER :The color pigments of leaves are basically the same. The orange-yellow pigment is carotenoid. Within the carotenoids are lycopene (a red pigment found in the fruits of tomato, red peppers, roses, and other species is also isomeric with carotene. The xanthophylls or carotenols are mostly yellow or brownish pigments. Luteol is by far the most abundant carotenol in leaves; other leaf xanthophylls include zeaxanthol, violaxanthol, cryptoxanthol, flavoxanthol and neoxanthin. The carotenoids are not water soluble but they can be extracted from plant tissues by use of suitable organic solvents such as chloroform and ethyl alcohol. Most of the red, blue and purple pigments of plants belong to the group known as the anthocyanins. The anthocyanins are water-soluble and are usually dissolved in the cell sap. Red pigmentation caused by anthocyanins is of frequent occurrence in stems, mature leaves and other plant parts.
Trees change colors according to complex chemical formulas. Depending on how much iron, magnesium, phosphorus or sodium is in the tree, and the acidity of the chemicals in the leaves, trees might turn amber, gold, red, orange or just fade from green to brown. Scarlet oaks, red maples and sumacs, for instance, have a slightly acidic sap which causes the leaves to turn bright red. The leaves of some varieties of ash, growing in areas where limestone is present, will turn a regal purplish-blue.

QUESTION : I have a question and was wondering if you could possibly answer it for me. I have recently move to a house here in Sonora, TX., that has giving me an opportunity to be in the care of a 38 tree pecan orchard and also the landlords knock off 75 dollars off the rent for taking care of the orchard., here is my question first of all the trees in this orchard have been there since about 1916 they are very big and beautiful trees , some of the trees need to be pruned but what is the best time to fertilize and spray for diseases, I forgot to tell you that the orchard is also set up on a water bubbler system which is set up on a timer but any information you send to me would truly be appreciated.
ANSWER : The best time to fertilize the trees is in early spring, usually March. Generally we try to split the fertilizer application, i.e., make more than one application. A good rule of thumb is to use one pound of nitrogen fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter. Measure the trees at about 3.5 feet off the ground and this number will tell you how many pounds to apply. If the diameter is 30 inches, use 30 pounds of fertilizer on that tree. Put one half on in March and the rest on in May. Try to put it on ahead of a rain. Spread it at the dripline of the tree and outward. Use close mowing to keep the vegetation in check.
No problem with the bubble water system. However, the more soil you wet with the system the better. So eventually you may have to add more emitters. The most critical time for water is in late summer, i.e., July, August and September.
Additional culture information is available at the following Plantanswers site:
Disease should rarely if ever be a problem in your area. A complete spray schedule is available at the following site:

QUESTION : I have a few questions concerning propagating Hibiscus. 1. Which type cutting (tip or stem) will I have a better success rate with? 2. What would be the best time of year to take these cuttings? 3. Could you recommend a good planting medium "recipe" for these cuttings? I currently have available to me potting soil, sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, cow manure and bark mulch. What else would be helpful (both for the Hibiscus and for basic gardening supplies)
ANSWER : This PLANTanswers web site is a very good article on Asexual Propagation:
Your best bet is probably tip cuttings taken in the spring. Take tip cuttings 4 to 6 inches long from a branch that has produced blooms. You can root them in sterile builder's sand, perlite, vermiculite, peat or a mixture of any of them. If the leaves are large on your cuttings, you should reduce the leaf area by removing some of the leaves or cutting some of them in half (or by doing both). The cuttings should be place under mist, but if you do not have a mist system, you can cover the stuck cuttings with clear plastic to keep the humidity high around the leaves. Be sure to allow for some circulation to prevent fungus growth.

QUESTION: I have some 10 year old Indian hawthorns that have never been pruned. When is the correct time to prune and how much can they be pruned back? I live in Coryell County about 80 miles north of Austin.
ANSWER :This PLANTanswers web site is a very good article on pruning:
This is what it says about when to prune Indian Hawthorn: "If a shrub is grown for its flowers, time the pruning to minimize disruption of blooming. Spring flowering shrubs bloom on last season's growth and should be pruned soon after they bloom. This allows for vigorous summertime growth and results in plenty of flower buds the following year."
And this is what it says about how much you can prune them: "Broad?leaved evergreens such as gardenias, camellias, azaleas, pyracantha, hollies and photenias require very little pruning. Lightly thin broad?leaved evergreens grown for their showy fruit such as pyracantha and holly during the dormant season if needed for shaping. Remove old or weak stems. This group can go several years without pruning except for some slight cosmetic pruning to keep them neat. If too much wood is removed from these plants at anytime, summer or winter, the amount of fruit is reduced the following season. When these plants become old and straggly, cut them back 6 to 8 inches from the ground before spring growth begins. Don't cut them back too early, however, because a flush of growth could freeze and set them back. Prune only after the danger of the last killing frost is past. Such pruning stimulates the growth of new shoots from the base of the plant. Many gardeners prefer to remove only about one?third of the branches at one time and retain the general contour of the plant. This method also can be used. In the long run, probably the best thing to do with overgrown broad?leaved evergreens is to remove and replace them."