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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.

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Weekly Gardening Column


QUESTION: Can the citronella plant be rooted and/ or otherwise propagated?

ANSWER: No mosquito repelling plants really exist, even though the trailing geranium named Citronella Plant claims to do so ?? it will act as a repellent if the green sap of the plant is rubbed over the entire surface of your body. The candles don't work either and a recent study indicates the insect lights attract more mosquitoes than they kill. Dry weather is usually the only relief. The trailing geranium is easy to root but does not thrive in hot, Texas summers.

QUESTION: Any suggestion on how to successfully kill/eradicate some well? entrenched, overgrown Nandinas that have become a nuisance? I live in central Texas. I don't want to replace them with anything else, just eliminate them without sterilizing the ground.

ANSWER: Dig as much of the root system out as possible; then dig the sprouts with roots. If you don't want to dig them out, cut them back low to the ground and treat sprouting vegetation with a double strength glyphosate herbicide (Roundup, Kleanup, Finale) mixture or Ortho Brush Killer or Brush?B?Gon.

QUESTION: Help!!! What can I do about fire ants in my compost pile?

ANSWER: Make a solution of diazinon and drench the pile; this will get rid the ants but not damage the usefulness of the compost. You could also apply a fire ant bait such as Amdro around the base of the pile and let the ants come?and?get?it!!!

QUESTION: I have morning glory vines for the first time this year, and I notice that all the vines twine in a counterclockwise direction. Do you know why? Do all twining vines grow in that direction?

ANSWER: I have been told, although I have not observed it personally, that vines twine in a counterclockwise direction on this side of the equator and in a clockwise direction on the other side of the equator--just as water drains out of a tub in different directions on different sides of the equator.

QUESTION: I would like to introduce a natural repellant for mosquitos in my back yard (instead of sprays, etc). I have 2 areas for planting. One is full sun (50 sq. ft.) and the other is shade, under 15-foot tall Red Tips (150 sq ft). Is there any plant that
repels mosquitos and could grow in either or both of these locations?

ANSWER: Once again, and repeating what we stated earlier, there exists no mosquito-repelling plants, although the trailing geranium named Citronella Plant claims to do so. It will, only if the green sap of the plant is rubbed over the entire surface of your body.

Here is a good tip for summer, especially for those who like to sit and enjoy the out?doors, but don't like those pesky mosquitoes. Put some water in a white dinner plate and add just a couple of drops of Lemon Fresh Joy dishwashing soap. Set the dish on a porch or patio. Not sure what attracts them, the lemon smell, the white color, or what, but mosquitoes flock to it, and drop dead, or fall into the water, or on the floor within about 10 feet.

QUESTION: My wife and I have tried several times to repot pines and have met with some disastrous results. On our last attempt, we found an infestation of tiny white insects in the soil, in the root system. All the dirt and insects were removed before repotting but the tree did not survive. The plant started turning brown from the bottom and finally died. There was no indication of insects and we were transplanting because of root bound condition. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: The Norfolk Island Pine as described at this site:


can be damaged by root maggots (the white insects in the soil) and/or spider mites (indicated by the plant starting to turn brown from the bottom up). I recommend you eliminate any and all contaminated plants and get a new and healthy, non?infested one. The maggots can be controlled with an insecticidal drench such as diazinon and the spider mites can be controlled (when symptoms first appear) with a spray of a Kelthane (Fertilome Red Spider Mite Spray) mixed with 2 teaspoons of a liquid detergent per gallon of spray. You might want to grow the plant outdoors during the summer and bring it in during the winter. Other information on control of mites can be found on site:


QUESTION: Are pentas annuals or perennials? We planted pentas next to lantana under a live oak last year. The lantana are now
blooming, but the pentas have not come back.

ANSWER: Pentas are usually annuals; if we have a mild winter, they can be root?hardy perennials.

QUESTION: Is San Antonio a good place to grow purple coneflower, for birds and butterflies?

ANSWER: Absolutely. Plant them in the fall. See the photo and description at this website:


QUESTION: Is there a single weed eradicator which will remove weeds from barren flower beds? Some are in full sun, some are in partial shade under live oaks. We wold like to plant flowers now that will bloom through fall. We would also appreciate suggestions for flowers.

ANSWER: A glyphosate?herbicide such as Roundup, Kleanup and Finale will kill all vegetation and planting can occur in 3 weeks. You could plant periwinkle (vinca) or Mari?mums (full sun). Begonias can be planted after the temperatures cool in September. Plant pansies and petunias in October, in full sun.

QUESTION: What product will kill tent caterpillars the fastest, without harming the Mountain Laurels they are attached to?

ANSWER: Orthene with 2 teaspoons of liquid detergent and 2 teaspoons of vinegar per gallon.

QUESTION: I have had 3 pothos plants for about 3 years. Lately, I found little gnats all around my plants. They are not white flies, rather, they are black in color. I've replaced the soil hoping to cure this problem-- but no luck. I've used the pesticide Systemic but still not affective. Please, if you have any suggestion of how to get rid of the annoying flies.

ANSWER: You are experiencing a common problem: fungus gnats. They are completely described, along with control methods at this website:


QUESTION: I used fire ant poison to kill some fire ants in a whiskey barrel planted with herbs. Is there a way to salvage the herbs for consumption, or are they now "just for looks" (as my husband wails)?

ANSWER: If you used a diazinon or Malathion drench, you can eat the herbs after 10 days. Most other drenches are effective after 21 days and most are not up-taken by the plant. I would let your husband eat them first and observe his symptoms for 48 hours ?? then you can eat them!

QUESTION: Is it too late to plant caladiums now? I can't remember how long into the fall they'll thrive.

ANSWER: You could plant them now and they would grow rapidly, but I doubt if you can find bulbs this late in the season.

QUESTION: Do some varieties of tomatoes perform better than others in containers?

ANSWER: Those which produce small plants such as Surefire will do better if you fertilize a lot ?? use Osmocote granules in the mix, and EVERY time you water, use a water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow, Rapid Grow, or Peters 20?20?20.

QUESTION: I have a question about tomatillos and how you preserve and store them once you harvest them. I know it may seem a little silly, but we grow quite a few of them in our home garden, and we enjoy making this great salsa. Is it best to just freeze them? Or is there a way to can them. We want to be able to make our salsa year?round, if possible.

ANSWER: You can use the same recipes for canning and preserving tomatillos as you do for tomatoes. Look for the green tomato recipes we have on PLANTanswers at:


QUESTION: In early summer, I bought two pots of stobilianthos and I really like it. It is much more attractive than coleus (in my opinion,) but I am having a difficult time finding out much about it. From the short write?up on the TAMU horticulture page, I now know it is from Burma, but I don't know much more than that. Is it considered a perennial? What are my chances of overwintering it if I cover it whenever the temperature drops below freezing? Would it be better to bring it inside (I have it planted in big pots with begonias)? Can you recommend any sources where I might find out more about this plant or its near relatives?

ANSWER: Persian Shield, or Strobilianthos dyeranus, is described and pictured at PLANTanswers site:


It is usually a root-hardy perennial in this area. It came back after last year's 15 degrees F., so it should be reliably root-hardy. You do not have to bring it indoors since the roots will survive, unless you want to keep the top of the plant from freezing. I was introduced to the plant by Paul Cox of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. I am glad you are enjoying this plant. We all work together in San Antonio to try to expose as many people as possible to attractive, adapted plant material for this area.

QUESTION: My husband and I are rather fascinated with the tomato hornworm, aside from the fact that they have voracious appetites for our plants. Our curiosity has not been satisfied in any of our searches. Here is our question: what does the caterpillar become in its next developmental stage - a moth, a butterfly, or what?

ANSWER: Hornworms are very large caterpillars and the larvae of sphinx moths (family Sphingidae), bearing a pointed projection at the end of the body that looks like a horn. The tobacco and tomato hornworms, commonly found in gardens, feed rather interchangeably on tobacco, tomato and other Solanaceous plants. Hornworms are named for their adult stage. The tomato hornworm, Manduca quinquemaculata (Haworth), have 5 instead of 6 yellow spots on each side of the abdomen of the moth, and 2 narrow stripes extending diagonally across each wing when compared to the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta (Linnaeus).

QUESTION: Other articles on the internet have said that Zoysia is not good for football fields. They said it takes to long to repair when it is torn. They also said it turns brown after the first frost. Can the above be overcome? If so, at what length is Zoysia kept. The Zoysia has a " green top" with a thin brown stem going into the ground. It also seems to grow in clumps at its current length. If I cut this down, how long will it take to re-green? For replanting, is seed readily available, and how long does it take to grow?

ANSWER: I do not believe that Zoysiagrass will make a good choice for use on a football field. While most varieties of Zoysiagrass do have good to excellent wear-tolerance, they are very slow to recover from wear and tear, and from damage by disease and insect problems. While some of the new varieties of Zoysiagrass grow faster than the older ones, I am not sure how well they will tolerate the cold winters up north.

The ideal mowing height for most Zoysiagrasses is around 1 to 1-1/2 inches. When mowed higher than this, the Zoysiagrasses tend to produce thatch.

There are a couple of seeded Zoysiagrasses available, but most of the Zoysiagrasses that are currently being used are the ones that have to be planted vegetatively.

QUESTION: I am going to plant some grape vines for home wine making. How can I find out which types are best for the Wichita Falls area, and will produce a good, dry red wine?

ANSWER: As long as you have ample water and a fairly good soil, you can grow most any grape you want to grow. If you like reds, why not try some Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot. All of the grape varieties are pretty much adapted to your area since you are out of the P.D. (Pierces Disease) zone. More information on grapes can be obtained on the PLANTanswers web site at:

QUESTION: Do edible flowers have nutritional value? Can you give me an example of a flower that provides particular vitamins, for example?

ANSWER: I'm sorry but I do not have that information. Below is the answer to a previous question about edible flowers that includes some book titles on the subject. Perhaps a trip to the library will unearth the information you desire.

Since you seem to be serious in your desire to learn about, grow and cook with edible flowers, my recommendation is to visit your library or local book store and find a good book to refer to. Some titles that you might look for include:

Cooking from the Gourmet's Garden : Edible Ornamentals, Herbs, and Flowers
By Coralie Castle and Robert Kourik / Paperback /Published 1998

Edible Flowers : A Kitchen Companion
By Kitty Morse / Hardcover / Published 1995

Edible Flowers : Desserts & Drinks
By Cathy Wilkinson Barash / Paperback / Published 1997

Edible Flowers : From Garden to Palate
By Cathy Wilkinson Barash / Paperback / Published 1995

Taylor's Pocket Guide to Herbs and Edible Flowers
By Norman Taylor and Ann Reilly / Paperback / Published 1990

Cooking With Edible Flowers & Herbs
By Sinclair Philip / VHS Tape / Published 1990

Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers
By (author's name) MacKin / Paperback / Published 1993

Edible Flowers : A Recipe Collection
By Marilyn Lande / Paperback / Published 1994

Flights of Fancy : A Cookbook of Fanciful Recipes for Artful Living : Edible Flowers & Herb Recipes
Paperback / Published 1994

Good Enough to Eat?Growing and Cooking Edible Flowers
By Jekka McVicar / Hardcover

The Beautiful Food Garden : Creative Landscaping With Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits & Flowers
By Kate Rogers Gessert / Published 1987

Edible Flowers
By Claire Clifton / Published 1984