QUESTION: I purchased and transplanted a Diefenbachia
house plant a month ago. I recently noticed the bodies of
many dead millipedes in the top of the soil. As the soil
had become quite dry, I proceeded to water the plant thoroughly.
Shortly after, I noticed many live millipedes squirming
and crawling through the top soil. They are between 3/8-
3/4 inches long, whitish, with one brownish end. Any suggestion
for treatment and prevention? Otherwise, the plant appears
healthy-- just had a new leaf unfurl.
ANSWER: I would treat millipedes as I would treat
any planting medium contamination. Reduce watering and let
the soil dry out between watering. Use a soil drench of
diazinon, Malathion, pyrethrin or DDVP. Be sure to check
the label carefully to be certain these products are label-cleared
for use on each house plant variety.
QUESTION: I moved to San Antonio from Colorado 9
months ago, bringing a tree with me. I had it inside up
there. It has grown to be about 5 feet high. So now I keep
it outside. I do not know what kind it is. I bought it from
a local grocery store, but it is my baby. I thought it was
just a plant, however it is getting bark on it. It has small
teardrop looking leaves (about the size of a quarter). If
you took your arms together with closed fists and slowly
opened your fists and spreading your arms apart, that's
how the limbs open up. It has started to get yellow-colored
leaves and kind of dry. Is that from possible over watering,
or under watering? Maybe the sunlight? I just don't know.
Could you help me please? I have tried to find a picture
of it but have failed. I don't want it to die. It was fine
inside but has grown too large for indoors. It is in an
appropriate sized pot too. Please...if you have any advice
or opinions write me!
ANSWER: Since you are in San Antonio, take it by
the San Antonio Botanical Garden on Funston (at North New
Braunfels) and let Paul Cox take a look at it. But you should
know now that if it is an aspen, birch or spruce, you can
kiss it goodbye -- it won't like Texas at all!!! Trees want
to be trees and want to have lots of sun and soil in which
to grow. I imagine your houseplant-turning-tree is pot-bound
and light deficient. All I can say is TAKE PICTURES of your
"baby" so you will have something to remember.
QUESTION: I was wondering if the Oleander is poisonous.
I have searched several places and I have not been able
to find any information. I wanted to get one because they
are very beautiful but I have small children who love putting
things in there mouth and you can never be too careful!
I would appreciate any information you could give me regarding
ANSWER: If you check this PLANTanswers site on poisonous
you will find oleander listed second. Every piece of an
oleander is poisonous but the REST OF THE STORY is that
no one could eat enough of the raw plant to do damage unless
your cooking is SERIOUSLY bad. If you only used non-poisonous
plant material, your landscape is going to look like a desert!!!
Practically every houseplant is poisonous. But now you have
a list of poisonous plants, thanks to the PLANTanswer experts.
QUESTION: Is there any type of control for a virus
that causes mutated growth? This viral attack seems to be
spreading between a crape myrtle, red oak and photinia.
The crape myrtle seems to be hardest hit, producing no foliage
at all--only mutated buds. The other plant species are producing
a ball of mutated growth. What is this virus called?
ANSWER: I think you are confusing virus with wrinkling
effects of powdery mildew on crape myrtle, thrips and mite
damage on oak foliage, and the Red Tip Photinia disease
(Entomosporium leaf spot) problem for which there is no
QUESTION: Recently I was vacationing at South Padre
Island and saw several 15-20 foot tall "trees".
They have large round green leaves with red "veins".
They also bear clumps of green grapes. The confusing thing
is that the plant seems to be self supportive, with heavy
stems like a Crape Myrtle. I would like to know if they
would be suitable for the Houston area climate in summer
ANSWER: You most likely saw a Sea Grape, Coccoloba
uvifera. This is a fairly common coastal plant in frost-free
areas. I don't think it would survive in the Houston area
without winter protection.
---Paul Cox, San Antonio Botanical Garden
QUESTION: I have large trees around my house, which
has a cracked foundation. According to the foundation experts,
the foundation will never remain level until I install a
root barrier around the trees to stop the roots from absorbing
moisture from under the house. How far from the trunk of
the tree, how deep and what material should I use for the
barrier? I was thinking a few feet from the branch drip
line, 36-inches deep, and using fiberglass panels. The trees
are large oaks, ash and one HUGE cottonwood (in my neighbor's
ANSWER: I think your idea about the branch drip line,
36-inches deep, and using fiberglass panels should work.
I assume you will Ditch-witch the holes and that should
cut the roots. You may want to thin limbs from the affected
trees to balance the top growth with the root system lost.
The trees will recover from this procedure regardless even
though some top growth die back may occur.
QUESTION: We purchased a new home last year and put
in 7 pallets of bermuda grass (Tiff 419) in the back. Last
year, we had some problem with grease spots that then turned
brown. We treated for fungus and the problem cleared up.
This appeared to start again this year with the hot weather.
With the water restrictions, I was watering a lot at night.
The grass turned greasy looking, then gray, then brown.
The grass has come back in patches but not very well. We
treated it with Green Light Fung-Away and we used 3 bags
of dry powder per instructions. It didn't seem to help and
it has continued to spread. A neighbor found out they had
chinch bugs so my husband treated our lawn with Green Light
Diazinon 5% granules and it treated up to 4,000 sq. ft.
I do not see any bugs in the grass or in the soil.
ANSWER: First, there are very few disease problems
that will attack Bermuda grass in the heat of the summer.
One of the main problems we see in Bermuda grass at this
time of year is Helminthosporium (leaf spot). While this
disease is mainly a leaf disease in the spring, once the
weather becomes hot, it can attack the crown area of the
Bermuda grass runners and cause the plants to die.
At this time, I can't think of anything that will cause
grease spot appearances in the Bermuda grass. There is a
disease called slime mold that can cause circular gray to
black patches in the turf. However, this is usually associated
with excess moisture and I find it hard to believe that
this could be a problem this year unless your are applying
too much water.
What is your mowing height? The hybrid Bermuda grasses
need to be mowed at .75 - 1.0 inch for best results. If
mowed to high, the hybrid Bermuda grasses can produce brown
spots similar to what you described for your lawn. If you
are mowing over 1.5 inches, lower the mowing height to 1.0
inch when cooler weather arrives. Also, when mowing at this
lower height, you will need to mow at least twice per week.
QUESTION: Where should I plant a yellow allamanda
plant--full sun or partial-- and how should I care for it?
ANSWER: The Allamanda cathartica is a tropical vine
so you are going to have to grow it in a container so that
you can bring it in during the winter (or risk losing it
to a freeze). I have seen them growing in large containers,
sitting on pedestals where they can cascade over. It should
be in a full-sun location or at least morning sun and afternoon
partial shade. The information below comes from the Botanica
Allamanda cathartica, Family name: Apocynaceae; Common
name(s): Golden trumpet vine; This vigorous climber, fast-growing
to 15 ft (4.5 m), bears large, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers
to 6 in (15 cm) across in summer. It has whorls of lance-shaped
leaves and makes a luxuriant cover for walls and strong
fences in frost-free areas. The flowers of 'Hendersonii'
are yellow with white spotted throats. Hardiness zone from
11 To 12; Plant Height approx. 500 cm; Flowering colors:
Yellow; Flowering season: Summer; Garden type: Hedge/Screen,
Indoor Plant, Tropical; Position: Sunny; Propagation season:
Spring, Summer; Soil: Potting Mix; Cultivation: In warm
climates grow outdoors in a sunny, sheltered position in
rich soil, watering freely in summer. In cool climates they
require a large container in a hothouse or conservatory.
Prune heavily in spring to maintain shape and encourage
flowering. Propagate from cuttings and watch for mites which
disfigure the leaves.
QUESTION: I have 4 tomato plants planted right next
to an oleander bush. I now know that oleanders are poisonous,
but is it safe to eat the tomatoes?
ANSWER: No problem at all!!!
QUESTION: I am currently building a concept home
with a "no- grass" lawn. Instead, the yard has
been planted with 4-inch Asian Jasmine plants at about 1-1
½ foot spacing. The yard is sandy clay, sunny, and
well drained. It is watered with a drip irrigation system.
I wonder what is the best way to stimulate growth to quickly
fill in the open areas, and if some safe weed kill can be
used to control weeds until I get full coverage?
ANSWER: Asiatic Jasmine planted from 4-inc pots
at the spacing you have is probably going to take at least
2 growing seasons to cover. In the meantime the best thing
you can do for it is to put a layer of mulch, 3-4 inches
deep, over the area where it is planted. This can be anything
from shredded leaves, bark nuggets, compost, etc. It would
have been much easier to put this down before the jasmine
was planted but you can still do it. The mulch will help
tremendously to keep the weeds down, will conserve water
and will keep the root zone at a temperature that will facilitate
root growth. The jasmine will respond to light applications
of a good quality, high nitrogen lawn fertilizer applied
about every 30 days. There are 'over-the-top' herbicides
which can be used to kill grassy weeds in ornamental beds.
They contain the active ingredient 'fluazifop' and one is
commonly sold as Fusilade. I know of no broad-leaf herbicide
that is labeled for use on Asiatic jasmine. The glyphosate
products, such as Roundup, can be used if you are careful
not to apply it to the jasmine.
QUESTION: I would like to know how to start Bradford
pears? From seed? How long does it take? Do you get the
seed after the bloom fall?
ANSWER: All of the information that I have found
says that it is difficult to root the Bradford Pear (Pyrus
calleryana 'Bradford') from cuttings, and that most propagation
is done by bud grafting 'Bradford' onto Pyrus calleryana
seedlings. The Bradford may produce seed which you could
collect and try propagating. There is no guarantee what
you will get. The seed will be contained in the small inconspicuous
fruit that will follow the flowers. This seed will require
cold stratification at 32-36 degrees F. for a period of
60-90 days. I think that I would just go to the nursery
and buy small trees!
QUESTION: I'm not sure if you can help or not, but,
I have a Bermuda grass lawn that is slowly becoming over
run by St. Augustine. Is there anything I can do to kill
the St. Augustine without affecting the Bermuda (like a
fungus??). I have heard that St. Augustine needs a lot of
water, so I dried out the lawn. St. Augustine is still there
and the Bermuda is nearly dead, compounding the problem!
I've tried cutting it as low as 1 ½ inches. Any suggestions??
I live in Austin, TX.
ANSWER: There is a solution. Fortunately, you want
the bermuda to be the dominant grass. For most people, it
is the other way around. They want the St Augustine and
that is difficult if not impossible. There are herbicides
that will eradicate just about everything in a bermuda lawn
except the bermuda. These are DSMA (disodium methanearsonate)
and MSMA (monosodium acid methanearsonate). You must expect
some discoloration of the grass, but if applied in accordance
with the label instructions, the herbicide will not kill
the bermuda. Your favorite nursery, or any other place that
sells lawn supplies, should have them. Your bermuda did
not die when you withheld the water, it merely went dormant
before the St. Augustine. However, for the herbicide to
be effective, you need to bring the lawn back to a green
and growing condition. Read, and apply in accordance with,
the instructions on the label of the herbicide.