Coastal and Tropical South

April, 2011
Regional Report

Prevent Root Rot

If pots don't drain, roots rot. You may not see the damaged roots, but you'll see leaf tips turn brown as their supply of water and nutrients is cut off. Take attached saucers off of hanging baskets and other pots when it is time to water them. When used irrigation water sits in the saucer below, roots can reabsorb it, causing a toxic reaction. Think of that refuse water as waste and keep it out of the containers. If you water from below, be sure to empty the saucer after an hour.

Plant Pond Plants

There are three kinds of water plants, differentiated by where they grow. Some plants grow completely underwater, while others float entirely on the top, like water lettuce. Still others need their roots contained in a pot with holes in it. Water lilies, cannas, LA iris, and white swamp spider lilies grow well this way. All three kinds of plants play an important role in maintaining the natural balance in the pond.

Tailor Watering to Pot Type

Plastic pots are molded out of solid, non-porous material, while clay pots are inherently porous. The nature of the pot, its size, and what's growing in it together determine how often you need to water water. Terra cotta reflects heat, absorbs water, and dries out fast. Soil in plastic pots stays wetter longer. You won't have to water similar size plastic pots as often as their clay counterparts. However, in a wet season the ability of clay to evaporate water through its surfaces is a distinct plus for plants in need of good drainage.

Discourage Birdy Squatters

It's a common complaint: you purchase a lovely, big basket with well-drained soil planted with petunias, ferns, and other soft-leaved plants. Within a week the house wrens have discovered it and moved in to nest. You can curse the wrens for being lazy and taking advantage of your baskets, but a better idea is to ignore them. If you cannot, get another basket and hang it nearby to tempt them, or transplant those petunias. Cactus baskets and lantana baskets are less enticing, but if necessary, wrens will move in anywhere that is protected from predators. I once saw a house wren nest comfortably in a front door wreath!

Use Soluble or Granular Fertilizers Effectively

Whether you choose synthetic fertilizers or organic alternatives, there are ways to use both granular and soluble types most effectively. Solubles are mixed in water and either sprayed onto the plants or used to drench their soil. Be sure to use whatever you make up, as the solubles do not store well once they have been mixed in water. Keep granular fertilizers dry by putting their bags inside plastic buckets.

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