Coastal and Tropical South

July, 2012
Regional Report

Manage Water

Maybe you live where flooding has been the issue or perhaps you cannot seem to get enough water into a drought stricken landscape. Either way, the watchword in water is moderation. Whether it is too much or too little, roots can be stressed beyond redemption by extreme water conditions. Good water management begins with fertile, organic, usually well-drained soil and extends to mulching. A proper organic mulch can help the plant hold water in dry times and shed it in all but the worst flooding. When that is the case, dig a ditch quick to get the water away from your plants.

Help Hairy Leaves

Often overlooked, dust can build up on any plant and clog the stomata, the plant structures that act like pores. Hairy and velvety leaved plants like African violet and piggyback plant are especially vulnerable to leaf damage from dust -- and water, too. To clean hairy leaves, I use a can of compressed air and blow the dust off in a series of quick puffs. To prevent most spotting, keep the leaves dry by watering pots from the bottom. For plants in this group grown in outdoor beds, water with a soaker hose early enough in the day to give the leaves plenty of time to dry off before dark.

Start a Layer

Is your corn plant (dracaena) reduced to a naked cane with a single flare of leaves at the top? Improve its looks with air layering. Choose a spot a few inches below the leafy clump and make a small slit in the cane. Wedge it open with a piece of toothpick and create a rooting area with long fibered sphagnum moss. Drench the dry moss in water and squeeze out the excess, form it into a ball around the slit. Cover the moss with clear plastic and secure it on both ends. When you see enough roots, it is ready to cut off and pot up.

Care for Camellias

The hard round growths on camellias and sasanquas are their seed pods. If you had pruned the shrubs right after flowering last year, they would not form. Their presence is not a problem to the plants and you can remove them now, but do no other pruning or the next flowers will be lost. Keep an eye out for insects, too. Webs under yellowing leaves indicate that scale insects are feeding, while curled tips on new growth may hide aphids in their folds.

Prevent Brush Fires

A few dry days with high temperatures and brisk wind can set the stage for brush fires. A dumped charcoal grill, burn pile left to flare up, careless smoking, and hideous arson can wreak havoc. Develop good habits, but also cut down weeds and brush that are not irrigated, even if it means bush hogging occasionally. Keep the lawn mowed and hydrated, and maintain shrubs around your house with regular pruning and irrigation, too. If a plant dies in your landscape, remove it promptly.

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