Ticket reservations are currently required for Members & Non-Members, as part of our enhanced security measures. Please click 'Buy Tickets' below & make the appropriate selection. See you in the Garden!
Have a question you want to see answered here? Ask a Gardener on Facebook and #StayPlanted
All answers are compiled below on the weekday on which they were received:

August 25, by Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: What’s the safest way to transplant a Sabal palmetto? It’s around 15’ tall.

A: Sabal palmetto, also called Sabal palm or cabbage palm, is quite popular in Southwest Florida landscaping and for good reason — it is Florida’s state tree! Perhaps due to its frequent use in a variety of landscaped settings, plenty of information has been documented about transplanting Sabal palms. 

Note: The following recommendations are specific to Sabal palms. Other kinds of palms may have different transplanting needs.

First of all, your Sabal palm is certainly tall enough to transplant successfully. (Research has shown that Sabal palms should be at least 10 feet tall before attempting to transplant them.) Before addressing the safety guidelines of moving a 15-foot tree, let’s start with learning two pre-transplant practices unique to Sabal palms:

1) Root pruning is not recommended. Before starting to dig, water the palm to moisten the root ball and help keep it intact during transplanting. Try not to cut too many roots while digging because those individual roots will not survive. Instead, lots of new roots will start to grow from the base of the trunk to replace the lost roots over time. Regrowth of the root system may be a lengthy process and delay transplanting. After replanting is complete, resist the urge to overwater the palm so it does not succumb to root rot.

2) Leaf pruning is recommended. It is common practice to remove all of the large palm fronds during the digging phase of transplant. Younger fronds may be left on the palm, but should be cut in half and tied together to prevent damage during the move. Removing this palm’s large leaves helps to reduce water loss and actually increases survival of the palm after transplanting.

Now, let’s get to the mechanics of moving the Sabal palm, courtesy of our Horticulture Maintenance Manager and resident tree-mover extraordinaire, Stephen Jurek:

1) The bigger the tree, the bigger the machine you will need to move it. At the Garden, we use a Kubota skid steer or wheel loader. Choosing which machine to use depends on many interrelated factors, such as accessibility and conditions of the planting site. The tractor you select should have the option for a metal arm attachment called a “boom” that can lift and move the tree.

2) Secure the tree to the machine correctly using nylon straps. The straps should be wrapped around the trunk at a point that is slightly less than halfway up the trunk. The length of strap between the tree and the boom should be as short as possible. When the tree is picked up, it should be vertically straight in the air with little possibility for swinging. 

3) Keep any onlookers a safe distance away from the moving tree. We know that moving a big tree can be quite a spectacle, but anyone not directly involved with the transplant should stay at least a tree’s length away at all times.

Depending on the distance your Sabal palm is going to travel, more information regarding transport safety can be found in “Transplanting Palms in the Landscape” from the University of Florida. If you have limited experience with the necessary equipment, hiring a professional tree-moving company may be the safest route.

July 14, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: What’s the best way to prune a Jatropha tree?

A: The Red Jatropha is very easy to prune, just be careful of the white sap it produces, as it can be a skin irritant. If it’s a multi-stem bush or tree, remove the tallest stems 6-8 inches below the desired height you wish to have, and leave the ones that are at or below the desired height. If you have a single stem, prune to keep the natural global shape. Make your cuts at nodes to increase bushiness, and remove unwanted or crossing branches by taking them completely off and down to their base.

June 23, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

Q: Why do I have to fertilize the bougainvillea at my house to get them to look healthy and bloom? I see them alongside the roads and highways looking stunning … and I wouldn’t think they get fertilized in those spots.

A: Landscaping businesses do fertilize plants in medians and other county-owned areas. Fertilizer helps make up for the lack of nutrients found in the soil. Over time, nutrients are used and can become scarce, which is why fertilizer is generally needed to keep plants vibrant and blooming!

June 12, by Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: Any tips on growing cantaloupes? My plants are about six inches tall.

A: Cantaloupes grow as vines that sprawl along the ground, so they need a lot of room to grow. If you are getting ready to plant seedlings in the ground, choose an area with full sun and rich soil that drains well. The University of Florida recommends planting cantaloupes on mounds of soil that are 6-10 inches tall. Give each seedling about 2-3 feet to spread out as it grows. South Florida tends to provide more than adequate rainfall for cantaloupes, so be on the lookout for fungal diseases on the leaves. As the cantaloupe plant matures, it will develop separate male and female flowers. A female flower must receive pollen from a male flower (usually courtesy of pollinators, like bees) before it will make a fruit. Cantaloupes are ready to harvest when the fruit easily separates from the stem.

June 1, by Lauren Hardy, Gardener

Q: Some of my container plants are being eaten by orange and black caterpillars. How do I control this pest?

A: Caterpillars are a tricky pest! They are hard to control and can be slow to show results. There are caterpillar sprays you can find with natural Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a low toxicity option. They can be found under the names Dipel, thuricide, and BT products. Garden centers also have synthetic options called Sevin, and you can find that at Lowe’s. I would recommend going the Bacillus thuringiensis route if you can. It won’t harm other insects that are beneficial to your garden! Also, always follow the instructions on the package of whichever insecticide you choose. Good luck with your container pests.

May 29, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

Q: With citrus greening still present, where would you suggest I purchase citrus trees for a door yard grove?

A: Golden Gate Nursery and Driftwood Garden Center both have nice arrays of citrus trees and are reputable suppliers.

Q: How do you manage those pesky cabbage worms without chemicals?

A: There a few methods you can try:

  • BT – also known as Bacillus thuringiensis. It’s a bacteria that doesn’t harm your plants but does harm caterpillars and worms that feed on them. The only issue with using BT is that it can also impact the butterfly populations in your yard.
  • Diatomaceous earth powder – This substance is nontoxic and will kill worms that are present on your plants. It causes the worms to become dehydrated and die.
  • Cornmeal – After wetting the foliage of your plant, sprinkle cornmeal over the plant. The cornmeal will swell inside the stomachs of the worms, and they’ll die off.

May 28, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: Hi there, I have a 2-year-old sapphire duranta tree that is starting to outgrow its spot. Do you know how they respond to transplanting?

A: You should be able to transplant your duranta tree with success, especially with the summer rains to assist you! When you start the transplanting process, try to keep as much of the roots intact as possible, digging a circular hole around the base that is about the size of the crown of the plant. If you accidentally break off more roots than expected, you can strip some of the leaves off to reduce shock and wilting. Once replanted, water it daily for about two weeks. Removing any flowers or fruits from a transplanted shrub/tree is also a good idea.

May 22, by Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: I am having trouble with my Angel Trumpet plant … it has blooms, but the trunks are very skinny and never seem to fill out.

A: Angel’s Trumpets (Brugmansia sp.) are beautiful plants with large, elegant flowers just about everyone can appreciate. However, I must begin with a disclaimer: Angel’s Trumpets are poisonous! Do not eat any part of this plant. Take extra precautions when touching this plant and if young children or pets are nearby.

Now, to answer your question: There are many types of Angel’s Trumpets that have varying growth habits. Generally, they are considered shrubs, although some can be grown as small trees. The fact that your plant has multiple trunks might mean that it is a type of Angel’s Trumpet with a shrubby growth habit. If so, you could try trimming it after it blooms to encourage fuller growth. (Make sure to wear gloves!) Also, check on your soil fertility. Angel’s Trumpets prefer rich soil and benefit from granular fertilizer a few times per year.

Q: I have a hibiscus tree in a pot. It has good drainage. But it just isn’t getting more leaves. I have yellow leaves daily, so even if I get new ones, I’m losing others! I’ve been told stress, too much water, not enough water … What to do?? Take it out of pot and plant it in ground?

A: During normal plant growth, nutrients are sent to the growing tips, while older leaves may turn yellow and drop off. I agree that a plant not developing new leaves during its normal growing season is under some type of stress. Figuring out what is wrong can be tricky, since different stressors can create the same noticeable issues in plants. For example, reasons for yellowing leaves include overwatering, underwatering, too much light, not enough light, nutrient deficiency, and pests!

Hibiscus prefers rich soil and benefits from granular fertilizer a few times per year. The combination of yellowing leaves and lack of new growth may point toward a nutrient deficiency. One of the more common nutrient deficiencies for ornamental plants in Florida is magnesium deficiency. Symptoms may include chlorotic (yellow) older leaves and drastically reduced growth rate. For more information, read this article about nutrient deficiencies in woody ornamentals from the University of Florida.

Plants in containers have their own set of considerations. Soil inside a container tends to dry out faster, so potted plants usually need to be watered more frequently than the same plants in the ground. Before and after watering your hibiscus, stick your finger a couple inches into the soil. If the soil is already moist, additional watering is not needed.

You should also make sure you are potting up your plant as it grows. Plants that remain in the same container for too long can get root-bound, with their roots endlessly circling the pot in search of more room to grow. Root-bound plants may show general signs of decline. Make sure to select larger and larger containers over time to keep up with the growth of your plant. The International Hibiscus Society has a very detailed article about growing hibiscus in pots.

Taking your hibiscus out of its container and planting it in the ground will eliminate any container-related maintenance questions. As we are entering the rainy season (cue rain and thunder as I write those words), it is a good time for transplanting.

Q: Why are my peace lilies always brown around the edges?

A: Peace lilies are well-known as houseplants, but they can be planted outdoors in South Florida in shady areas. Leaves and spathes (white leaf-like structures protecting flower spikes) that turn brown around the edges are indications that the peace lily is being exposed to direct sunlight. I recommend transplanting your peace lily to another part of your yard where it will be protected from intense light by taller plants. If necessary, observe your yard first to see which areas receive direct sunlight or remain shady at different times of day. For more information about peace lily care, visit the University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions website.

May 20, by Lauren Hardy, Gardener

Q: I have a jasmine vine(s) totally out of control and need to know how to trim it.

A: Taming jasmine vines can be an overwhelming task. It looks like most of your pruning needs are up high, and you can use a hedge trimmer or pruners to trim it back in whatever shape you would like. It is a very resilient plant, but give it a good watering after pruning to help it recover after the shock of being trimmed. 

Q: Something is eating my bougainvillea leaves. Haven’t been able to find out what. I live in North Naples. Is there anything I can do to protect the plant without chemicals? Thank you!

A: It is hard to say without knowing what type of pest we are dealing with. Looper caterpillars come and feed in the evening or at night, so they sound likely to be the culprit. They are controlled by spraying neem oil, but you want to make sure that you get one that says it will help with caterpillar removal. The spraying should be done in the afternoon or evening and kept out of the sun to do the least amount of damage to your plant. If you don’t wish to go this route, there are recommendations of attracting birds to your plants. The birds will begin to eat the caterpillars, but it isn’t foolproof.

Q: My bird of paradise is nearly (80% dead stalks) dead from lack of watering. In addition to water and cutting out dead parts, what can I do to help it … enhanced soil? Mulch over roots? Plant “vitamins?” It is in the full sun beside a hot building. Hesitate to dig up large roots and transplant in its vulnerable state. Any tips will be appreciated.

A: I have moved birds of paradise before with very good luck in transplant. It might be best to dig up and pot it up if you are able. I would also recommend adding fertilizer or compost and keep on the watering. Now is a recommended time to do transplants, so it will do the least amount of damage to the already compromised plant. If you don’t want to go this route, grab some good compost if you have some, and mulch is always a great way to help with water retention. I would recommend putting the compost down and then mulching on top. Keep the mulch away from the base of the plant in order to keep the plant from rotting and try to make a dome or donut around it to encourage the water to run into the ground. Good luck, and I hope your birds make it!

Q: Just got a sweet almond and somebody recommended not planting it in the ground. Any truth to that?

A: Here at Naples Botanical Garden, we have our sweet almond in the ground, and they are big and beautiful. I would say whether you want to keep this guy potted or not depends on your location. This plant will go dormant if you experience frosty winters, but it is used to them. You can move it into the sun in the winter if you keep it in a pot, but it isn’t necessary. You’ll want to heavy prune it back in spring to keep it the size you want. They can grow very large if not contained, so really it is up to you if you want to pot it up or let it grow wild!

May 15, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

Q: I have four blue daze planted at the base of a royal palm; two are failing miserably, and two are still pretty good (see pic of good and bad). I’m perplexed since they all receive about the same amount of water and sun. Trying to decide if I should be patient or replace. Ideas? Thanks.

A: There are a couple of possibilities here, the first being poor drainage. Blue daze is generally pretty resistant to disease but can develop fungal issues, especially if the plant is receiving a lot of through rain or irrigation. Your plants don’t appear to be crowded, so I don’t believe air circulation could be causing the fungal issues. I personally would let the plant dry out and see if it begins to recover. If it doesn’t, then I suggest removing the plant and amending the existing soil with one that allows for better drainage. If you prefer not to purchase a new plant, I’d suggest removing some of the ground cover that is doing well and putting it in place of the ground cover that has declined. Blue daze grows quickly, so it should fill out the space in no time!

May 13, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: Any idea why the bougainvillea on the right looks so shabby? They were both planted 4 years ago, and both fed and watered the same.

A: It’s a head-scratcher why two plants that were planted next to each other in the same conditions are not thriving equally. My first suggestion is to examine the irrigation while it is on to ensure that they both are in fact getting equal amounts of water. As plants grow, they can block irrigation from hitting other plants. I’ve had that issue a few times, and I didn’t realize it until I witnessed it with the irrigation on.

We are still in dry season, so this next answer may not sound like it makes sense, but the plant’s condition suggests possible root rot. Root rot is caused by over watering or water-logged soil and can cause dieback and stunted growth, which this plant appears to have. But the area in the photo looks to be in full sun and on the dry side (exactly what a bougainvillea wants). It’s possible that the plant had mildew or another problem and developed root rot because of weakened vigor.

If irrigation is the same, it’s not over watered, and there seem to be no sign of pests or mildew on the leaves, perhaps when it was planted it could have been planted too deeply, or it was a severely root-bound plant. Two other problems to look for (but I think they would usually affect both plants, not just one) would be looper caterpillars or nematodes. Loopers are a very common pest to bougainvillea; you will see chewed leaves on the plant as evidence. Nematodes are harder to check for, but you can send a soil sample to the University of Florida for testing.

May 13, by Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: I have bromeliads planted along my front walkway. They have attracted bees. I know the bees are just looking for water, but we can hardly walk in our front door. I don’t want to kill them, just deter them. I can’t weed the garden or do anything. Please help!

A: Certain types of bromeliads, called “tank” bromeliads, are shaped in such a way that their stiff leaves funnel water toward the middle of the plant and hold the water there. These sheltered pools of water are attractive to many types of small animals seeking hydration (or even places for reproduction). Since we are currently experiencing a drought in southwest Florida, it is very likely the bees are attracted to the water in your bromeliads.

The first thing to remember is that bees typically do not pose a threat to people. Most of Florida’s native bee species live solitary lives, while honeybees are the exception living in a social hive. (To find a beekeeper who can remove feral honeybees, visit University of Florida – Gardening Solutions.)  A good rule of thumb is to stay calm if you notice the bees (or any other wildlife) nearby. As an aside, there are lots of different kinds of bees visiting the native wildflowers where I work in the Scott Florida Garden. Although I work in quite close proximity to bees for hours at a time, I calmly go about my necessary tasks, leave the bees alone, and have never been stung.

However, I do understand that encountering bees every time you step out the door could be a nuisance. A few possible solutions come to mind, all of which involve reducing or relocating those nice pools of water. If you are watering the bromeliads yourself, try to pay close attention to how much water is accumulating in the center. Turn off the flow before you start seeing too much standing water. If the bromeliads are simply propped up or loosely planted, you could gently tip the bromeliads to drain excess water. Another tactic would involve creating a more attractive water source farther from your front door, possibly with a birdbath. If all else fails, the coming rainy season will evenly distribute the precious water across our landscape, and your bromeliads won’t be such an oasis anymore.

May 10, by Lauren Hardy, Gardener

Q: Hi, I am a new plant Mum! Purchased this plant about two months ago, and it was small. It has grown so high. I cannot remember the name of the plant. My question is, do I trim it or provide a planter and posts for it to ‘climb?’ Thanks.

A: Your plant is a polka dot plant! It is in the Acanthacea family with the scientific name Hypoestes phyllostachya. It is recommended to trim these plants so they stay bushy. It is also recommended to trim the plant’s flower spikes because they tend to flower once then go dormant. This will also help to keep the plant vibrant! Great job, new plant mum, your polka dot plant is thriving.

May 8, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

Q: I have an ‘almost’ ripe pineapple. When do I know it’s time to harvest?

A: Pineapples ripen from the bottom up. Once the outer skin begins to turn yellow, and you’re able to smell that pineapple scent, it’s generally time to pick the fruit. It’s best to wait until the entire fruit has yellowed since it doesn’t sweeten after being picked.

Q: There’s a coffee plant on your grounds that smelled wonderful. We just saw a wild coffee plant in a local nursery and were wondering what species the one in the garden is.

A: We have a few varieties on site, Coffea arabica, Psychotria nervosa (wild coffee), and Bahama wild coffee (shorter variety of wild coffee). In my opinion, the Coffea arabica is more fragrant than the other two; it’s also the same bush that makes coffee beans, which is a win-win if you’re a coffee drinker. If you have a hard time finding the arabica variety, then I recommend either of the wild coffees. They’re still fragrant and are great fillers in any landscape!

Q: Half my tree appears to be dying. Any idea why?

A: It’s hard to tell the exact reason why from the photo given; are either of the trunks damaged? The lack of foliage on one side can also be caused by extreme weather. We’re still experiencing a drought. If you’re local, that could be the culprit. Regardless, it’s clear that the deteriorating side is deficient either in water or nutrients. Maybe the roots were damaged? Again, it’s hard to tell by the photo given. I’d suggest maybe fertilizing it and watering it regularly until the wet season begins this summer.

 

May 6, by Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: We are newer to Florida and living with a cage in our yard. We would love to start a family garden with veggies and herbs but not sure where to put it. Can you have a garden inside a cage? Or should we find a space out in the open? Any tips on the best food to grow?

A: Veggies and herbs are usually grown in full sun. Some people choose to create a raised bed specifically for a vegetable garden, if they have the yard space. If not, there are advantages to keeping some plants inside a pool cage or screened-in patio that still allows for adequate sun exposure.

These areas normally call for container gardening. Some of the benefits to this approach include:

1) Ease of preparation. Many plants grown in containers (especially veggies and herbs) thrive in a standard potting mix, which is much richer than our sandy soils. Filling a container with potting mix is much easier than constructing a raised bed or attempting to amend a patch of soil in your yard.

2) Ability to move your plants. Working with plants in containers gives you the freedom to move your plants to different sections of your patio as the sunny and shady spots change throughout the year. A fully screened area allows for great air flow, but your plants are still exposed to sudden changes in temperature and precipitation. Plants grown in small containers can easily be moved inside if there is too much rain, a sudden cold snap, or a strong storm.

3) Protection from critters. It's not just humans who think veggies and herbs are tasty. Unprotected edibles are very likely to be browsed by birds, rabbits, deer, or even iguanas. Large grasshoppers (called lubbers) and caterpillars will munch the leaves and soft stems. Armadillos rooting in the soil could even disturb delicate plants. A fully enclosed screen acts as physical barrier to wildlife that would otherwise munch on your veggies.

Whether you are growing plants on a semi-sheltered patio or fully exposed to the elements, it is very important to know what to expect from our climate at different times of the year. As you have probably noticed, the heat and humidity start to rise before the daily summer rains begin (normally in early June). The increased heat stresses many herbaceous plants, so look for signs of wilting and be prepared to give your plants supplemental water. From June through September, expect heavy downpours, lightning, and possibly strong winds every afternoon. Too much rain or an intense storm could call for temporarily bringing your plant containers inside.

The types of vegetables and herbs that grow best in Southwest Florida vary with the time of year. Some of our best summer veggies are sweet potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and okra. Wait until the cooler, drier months to grow most of the popular herbs, like dill, fennel, cilantro, sage, parsley, and thyme. Refer to the South Florida Gardening Calendar from the University of Florida Extension Office for month-by-month planting advice.

May 4, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: What is killing my pigeon pea babies? Leaves get spotted and die … too much water? Fungi?

A: It does appear that these could be signs of over watering and/or a fungus. I would recommend removing the bottom leaves from this pigeon pea seedling, as well as any leaf litter from the pots, and cutting down the amount or frequency that you water, allowing the soil to dry slightly in between waterings. Using neem oil can help if it’s a fungus. These seedlings look like they could be in 3-gallon containers. If they are, they can hold more water than smaller seed-starting containers and take longer to dry out, so check them and wait until they are a bit dry before watering again. Good luck!

April 29, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

Q: I have a mango tree (Glenn, I think). I am only getting fruit on the north side of the tree. Plus, on some areas of the tree the mangos are average size and other areas they are very tiny. Thoughts?

A: It could be a few things. Your tree could have a nutrient deficiency or a lack of sunlight on the other side of the tree. Pests, like melee bugs, can also take nutrients away from the tree. They suck the nutrients out of the stem, weakening the plant, and can interfere with your yield. It’s more likely that the other side of the tree isn’t getting enough sunlight. If this isn’t the case and the tree is in full sun on all sides, then perhaps consider fertilizing the tree. Is the tree receiving water regularly? Insufficient amounts of water can also affect your fruit yield!

Q: I would like to plant something that will attract bees, butterflies, etc. and has color. The pot is a large one and is facing south. I want the plant to be able to be contained in the pot for some time. I read Mike Malloy’s column on March 21, and he suggested numerous options, but he didn’t say if they would work contained in a pot. I also would consider something that would not need a lot of water. Any suggestions???

A: Fortunately, there are quite a few options for your pot that are drought tolerant and also attract pollinators. Here are some plants that I find do very well in pots.

Salvia: There are many varieties to choose from. The taller varieties tend to attract hummingbirds while other varieties attract bees, butterflies, and other smaller pollinators. They require little water and do great in the heat!

Lavender: Its fragrant and beautiful to look at when flowering. They attract bees and also do well in drier environments, so minimal watering is required!

Lantana: They come in different varieties and attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees! They don’t require a lot of watering and are native to Florida. Like the other options, this one flowers year-round.

Gaillardia: This flower, also known as blanket flower, is another great choice. It is drought tolerant and attracts pollinators. They are also native to Florida and bloom year-round!

April 27, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: I’ve tried insecticidal soap and neem oil. How can I get these (caterpillars) off my tomatoes?

A: When trying to get rid of caterpillar pests, using Thuricide or a product with “BT” will be the most effective. “BT” is short for Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the soil. It is nontoxic to humans, animals, and beneficial insects when used as directed. This product will only kill caterpillars (loopers/leaf rollers/etc.) and the larval stages of some other insects. You can find a product with BT in a liquid concentrate form at most local garden centers.

Q: I have six orchids. They all have buds, but now the buds are falling off. What’s wrong?

A: The most common reason for buds dropping prematurely, or “bud blast,” is over- or under-watering. Sometimes it feels like it’s hard to tell which one because the symptoms can look the same. Watering requirements vary, depending on the orchid variety, how much sun or air flow it gets, and what media the orchid is planted in. If the media (orchid bark, moss, etc.) remains wet or soggy from one watering to the next and is not allowed to dry out in between, you may be overwatering. On the contrary, if the roots appear withered and dry, and you’re watering less than once a week, you could be under-watering. Shock, such as a pest infestation, a sudden change of light exposure, or environmental changes can also make buds drop, but if none of that seems to apply to your situation, it’s probably a watering problem.

April 24, by Lauren Hardy, Gardener

Q: What is attacking my porterweed? How do I treat this without harming the butterflies I’m trying to attract?

A: This looks like it could be mealybugs. You can use a dish soap and water mixture and spray it on them twice a week. Try to do it out of the sun to avoid burning the plant. You can also use a neem oil spray to help get rid of them. This is recommended for a medium infestation. We use both of those options at the garden to help control them.

Q: My milkweed is a mess. Yellow bugs and barely visible black bugs. Leaves are discolored. I cut them down and they are coming back, so far at least! 

A: A good solution that works on most insects is a dish soap and water mixture in a spray bottle. You want to make sure to spray when the plants aren’t in direct sunlight to avoid burning. Milkweed has a tendency to look a little messy, especially if it was really popular with the caterpillars, but I am glad to hear it is coming back strong!

Q: Hi, can you help us with our Golden Bamboo? It has black spots, and they are slowly spreading. We think about cutting it under the spots and hope it grows back. It’s probably some fungus. If the tree is not dying, we would like to save it. We planted the tree at end of October, beginning of November.

A: Brown spots on bamboo can come from nutrition or pests. It can happen if the bamboo is receiving too much direct sunlight, or there might be an issue with the water being used to irrigate it. Too much salt and too much fluoride are two common issues with water, as it pertains to bamboo. Proper fertilization is also key to keeping healthy bamboo. If you can’t find specific bamboo fertilizer, you can adjust with palm fertilizer but make sure that you aren’t using a weed-and-feed version of any fertilizer. There can also be a fungal or bacterial infection in the plant. One common issue in humid climates is a condition called “fungal spots,” which can be treated with a copper-based fungicide. If you choose to cut down the older canes to make room for new growth, disinfect the tools in between cuts to make sure you don’t spread the fungus. 

Q: I would love to plant a magnolia tree. Which do you recommend?

A: Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is a great option for Florida since it is a Florida native!

Q: What should I do with the new growth at the base of my “money plant?” Can I start a new one?

A: You can propagate Money Trees! Make sure that you cut the stem with at least two nodes using sharp sheers. Use a pot no bigger than 6 inches and plant in well-draining soil. Keep the plant moist, but not wet, and place in a sunny window. Good luck propagating!

April 23, by Lauren Hardy, Gardener

Q: Can Queen’s Wreath vine be propagated by cuttings? If so, should older growth be used or new?

A: What a perfectly timed question! I recently propagated Queen’s Wreath, and it took really well to cuttings. I propagated by using woody cuttings from the tips of the vine without flowers on them. The woody cuttings created six or seven successful propagations. I also used rooting hormone to get them going. If you don’t have any on hand, I have used cinnamon as a replacement for rooting hormone, and it has worked fairly well. We are so fortunate to have a fog house to start our cuttings, but they should start just fine if you keep your soil nice and moist. Good luck propagating Queen’s Wreath! I hope you are as successful as I was.

Q: I planted some Eugenia shrubs (small) to develop a privacy shrub. They have healthy new growth, about eight inches. Should I snip the ends to promote fill-in below prior to fall?

A: Eugenia is a great shrub to use as a privacy barrier! It is fast-growing, dense and hardy. You can shear the hedge as often as six times a year to keep a manicured look. It will grow between 12 and 20 feet if you choose not to prune, but try to keep it above 5 feet for optimal results. If you are looking for a wild look, you can trim it less often and do a hard cut back in spring after it’s finished blooming. Another good time to prune is in the fall. It is also recommended to do heading as well as thinning when pruning to promote a healthier, fuller shrub. Happy trimming!

April 22, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

 

Q: I’m looking for recommendations on fast-growing native shrub/tree that will grow to about 10 feet or so but without too much spread. I need to plant privacy barrier in sandy soil interspersed with well-established coconut palms, jacaranda, and mahogany trees. Appreciate any suggestions – bonus if butterfly/bird friendly! Many thanks!  (Marie Coleman)

A: I had to do some research, considering a lot of our native shrubs only reach about 8 feet in height. If you’re looking to add some color to your yard and also attract pollinators, I suggest bougainvillea. They thrive in less-rich soil and don’t spread. Another option is clusia. They also do great in sandy soil, can handle full sun, and aren’t aggressive spreaders. Both these options easily reach 10 feet.

Q: Is there a proven method of getting rid of and preventing scale? I love my plants and don’t want to keep replanting every couple of years.   (Wendy Hoffman)

A: If you don’t wish to remove affected areas of the plant, I’d suggest scrubbing it off with a toothbrush or your nail (wet either with rubbing alcohol beforehand), or by spraying your plant with insecticidal spray every day for about 5 to 7 days. If you don’t have an insecticidal spray on hand, then any mild dish soap should do the trick.

Preventing scale can be done by simply spraying your plants with neem once a week; the oils from the spray blocks the breathing holes of the scales and is non-toxic to people and pets. Keep an eye on the plants and try to remove any infested leaves.

Q: I’ve seen pineapples growing at the Garden. What kind of fertilizer do you recommend for them?

A: A 10-10-10 fertilizer with magnesium is generally used on the pineapples in the garden. You can also use any 10-10-10 fertilizer that has micronutrients!

April 21, By Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: I love fuchsia flowering shrubbery or perennials. What might be some good options for my front landscaping that would thrive? It’s time to get some color in those beds!

A: Bougainvillea is always a showstopper if you have a large space with full sun. This large shrub can stand alone or be trained to grow over a fence or trellis. There are many different color options, including fuchsia. The colorful parts of bougainvillea aren’t really the flowers, which are small and white. They are the colorful bracts that protect the flowers and catch our attention. When the time comes to prune your bougainvillea, be mindful of the thorns!

If you are looking for fuchsia-colored flowers on a smaller scale, try pentas. This perennial grows to about 3 feet tall and blooms dense clusters of star-shaped flowers. Pentas come in many shades of pink and purple. Try mixing pentas with different flower colors in a planting bed for a bold statement.

One Florida native plant with the color you are looking for is teabush (Melochia tomentosa). This is a gracefully loose shrub with finely textured leaves and delicate fuchsia flowers. Teabush maintains its shape without frequent pruning, and the attractive flowers provide nectar for butterflies. Keep teabush relatively dry and in full sun.

Another option is to add fuchsia with foliage. The cordylines are one of many types of cultivated tropical plants with leaves in flashy colors. Also called ti plants, cordylines produce spear-shaped leaves that come in many shades and variegations of pink or purple. Choose a planting spot with partial shade and protection from wind to keep the leaves looking their best.

Q: How do I (safely) eradicate a plant that seems to be taking over a privacy shrub row. (See photo) It’s right by a sprinkler line so I don’t think I can dig it out.

A: Some plants have this sneaky way of hiding inside shrubs and only emerging when they are too big to handle easily! If you are worried about completely digging out the plant (because of nearby irrigation lines or potentially damaging the roots of your hedge), you can cut off the top of the unwanted plant as close to the ground as possible. Since your unwanted plant appears to be a palm, you can use a pointed shovel to damage its growing tip (where the fronds meet the “trunk”). Although this treatment may kill a palm, woody plants (like tree saplings) tend to re-sprout from the cut trunk unless treated with an appropriate herbicide. In the future, keep an eye out for small seedlings sprouting under your privacy hedge. (Palm seedlings look a lot like lush blades of grass.) It is much easier to hand pull a 3-inch seedling than to remove a 3-foot tall palm!

Q: I am planting an orchid on a palm. How often do I water it the first few weeks and months? Also, should I be using an orchid fertilizer in a spray bottle?

A: First, a quick tip for mounting your orchid on a tree: Make sure to angle the orchid slightly outward (rather than straight up). Angling the orchid on a diagonal allows excess water to run off the plant. Otherwise, water can accumulate in the plant’s crown and potentially cause rot.

In general, it is better to underwater than overwater orchids. Water your outdoor orchids only when they are beginning to dry out. This happens more frequently when the weather is warm and dry. Each time you water, it is recommended to spray the roots briefly, give them time to absorb the water, then spray once more. Make sure to water in the morning so any excess water on the plant has time to evaporate.

Notice your orchid’s roots both before and after you water. Orchid roots are surrounded by a thin material called velamen that quickly absorbs water. Depending on the orchid species, the velamen may be white when dry and green when saturated. Look for any changes in the appearance of your orchid’s roots after watering. Next time you see the roots looking dry, it will be time to water again!

As for fertilizer, there is a saying in the orchid community to fertilize “weakly, weekly.” In other words, apply a weak dose of fertilizer about once a week after watering. Fertilizer applied to dry roots can cause fertilizer burn, so make sure to water first. Specific fertilizer guidelines depend on the type of orchid. Visit the website of the American Orchid Society (www.aos.org) and click on “All About Orchids” for care sheets.

Q: Andee, what is your favorite plant and why?

A: Hi, Taylor! I’m glad you asked. I love so many of Florida’s native plants that it is very difficult to pick a favorite. I can say one of my favorite native wildflowers is Bartram’s rosegentian (Sabatia decandra). I know the name is a mouthful, but I had one of those “ray of sunshine, angel chorus” moments when I was hiking near a cypress strand and saw this plant for the first time. The bloom is about the size of a silver dollar, the petals are bright pink, and the center of the flower has a yellow starburst outlined in red. Who wouldn’t stop and squeal in delight? I know I did. 😉

April 17, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: What’s the best thing to use for bugs on my frangipani?

A: Identifying the pests that are on your plumeria, commonly known as frangipani, would be the best way to figure out how to treat it.

Check the new growth and the top and bottom of the leaves to see which of the following pests it may be:

  • Spider mites are very small pests that pierce the leaf and suck out nutrients, resulting in pale leaves that are speckled and yellowing; there may or may not be webs under the leaves.
  • Scales are insects with a hard, round, shell-like exterior. They don’t move, and they also pierce the leaves. A scale infestation will stunt or deform the growth of the plant; you will usually find these, and most of the pests mentioned, on the undersides of the leaves.
  • Mealy bugs are easy to spot because they are white and usually cluster together under the leaves or where the leaves meet the stems. I think they look like tiny prehistoric fossils! They can also stunt and deform the growth on a frangipani.
  • You can check for whiteflies by shaking a branch and watching for small white bugs to fly off it. These pests can stunt growth and cause leaf yellowing, and the honeydew they excrete is an excellent host for black sooty mold — a good indicator that you may have whiteflies. These pests can be taken care of in a variety of ways that don’t require harsh chemicals. If the infestation is small, my first step is to try and blast off the pests with a hose or wipe them off and squish them. If that isn’t sufficient or the infestation is larger, I’ll spray the plants with soapy water. Dawn dish detergent or a similar product works great, at about 2 tablespoons per gallon. If the pests still haven’t relented, I will use neem oil or horticultural oil. Remember to apply these when the sun is low, either in the morning or in the evening and as directed on the label.
  • Rust fungus is another pest that can affect frangipani. You will notice yellow spots on the tops of the leaves, and when you look on the undersides, you’ll see orange powdery lesions. Although the fungus can’t kill the plant, it can cause leaves to curl or distort and drop. If this ever occurs in fall, when the leaves are about to drop naturally, you really don’t have to do anything but remove the fallen leaves with rust fungus. If this occurs during spring and summer, when the trees have their foliage, you can use an organic fungicide.

Q: It’s been such a dry March and April this year, how often should we be watering to keep our plants and gardens healthy?

“As needed” is a vague, but true, answer to your question. The more time you spend in your garden, the more you will notice  “indicator plants.” These are the plants that are the first to wilt during these hot, dry months. Use their signal as a way to gauge your watering needs, as every garden is different. If your yard has established plants that are wilting or looking weak, check the last time you watered or when the irrigation last went off. Increase either the frequency or amount of watering until you see no more wilting. New plantings, annuals, and veggies will often require more water than established plantings and perennials and could require water every day in our hot, dry months. On the other hand, if the yard looks fine, I would keep up with your current irrigation schedule. Excess watering and under watering can each cause their own problems, and finding that spot right in between will take a little bit of testing.

April 17, by Chad Washburn, Vice President of Horticulture

Q: What are the two species names of buttonbush? I discovered two types in my area. One is compact with a velvet texture, and the other is tall with large leaves and waxy with no velvet. I thought there was only one species.

A: The Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida includes Cephalanthus occidentailis and C. occidentalis var. pubescens. Confusing, but this is another way of saying that the species is variable and has included several different varieties at different times, however there is only one accepted scientific name, Cephalanthus occidentalis. It may be interesting to note that buttonbush can be either opposite leaved or whorled leaved on the same plant, which can add to the confusion when identifying. Once you see it in fruit, there is no doubt what it is.

April 16, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

Q: I have two shrimp plants in my garden. My red one is thriving, and my yellow one is so small and sad looking. Why is this?

A: First off, it’s generally not good to have mulch up to the stem of the plant. It also appears that the soil is very sandy, which isn’t ideal for shrimp plants. They prefer soil that is a little more rich. This can be fixed by amending the soil with general gardening soil found at home improvement stores or nurseries. The red shrimp plant seems to be more established but is showing signs of nutrient deficiencies; you can tell by the yellowing tips of the plant, along with the veins becoming more pronounced. Both plants would benefit greatly with fertilizer.

As for the yellow shrimp plant, if it gradually got to its current state, then it’s most likely nutritionally deficient, along with the soil needing to be amended. If it looked like that shortly after you had planted it, then there’s a chance the roots could have become damaged during transplant. This can be reversed, but it will require some TLC. My recommendations are to rake back the mulch, mix in some soil with the sand, and apply fertilizer to both plants. If you don’t have the extra time to reapply the fertilizer, then I’d suggest using a slow-release product.

April 13, by Katie Vance, Gardener II
Q: Are there varieties of bromeliads that do well in areas exposed to hot afternoon sun?

A: Yes, there are bromeliads that can take full sun or hot afternoon sun! Here are a few recommendations: Aechmea blanchetiana is one you will notice all around town. It can get up to four feet tall and has a lovely orange color. Another quality of the blanchetiana is a very large and magnificent red flower spike that I often use in flower arrangements. A second easy-to-find full-sun bromeliad is the Neoregelia “Fireball.” It’s a small bromeliad that becomes bright red and is a lovely contrast of height and color to any full-sun garden. You can check out your local garden center and look at their selection of full-sun bromeliads because there are a lot to choose from! Make sure the bromeliads you plant in intense sun have overhead watering, not drip irrigation. Bromeliads collect water in their center cups. Although they do have a root system, most of their water is taken up through the reservoir at the center of the plant.

Q: I have a blue agave just planted in December. It has 2 pups. Should I cut them off? (posted over the weekend through DM)

A: I think the better question is what look are you going for? If you want the polished look of one single blue agave, I would remove the pups. If your space permits and you’re going for a cluster of blue agaves (which is a more natural look), then I would leave them! Blue agaves can get 6-8 feet tall and grow just as wide, so space could really be a factor in deciding whether to remove them. You can do so by cutting the connecting root between the mother plant and the pup; a shovel into the ground works nicely. You can then replant those pups after they have been separated.

Q: My dombeya is in full bloom, about 12 feet by 12 feet, really leggy. Can I cut it back to about half height now? (sent over the weekend through DM)

A: Wait just a little longer! Dombeyas react very well to renewal pruning; it keeps them looking fuller and more compact. Here at the Garden, we say “prune in June,” so hold off on the hard pruning until the regular rains start up again, usually in June. Enjoy the pollinator-attracting flowers for a few months longer and start sharpening your pruners or loppers!

April 10, by Lauren Hardy, Gardener
Q: Not sure if my Lime tree (Persian) is dying and/or undergoing transplant shock. One tiny 3-inch branch dried up; I cut it off. And I lost 1 little fruit (no visual imperfections) and a few green leaves. Moisture meter is averaging mid moist (3 samplings). Any lead or clarification would be greatly appreciated!

A: Lime trees and citrus in general can lose fruit and a branch here or there without need for concern. I’ve transplanted a few myself and have found that they can be rather resilient. I would recommend monitoring the plant over time as well as trying these care tips:

Lime trees really like full sun, good drainage, and a large pot. They are also slightly cold sensitive. A good mixture of soil for lime trees is equal parts sand, peat moss, potting soil and perlite. You will want to water the tree every three days for the first three weeks with enough water to see it flow out of the bottom. Transition to weekly watering after that. When you start to see new growth, you should fertilize with a citrus fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the product you choose and apply it to moist soil.

April 9, By Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: We have dragonfruit and live only a mile from the garden. We have had one fruit in 3 years – the Cactus is healthy and we get several flowers all the time, just one fruit??? Thoughts?

A: If any plant makes a lot of flowers but rarely any fruits, it may point towards an issue with pollination. For many plants, a pollinator (bee, butterfly, moth, etc) is needed to move pollen from one flower to another. That is the definition of cross-pollination (rather than self-pollination, in which pollen from the plant itself can fertilize its own flowers). Some of the cultivars of dragonfruit require cross-pollination, meaning the flowers need pollen from another dragonfruit plant in order to produce fruit. In fact, it is recommended to plant dragonfruits of different genetic types (not clones) next to each other for better fruit set.

Dragonfruit flowers open at night and can be pollinated by bats or moths. If you have more than one type of dragonfruit and you still do not get fruits, you could try pollinating your dragonfruit by hand. This would involve collecting pollen or stamens (pollen-producing structures) from one flower and applying the pollen grains to the stigma (pollen-receiving structure) on the flower of another dragonfruit plant.

Resource:

Pitaya (Dragonfruit) Growing in the Florida Home Landscape (UF/IFAS)

Q: Is it normal for a Florida bleeding heart vine to lose all its leaves every year?

A: Bleeding heart vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae) is typically an evergreen vine. If this vine loses all its leaves this time of year, the vine may be experiencing environmental stress. By April, we are five months into our dry season. Drought stress can cause leaf drop in a variety of plants and may explain why your bleeding heart vine loses its leaves every year at this time.

Q: Any tips on transplanting potentially root bound plumeria (three of them to be exact) into the ground? Is it okay if it has already begun to leaf out again?

A: Plumeria may be planted in the ground only in areas that don’t normally experience freezing temperatures, like south Florida. Spring is a good time to transplant plumeria because they have just started their active growing season. Choose a spot in full sun with sandy, well-drained soil. Dig a hole about twice the depth and width of your plumeria’s root ball. Partially fill the hole with loose soil to allow new roots to spread more easily. When transplanting root-bound plants, it’s a good idea to break up some of the roots to interrupt the circling pattern they developed inside the container.

Resource:

Plumeria Care (Florida Colors Nursery)

April 8, by Morgan Jones, Gardener

Q: We recently moved into a home that’s been vacant for a while. The landscaping is suffering from lack of care. Any recommendations will be much appreciated. #1 is black soot on the Ixora bushes. #2 Is this palm suffering from aphids?

A: Sooty mold is generally an easy fix. It’s a sign that you have an ongoing pest issue, whether it be from aphids, scale, or whiteflies. Using soapy water (regular dish detergent is fine), rinse the leaves of your bushes to kill remaining pest along with the fungus. Neem works great for issues like this; I’d suggest using it once a week or every five days. Try to apply it in the mornings or evenings because it can be phototoxic and burn the plant.

A: The yellowing tips on your palm suggest a nutrient deficiency in the soil. It’s lacking either nitrogen, manganese, or magnesium. I suggest ordering a soil testing kit from any nursery or local hardware with a garden section to determine which nutrient is deficient. It’s better to be sure; too much of either nutrient can damage your palms. It also wouldn’t hurt to treat your palms with neem as well since they are prone to pest problems like your Ixora bushes. If you suspect it is a pest issue, I suggest checking under the fronds; that’s where most of them like to hide.

April 6, By Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: Can you recommend a book on botany or hydroponics?

A: Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon is a great introduction to the lives of plants. This book is written for a general audience and includes lots of helpful illustrations and a comprehensive glossary of botanical terms. Chapters cover structure and function of roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, and much more. Another great read is How Plants Work by Linda Chalker-Scott. This book explains the science behind plants’ reactions to their environment, which is very useful information for gardeners. As a horticulturist herself, the author highlights information about certain gardening practices that plants may or may not benefit from. I have both of these books in my personal collection. I have not read any books on hydroponics myself, but check out this article: “Eight Best Books Every Hydroponic Grower Should Read” from greenandvibrant.com.

Q: I want to scrap garden more root vegetables from the food I eat at the store. I’ve successfully planted green onions, but I live in a condo with a small patio. What would be a good way to do sweet potato, potato, onions and garlic without taking up too much space? Any tips on getting started?

A: To get started with container vegetable gardening, you will need a container with drainage holes, potting soil, gravel/perlite (to improve drainage in bottom inch of container), and your vegetable of choice. To save space, you could try narrow planter boxes or hanging baskets for smaller veggies or herbs.

Sweet potatoes could require a relatively large container. We have grown sweet potatoes in a 3-foot long x 1-foot wide by 2-feet deep (approx.) container in the Idea Garden. This size allows for the sweet potato’s creeping stems to spread out. The “Vardaman” variety of sweet potato is recommended for small spaces.

For Irish or russet potatoes, you will need to purchase “seed potatoes” that produce sprouts and plant them from October-January in south Florida. You can try growing potatoes in pure perlite in a 10-inch deep container, with seed potato chunks planted one inch below the surface. The perlite will need to be kept moist, and soluble fertilizer will need to be applied when sprouts appear.

For south Florida gardeners, green onions and garlic chives are popular alternatives to sweet onions and garlic, respectively. You can start garlic chives from seed or get a divided clump from a friend.

Suggested Resources: 

Q: What is this beautiful tree called? It smells amazing!!

A: This tree appears to be pink shower tree (Cassia bakeriana), also known as peach blossom cassia. Pink shower tree is native to southeast Asia and typically blooms this time of year (March-May) in south Florida. This tree is such a showstopper because its 3-inch flowers develop along the full lengths of the branches (rather than just at the tips of branches like many other trees). The white-pink petals surround noticeable yellow stamens (where pollen is produced). Even when not in bloom, the foliage of pink shower tree may attract sulphur butterflies that lay their eggs on Cassia trees.

Suggested Video: Flowering Trees of Southwest Florida (UF/IFAS)

April 5, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: What fruit trees grow best in a subtropical environment?

In my opinion, living in a subtropical environment is a fruit grower’s dream. We are able to support a huge number of fruit trees in Southwest Florida that are unable to grow in Northern climates without the assistance of green houses or special care. While I’m sure there are many more to add to my list, I’d like to cover a few of staples for any tropical fruit lover looking to add to their landscape, as well as introduce you to some of the more unusual and exciting choices that are on display at the Naples Botanical Garden.

A few staples for the landscape:

Bananas (Musa sp.)

Although not a true tree, bananas are fabulous fruiting plants for the landscape. There are many varieties of bananas to consider, from unusual ornamental fruit (like the Million Hands banana in our Lea Asian Garden or the Blood Banana in Kathryn’s Garden), smaller-growing plants for pots, to those that produce delicious-tasting fruit. Most bananas will flower in spring or early summer and set fruit during the summer months. Be sure to research the mature height of the variety you chose as some will grow to be over 20 feet. I would also like to share from experience that banana sap can stain clothes and pavers, something to keep in mind while trimming and harvesting.

Mangos (Mangifera sp.)

Living in SWFL my whole life, I have a hard time enjoying a store-bought mango. For me, they are the highlight of my summer (most varieties peak between May and September), and there is nothing better than feasting on a ripe juicy mango straight from the tree. Which variety of mango you choose is completely based upon your preferences, as each variety will produce a unique size, color, texture, and flavor of fruit. If you are unsure which varieties you may best enjoy, check out fruit-growing clubs, friendly neighbors with mango trees, or local farmer’s markets during mango season to sample fruits before you make your decision. Besides the fruit, there is another important consideration when purchasing a mango tree — size. Some mango trees will grow to a height of 40 feet or more (some will get to be 100 feet!) with a canopy that can sprawl as wide as 35 feet, so spacing is important. For gardeners with less space, there are dwarf varieties that can be kept in pots (like the Pickering or Ice Cream mango).

Papaya (Carica papaya)

Another plant that is not a true tree, but considered an herbaceous shrub, is the papaya. They do very well in our climate, and grow to be about 10 – 12 feet high, though some varieties can exceed that. They are an easy fruiting plant to have in the landscape, or even in pots. A note about papaya is you need to have female flowers to produce the fruit. Most varieties of papaya are diecious, meaning that female flowers occur on one plant and male occur on another. In order to produce fruits, you must have both a male and female plant in the same area.

If you noticed, I left out two very iconic fruiting trees from my list: citrus and avocado. The Florida citrus industry is facing a very serious problem with citrus greening, a disease that is spread by a flying pest known as the Asian citrus psyllid. Citrus greening slows the flow of nutrients to the plants, causing die back and possible root suppression. You will get a smaller yield of fruits, which may be discolored or partially green, and they will usually drop prematurely. Citrus greening also affects the flavor and texture of the fruit, making them smaller and more sour. The avocado industry is facing its own epic battle with laurel wilt, a fungus spread by the ambrosia beetle. Signs of laurel wilt include wilted canopies, dieback of leaves that cling to the tree, small holds in the trunk or sawdust accumulation from the burrowing insects. Laurel wilt is lethal.

Some notable and more unusual fruit trees that you can find at Naples Botanical Garden:

Jaboticaba (Plinia cauliflora)

This species produces tasty grape-sized fruits that appear on the trunk of a mature plant. It’s native to Brazil and can be found in the Kapnick Brazilian Garden as well as in Kathryn’s Garden. It’s a slow-growing shrub that is perfect for someone with limited space as it usually grows to be 10 – 15 feet tall.

Lychee (Litchi chinensis)

Lychee are one of my fruits. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that when I started working at the Naples Botanical Garden, I would collect the freshly fallen fruits from the lychee in Kathryn’s Garden and hand them out to my new coworkers so they would like me. I think it may have worked. These grow to be large trees, 20-40 feet, and spacing should be considered before planting.

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)

Jackfruit is an extremely unusual fruit that is believed to be the largest fruit borne from a tree. It can grow to be 3 feet long and weigh 80 pounds, but it more typically tops off at 10  –25 pounds. I was uneasy about jackfruit until I tasted it — the ripe fruit can emit a sickly sweet odor — but once you break into the strange bumpy exterior, the ripe flesh tastes like Juicy Fruit gum. Yes, I’m serious! It’s like a blend of banana, pineapple and mango. An under-ripe fruit can be used in place of meat; one popular recipe is a vegan alternative to BBQ pulled pork.

Black (Diospyros nigra) and mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota)

Sapotes are fruits that I am just becoming familiar with. Although the black and mamey sapote are of different genus, their fruits have similar soft centers and are called sapotes. They are usually large trees, reaching 60 feet or more. The black sapote is also known as the “chocolate pudding fruit” and has a lovely soft texture and tastes like an unsweetened chocolate pudding, I’m a big fan of that one. Mamey sapote is sweeter and has the texture of cooked pumpkin and is popular in smoothies.

Guava (Psidium sp)

There are many guavas that like our climate; two popular ones are Cattley or strawberry guava, which are used in landscaping, and the pink guava that has larger, more succulent fruit. Both are great medium-sized trees or shrubs.

Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola)

Carambola, also known as star fruit, is a great medium-sized tree, about 20 – 30 feet, that produces lovely yellow fruits that are star-shaped when sliced. Star fruits can be just a little sour and can almost resemble grapefruit in flavor.

Strawberry Tree/Jamaican Cherry (Muntingia calabura)

This tree was unknown to me until very recently, and is now my most frequented fruit tree in the garden. Reaching 25 – 40 feet, it gets covered in little red fruits the size of small cherries. I visit this tree so often because it fruits throughout the year and tastes like Kix cereal. Another in my top favorite fruits.

Q: What kind of Arabica coffee will grow best in Southwest Florida?

This turned out to be my hardest question to research yet, and for that challenge, I thank you! I have found no recommendations as to which specific variety or cultivar of Coffea arabica grows best in SWFL, so I would have to say the cultivar “typica.” According to Sciencedirect.com Coffea arabica var. typica has a lower yield when it comes to fruit but will grow well in any coffee-producing region. Because cultivars and varieties can prefer more altitude that Florida offers, my recommendation would be the typica cultivar and any varieties that have come from that cultivar that do not prefer high elevation. My best recommendation is to find a local garden center that can locate and order one or call SWFL or South Florida nurseries that grow coffee plants as theirs should be acclimated to our climate.

April 3, By Lauren Hardy, Gardener

Q: How do I get new blooms on bromeliads that have pups?

A: Very interesting question. Bromeliad blooms are beautiful, but unfortunately, they only bloom one time. The bromeliad that is left is called “the mother plant,” and it will begin to die once it has bloomed. However, it can take up to two years for this to happen. The pups can be separated from the mother and replanted after about six months to create new plants. Separating the mother is relatively easy. Grab ahold of the plant, with gloves on, and begin to twist. The mother should twist right off if it has died. You can also leave the mother and let the pups fill in, depending on your aesthetics. This will start the process all over again, with the pups taking approximately a year to become full-grown bromeliads. If you are growing them in a pot, you will be able to force the blooming process by draining the water out, placing a ripe apple in the container and then putting a bag over both the apple and the plant. Give it a few days before removing them and the plant should begin to bloom in 2 – 3 months. I hope this helps answer your bromeliad question!

Q: What are the fragrant orchids?

A: Really good question! There are a number of different orchids and a variety of scents that go along with them. Here is a list of some that can be readily found:

  • Lady of the Night (Brassavola nodosa) has a white flower with a very strong scent mimicking that of freesia or lily-of-the-valley.
  • Foxtail orchid (Rhynchostylis gigantea) ranges in color and smells like citrus.
  • Cattleya orchids include many fragrant species. The Cattleya walkeriana stands out for its vanilla and cinnamon scent.
  • Encyclia cordigera is a native to Mexico and South America that smells of honey and vanilla.
  • Dendrobium kingianum comes in a variety of colors and sizes with fragrant flowers mimicking the scent of hyacinth, lilac, or honey.
  • Miltonias and Miltoniopsis species, as well as hybrids, are also scented. If you are looking for a rose scent, the Miltoniopisis santanaei is your orchid. It also resembles a pansy.
  • A dwarf orchid with a complex scent is Oncidium ornithorrhychium or Oncidium cheriophorum. They have been known to smell like vanilla, baby powder, grapes, spicy, cinnamon, or cocoa.
  • If you are interested in a dainty white flowered scented orchid, the Neofinetia falcate has the scent of vanilla and jasmine.
  • Two scented Phalaenopsis are the Phalaenopis bellina and Phalaenopis violacea. They both smell of freesia or citrus.
  • Another notable fragrant orchid genus is Zygopetalum. These orchids have a sweet fragrance similar to hyacinths.
  • Phalaenopsis japonica is a dainty orchid with a lemon scent, native to Japan and Korea.
  • The native Indian orchid Coelogyne orchracea has a nice musky scent to it, along with Coelogyne lawrenceana.
  • Lastly, I will touch on the Cochleathes amazonica. It has a powerful scent of candy, roses, narcissus and verbena.

There are certainly more nicely scented orchids out there, but the ones listed here are known to be easy to grow and available to consumers. I hope this helps you in your search!

April 2, By Morgan Jones, Gardener
Q: I have orchids on many trees. They’ve been up for about 5 years. Some are doing great with great blooms. But on some, the buds die before they open. How can I determine what the cause is so I can treat it correctly?

A: What you’re referring to is called “bud blast;” this is a defense mechanism of the orchid. The type of care required varies from orchid to orchid. In general, orchids are super sensitive to environmental changes. With your orchids being placed outside, temperature fluctuations, humidity, watering, or pests (specifically aphids, thrips, and mealybugs) can be the main culprits. I’d suggest examining your orchids if you’re not finding any obvious signs of pests (make sure to check under the leaves as well). It could be a watering issue. Orchids, like other epiphytes, absorb moisture from the air. If you don’t hand water the orchids, then I’d suggest watering them since it’s been so dry recently. You should only need to water once a week. Also consider the position of the orchids; they prefer indirect sunlight. Too much or too little light also plays a big role in the plants dropping their buds.

Q: What is the best fertilizer to use on vegetables, as well as plants in general?

A: When shopping for fertilizer, the three numbers you find listed on the bags represent the fertilizer analysis; they indicate the percent of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer. Most complete fertilizers should do the trick, a 2 lb bag of 5-10-5 or 1 lb bag of 10-10-10 ratio should work well in your garden.

When it comes to fertilizing your ornamental plants (flowers, etc.) you generally want to go with a 3-1-2, 6-2-4, or a 9-3-6. I personally use a 3-1-2 ratio for my flowers at home. The brand doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you’re being provided the correct amount of nutrients for what you’re trying to grow. I’d also like to suggest testing your soil to see if it has any specific deficiencies. Too many or too few of certain nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium) can influence your yield or blooms!

April 1, by Katie Vance, Gardener II

Q: What do I do with my orchid after all the blooms have dropped off?

A: After an orchid has finished blooming, I wait until the flower stem has turned completely yellow or brown before clipping it off at the base. It’s important to wait for this color change because some orchids, especially Phalaenopsis, will continue to produce flowers from the same stem after blooming.

Another way to get a Phalaenopsis to rebloom is to cut the green stem above the second node. Once your orchid is finished blooming, you can continue to keep it in a container, or mount it on a tree outside, and wait for it to bloom again.

Q: How does root starter work?

A: Root starter has hormones that will increase the likelihood that your cutting will produce vigorous and healthy roots. It commonly comes in powder or liquid form (we use powder at the Garden). The rooting hormone contains a form of auxin, which is a naturally occurring plant hormone that produces roots. When you dip the end of your cutting into the rooting hormone, it comes in contact with the cells of the stem and replaces them with cells that will eventually form into roots and quickens the process.

 

March 30, by Elizabeth Beans, Horticulture Manager
Q: I recently had a lawn treatment company stop by on a sales call to my house, and they indicated that my yard and landscaping plants are suffering from fungus and that they could help with that (no reason not to believe that as my yard doesn’t look great). Is this common and is there a cheaper way to treat this on my own?

A: Having fungus issues is very common down here in Florida, although it is different in turf and plants. If all looks fine to you, then I wouldn’t worry one bit! But let’s take a close look at your concerns.

Turf:

Your turf will start to show signs of fungus through dead/brown patches and “fairy rings,” which are basically dead spots shaped like an “O” in your lawn. There are lots of other reasons for dead grass aside from fungus, and it’s impossible to diagnose your lawn without seeing it (you can send a turfgrass sample to the UF/IFAS Plant Diagnostic Center). But those circular-shaped patches are a pretty sure indicator that you have fungus.

Fungus in turf can be spread from walking on it, so if you see those fairy rings, try to avoid walking on them to prevent the fungus from moving to other areas in your lawn. To treat the fungus, I would first make sure you are watering appropriately. Both too much water and not enough can cause a fungus, try watering fewer days during the week but for longer periods of time. I would also check to make sure you aren’t cutting your grass too low and try cutting at a higher level. You could also aerate your soil, which is a great natural way to tend to a lot of issues lawns have! If it is hard to identify what is going on, aerating is a good thing to do that will have a positive impact on many lawn problems. You can usually rent an aerator at your local home and garden store. Applying proper fertilizer can also be of help; an organic, slow-release fertilizer is best. The last resort would be to use a fungicide on your lawn. Some of those products contain pretty potent chemicals, so I would try those other fixes before using a fungicide yourself. If you do end up using a fungicide, always read the label before doing anything!

Here is the IFAS link for more turfgrass info, including links to see examples of fungal diseases:  https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/lawns/problems-and-solutions/lawn-diseases.html

Plants:

Plants can get an endless amount of different fungi—too many to list here. If your plants aren’t looking well and have brown spots on them it, they may be suffering from a fungus. Fungi usually does not start at the tips of leaves, so if your leaves are brown at the tips, you have a different situation. That means the plant is exchanging the dead leaf for fresh one (leaf drop), or the plant needs more water.

Fungus usually shows up as brown spots in the middle of the leaf. I was told that if you wanted to determine if a plant truly has a fungal problem, you could put a plastic bag around the leaf for a day and see if a fungus grows. Fungus can be treated by a spray applicant; I like to use neem oil as it’s a three-in- one product—insecticide, fungicide and miticide—and is derived from a plant. It can be found at your local home and garden store. Just make sure you read the label carefully before use. I always try to use neem early in the morning as it can be phototoxic (i.e. can burn in sunlight).

Q: What is the best natural or organic way to eliminate pests or insects from my plants, yet not chase away the butterflies? I have a shrimp plant that attracts a multitude of butterflies.

My favorite natural insecticide is neem oil. You can buy it at your local home and garden store. It is derived from a plant and can be used on a wide range of insects as well as fungi. I would only apply neem in the morning as it can be phototoxic (i.e. burn in sunlight).  Do not apply directly on your pollinators. It wouldn’t have residual effects like a systemic would, meaning the substance won’t stay in the plant and harm both the good bugs (the pollinators) and the bad. Always read the label before using any insecticide, though!


Q: Where can I buy Beaumont macadamia? I hear of places selling it, but they won’t respond when I leave phone messages or emails.

A: I am sorry, but I have not seen one in cultivation for sale around here. I can give you a couple suggestions, though. Fruitscapes on Pine Island sells macadamias, but I am not sure if they carry that variety. Give them a call or pay a visit. They are extremely helpful! In Lee County, Top Tropicals, northeast of Fort Myers, may also have that variety.


Q: Any idea of a place I can get an Angel Trumpet tree?

A: Green Door Nursery near the Garden may have one; I’ve seen them there before. Driftwood Garden Center in Naples also usually has them, as does Sanctuary Nursery. If you don’t want a large plant right away and want to practice propagating, they are very easy to grow from a cutting! Ask around and see if any friends have one and ask if you can take a cutting!

Q: I have a Graham Thomas Rose bush, and I’ve been finding what I’ve identified as a Sri Lankan weevil, I believe it’s called. It’s eating the leaves of the rose bush. What is the best way to maybe relocate or eliminate this pest?

A: Sri Lankan weevils are a terrible invasive from…you guessed it, Sri Lanka! I would not relocate these guys whatsoever, as they are pretty indiscriminate in what they will feed on—which is to say, they feed on almost everything! They are best identified by how they feed, which is along the leaf margins on new growth. IFAS suggests covering the canopy with a fiberglass window screen so the adults cannot feed on the new growth. They also suggest manual removal by shaking the plant above an open, upturned umbrella to collect the weevils and then drop each pest into a bucket of soapy water. The insecticide Sevin can be used on them, as well, but follow instructions on the bottle before using it.

March 27, by Lauren Hardy, Gardener
Q: What do you guys use for succulent soil ??

A: Great question! Our succulent collection is mostly planted in the ground at the garden. The beds have been raised and amended with granite fines but primarily consist of well-draining sandy soil. The reason we raised the beds is to ensure that they will have good drainage. We’re currently growing an Adenium collection that is housed in pots. We grow those in a Staylite aggregate. Home gardeners might consider purchasing Perlite, an additive to help with drainage, along with a coarse sand. These are available at most home improvement stores.

March 26 by Mike Brewer, Horticulture Business Manager:
Q: How can you tell if a young tree will recover from cold damage?

A: First, help mitigate any problems by protecting your young tree before the cold hits it. You can use burlap, front cloth, or sometimes towels work well. Use stakes to help keep the cover from smashing your tree. Of course, if your tree is large, this might not be possible. To directly answer your question: Trees that have established might lose leaves or have brown stems but will most likely come out OK and recover with very little problem. But a young tree that has not been in the ground for very long might take a harder hit. To see if it’s still alive, the best thing you can do is continue to water it and fertilize it. Rather quickly, you might start to see green coming back in the form of new leaves or shoots. You can also lightly bend your stems. If they spring back, it has some life; if they snap rather easily, it may not have survived. You can also prune the limbs, and you might see a healthy live stem where you made the cut. That’s a good sign. Giving your tree a light prune can also help it recover faster.

Q: I have a couple of mature angel’s trumpets that have not bloomed yet this year, despite blooming quite a bit last year. Plants look healthy, sufficiently watered, and, yes, I’m fairly heavily fertilizing. I’m puzzled…

A: First, make sure they are getting at least five hours of sunlight a day.  Don’t let them get dry – consistently moist is best.  Feed an angel’s trumpet in spring just as it begins to grow again. Reapply fertilizer in early summer and again in midsummer to keep the angel’s trumpet blooming at its best. Use an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer. Miracle Grow tomato fertilizer (18-18-21) is what I use, and I’ve had consistent blooms on my plants. I also apply a good compost periodically.

Q: My jade plant is struggling. The leaves are thin, and I’m getting more leaf droppage than is normal. It’s not a healthy color of green, either. I’m thinking the roots are too bound? Should I change the soil composition?

A: Are you growing this in a container? They want as much direct sunlight as possible. Not enough sun will cause yellowing and leaf drop. You will also see yellowing and leaf drop if you are fertilizing too heavily or overwatering. Jade vine plants aren’t heavy feeders, and a mixture of ½ teaspoon of water-soluble fertilizer per gallon of water is plenty. Feed the plant twice a month during spring and summer and withhold fertilizer during fall and winter. Any type of balanced fertilizer is suitable, or you can use a fertilizer formulated for blooming plants. They prefer high humidity, so if it’s being grown in a pot indoors, consider adding a saucer with pebbles under it with water to add humidity.

Q: My butterfly milkweed has finished blooming, and the fluffy seeds are flying around. Can I collect them and plant them? Will they grow? Should I use starter soil?

A: Yes, you can!  But believe me: If you just allow some of those seeds to fly out into your garden, they will start easily on their own. You can sow the seeds directly into your plant bed where you want them. But if you do take some seeds and start them in pots, use a peat-based soil (starter soil is fine). Keep them moist, and you should have no problem getting plants in about 10-14 days.  You can plant them in your yard when you have four “true” leaves. (Not the first two spouted leaves).

March 25 by Andee Naccarato, Horticulture Volunteer Coordinator

Q: We have a cycad that is not doing well: no new fronds since Irma passed through and now the existing fronds are turning brown. What could be wrong?

A: It’s probable that Hurricane Irma made some other changes to your landscape that are affecting your cycad. If you had to bring in heavy equipment to clean up your yard after the storm, minor changes in elevation or soil compaction could have led to poor drainage. Most cycads require well-draining soils to thrive. Otherwise, too much shade or improper fertilization may slow development of new leaves. Refer to Cycads in the South Florida Landscape by the University of Florida Extension for species-specific growing requirements.

Resources:

Q: What are some easy to grow veggies that can be grown in pots?

A: Green onions are among the easiest container vegetables to grow year-round in south Florida. Green onions (or scallions) bought from a grocery store with their roots intact can be planted directly in a container. Herbs like mint, thyme, and oregano make great container or patio plants. If you have a larger container in full sun, sweet potatoes and hot peppers grow well during our hot, wet summers. For assistance with choosing and prepping your container, check out this resource on Container Vegetable Gardening from the Collier County Extension Office. Refer to the South Florida Gardening Calendar to ensure you start planting your favorite veggies at the right time.

Resources:


Questions? Email us at info@naplesgarden.org, or read the Garden FAQ.


Return to the Garden Blog