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Ask a Gardener: Questions Answered

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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March 27, by Lauren Hardy, Horticulture

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.


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.


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