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June 18, 2016

 Question We are hosting the rehearsal dinner in late September. The event will be outside and casual. Since it will be a busy summer we are paring down our vegetable garden and I want to plant flowers to enjoy now but also to use for the party and also for the wedding and reception which will be held outdoors at my sister’s home.  Are there any particular flowers you might suggest that bloom more in the fall, besides mums and some sedums?  I bought lots of seeds thinking this would be a perfect opportunity to try out lots of flower in a big fertile, sunny, fenced area. But now I'm worried that many may not bloom through September 24th.  I have sunflowers, several packs of different zinnias and marigolds, beautiful orange calendula and hot orange Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia).  I'm ready to plant (a little late but thinking that might be good--I don't want them to stop blooming before I need them). Do you think I'll still have flowers blooming then?

Answer

Summer annuals should bloom up until a killing frost.  Zinnias and tithonia should still look great if you water and fertilize all summer. Regular sunflowers have a finite bloom time. It should say on the seed package how many days from seeding until bloom, and then they stay in bloom several weeks.  Calendula usually will play out with heat.   Many perennials bloom well in late summer to fall—purple coneflower (Echinacea) comes in the normal pink, but also in orange, yellow and red—which seems to be your color scheme.  Other late summer/fall bloomers include goldenrod, asters, toad lilies, Japanese anemones, numerous salvias, pineapple sage, Russian sage and Sweet autumn clematis


 

November /December 2015

QuestionMy elderly aunt gave me this plant and she didn't know the name of it--she dug it up out of her yard and said that it spreads over a large area, so I think it can probably be planted outside--Can you tell me what it is, and if it will survive outside?

 

AnswerThe plant in question is Talinum paniculatum 'Limon', commonly called Jewels of Opar.  This member of the portulaca family is native to the West Indies and Central America You might think you've heard of Jewels-of-Opar before, and you may be right. The solid green leafed variety has been around for years, but the chartreuse foliage plant is a hot commodity in the garden now.  Although classified as an annual for our state, it has been known to come back and aggressively so in gardens from central Arkansas southward.  In addition to the showy foliage it is blanketed with airy pink flowers for much of the summer.  I would say some of the reappearance may be to reseeding, but it has come back most years.  You may want to save a plant or two, just to be on the safe side.  It does best if it has some protection from the hottest afternoon sun.  


 

 

 Question (November 2014) We have had our first fall freeze here in Fayetteville. My lovely wife wants to get the plants that were annuals out of the yard. As you know, they can make a yard look ugly. My question, is it better to pull the root system out of the ground to remove or simply cut the plant at soil level and remove? I have sunflowers, castor beans, coleus, pepper plants, zinnias and a few more.

 

Answer It really doesn’t matter, since they are all annuals and totally dead now.  If you were talking about perennials, you would definitely just cut off the tops, since the plants would come back from the roots.  But annuals have to be replanted every year.  For aesthetic purposes simply cutting them off is fine.  The remaining roots will decay over the winter and add organic matter to the soil.  If you are replanting with winter annuals, then pulling them out makes replanting easier.  I would say whichever is the easier task is what I would do. If you pull them by hand right after a frost, you usually get the roots and all when pulling. If you wait a few days they will be pretty rotted and often tear off at the soil line. 


 

Question(December 2012) With the frost and cold temps my trailing Lantana is now brown and brittle. When do I cut it back and how much should I cut it?

Answer Once a killing frost occurs, I begin to clean up the spent foliage of annuals and perennials. Some gardeners prefer to leave the old foliage on lantanas as extra winter protection, but I cut mine back and add a little extra mulch. Lantana is a true perennial in south Arkansas, hit and miss in central Arkansas and usually an annual in north Arkansas.


 

Question (April 2012) To do in the garden for April.

Answer We can begin to plant summer bedding plants, from Angelonia to zinnias. If your winter annuals are still spectacular, wait a bit, or start interspersing the new with the old. You can safely plant warm season vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers mid month. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, just in case you do need to cover them. Corn and green beans can be planted now as well. We are harvesting winter vegetables, including greens, lettuce, English and sugar snap peas, broccoli and spinach. If you didn’t plant an early garden, the farmers markets are all about to get started later this month. When your lawn has totally greened up (with grass, not weeds) then that is the time to fertilize for the first time. A slow release, high nitrogen fertilizer is best. Houseplants and tropical plants can start their trek outdoors. Remember to gradually expose them to sunlight, so they don’t sunburn if they have been inside your house all winter. Cut back the tropical flowering plants by at least 1/3; repot and begin fertilizing. By now, all plants should have started growing in your garden. Assess the damage that last summer took. If you need to replant, there are plenty of options at garden centers now. If you need to replace some azaleas, or simply want to add to your collection, and you want a specific color, buy them in bloom so you are guaranteed the color you are looking for. Start watching for insects and diseases. The mild winter has everything getting started early. The sooner you can catch a problem, and properly identify it, the sooner you can get it under control.


 

Question (August 2010) My friend received this plant in an assortment garden from the florist. She has since transplanted it and it is thriving. I have enclosed pictures. The top side of the leaf is a brilliant green and the underside is a deep purple. The delicate blooms almost look like a “jack in the pulpit”. The green that you see behind the blooms are a trellis. We would love it if you could identify this beautiful plant for us!

Answer I believe it is a Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'. Plectranthus is the same family as Swedish Ivy but this plant is grown outdoors as a summer annual in morning sun or filtered sun. The foliage can be a dark purplish green with these spikes of purple flowers. Some will try growing it as a houseplant but it would need very bright light to keep blooming indoors.


 

Question (August 2010) I have a large group of very tall plants that resemble marigolds, but are not. They have grown up to 4 feet tall and continue to bloom and the butterflies love them. This yard was planted by the previous owner and it continues to boggle my mind, something new every day. I just do not know what they are and where they came from. The bloom is similar to a marigold, but flatter and not as full.

Answer As to your tall yellow flowers, if you can send a picture I can identify for sure, but my guess is sawtooth sunflowers or one of the other helianthus. They can grow quite tall and bloom from late summer well into fall with clusters of yellow flowers. Butterflies love them, but they can be a bit overwhelming in the garden. They also freely reseed themselves. Another possibility with orange flowers is Tithonia or Mexican sunflower. It blooms all summer with lovely orange daisy like blossoms and again, attracts butterflies.


 

Question(March 2010) I am new to the gardening scene and have recently relocated to Mountain View. My dad is encouraging me to plant several rows of flowers in one end of his vegetable garden. The soil is mostly sandy loam, and the garden gets full sun. I would like bright colored plants (reds, pink, and yellow) that are no more than 2 feet tall. Can you recommend varieties of flowers that should do well within these criteria? Also, what fertilizer should I use?.

AnswerYou have many options. I assume you want annual flowers –which means you will replant every year, but that gives you new opportunities every season. For full sun you can plant lantana –comes in red, orange, yellow and multi-colored; penta – red, pink or white; zinnias –a huge color range; angelonia – pink, purple or white; petunias –look for the wave type or Bubblegum pink is a strong performer in pink—but they do come in red, purple and white colors too. Callibrachoa comes in pink, purple, orange or yellow and looks like a miniature petunia. These are all summer annuals and you need to hold off on planting until mid April—give the soil a chance to warm up. Incorporate a complete fertilizer—I like the slow release forms like osmocote, dynamite or similar product, at planting, then use a water soluble form like Miracle-Gro, Peter’s or similar every week to ten days if you really want to push them. I have good intentions to fertilize that often, but usually don’t do it more than once a month. Annual plants benefit from regular fertilizer but they will still bloom if you aren’t as diligent. Of course, keep up with watering and mulch the plants to discourage weeds.


 

Question (July 2006) I live in Magnolia, AR and I planted Gold Mound lantana around the edges of my patio three years ago and the first year had glorious blooms on each plant. For the past two years shortly after the green growth emerges the tips of the leaves turn brown and curl. The plants continue to grow and produce some flowers but nothing compared to the first year. I don't trim back the lantana until after danger of frost is past so I'm not certain what the problem is. The plants are on the east side and get full sun.

Answer Lantana thrive in heat and sun. What you are describing sounds like some type of burn. Could you have over-fertilized, dumped some type of chemical nearby or gotten drift from a lawn weed killer? In Magnolia, Arkansas, most lantanas are perennial. Have your soil tested to make sure the pH is in balance and to make sure you don't have a salts buildup. If none of the above conditions apply, try digging up a small plant and taking it to your local county extension office so they can send it to the disease diagnostic lab. If your soil is particularly poor, and over-fertilization and salts is not an issue, try using a slow release fertilizer such as osmocote, then using a water soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks. Water when dry.


 

Question October 2008)When is the proper time to plant pansies? Do they need full sun? What type of soil? I want to plant pansies in front of the signs at town hall, the police station and the entrance to a recreation park. All locations are in full sun. Would pansies be a good choice or is there another flower to consider? I would like flowers all winter and then change them out in the springtime with red begonias and Joseph coats.

Answer Pansies are an excellent choice for fall through spring color. They do well in full sun to partial shade and like a well amended and well drained soil. October through November is the ideal time to plant them. There are other options for fall color as well, including: violas, dianthus, snapdragons (central Arkansas south), dusty miller, flowering kale and cabbage, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, and curly mustard. In many seasons, we find the violas outperform the pansies, since they tolerate more fluctuations in temperatures than the pansies do. Fertilize periodically throughout the winter when we get warmer temperatures


 

Question(October 2005)I have several plants that I would like to keep over the winter. Mosquito plant, Mexican heather and begonias. Are any of these winter hardy in central Arkansas? If so, what can I do to get them through? If not, how can I over winter them inside? Also, do I need to cover my gardenia bush for the winter and if so what is the best material to use for cover?

Answer Except for the gardenia, none of the plants you mentioned are reliably winter hardy in central Arkansas. Mexican heather and some begonias have managed to survive a few of our winters, but you shouldn’t count on it. To guarantee these plants back in your garden next season, you will need to either move them indoors or take cuttings for new starts. I would advocate the latter, if these plants are in the ground. The mosquito plant—a scented geranium is not going to make it, even with extra mulch, so move it indoors or store it in your garage. For the Mexican heather and begonias, after taking some cuttings, add extra mulch when the weather turns cool and see what you have next spring. Gardenias only need protection if the weather gets below 15 – 20 degrees. If needed, cover with something porous—a sheet, blanket, or cardboard box.


 

Question Can you tell me if I've killed my Mexican Heather? I pruned it back during the winter, and now I see no signs of life whatsoever. Will it come back anyway this summer? Also, can you recommend some good annuals for this area (LR) that can tolerate the extreme hot/humid conditions we see here in the summer? I've found that most of the annuals I can find at local discount stores are not really suitable for the Arkansas summers, especially impatiens. I've never had any luck with them. It seems that when it starts to get really hot, they die. I usually plant them on the north side of our house in deep shade.

Answer Mexican heather is really not a perennial in Arkansas. We have had some survive the past two winters, but we haven't had much of a winter. I would consider it an annual, and if you see signs of life in the spring, count yourself lucky. As to other heat loving annuals, there are many. Melampodium, lantana, Mexican heather (as you know), the new petunias, tithonia, Mexican zinnias, and begonias to name a few. Impatiens normally do great in Arkansas, they tolerate heat fine, provided they get some water. Other shade lovers include torenia and the wax leaf begonias, caladiums and coleus.


 

Question (April 2007) What can I do for my plants that were cold damaged?

Answer he question on most gardeners’ minds this week is what if anything can I do for my plants that were cold damaged. Damage reports are quite variable statewide, with central Arkansas seemingly reporting the least damage, while northwest was just devastated. But even in central Arkansas, we can’t be certain what lies ahead. There are several factors which will influence the amount of damage. The unseasonably mild March weather had most of our plants a good two weeks ahead of schedule. In a typical spring, crape myrtles would have had small sprouts if any new growth. This year, new growth was up to a foot or more in length. This new growth was very sensitive to cold on many plants. Azaleas were in full bloom in some parts of the state, and some varieties had already past their peak. The duration of the freeze and how low the temperatures got is also a factor. In some reports from Northwest Arkansas, they said they didn’t get above freezing for the day, and had 17 or lower for 10-12 hours. Some areas only got to 28 degrees and had a breeze. Damage is reported on what we expected—azaleas, crape myrtles, hydrangeas, etc., but we are also getting reports of damaged maple trees—both red and Japanese, tulip poplars, and hardy shrubs such as hollies and viburnum. Another factor is the level of soil moisture. If the ground was very dry, there was less protection for plants. Again, Pulaski county and several surrounding counties got good rainfall a few days before the cold. Other parts of the state were dry. Where you live is also a factor. If you live on a sloped yard with good air circulation, damage may be less than if you live in a low lying area where the cold air will pocket. Covering plants to protect them from late frosts, usually only offers 2-5 degrees of protection, depending on what is used. In some parts of the state, they needed 10-15 degrees or more of protection, so damage occurred even where protection was offered. Covering fruit trees or other ornamental trees is next to impossible. So now it is assessment time. Cut off the visibly damaged areas where the leaves and shoots are black or brown, then wait and see what happens. It may be a week or two before new growth begins to emerge on damaged shrubs and trees and then we will know how much more pruning is needed. In some instances, we may see new growth returning from the tops of the plants, in others it may be from the soil line, and in some cases we may have to replace the entire plant—but don’t be too hasty. We can always hope for the best. Check thin barked plants such as azaleas, Japanese maples, and hydrangeas. The sap was up in the stems and it may have frozen. This can lead to outer bark splitting. Where this type of freeze damage occurs, death may not occur to the damaged stems immediately, but you should prune it out when you see it. Plants that are damaged by the cold may be more stressed this growing season. Stressed trees and shrubs are more susceptible to attacks by insects and diseases so try to give them a little extra tender loving care. Don’t forget about watering all season and pay attention to any changes. If you had annual bedding plants or warm season vegetable transplants already planted, get ready to replant. However, that should be the least of our concerns, since they are easy to replace, unlike our trees and shrubs.


 

Question (October) I have several plants that I would like to keep over the winter. Mosquito plant, Mexican heather and begonias. Are any of these winter hardy in central Arkansas? If so, what can I do to get them through? If not, how can I over winter them inside? Also, do I need to cover my gardenia bush for the winter and if so what is the best material to use for cover?

Answer Except for the gardenia, none of the plants you mentioned are reliably winter hardy in central Arkansas. Mexican heather and some begonias have managed to survive a few of our winters, but you shouldn’t count on it. To guarantee these plants back in your garden next season, you will need to either move them indoors or take cuttings for new starts. I would advocate the latter, if these plants are in the ground. The mosquito plant -- a scented geranium is not going to make it, even with extra mulch, so move it indoors or store it in your garage. For the Mexican heather and begonias, after taking some cuttings, add extra mulch when the weather turns cool and see what you have next spring. Gardenias only need protection if the weather gets below 15 to 20 degrees. If needed, cover with something porous -- a sheet, blanket, or cardboard box.


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