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Welcome to the "Ask Janet Carson" portion of our website. Here you will find Janet Carson's current "In the Garden" Questions and Answers found weekly in "The Arkansas Democrat/Gazette" Saturday edition. Have fun reading these pages and check back with us weekly. This page is constantly updated and new questions are added on Monday following their appearance in the paper. So stay tuned...

All of the Questions & Answers that Janet writes for all publications are archived.

In the Garden with Janet B. Carson


October 20, 2018


My family was given a start of this plant several years ago by an elderly gentleman who lived somewhere north of Conway. The gentleman stated that he had taken a sample to a nursery and they were unable to identify this plant.  We would appreciate your help in identifying it. It can grow up to 6 feet tall as well as 6 feet wide.


 Picture of a lespedeza bush  



The plant in question is a bush lespedeza or bush clover, I believe it looks like Lespedeza thunbergii.  It is a beautiful deciduous shrub which can die back to the ground in a cold winter, but usually survives. Occasionally you will have blooms in mid-summer but it usually shines in the late summer/fall garden. It is gorgeous in bloom. 



Can I overwinter Mexican Petunia in medium pot near Arkadelphia?



There are two common species of Mexican petunia or Ruellia.  The hardiest one is the taller and somewhat invasive purple species – Ruellia simplex.  I would think it would overwinter just fine without added protection.  The dwarf ruellia – Ruellia ‘Katie’ comes in pink, purple or white and is less hardy.   Winter hardiness in a container does have multiple variables, as to type of container, size of container and exposure.  I have a few plants in pots that are marginally winter hardy and I move them between my shrubs and my house as winter weather sets in. Then I pile some leaves around the base.  I have had great luck doing this.


I emailed you last year about ways to eradicate the lespedeza weed from our centipede grass.  We followed the procedure with Weed B Gon; however, our spring where we live was so wet by the time we could get into our yard to spray, it was getting late in the spring.  Once the rain stopped, the 90+ degree days hit hard.  As a result, we were only able to do one application and couldn't do the second one 30 days later for fear of distressing the grass. We knocked it back some, but with the heat and humidity it thrived in the summer.  My question is, once we're below 90 degrees this fall, would we be able to do the treatment or does this have to be completed in the spring only?  We were wondering if we could treat it this fall then follow protocol next spring as well.




I would definitely try a fall application as the lespedeza is happy and healthy right now.



I have fire ants in my raised bed. Don't want to use poison. What to do?




Fire ants have been awful this summer. Unfortunately fire ant baits and insecticides are the best method of control. There are quite a few home remedies for killing fire ants, and some work better than others.  Keep in mind that if you don’t get all the ants, they just move and set up housekeeping nearby, so beware.  Some methods from grits to vinegar are not effective, but you can have about 60% control pouring boiling water on the mound, but you do need to be careful that you don’t burn yourself. You can also try pouring a warm, soapy solution on the mound.  One method currently being evaluated and showing some promise as an effective home remedy is an ant mound drench using a mixture of dishwashing liquid and citrus oil. Mix 1.5 ounces of orange oil and 3 ounces of Dawn liquid detergent into 1 gallon of water.  For any of these water drenches, apply as a mound drench during early morning or late afternoon which is when the fire ants are most likely to be home.  Whatever you use, pay attention to what you are doing as fire ants attack with little provocation and their stings are painful. 



QuestionI'm moving from Fayetteville to Little Rock end of December to middle of January. I have a large number (300) of plants I've potted to take with me - ranging from lilac bushes and rose mallow to asparagus and blueberries to irises and daylilies to daffodil and lily bulbs. Right now I have them sitting around outside. I presume I should move into my garage before hard freezes start but I've never stored plants in the garage before. Do I water them? Surely the ones that are evergreen (such as jessamine) would need water but what about ones that go dormant (like the lilacs)? And how quickly can I start getting them into the ground at the new place? Do I wait until weather starts warming up in spring or can I plant in January? The move has taken longer than anticipated and had planned to have all plants in ground at new place by now so any suggestions would be appreciated! 




Wow do you have your work cut out for you once you move!  These hardy plants would be happiest replanted as soon as you can, but a lot will depend on the weather conditions. If we are having a mild winter and you can plant, then get them in the ground ASAP.  If we have bad winter weather, then you will have to wait until suitable planting weather.  The dormant period – November through February is the ideal time to transplant trees and shrubs.  Daffodils need to be chilled so leave them outside if you can—in soil hopefully.  If you have a protected spot next to your house or under a tree that you can group all the plants together and then mulch around them outdoors, that would be ideal.  Water prior to a hard freeze to make sure there is ample moisture in the plants.   If you give them too much protection --say in a garage, you would need to harden them off before planting outside.  Good luck.


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