Tag Archives: Maria Montgomery

What are Some Sun-Loving Flowers to Plant Here in Zone 9-A?

At a neighborhood gathering, Ginger T. described her problems with planting flowers in her new yard, saying that soon after being planted, they died. She wants bright, colorful flowers in her yard, and asked what to do, and what flowers will do well here.

Gerbera Daisy

Pink Gerbera - mlm c@

Gerbera Daisy, often mis-pronounced as “Gerber” Daisy, is one of my favorite perennials. It is available in many beautiful colors. I have them in red and yellow. This photo I took in the florist section of my local grocery store a few years ago. When we put our former home on the market, I blew this photo up to 8 x 10, framed it, and put it on the wall. Most of our paintings, and my artwork were already on the walls in our new home.

Tulip Ginger

Another perennial I recommend for this area (and not just because of my friend’s name) is a variety of ginger called Siam Tulip (Curcuma alismatifolia).  Below are some photos of those in my yard. This is NOT an edible type of the popular plant.

Ginger - Siam Tulip 2 MMP2

These beauties multiply like crazy, making them an excellent investment in your landscape. Last summer I bought 5 pots of these; there were 3 plants in each pot, which I planted without dividing. Now each of those has multiplied into clumps of about a dozen. This fall I plan to divide them and spread them across a larger area of my garden.

Ginger - Siam Tulip 1 MMP2

Recently, I needed a last minute centerpiece for a casual birthday dinner party. Last minute because I forgot to arrange for one. I cut some of these beautiful flowers and a few pieces of white vinca, put them into a small crystal bowl, and voila, a lovely centerpiece that drew lots of comments. That was on August 29, and that arrangement was still beautiful on September 3. The vinca still looks as if it had just been cut.

Ginger - Siam Tulip Bouquet

Lantana

Another long-blooming and sun tolerant flower that I highly recommend is lantana, a member of the verbena family. It is drought-tolerant and comes in many colors, both solid and variegated.

Lantana is sold with flowers at garden centers everywhere, but I think of it as a flowering shrub. This is because it can grow to about 3-4 feet wide and about 2 feet tall, but mostly because its stems become woody.

This pink and yellow one grows in our front yard. In the backyard, I have a red-orange-yellow variety. As you can see, the leaves are a beautiful deep green that add depth and texture to the garden even when between blooming cycles.

Lantana - mlm c @

I snapped this photo of purple lantana at Colony Plaza shopping center recently. It will need a haircut soon. Unfortunately, the grounds crews rush by with gas-powered shears and chop it off into little box-shapes. This plant grows too large for some of the small spaces they have planted it around most of the shopping areas here.

Lantana - purple

If you live in Florida or any tropical area, be sure to get your lantana from a nursery or garden center, as Florida has a wild lantana that is very invasive. Lantana from a garden center is NOT invasive. Instead, it will grow into a spreading mound. Mine has grown from about 6 inches across to about 2 and 1/2 feet across, and about 18 inches high. If lantana spreads to cover an area larger than you want, it can be clipped back. Please resist the urge to shear it off all at once. Instead, clip individual stems, preferably at a joint. To maintain the natural appearance of the overall plant, clip some stems shorter than others.

Vinca

Some annual bedding plants I recommended to Ginger were petunias, vinca (shown here), and marigolds, as these prefer full sun. These are normally thought of as annuals, but here in central Florida, petunias often survive our mild winters. My waxed begonias survived the winter here and even in North Carolina (Zone 7), but they did not survive the summer sun here. They need protection from harsh afternoon sun. Last summer mealybugs killed my hot pink vinca, so I don’t know whether it would have survived the winter or not. So far, this year, the vinca in the photo is still going strong. We’ll see how it “weathers” the winter.

Vinca - Hot Pink2 - mlm c @

Daylilies

One of many perennials that love the sun, but also do well in partial shade, is the daylily. Here are two of mine.

Orange Double - mlm c @

Yellow with Bud - mlm c@

Perennials are a bit more expensive but multiply each year.  My daylilies never completely died down here in Florida or in Alabama (Zone 7).  Because they multiply rapidly, daylilies, like most perennials, are a good investment, unlike most annuals which will need to be replaced year after year — unless they re-seed themselves, of course. As far north as Charoltte, North Carolina, my lantana had to be cut back each fall and heavily mulched, but it returned every spring. Here, it survived even our colder than average winter last season (2014-15).

The sun is intense, not only here in central Florida (Zone 9-A), but throughout the South. If you have no shade in your yard, or if the place where you want to put your flowers is in the sun,  it is best to plant those flowers in the late afternoon or even just before dark. This is because the planting process is traumatic for the plant. Planting them when the sun is not bearing down on them gives them time to adjust to their new home, and to recuperate overnight. They will need special attention and frequent watering until they become established. After that, water them only when they are not getting enough rain.

 

Starting Coleus From Cuttings – Nothing Could Be Easier

Coleus Variety

Whether you pronounce it “cole-yus”, or “col-e-us” you have to agree it is one of the most colorful foliage plants we have. This plant comes in so many color combinations it is mind-boggling:  burgundies, reds, purples, various shades of green, white, and even yellow. Coleus is easy to grow, and will add beauty to your garden.

The photo above shows just a few of the many colors and leaf shapes available. The top left  frame contains one I call my weird coleus. That is all one plant that came up as a volunteer from seed dropped last summer.  I have never seen have its colors evenly divided right down the middle vein like one stem of that plant has. The original plant had the splotches of burgundy on chartreuse that is on parts of this plant. I assume it is some kind of genetic mutation. If so, I think it’s a pretty cool mutation.

Until the last few years, coleus grew only in the shade. Today, however, there are many new varieties that do well in full sun. Oh, the wonders of hybridization! Some of them do well in either sun or shade, but change depth of color based on the amount of sun they get.

The following photos show the process of going from cutting to garden-ready:

To root your own cuttings, simply break off a piece, with a long stem, if possible. Strip the cutting of its lower leaves. Any leaves left on the lower part of the stem will be under water where they will rot and contaminate the water. Place the stems into a glass or jar of water, or even an empty cottage cheese container as shown below. Within only a few days you will see pale bumps begin to emerge on the stem. The little bumps will become tiny hair-like roots.

Some of the leaves above the water level may dry and fall off. That’s OK. New leaves will soon come. If any fall into the water, be sure to remove them. They will make great compost for your garden or flower beds.

Starting a cutting

Below is a closer view of those baby roots. Roots that sprout in water are tiny and delicate. These need another two-to-three weeks to grow. They will soon appear to be ready to plant, but don’t be too hasty. They will protest by wilting if suddenly moved from water to soil because, when taken from their watery environment, these little roots quickly become brittle. They can recover, but it is traumatic for the plant, and will require daily extra effort on your part.

Zoomed on Baby roots

The best way to avoid that problem is this:

When there are sufficient roots that have grown 2-3 inches long, begin to add small amounts of clean (un-used) potting soil to the water.  Used potting soil or soil from your garden will contain microbes that will likely encourage mold to grow in the water.  If you are rooting a lot of cuttings, you will need to move them to separate containers before the roots grow large enough to become entangled. I save empty cottage cheese containers for this, as well as for starting seeds. On the other hand, if you want to plant them all in one spot, no need to separate them.

Gradually increase the amount of soil and decrease the amount of water. The photo below was taken after several additions of soil. You can see that the soil is still extremely wet.

You may be wondering why the container below is sitting in a bowl of water. It’s because I realized too late that I had put the cuttings and soil into a container with holes punched in the bottom. These cuttings are not yet ready to have their water drain off, so I put them into a bowl that would hold the water.

After the roots adjust to this much soil, you should begin to back off on the water, and add more soil. When the plant thrives as a normally potted plant, it is ready to move to your garden. You can also grow coleus as a potted plant, if you prefer. In that case, you do want a pot with drainage holes!

In Wet Soil

Soon you will have a beautiful coleus plant like this one, or those at the top of this page.

Wine

Leave your gardening questions or comments below, or e-mail me at inthegarden.maria@gmail.com.

When Should Palms Be Fertilized?

Lynne W. asked, “When should we fertilize our palms?

It has taken quite some time to get this blog up and running, and it has been quite a while since Lynne asked this question, so I gave her an immediate verbal reply. It is a great question for those new to the area, so it is the topic of my first blog post. I have learned more in recent months, so I will elaborate a bit.

Date Palm - mlm c@

In a palm clinic I learned that palms should be fertilized 3 times per year between March 15 and September 15. That gives us 7 months over which to distribute 3 fertilizations. Be sure to use 8-2-12. Even better is 8-2-12 +4. These numbers can be thought of by their chemical symbols “NPK”: (Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K). The +4 is a combination of the trace minerals that palms also need. I tried Ace Hardware in Wildwood, but they had only 4-1-6. Not wanting to drive up to Lowe’s or Home Depot, we bought the 4-1-6 (exactly half of the strength of 8-2-12) and used twice as much.

Do not use fertilizer stakes for palms. Do not use Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) on your palms, as this can create a fatal potassium deficiency.

It is recommended that we use 1½ lbs. per 100 sq. ft. of canopy. The canopy is the land beneath the leaves of a palm, or any tree. The outer edge of the canopy is often called the “drip line” because it is within that area that water will drip off the branches of any tree. All trees and shrubs should also be mulched out to the drip line with a good organic mulch that will gradually decompose and nourish the soil. This is especially important due to the very poor soil in this area, and the very shallow roots of plants throughout the southeastern United States, particularly, palms, azaleas, and all tropical plants. Keep mulch to no more than 6 inches deep around the trunk of any tree.

Important: It IS okay to use palm fertilizer on turf grass. It IS NOT okay to use fertilizer intended for turf grass on your palms. Palms have shallow roots that extend laterally about 50 feet, with the most important roots being within the top 6 inches of soil. Most of our neighborhoods have small lots, so for many of us, our palm roots extend under our entire yards. It is more expensive to fertilize the yard with palm food, but in the long run, it may not be, if a mature palm has to be replaced.

Post your questions as a comment, or send questions to inthegarden.maria@gmail.com.