Roses, Gardenias, Tomatoes, & More -- Grumpy Knows All
It pleases every fiber of the Grump's being to supply you with inspiring and informative answers to your most pressing gardening problems. Here is the knowledge you crave.
Knockout roses -- "My 'Double Knockout' roses have bloomed and are gorgeous, but they've grown so fast and tall, they're bending over and touching the ground. Is it OK to prune them now or should I have done that in early spring?" Shyla, Gainesville, Georgia
Answer: Many plants bend over and touch the ground when Grumpy approaches, but that's purely out of respect. As for your roses, go ahead and prune them now. It won't hurt them at all, and they'll put on another big flush of blooms.
Poppies -- "Please help me!! I want to know what poppies will grow and bloom in Baton Rouge!" Suzette, Baton Rouge, Lousiana
Answer: Perennial poppies won't grow for you (or for anyone else in the Lower and Coastal South either), but the annual ones will. All you do is scatter the seed over bare soil in the fall and barely cover them (don't mulch). They'll germinate in early spring, bloom, set seed, and then die. You can also set out poppy transplants in fall. The two types of poppies Grumpy recommends are Iceland poppies and Shirley poppies. It's too late to plant now, but you can do it this fall.
Sasanqua camellias -- "I have two sasanqua plants. Last year, they had some black, sooty-looking stuff on the leaves that I wiped off with paper towels. Now this spring there are lots of white oblong insects about 1/4-inch long on the undersides of the leaves. They don't seem to move. Are these two problems related?" Ruth, Clemmons, North Carolina
Answer: Like kissing cousins. The white insects are scales. They suck juice from the leaves and secrete a sticky honeydew. Black mold then grows on the honeydew. If scales grow numerous enough, they can kill your sasanquas. Get rid of the scales and you'll get rid of the mold. To do this, go to your garden center and and buy some year-round horticultural oil. Spray it according to label directions on both upper and lower leaf surfaces, as well as stems. It's non-toxic to you, but weighs heavily on scales. What a terrible pun.
Bearded iris -- I found some roots of bearded iris that I bought a year ago. Is it too late to put them in the ground? Lisa, Whereabouts Unknown
Answer: Not if you want them to turn into nutritious organic matter that will feed earthworms and your other plants. But if you want them to grow and bloom, yeah, it's too late. About a year too late. (See our excellent story about growing bearded iris in the May 2010 issue of Southern Living.)
Tomatoes -- My month-old tomato plants are turning greenish-yellow. What do I need to do to make them a healthy green? We used compost-enriched garden soil when we planted. Faye, Planet Tralfamador
Answer: Lots of rain and cooler than normal weather could cause this. The problem should resolve itself as the weather on Tralfamador improves. You might also try giving your plants a drink of water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro. Say hello to Ms. Wildhack for me.
Azaleas: I have lots of azaleas circling my oaks in Savannah and would like to move them. Can you tell me the best way to assure that they'll live? Danny, Savannah, Georgia
Answer: The key to successfully transplanting azaleas and other shrubs is minimizing disturbance of the roots. This is especially important in warm weather. You need to get as big a root ball with each plant as possible and water thoroughly after you transplant it. Ideally, you should wait until fall to do this, but if you can't, transplant carefully.
Daffodils: When can I cut back the foliage and dig up clumps of daffodils to transplant? Gaye, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Answer: If you want your daffodils to bloom next year, wait until the foliage turns yellow to do either of these things. If you cut off the leaves while they're still green, the bulbs won't bloom.
Tree for planter: I have a 30" x 36" fiberglass planter I would like to use as a centerpiece to our flower bed. The area receives full sun all day. What small palm would you recommend planting in it? What about annuals for seasonal color? By the way, I am a low-maintenance girl! Angela, Lakeland, Florida
Answer: Wow, you're what every guy dreams of -- a girl who's low-maintenance! What you need are flowers that bloom nonstop, take the heat, and don't require lots of water. Try angelonia, lantana, and Mexican heather. For a small palm, try lady palm, sago palm (not a true palm, but it looks like one), saw palmetto, or Chinese fan palm.