Friday, September 28, 2007

Worried about watering ban - Drought

Hi Anne, I love your very helpful gardening hints! I am new to the south and your expertise is greatly appreciated. My question is regarding the drought and water ban. I want to plant new grass seed this fall and am worried that the watering ban may continue into the fall months when I would need to water the seeds frequently. Would you recommend not planting grass seed this year? Thank you, Carol from Matthews

Anne's response:

I am telling people that unless it looks like we will have rain by mid-October it is better not to renovate a lawn this year. If the seed sprouts and doesn’t get watered on a weekly basis it will not survive. By November the soil temperature is usually too cold for good germination – but if the weather forecast is for an unusually warm November grass might be able to get started.

Dwarf mondo grass

Anne, is it OK to transplant some clumps of dwarf mondo grass this October? I have an area covered, but there’s several bare spots I’d like to fill in. Thanks!! Joe

Anne's response:

If you can water the mondo in well when you transplant it October is a good time to transplant. It can also be transplanted in the early spring.

Eucalyptus plant

I planted a eucalyptus plant, about 18” tall, back in May in a perfect spot in the yard. Although I was hesitant about planting the eucalyptus in the summer, it took off like mad, branches growing, new leaves sprouting, it was simply doing wonderful. Suddenly as the drought and heat really started to kill off my garden, the leaves of the eucalyptus started to turn brown and die. Now the entire plant is brown & brittle. I have never lost a eucalyptus this way, mine seem to get caught in ice storms. My question is: do you think the eucalyptus is dead? Or will one of the nodes survive and sprout back up? If it has a chance I do not want to dig it up, but it really looks dead. If there is no hope, I will plant another one this fall. Thank you for all your help! Suzy P., Semora, NC

Anne's response:

If you have scraped the bark of the Eucalyptus and it looks brown, not green, just underneath the bark the plant is dead. A lot of plants that were put in the ground this spring did not make it through the summer. The heat pulled water out of leaves faster than the developing root system good pull it into the plant.

Cryptomeria Japonic A'Yoshino Cedar tree

Dear Anne, We got back to our home in Hendersonville, NC after being away for four months. We found the subject tree with many dead brown limbs. The tree was planted about three years ago and is about 10t. high. Our landscaping company has trimmed off a number of the limbs. Is there anything we can do? Thanks, Suzanne

Anne's response:

I think you can chalk this one up to heat and drought. Hopefully with winter rains the tree will make some recovery although you should not expect to see new limbs to replace those that were cut off. An application of fertilizer in late February or early March should help new growth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Plant carnivores

Hi Anne,

First, I do enjoy your program so much. As a gardening illiterate I have started trying to do some gardening thanks to you.

My questions are concerning your presentation on plant carnivores. In the winter how do you protect the plants, what do you feed them in the winter, and are they animal friendly (dogs and horses)?

Thank you for your time.

Maggie C., Durham

Anne's response:

My own plants stay outside in their pots all winter. They are in a protected area near the house and the temperatures in the Raleigh area have not been cold enough to freeze the soil in the last 4 years. They are not poisonous to pets and thus far the deer, squirrels, cats and dogs that check out my plants on a regular basis have not found the plants very interesting either.

Chinese Hibiscus

Should I prune my Chinese Hibiscus before I bring it in the house for the winter? Also, want can I do to get rid of the ants that have seemed to have found a home?

Maria from Durham

Anne's response:

Try one of the ant bait stations to attract and kill the ants. I don't think you will have a problem pruning the Chinese hibiscus before you bring it in the house. If it does put on new growth there is no danger of it getting killed back by frost.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Hi Anne- My camellias are losing all their leaves. They were planted 1.5 years ago and they had few blooms the 1st year. This year they are losing all their green leaves and the stems have buds at their ends. The stems are a darker brown then the rest of the plant. Any ideas?

Thanks, Kathleen

Anne's response:

Stems of old wood are always darker than the new wood on a camellia. Loss of leaves similar to what you describe is usually from plants that have been watered too much or plants that have dried out from lack of moisture. Is it possible that your plants were put in soil that does not retain moisture or were they planted so deeply in the ground that they retain too much moisture?

Camellia bush in south Arkansas

Hello Anne,

Our camellia bush has developed alot of tiny white specks on the under sides of the leaves. they are only approx. 1/16 in. long or less, and ovalish or elongated, not round at all, the tops of the leaves are very sickly looking also. would this be insect or fungus? need to know before i treat it, i don't want to be guessing.

Thanx, Kevin

Anne's response:

I think your plant is infected with “Tea Scale”. A scale insect problem with camellias that can be treated in cool weather with horticultural oil sprayed on the bottom of the leaves to smother the insect or spray with an insecticide that is labeled to kill scale. I have always preferred to spray with the oil – and I use Volck – in late September after the temperatures get below 80 degrees.


I live in Greensboro and have 2 young dogwoods planted. One is doing fairly well, growing and spreading out. The other tends to look like half of the tree is dead, but both trees are around the same height. Is there a fertilizer or something else I can do? I have tried to keep them watered during this drought. I do have some shoots growing up in the mound on both trees. Should I leave them alone? They look healthy. Is there anything I can do for them during the cooler months that are coming? Thank you for you help.


Anne's response:

Sometimes when we plant a tree the soil does not get evenly moist around the roots and the roots do not make good contact with the soil. Portions of the tree will loose leaves and die. Keep the trees mulched with ground leaves or a bark mulch and fertilize in the spring just as the flowers open.

Sweet tea olive

My daughter wants to set out a number of Sweet tea olives. What time of the year is best to set them out? We pretty much have everything else figured out.

Thanks in advance,
Randall H.

Anne's response:

I prefer to plant in October. The soil is still warm enough for roots to put on new growth and you can keep the soil moist enough for good root development. The plants are then ready to get a dose of fertilizer in the spring and start growing.

Outdoor plants

My geraniums, petunias, marigolds, mexican heather, spikes,etc.that looked so pretty this summer in my outdoor pots are now dying and need to be replaced. What should I plant?

Thank you,
Beth H.

Anne's response:

I like chrysanthemums, asters, pansies, ornamental kale and the ornamental Swiss chard with bright red and yellow leaves.


My hydrangeas were doing fine. Now one is getting black leaves starting at the top. It looks like something is eating them from the outer edge in. My plant is now about 1/4 of the original size. I trimmed off all of the black leaves and it started growing again and now it's starting all over.

-Marie P.

Anne's response:

Your hydrangea may be suffering from summer heat and drought which would cause the black and brown leaves. There are lots of beetles and insects that eat the foliage but hydrangeas usually do not suffer from the insect damage. Anytime you prune a plant it puts on new growth. If the new growth does not develop early enough it gets frozen by the first cold night and frost. That may cause you to lose the spring blooms. Black leaves could also be caused by overwatering a plant or having one that is in an area that does not drain well.

Rose of Sharon

Dear Anne, I appreciate you so much since we have lived in Charlotte for just over a year. We are in South Mecklenburg County and are interested in the Rose of Sharon for our yard. They were beautiful but touchy in Illinois.

Where can I purchase a hardy variety near Pineville or Charlotte, such as Freedom or any of the four month blooming, more common ones?


Anne's response:

The independent garden centers in your area usually have the ability to special order a specific cultivar of a plant if they do not have one in stock. Rose of Sharon is available in most of the garden centers in your area although it is a plant that the “big box” retailers do not usually carry.

What pairs well with Callicarpa?

Hi Anne,

I just had a pergola built in front of our house and would like a shrub that draws attention to the entrance at the corner of the pergola. My landscape consultant suggested a dwarf hinoki cypress, the golden variety. I also love the look of the Callicarpa Bodnieri specially when the berries stay in the branches after the leaves have fallen. Would Callicarpa, dwarf Hinoki cypress and little Spire sage work to soften the corner and give it a Wow look? Would it look too busy? My home is in Northern Virginia.


Anne's response:

I think you have a group of three plants that would work very well together. Another easy care plant that would add to the combination would be Autumn Joy Sedum.

Trimming crepe myrtle

Hi Anne,

We live in Myrtle Beach and have crepe myrtle trees in our front yard. I would like to trim them now & how do you trim them? Thanks, Pat

Anne's response:

Trim crepe myrtles in March before they start putting on new growth. If you prune a crepe myrtle in the fall it tries to put on new growth and it gets killed with the first hard freeze. As with any tree or shrub you cut out limbs that cross or rub against another limb, branches that grow out underneath a main branch and dead or injured branches. Many feel that if you remove any stems that are smaller in diameter that a “number 2” lead pencil you have better stems to hold blooms.

Weed killer

What kind of weed killer can you put on a vegetable garden in the fall so it won't affect the spring planting? We live in North Florida.

Thanks, JC

Anne's response:

Round-up will kill weeds but not be persistant in the soil so it is safe to use on vegetable gardens. I prefer to till weeds into the bed before they go to seed and cover the area with a layer of leaves or compost to keep weeds from sprouting over the winter.


Love your show! Have question which perplexed me this summer. My petunias are doing quite well but lately have squirrels rummaging and muching vigorously on the leaves. Have never seen this before. One basket is pretty well decimated. Previous years, no problem. Any idea why? Thanks and have a wonderful Autumn.

R.H., Chapel Hill

Anne's response:

The heat and drought this summer have made animals do strange things.

Squirrels are looking for any plants with moisture and they are evidently searching for places to hide their stash of food for winter.

You might put a shallow pan of water out to let the squirrels have a drink on hot days. They have started crawling up in my raised bed of lettuce!

Bulbs planted too early?

Hi Anne- I am NEW to gardening and recently had a lot of beds put in with lovely soil, trim , mulch but no plants yet! I live in Northwest Arkansas I saw all the lovely bulbs at Home Depot and bought a big bag. I assumed if they were at the store, it was time to plant them! My grandma has now mentioned ( after they are all in the ground and covered with dirt and mulch!) that she fears it's too early to plant them and they may sprout early or worse, not bloom in the spring as they will be confused. I went back and read the label on the bag and it does show on the chart they should be planted October/November Should I dig them up ? When should I plant the others I purchased for optimal results?

Julianne D.

Anne's response:

Bulbs can be forgiving so I would not do anything to the ones you have put in the ground. Tulips and daffodils can be purchased in stores in August and September. Keep them in a cool, dark place until the first frost. The ground will then be cool enough for the bulbs to start developing roots and get ready for their spring growth. Always read the planting instructions carefully and remember that northwest Arkansas is in zone 7 or zone 6 on most planting instructions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Magnolia tree removal

Hi, I have a Magnolia tree that we planted about 4 years ago. We are having a pool put in and have to move the tree. Any suggestions, we don't want to lose it. Thanks.

Kay M.

Anne's response:

A magnolia tree that was planted four years ago should have developed an extensive root system by now. How, or whether, you move the tree depends on the size of the plant. If it is more than 8 feet tall it probably has a root system that is large enough to need the services of a professional with a tree spade. The plant and root ball may weigh more than 200 pounds and that is hard to do without a backhoe or tree spade. You may find that it is easier to just replace the tree with another one after you put your pool in. It is always best to move a plant when it is dormant so any move should be made during your winter months.

Fruitless Mulberry

Hi Anne, we have a fruitless mulberry that has been here the 10 years we have been here. I don't know how much longer it was here. It is a very big tree. Anyway, we have had a very wet summer, not flooding here, wetter than usual. And for about a month now we have been losing leaves on our fruitless mulberry. Is it dead? Or is there anything we can do?

Thank you,
Christie O.

Anne's response:

Trees do lose leaves when they are under stress. The stress can come from air pollution, too much or too little water, disease or insect problems. Mulberries do need good drainage so it may be in soil that is holding too much moisture. If the ground seems “swampy” you may need to improve the water drainage in that area. Roots that spend too much time in wet soil will be destroyed and the tree will die. By September many trees do go into early dormancy if they are under stress. Early dormancy does not mean the tree is going to die, it just means it is behaving as though winter is coming a little early.


Anne: I live in beautiful Lakeland, Florida. What insecticide can I use to kill those little green worms that loves to destroy my Azaleas. Thanks in advance.

Bill W.

Anne's response:

Liquid Sevin is usually a safe insecticide for worms and caterpillars.


Hi, I live in Lexington Ky I have a two year old gardenia that I have always taken inside in winter. It is now really large,do I have to take it inside in the winter?

Carolyn L.

Anne's response:

Florists gardenias are usually rated as being hardy to 30F. There are some cold hardy gardenias that are rated for areas that get as low as 10F which is a Zone 8 low temperature. Kentucky is usually considered as a Zone 6 plant hardiness state where temperatures can drop below Zero. Unless you have a very warm winter your plant will not survive outdoors.


We have purchased my in laws old house. Against the house are four camellias planted in the sixties and treated like shrubs..cut within an inch of their lives every year! I just discovered that the effect on them is rather bonsai like at the base--as they have super tremendous and beautiful trunks such as I have not seen on a Camellia before. I am concerned because they must be moved to a new location and I am certain their root balls must be mixed as they are planted close together. We are perplexed at how to get these out of the ground without harming them. We have been advised to loosen the soil and use truck and a rope cushioned by a hose to lift them out. I had considered watering the soil quite well a few days in advance to help soften it (we live in Greenville, SC--it is dry here and the soil is rather hard) I have not moved a Camellia before and I am not certain what to expect as far as the size of the root balls. I have not allowed the bushes to be trimmed since we purchased the house 7 months ago and they are probably about 4 feet now and loaded with leaves. (quite healthy despite their current living arrangement) If we manage to move them successfully...then get them trimmed properly they will be some of the most beautiful Camellias I have ever seen, having these massive trunks and I am anxious to do everything I can do to save them. You said that you don't fertilize Camellia's after a you give them anything at all?

With kindest regards,


Anne's response:

Large camellias do have a large rootball. The easiest way to get them out of the ground is with a backhoe or a tree spade that can support the root ball without breaking any of the feeder roots. Trying to pull them out of the ground with a rope and truck will break roots and bruise the bark of the tree. They do need to be watered well to soften the ground before removing the plants. Prepare their new place by digging a hole that is no deeper than the rootball of the plant and about twice the width of the rootball. Mix some of the native soil with finely ground pine bark and other organic soil conditioners. Put about 4 inches of the mixture in the bottom of the hole and pput the camellia in place. Fill the hole up half way with the soil mixture and water it well. Add the rest of the soil and water the plant well. Use pine bark mulch to cover the original root ball (which will probably be an inch or two higher than the surrounding ground) and an area that extends at least a foot beyond the rootball. A 3 inch deep layer of mulch is all that is needed and don’t put it up right next to the trunk.

Rubber tree removal

Dear Anne,

We had to remove a 30' rubber tree from our yard because it was pushing in the cement around the pool. We jackhammers away all of the old cement around the pool and have been digging the large roots out. Will the tree come back from the roots? I don't want to put down a new pool deck and have the tree come back through it.

We live near the beach in Orange County CA and are looking for new plants to grow next to the fences that will not cause a mess in the pool and will have minimum root systems. Can you give us some suggestions?

Lessa C.

Anne's response:

Rubber trees can come back from underground roots but they can be controlled by spraying the plant with Roundup as soon as the new growth appears. The growth would not come back up under the concrete but in an area close to the edge.

As for suggestions for plants along your fence I suggest you contact the California Cooperative Extension Service for a list of suggested plants.
A local garden center or nursery would also have some suggestions for plants that work.

Teak and Silver Oak saplings

Hi Anne,

Recently i planted 4 teak and 4 Silver Oak saplings in our newly purchased piece of land. The distance between our residence is about 40 Kms and hence I was not in a position to water them daily. I planted it on a Friday evening and on Saturday eveing the Teak leaves were showing black spots and the silver oak leaves were in red color instead of green. I watered during eveings till Sunday and left it. On wednesday when I checked, 2 of the teak leaves are completely black in color and the silver oaks were all having red colors. The land has few green grass growing on. Hence I assume the land must be moist even though it rains once in a week. Even if the Tree leaves are gone, will they grow back when it rains or when the roots are quite established? I live in Bangalore, India where the temperature is around 28C to 36C, partly cloudy with rainfall expected every 3 days or so during this time. What should I do to save them ? What is your advice on growing these trees? I have already put manure for them.


Anne's response:

The change in color of the leaves happened entirely too quickly to be transplant shock so I suspect the trees were suffering from drought before you planted them. I prefer not to fertilize or manure plants when they are put in the ground. They need to develop a root system so fertilizing in the spring of the year after they are put in the ground is usually the ideal time to apply fertilizer. If the plants were watered enough to get roots in contact with the land of their new home they should not need to be watered if the area you are in has rainfall as frequently as you indicate.

Mother-in-laws Tongue

Hello Anne, i live in canada ontario and had a mother in laws tongue in the family for over 25 years it is sansivieria trisfascini or something like that, how can it bloom i wanna know the secret on how to make it bloom, or is it impossible for it in canada to bloom?

Philippe C.

Anne's response:

My “Mother-in-laws Tongue” or Snake plant does not bloom every year. It needs to be kept moist all year long and it needs at least 8 hours of good light during the spring for blooms. The plants grow and thrive in areas with low light levels but they do need more light for blooms.

Lime sulfate

Anne, I was listening to you and Mike one Sat a.m., and wrote the words "lime sulfate" on a sliver of paper. I think it had something to do with roses. What are the benefits and for which plant?

Thanking you in advance....

Kay W. of Cary

Anne's response:

I think we were probably talking about Lime sulfur that is used as an organic control of disease and insects. It can be used to control powdery mildew on roses when they leaf out in the spring and is used during the dormant season as a control for aphids, mites and scale. I use lime sulfur in February when I cut back roses as a control for black spot. It should not be used when the air temperature is above 85F. Lime sulfur is actually the chemical Calcium polysulfide.

Dogwood Bush

I have a pale green dogwood bush and it is bearing berries now. Can I prune it and when?

Robert M.

Anne's response:

I would not prune any plants right now if they are under heat and drought stress. Remember if you prune a dogwood anytime between now and the time they bloom you are cutting off the spring blooms when you prune.


Hi Anne,

I want to plant a yellow rose bush in our garden, but I'm not sure if I should wait until next spring, or plant it this fall. Also, the spot that I want to plant it in can become a bit wet whenever we get a heavy rain. Is there something I can do to the soil or hole to make it drain a bit better? Thank you for any information.


Delila S.

Anne's response:

Roses do not do well in spots that get soggy. If you can dig a deep, wide hole, put about 2 inches of gravel in the bottom and then amend the area with compost when you plant it may help. Roses do well in the South when planted in the fall but if the weather continues dry this fall I would wait until spring. There is usually a better selection of plants in the spring. We have a beautiful “Teasing Georgia” yellow rose in the Raulston Arboretum. It is a large shrub rose with double flowers that has great resistance to Blackspot.