February 27, 2008

Timely Tips for March – Part 1

By Andy Wilson, Pinellas County Extension Horticulturist

This winter has brought us many warmer than average days as well as one night of below freezing temperatures that damaged some kinds of plants. March marks the end of the danger of any plant-damaging cold and many plants will be producing lots of new growth now. Here are some lawn and garden tips for March.

Cold Damaged Plants- Cold damaged woody plants can be pruned now. New growth may be already emerging, making it easier to determine where the wood is alive, if there is any wood that was killed by the cold that needs to be removed.

Pruning Hibiscus- Even if they were not seriously damaged by cold this winter, now is a good time to prune hibiscus if needed. New growth can be expected to come out quickly after pruning. Use sharp tools of the proper size for the size of the branches you need to remove. Hand pruners are used for branches less than ¼” diameter and pruning saws are used for larger branches. More information on proper pruning methods can be found here:

cannasCannas- Cannas are easy to grow in Florida. Prized for their large, showy flowers borne at the ends of the stems, they are also valuable in the landscape for their bold green, maroon or variegated leaves. To keep the plants growing vigorously it is helpful to lift the thickened rhizomes from the soil, prune away the older, depleted parts and replant them. This can be done now. Cannas should be fertilized about once a month. More information on growing cannas can be found here:

Leaf Drop- Over the next several weeks many broadleaved evergreen trees and shrubs will drop varying amounts of old leaves. Usually the leaves will discolor to some extent before dropping. This kind of leaf drop is common on Southern magnolia, hollies and many others. This is a natural process, and doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the plant.

oak leaf blisterOak Leaf Blister- Soon after the new leaves of laurel oaks and water oaks appear this spring you may see puckered spots in the leaf tissue. Some of the affected leaves may drop. This usually is an indication of oak leaf blister, a common fungal disease of oaks. Although spraying beginning when the new growth begins to emerge can be used with varying degrees of success to control the disease, it is usually not worth the trouble and expense to do this. The disease is strictly cosmetic and does not threaten the real health of the tree. Live oaks, with their more leathery leaves, have little problem with oak leaf blister.

Mangos- Continue spraying mangos with a copper fungicide once a week until all the fruit has set, then continue spraying once a month. This will help to control anthracnose, a very common disease that can attack the flowers, small fruits and new leaves.

Stay tuned until tomorrow for more tips on aphids, bananas and palms, plus other timely gardening information.

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