News Release Distributed 09/30/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Cool-season bedding plants continue to be popular in Louisiana. Most home gardeners do more warm-weather than cool-weather flower gardening, but we all need to realize that we have many great cool-season flowers that will do well in our climate from mid-fall through late spring. Home gardeners need to consider the following practices to ensure they get the desired performance from cool-season flowers: – Prior to planting, properly prepare the landscape bed to allow for good internal drainage and aeration. – Incorporate fresh, nutrient-rich, finished compost or landscape bed builder soil into beds to provide nutrients. – Apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting. For extending the season, fertilize again at half the recommended rate in late February to early March. – Manage irrigation properly. Many times cool-season flowers need less irrigation than we think. Warmer days of spring will increase irrigation demand. Monitor rainfall. Overwatering leads to many problems with cool-season bedding plants. – Remove old flowers from plants in spring to extend the bloom season. Most cool-season bedding plants are planted in October through November, but if you did not get the opportunity to add some cool-season flowers to your landscape, planting can continue through December, January and February. Most plants will last until May or even June in some years if properly cared for. Pansies dominate the cool-season flower market and are available in a wide choice of colors, including blue, rose, pink, yellow, white, purple, red and scarlet. Flower sizes come in large, medium and small. Some varieties have solid color ("clear") flower petals, and others have blotched flower faces. Normally, clear-faced flowers are the most popular for landscape use, but some folks like the colors of the blotched flowers in mixed plantings. Violas, also called johnny jump ups are smaller versions of pansies and are equally impressive in landscape beds and containers. Petunias are all the rage as a good, cool-season bedding plant in south Louisiana. Plant petunias from mid-September through mid-October for the best fall results. Other cool-season annuals include alyssum, dianthus, ornamental kale, ornamental cabbage, stock and snapdragon. You also can try biennial and perennial flowers such as foxglove, columbine and hollyhock. You should definitely include the Camelot series foxgloves and Amazon series dianthus in your cool-season planting plans. These two plants were fall Louisiana Super Plants last year. Cool-season flowers add color to landscapes at a time of the year when we have fewer trees and shrubs in bloom. If we have improved growing conditions the next couple months, your cool-season bedding plants will shine in late winter. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 09/23/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings September begins the transition to cool weather and fall activities in the Louisiana landscape. It is important to get started with cool-season flowers and bed preparation, assess your lawn status, consider mulching for trees and shrubs, and more. The season for cool-season plants starts in September. Although it may be most ideal to plant most cool-season bedding plants in October, petunias would not mind being planted now. Late September is a great time to start planting petunias, which can be continued into early to mid-October. Try the Wave, Easy Wave and Tidal Wave petunias if you really want to make an impression. Some other bedding plants recommended for fall planting in Louisiana include pansies, violas (johnny jump ups), dianthus, calendula, snapdragons, stock and flowering kale or cabbage. Check your local garden centers for bedding plant varieties that are available. Most of these do best when planted mid-October through November. But September is the time to start by cleaning up any debris from your warm-season flowerbeds and preparing the beds for planting in October. Do a soil test if you suspect pH problems. Ideal pH for many bedding plants is 5.5–6.0. This is considered to be an acid soil and is similar to the pH preferred by azaleas and gardenias. September is an important month in home lawn care. Many of us may want to apply additional fertilizer to the lawn to "keep it going" through fall – but this needs to be avoided. Putting nitrogen fertilizer on warm-season lawn grasses after early September is not recommended. The nitrogen will stimulate growth that will be prone to disease during fall and cold damage during the coming winter. Many times a fall application of a “winterizing” fertilizer is recommended. This is a good idea in some cases. A winterizing fertilizer for home lawn use in Louisiana has a low amount of nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer bag), a low amount of phosphorus (the second number on the fertilizer bag) and a high amount of potassium (the third number on the fertilizer bag). Never use a winterizing fertilizer that has more nitrogen than potassium. Fertilizers with these ratios are recommended for fall application to cool-season grasses and are not for use in Louisiana (even though these fertilizers are sold here). A potassium application in the fall is recommended only when a soil test of your home lawn area indicates low or medium levels of potassium in the soil. If you have high or very high levels of potassium, a fall application of potassium is not needed. If you apply potassium, do it at the rate of 1-2 pounds of actual potassium per 1,000 square feet of lawn area. You may notice brown patch disease on your lawn during September. This disease is characterized by circular, brown patterns that will green back up on the inside as the circle extends outward. Contact your local LSU AgCenter county agent for current fungicides recommended for this disease. Controlling brown patch in the fall yields improved green-up in the spring. If you are considering overseeding your lawn with a cool-season grass, such as ryegrass, wait until late October through mid-November, depending on where you are located in the state. Many of us want to do some pruning in the fall. When you prune, use thinning-type cuts instead of topping your plants. Wait until later in the fall or even until winter to prune most trees, such as crape myrtles. Sometimes pruning stimulates new growth, which we need to avoid in fall due to the possibility of cold damage. September also is an ideal time to add a new layer of mulch to your landscape beds. What does mulch do for our landscape plants? It minimizes soil temperature fluctuations, controls weed seed germination and subsequent growth, adds organic matter to the soil and plays a major role in moisture conservation. Mulch also insulates the lower stem and root system of the plant from cold winter temperatures and hot summer temperatures. The best mulch is pine straw. Mulch trees to a depth of 3 inches and shrubs to a depth of 2 inches. Avoid piling the mulch around the base of the stems. Working in your landscape in September will properly prepare your plants for the rest of the fall. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 09/16/11 By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings As we head toward fall, you may want to consider ground covers for those problem areas in your landscape. You may have shady areas that can no longer support lush turfgrass. Maybe you have a sloping area where mowing is difficult. Planting a ground cover may be an option. The term ground cover is applied to low-growing plants, other than turfgrass, used to cover areas of the landscape. Perennial, evergreen plants having a sprawling, or spreading, habit are most often used. The plants used for ground covers generally are 1 foot or less in height, but taller plants can be appropriate in certain situations. In addition to the beauty they provide, ground covers have many practical uses. They provide barriers to foot traffic and can guide movement through a site. Some ground covers are effective in erosion control. Because they don’t have to be mowed, ground covers reduce landscape maintenance and are especially useful in problem areas such as on steep slopes, under low-branched trees and shrubs, where large tree roots protrude and in confined areas where mowing is difficult. They also are the best solution to areas under trees that have become too shady for grass to grow. You must carefully consider the characteristics you would like the ground cover to have – height, texture, color and so forth – when making your selection. You also need to think about the growing conditions where it will be planted – such as sunny or shady, dry or moist. Then look at the size of the area to be planted. Only the most reliable, fast–spreading and reasonably priced ground covers should be considered for large areas. Monkey grass or mondo grass, creeping lily turf (liriope) and Japanese ardisia are good choices for shade-to-part-shade areas, although many liriope perform well in full sun also. Asian jasmine is excellent for sun to part shade. Whatever type of ground cover you choose, proper preparation of the planting area will help ensure good establishment and faster growth. Ground covers provide several functions in the home landscape, including: – Erosion control on slopes. – Vegetative growth where grass is difficult to grow. – Reduced temperature and glare. – Less lawn maintenance. – Filling in of narrow or oddly shaped areas in the landscape where mowing is difficult. Give careful consideration when selecting ground covers. Selection will depend on the location where it will be used. Consider the amount of sunlight present, irrigation availability, height, growth habit and growth rate. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 09/09/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Planting palms in home landscapes has gained considerable interest in the past few years for several reasons. For one, many new, exotic palm species and varieties are more readily available. But because cold temperatures the past couple winters damaged some of the species, people are searching for the most reliable palms While most of us now realize that fall and winter are the best times to plant the majority of ornamental plants in our landscapes, the best time to plant palms in Louisiana is May through September. The soil is warmest this time of year, and warm soil is one of the most necessary criteria for palm root growth. Rough handling of palm trees or severe vibrations during transport can break the tender bud, causing death many months down the road. It also is important to transplant the palm as soon as possible after removing it from the soil. Never allow the roots to become dry, although this would not be a problem with container-grown plants. Louisiana is located in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 9, and many palms will do well for us. Keep in mind, though, that there is a large difference in average minimum temperatures between these zones. Climate is without a doubt the single largest limiting factor in selecting palms. Some palms will do fine in zone 9a (New Orleans, Lafayette, Lake Charles) but may be damaged in zone 8b (Alexandria, Baton Rouge) and will definitely exhibit damage in zone 8a (Shreveport, Ruston, Monroe). Reliable palms for some of these areas include: Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) Probably one of the most cold-hardy palm species, the needle palm forms a clumping, understory palm with many palmate leaves. This palm is native from South Carolina to Florida and west to Mississippi. Foliage is dark green with silvery undersides. Plants are typically slow-growing and reach heights and spreads of about 5 feet. Needle palms need light shade and adequate moisture. Dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) This palm is native to Louisiana and is found from Texas to Florida and northward to South Carolina. Mature height is 6 to 8 feet with leaves 1 to 3 feet wide. It produces white flowers May to June. A subterranean trunk makes transplanting these palms difficult. They are also slow-growing. Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) Windmill palms are very popular all over Louisiana. These trees have average heights of 10 to 20 feet but can be as tall as 40 feet. Trunks are slender. Mats of dark brown, hair-like fibers coat the trunk on younger palms. Windmill palms like ample water but don’t do well in extremely moist soils or standing water. Windmill palms are relatively slow growing. Cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) Florida has an abundance of cabbage, or palmetto, palms, but they are becoming increasingly popular in the central Gulf Coast. This palm can reach heights of 80 to 90 feet, but most only reach about 20 feet or so tall. Leaves are fan-shaped and 3 to 6 feet in length. These palms are adaptable to wet, poorly drained soil and have a moderate growth rate. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) This clumping palm forms thickets and is native from South Carolina southwest through Florida and westward to Louisiana. Common height is 3 to 4 feet. Saw palmetto does very well in the southern part of Louisiana. It is not common in the nursery trade. Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) This is a clumping fan palm and is slightly less hardy than the windmill palm. Mediterranean fan palms tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. Cocos or jelly palm (Butia australis or Butia capitata) Cocos or jelly palms (also known in the nursery trade as butia palms) are becoming better known and are the most cold-hardy of the palms with feather-shaped foliage. A popular palm-like plant for Louisiana is the sago palm. These plants are actually not palms but cycads. The sago is a native of Japan and is hardy to 15 degrees. Its leaves are 2-3 feet long. They can be even larger on older plants and are divided into many narrow, needlelike segments. The primary problem with sago palms in south Louisiana is a fungal, leaf spot disease to which they are especially susceptible during periods of high humidity. Sago palms, however, are highly recommended and should be planted in the late spring and early summer, just as true palms should be. LSU AgCenter horticulturists Severn Doughty and Dan Gill conducted an extensive survey of palms growing in south Louisiana a number of years ago. They found 14 genera comprising 21 species of palms. Of these, less than half have been found to be statistically reliable for planting due to climate limitations. So you can see that species selection is important. Realize that many home gardeners, nursery growers and landscapers use palm species that may not be reliable for long-term performance due to cold weather. The desirable characteristics and fast growth rates of some overcome the necessity to replace them once every 10-20 years due to winter damage. Washingtonia species of palms are hardy to about 15-22 degrees and will be damaged extensively by several consecutive days of temperatures in the teens. For palm success, select for cold hardiness. It is also important to consider vertical and horizontal space limitations. As mentioned earlier, plant in May through September for best establishment. Once established, palms should be maintained under a moderate fertilization program. During late spring and early summer, remove old leaves and flowering parts of the plants as they become unsightly. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 09/02/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings The LSU AgCenter has been promoting research-based best management practices in the home landscape for several years to inform residents on how to properly manage their landscape plants. Many problems associated with landscape plants can be overcome easily if proper practices are maintained. Inadequate preparation of landscape beds frequently tops the list of problems with ornamental plants. But home gardeners also need to be more aware of soil pH and related issues in addition to how to use fertilizer properly. Improper bed preparation leads to many of the problems with home landscape plants in Louisiana. With high annual rainfall and poorly drained native soils around much of the state, proper bed building is critical. Even with dry weather patterns these days, Louisiana still receives considerable rainfall. We need to make raised beds – normally 6-8 inches high. Anything that can be done to improve internal drainage of soil and help with aeration and oxygen exchange in the root zone will aid in landscape success. Raised beds help overcome root rot and related disease issues. Make sure your beds are adequately prepared before planting to help avoid problems later. Soil testing is an important tool in home landscapes. We often see problems with ornamental plants due to improper pH. Most of the ornamental plants grown in Louisiana prefer a soil pH of 5.5-6.5. And some of our common landscape plants actually prefer soil pH in the lower end of this range. Examples include azaleas, gardenias, petunias, blueberries and vinca (or periwinkle). Now is a good time to take soil samples and have them analyzed by the LSU AgCenter’s Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Lab in Baton Rouge for $10 per sample. You can find more information online at www.lsuagcenter.com/soillab. Soil pH is raised by adding lime and lowered by adding sulfur, but these additions should always be based on the results of a soil test. Proper fertilization is one of the key factors to be considered in combination with managing soil pH. It is helpful to know if your native soil has low, medium or high levels of fertility. Do you tend to fertilize less than recommended or more than recommended? What are the fertility requirements of the different ornamental plants you grow? The answers to these questions need to be considered to properly employ sustainable management practices in a residential landscape. Many times newer landscape beds need more fertilizer than older beds. Spring is the generally accepted “best time of the year” to fertilize the vast majority of established ornamental plants, and it is better to broadcast fertilizer uniformly over a bed than to treat individual plants. So getting your soil tested now will put you in a position to get started on time next spring. Preparing a landscape bed, checking and monitoring soil pH and correctly applying fertilizer go a long way in home landscape success. Consider all of these as you return to your landscape activities after a long, hot summer. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.