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May 26, 2018


I love zinnias and normally have good luck with them.  This year something is eating them. When the plant gets about two inches tall the leaves are attacked and eventually it's destroyed.  I keep planting new ones and it keeps happening.  I'm getting frustrated as my number of healthy plants is dwindling to an all-time low.  What can I do?


I believe you have an animal issue. I have heard reports on both squirrels and raccoons attacking zinnias this year. Maybe there is a new fad “zinnia diet” trend going on in the animal world!  Try to use a temporary exclusion device.  Make a small cage with chicken wire or other type of wire and cover the plants.   Let them get up and growing.  There are numerous home remedies for animal control from hot pepper to scare devices, but you have to use a variety of things, since if something was foolproof, everyone would be doing it. 


September 19, 2015


 My Zinnias and Marigolds are Hugh is there a market for seeds? I am saving a lot of them but have hundreds of the Marigolds. I don't want to sell them will give them away.


Answer Save the seeds and put them in envelopes and give them as holiday presents with instructions on how to plant them.  You could also contact your local Master Gardener group via the county extension office and see if they are interested in having them for their plant sales, or donate to a local school next spring.



(November 2012)

QuestionI have a fungus of some sorts growing all over my zinnias.  I'm not sure what it is or what to do about it. I figured that because Zinnia season is over with I may as well just let them die but I do not know if this white spotty fungus or mold disease will spread to other parts of the garden or come back next year with a vengeance. What do you suggest?


AnswerZinnias are often plagued by powdery mildew.  The best thing you can do is to clean up the garden, disposing of all the plant remains. You should also remove the underlying mulch so you can start the season off clean.  Pay attention next summer, and control if needed if it begins early in the season. Many of the new varieties of zinnias are resistant to powdery mildew.

(April 2012)

QuestionTo do in the garden for April.


AnswerWe can begin to plant summer bedding plants, from Angelonia to zinnias.  If your winter annuals are still spectacular, wait a bit, or start interspersing the new with the old. You can safely plant warm season vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers mid month. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, just in case you do need to cover them.  Corn and green beans can be planted now as well.  We are harvesting winter vegetables, including greens, lettuce, English and sugar snap peas, broccoli and spinach.  If you didn’t plant an early garden, the farmers markets are all about to get started later this month. When your lawn has totally greened up (with grass, not weeds) then that is the time to fertilize for the first time.  A slow release, high nitrogen fertilizer is best.  Houseplants and tropical plants can start their trek outdoors.  Remember to gradually expose them to sunlight, so they don’t sunburn if they have been inside your house all winter.  Cut back the tropical flowering plants by at least 1/3; repot and begin fertilizing.  By now, all plants should have started growing in your garden.  Assess the damage that last summer took.  If you need to replant, there are plenty of options at garden centers now.   If you need to replace some azaleas, or simply want to add to your collection, and you want a specific color, buy them in bloom so you are guaranteed the color you are looking for.  Start watching for insects and diseases.  The mild winter has everything getting started early.  The sooner you can catch a problem, and properly identify it, the sooner you can get it under control.

(March 2010)

QuestionI have a neighbor that needs some help with her nine window boxes.    Her window boxes are 36" long, 7 1/2 " wide and 6 " deep, and they have a nice layer of moss all around, and no plastic liner.   There are 4 on the first floor and 5 on the second.  They get some morning sun, the 4 on the right more - maybe 4 hours, and the 5 on the left maybe 2-3 hours.   Watering is not a problem, but her house is a dark red.  Light pinks, yellows, white and any shade of green, especially the silver ones would look good.  She would like a cascading effect on the top 5 as they are so high up.  Would perennials work? That way she wouldn’t have to replant every year.  Any suggestions you have would be wonderful.


AnswerThere are two reasons I would probably opt for more annuals than perennials.  First, I wonder how long perennials would last in these window boxes.  The soil temperature will get much colder in these moss lined wire containers than in the ground, the containers aren't that large, so the volume of soil is smaller, and they will be elevated, so my guess is that most perennials would freeze or at least go totally dormant during the winter.  Another downside for flower potential, is that perennials have a defined season of bloom and then they have a period of just green growth.   Do you want them to have color in the winter months as well?   How awful would it be to use annuals? For the summer season, Silver falls dichondra would be fantastic in them as would the sweet potato vine--there is a pink and white variegated one, or even the Blackie would look good.  If you want to try a perennial, try variegated Vinca major or the variegated needlepoint ivy.  Creeping jenny would also be nice, but the bright yellow of the foliage might clash--you may want to go with the green one.  For color in the pots that is more upright, try the Zahara zinnias, bubblegum pink petunias or angelonia.  These are all annuals, but give you way more color in a season than perennials would.  Some of the smaller ornamental grasses may also be a perennial option for filler.

(April 2006)

QuestionMy wife and I recently bought our first home. At the time, it had a handsome flower bed. Not being floral experts, we asked the previous owners how they cared for the plants. One plant needed to be pruned, which we did. The others required no pruning or any other maintenance, we were told. Now, what we believe are elephant ears, and some of the other plants, still show no sign of life. I realize they may be reading the weather better than we, but I wonder if there is more that needs to be done. Would you help us by identifying the plants and suggesting any care or maintenance the plants need?


AnswerIn the picture you sent, the main plants you have are elephant ears, cannas and hostas. These are all perennials and should be sprouting within the next couple of weeks. Growth rates vary based on soil temperature. In south Arkansas last week, I was amazed at how much had already begun, while in cooler areas, it is not unusual to see sprouting begin in mid April. Be patient for now. The blooming plants appear to be zinnias--it looks like the Profusion Cherry and White zinnias. These are summer annuals and will need to be replanted. I do think you probably want to incorporate some evergreen shrubs in the landscape so your winter landscape is not so barren. You may need to regroup some of the perennials to make way for shrubs, but this can be done as the plants emerge this spring.

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