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August 2012

QuestionI have quite a few different kinds of plants and shrubs- Hosta, hydrangeas, day lilies, caladiums, azaleas, heuchera, lorapetalums, etc. They are shaded, semi-shaded and in the sun. I have set up a "drip" system on a timer and with adjustable heads, so I can vary the amount of water (but not the frequency) to each plant. Can you recommend a reference source where I can get precise information for watering? Most instructions I have seen are very vague.


AnswerUnfortunately I don’t think such a guide exists, since there are so many plants out there, and so many variables. Variables include the type of plant, the type of soil—rich, deep soil or pitiful rocky soil; slope of the yard, amount of sunlight or shade the plant gets, age of the plants, and plant spacing. Of the plants you mentioned, hydrangeas, hostas and azaleas would be the most water needy, but again amounts will vary by how much sunlight they receive, your soil, and how much space you have between plants. Caladiums will need more water in the sun than in the shade, and I find that loropetalums are pretty drought tolerant once established. Daylilies can definitely take dry conditions, but it will impact blooming. The key is to really learn your landscape. I have beds in full sun in which some plants wilt regardless of how much I water when temperatures exceed 100, and I have some old established beds with hollies, aucuba and camellias that seem to take what life throws at them.

March 2012

QuestionCould you please tell me what plant I could use as a border for my flowerbed? Right now I have monkey grass and I really don't like it. Is there something I could plant that stays low and doesn't spread everywhere. If I keep the monkey grass, is there anything I can spray on it that will kill the bermuda grass but not hurt the monkey grass.


AnswerIn full sun, candytuft is a nice low growing perennial that makes a good border or edging plant, but it does need to be pruned after flowering. Dwarf daylilies, prostrate rosemary and thyme are also good choices. In the shade you can use heuchera or small ferns. Make sure there is a border between your landscape beds and lawn, or the grass will constantly encroach. Grass specific herbicides such as Grass-b-gone, Over the top, and Ornamec will kill grass without hurting most broadleaf ornamentals, including monkey grass (not a true grass, but actually in the lily family.)

August 2010

QuestionAll this summer I have been trying to grow various heucheras. Every time I see an article or suggestion about shade gardens, these plants are encouraged. Because I have so many trees in my backyard, I bought at least seven or eight varieties and decided to re-pot them to keep them from drying out until I'm sure of where I'd like to plant them. But each time I bought some, the leaves dried up within days. The roots on each looked healthy, and the soil in each pot is kept reasonably moist (not wet). Do you have any idea as to what the problem could be?


AnswerThere are hundreds of cultivars of heuchera on the market and some can take the heat and humidity of the south, and others look at it and die. When you are choosing heucheras look for Heuchera villosa in the parentage. H. villosa is much more heat and humidity tolerant than standard heucheras, and the plants should be evergreen for us--provided they have ample moisture--but in very well drained soil. Heavy soils and heucheras are not a good combination. Many recommend raised beds or even containers for heuchera care. Some varieties to try include: 'Citronelle', 'Caramel', 'Crème Brulee' and 'Frosted Violet'. Heucheras typically start to play out after three to four years, but there are so many plants to choose from you have lots of options.      


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