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April 1, 2017

QuestionI have a small planter on top of the brick mailbox.  It gets full sun all day.  I have tried various flowers in the summer, but haven't had much luck.  What kind of flowers would you recommend for this very hot place during summer?



Small containers in a brick planter in full sun are going to get hot and dry quickly.  You might want to try one of the succulent plants like sedum or hens and chicks, which should be winter hardy, but again in a small container may not overwinter well.  There are numerous succulents that we treat as annuals that can give you color all summer and will last until a killing frost.  Succulents have gotten very popular so they should be readily available.


July 2012

QuestionLike a lot of people, I'm losing some plants this summer. You may know that here in Maumelle, we're restricted to once-a-week watering. Even sneaking around my back yard with my hose isn't doing the job! You mentioned in your column today that hydrangeas are not drought-tolerant. I have one that's in a bad spot that I think I'll just take out after this year, so I know what you're talking about. My question is this: Would it be possible for you to print a list of plants that are drought-tolerant in an upcoming column? I've threatened to tear everything out and plant cacti next year or maybe just rosemary and Black-eyed Susans, since that's all that's doing well in my garden right now!


AnswerAs mentioned above with the crape myrtles, even they are struggling with the heat! Also, when planting even the most drought tolerant plants, the first growing season, they will need water. I can’t imagine what my landscape would look like with once a week watering—the soil is so incredibly rocky, and I am on a slope, so I feel for you with water restrictions. Deep, excellent soil encourages deep roots, which makes it easier to water less often. Some drought tolerant shrubs for sun include: abelia, althea (rose of Sharon), forsythia, spirea, buddleia (butterfly bush), barberry, junipers, beautyberry, nandina and ninebark. For shade, acuba, cleyera, and even camellias once they are well established. Perennials include rosemary, thyme, lamb’s ear, butterfly weed (milkweed), yarrow, gaura, rudbeckia (black eyed Susan), purple coneflower, liatris, sedum and penstemon. Annuals include lantana, periwinkle, cleome (spider flower), cockscomb, cosmos and portulaca. There are also a good number of succulents—plants with thick fleshy leaves that are available from nurseries.

May 2012

QuestionI would like to plant a plumeria but don't know if they will work in my situation. They are fairly expensive so I am asking before the purchase. It will be in a pot on my patio (apt dweller) which gets direct sun or not as I have a high-end solar sun screen shade that I can control to shade or sun the area. If you think it will work there, what do I do with it in the winter? Inside I have two 4 ft. grow lights that I use for a pretty large fish-tail palm if that would help and an afternoon sunny window.


AnswerPlumeria is a great tropical plant for a patio, and it loves full sun. You are correct that it would not overwinter outdoors, but you have several options. It can come indoors and grow well in a sunny room, or you can simply store it in a garage—some place where it will not freeze. We used to have a gardener in Hot Springs who had 20 or more plants. He planted them in the garden in late spring, had a flowering oasis by late summer, and in the fall, simply pulled them up and stored them bare root in his garage until the following spring. If you have ever been to Hawaii, you see them sold as a small dead looking stem with no leaves or roots. As long as they aren’t freezing, they should do fine, but would also do well in a pot inside.

November 2011

QuestionWe need some suggestions or ideas for an evergreen barrier that will get to 3-4 ft tall in pm sun on the south and west side of our yard. We want to run this about 100 ft long. Water is no problem. Types and spacing ideas would be greatly appreciated.


AnswerThere are a wide range of plants that stay in the 3-4 foot range including compacta hollies, loropetalum—both green leafed and purple leafed (check variety height), Indian hawthorne, boxwoods and even nandinas. All will take full sun. For a denser hedge, stagger the planting in a zigzag pattern instead of in a straight row.

November 2011

QuestionThe Conservation District in our county in their "Beautification Tree Project" offered a choice of thirteen ornamental trees for sale. Some were native, others included some alien invasive species, such as Cleveland Pear and the Mimosa tree. What is the effect of adding these trees to our landscape and neighborhoods? As good stewards what should be recommended or omitted from planting in our communities?


AnswerIn looking at the plant list I have to commend them for making some great trees available at really good prices. Two named cultivars of red maple, the native fringe tree, dogwood and tulip poplar, in addition to yellowwood, smoke tree, redbud and golden raintree are great trees. It looks like they are going for trees that have some form of color, whether from flowers or from fall foliage. The Cleveland pear fits the bill, but is not high on my list of favorites. It is a smaller adult form of the ornamental pear which we collectively often call Bradford, but it still can fruit and become invasive. We have seedling callery pears coming up all over our state. The mimosa, however, I do consider a trash tree. Many folks like them, but they often suffer from mimosa wilt and send up seedlings, so not a good choice.

February 2011

QuestionI have a bunch of Encore azaleas that have bloomed every year since I planted them 2-3 years ago. The problem is they haven’t thrived. I took a cutting to a nursery and a guy there told me that the leaves were burnt. Is it possible that these azaleas are planted too close to the white siding of my house that the afternoon sun is being reflected onto these azaleas and burning them?


AnswerEncore azaleas can tolerate more sunlight, but they do like water. Last summer took its toll on many plants. If they weren’t watered well, they could have been burned. Winter damage can also cause burned leaves. Wait and see what happens this spring as they start growing, then assess the damage and prune them then. Make sure they are mulched and watered, and fertilize them after the first bloom and see how they do.

November 2010

QuestionAbout five years ago I planted a rooted magnolia that was about a foot high. Today, it is about 10 feet high and healthy...except it has never blossomed! Before I cut it down, I wanted to check with you to see if t here is any way I can make it bloom. There is a huge magnolia tree across the street from me so shouldn't that take care of any necessary pollination?


Answer      A traditional southern magnolia can take 8-10 years before it begins blooming, so I think patience is in order. The stately Magnolia grandiflora is a huge tree at maturity and often gets too large for a common landscape. For that reason, many are planting the smaller ‘Little Gem’ magnolia or ‘Bracken's Brown Beauty’. The leaves and flowers are about 1/2 the size of the standard, but an added benefit, besides the smaller size is that they bloom at a very young age. For your tree, just enjoy the evergreen foliage. Once it begins to bloom, provided it has plenty of sun, you should have flowers every year.      

October 2010

QuestionI was given a Mexican petunia plant that is bare root and I plant to plant soon. What can you tell me about it? I have never heard of it before, am told it is very hardy and blooms well. It has 2 purple blooms on it now.


AnswerMexican petunia is Ruellia. It is an extremely heat and drought tolerant perennial. There is a standard variety that grows about three feet tall and has purple flowers and is very hardy. It can also get a little too happy in the garden and spread, so pay attention to it. There is also a dwarf ruellia that gets no taller than 6 inches and is marginally hardy in NW Arkansas. Plant yours in full sun and water and mulch it and it should survive the winter.

March 2010

QuestionI am new to the gardening scene and have recently relocated to Mountain View. My dad is encouraging me to plant several rows of flowers in one end of his vegetable garden. The soil is mostly sandy loam, and the garden gets full sun. I would like bright colored plants (reds, pink, and yellow) that are no more than 2 feet tall. Can you recommend varieties of flowers that should do well within these criteria? Also, what fertilizer should I use?


AnswerYou have many options. I assume you want annual flowers –which means you will replant every year, but that gives you new opportunities every season. For full sun you can plant lantana –comes in red, orange, yellow and multi-colored; penta – red, pink or white; zinnias –a huge color range; angelonia – pink, purple or white; petunias –look for the wave type or Bubblegum pink is a strong performer in pink—but they do come in red, purple and white colors too. Callibrachoa comes in pink, purple, orange or yellow and looks like a miniature petunia. These are all summer annuals and you need to hold off on planting until mid April—give the soil a chance to warm up. Incorporate a complete fertilizer—I like the slow release forms like osmocote, dynamite or similar product, at planting, then use a water soluble form like Miracle-Gro, Peter’s or similar every week to ten days if you really want to push them. I have good intentions to fertilize that often, but usually don’t do it more than once a month. Annual plants benefit from regular fertilizer but they will still bloom if you aren’t as diligent. Of course, keep up with watering and mulch the plants to discourage weeds.


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