Balls on blood lily stems contain seeds
Q: This is what's left after my blood lilies lost their blossoms. Since the lily is a bulb, the yellow and red balls at the end of the stems can't be seeds, can they? What are they and what is their purpose for the plant? Barb Gardner, Largo
A: Blood lilies, Haemanthus katherinae, have been changed to Scadoxus multiflorus subspecies katherinae. Obviously, botanists have way too much free time on their hands, but to us they are still blood lilies. The red and yellow balls are fruits, red being more ripe. As they wrinkle, open them up and scrape out the seeds into a sterile peat-lite mix like Promix or Miracle Gro Potting Mix, cover lightly, keep moist for six months (yes, six months) and you will see grasslike sprouts. They will form bulbs in a year and bloom in the second or third year.
Bay tree's black spots likely mold or scale
Q: I have a bay tree whose leaves are speckled with black spots. I don't see the culprits. Please help with this problem. Elaine Sinoff
A: Bay tree, Laurus nobilis, is usually pest-free. It sounds as if you have one of two problems, sooty mold or fly speck scale. If it wipes off easily with a wet paper towel it is probably sooty mold, not to worry. If the little specs are hard to scrape off with your fingernail it is probably scale. If it is consolidated on just a few leaves, pick the leaves off. If the problem is more widespread, spray with horticultural oil, being sure to contact all of the critters. Repeat spray for three applications, 10 days apart, and always follow label directions. Visit your plant often to see if your management program is working. Wash the leaves and save them for your spaghetti sauce.
Palm, oak fertilizing; crape myrtle fungus
Q: How often should one fertilize oak and palm trees? Also, why does my crape myrtle get a black fungus on it? Lisa Doucet
A: Your oaks and palms should be fertilized twice a year, in May and October, with an 8-2-12 fertilizer plus micronutrients and 50 percent slow-release nitrogen and potassium.
Regarding your crape myrtle's fungus, it's probably caused by the secretions of whiteflies, which the fungus feeds on. Let the leaves fall this year, but rake them up and discard. Next year, place yellow sticky traps in the tree, and when you see the tiny flies on your sticky traps, spray, mostly under the leaves, with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil with neem. Two or three applications may be needed.