Ask Dr. Hort: It's a good time to prune freeze-damaged citrus trees

It's a good time to prune freeze-damaged citrus trees

Q: My orange tree got hit with the freeze. The leaves are curled up and falling off. The oranges are okay. Will the tree revive? There are a few green shoots coming out. Please advise.

Anne Acollard, Spring Hill

A: Unlike for many other plants in the freeze-damaged landscape, now is a great time to prune your citrus. With the tree leafless, get rid of crisscrossing branches, reduce the height to make picking easier and get rid of internal dead wood. Citrus will be flushing out in a few weeks, so don't delay. The leaf drop means the wood is okay and your tree will be fine. If your oranges actually froze, you will see white flecks where the sugars turned back to starch, but still no harm. Just hope for no more freezes this year!

Pomegranate's problem may be water

Q: I am having some problems with my pomegranate tree. Two years ago all the fruit was bad, the next year the fruit was good and this year the tree was dropping all the fruit. I don't know what to do.

Bob Kahn, Port Richey

A: It seems like a bad case of pomegranate luck. Actually, pomegranates have a disease problem called leaf blotch and fruit spot where the leaves get reddish to black spots about 1/4 of an inch in diameter, and the fruit gets small brown spots, damaging the fruit and causing them to drop.

Warm, humid, rainy weather promotes the disease. Too much irrigation or irrigation directed on the plant can add to the problem. Three sprays of neutral copper — one each in spring, summer and fall — should solve the problem. Your fruit drop is common with young trees (3 to 6 years old). Again, too much irrigation or excessive rainfall during fruit development can enhance the problem. Like teenagers, they will grow out of problems as they age.

Give crotons a chance to show a little life

Q: We live on the Gulf of Mexico in Tarpon Springs. Will azaleas tolerate the saltwater spray? Currently we have crotons planted and the cold killed most of those, so I need to replace them with something that can tolerate the conditions.

Karen Brayboy, Tarpon Springs

A: If you cut your crotons way back, they are probably still alive. Scratch the stem with your thumbnail or pocket knife until you see green. See if that height is acceptable. If not, replace the plants. Azaleas would be a poor choice as they don't like the salt or the high soil pH. Some native seaside plants to consider would be necklace pod (Sophora tomentosa), coontie (Zamia integrifolia), yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis) or Southern wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera). Some non-natives would be oleander (Nerium oleander), pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira, both green and variegated) and Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens). These shrubs will give you a start. Check out a native nursery like Wilcox or Twigs and Leaves for more ideas.

Need help?

Enter Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles, who for more than 30 years educated gardeners through the Pinellas Technical Education Centers. He answers questions about landscape and garden pests. E-mail your questions to drhort@tampabay.rr.com or to features@sptimes.com (put Dr. Hort in the subject line). Mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe your problem in full, and include your name and contact information. If possible, include a photo. We will print his advice on Saturdays in HomeLink.

Ask Dr. Hort: It's a good time to prune freeze-damaged citrus trees 02/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2010 3:30am]

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