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Ask Dr. Hort: Bougainvilleas often don't bloom in wet summer

With the rainy season over, it's time for bougainvillea blooms

Q: I have two bougainvilleas that have not bloomed in quite a while. I cut them back after last year's freeze and have tried different fertilizers without success. Allene Gower

A: It is very common for bougainvillea to go out of flower in the wet summer. Irrigation also adds to the problem. After drying out in the fall, this is a good time for bougainvilleas to be back in flower. Fertilizers high in nitrogen (the first number on the label), like 16-4-8 or 23-3-3, will cause your plants to grow and grow, but without flowering.

After flowering is over, it's a good idea to cut bougainvilleas back to your desired height.

Foil nematodes with raised-bed gardening

Q: How can I get rid of root-knot nematodes? I use nematode-resistant varieties of tomatoes and have success with them. But I have not found a variety of okra, Swiss chard or snow peas that is nematode-resistant. I have tried to bake the soil in my tiny plot by covering the damp soil with plastic in May and June. I don't think this really works. Each fall, I add my compost and some store-bought compost to my plot. Martha Gray

A: There is nothing on the market, nor a quick fix, that will solve your nematode problems. I am glad to see that you had success with your nematode-resistant tomatoes.

You'll need to go to a "raised bed" to get rid of nematodes. Use 2 by 10 lumber pieces and build a frame the size you want your garden to be. Use pressure-treated wood if you want your frame to last longer. Fill the raised bed with a quality potting mix from your local nursery, not topsoil.

Each year, continue to add your compost to keep your bed full because organics are continually breaking down, releasing nutrients.

And here's why it works: Nematodes don't like organics and will stay down in the original soil. Add a low-flow drip irrigation system and you'll need to start a vegetable stand. On a less grandiose scale, you can use 15-gallon nursery pots.

That plant of yours? It's voodoo lily

Q: I'm hoping you can tell me the name of the plant shown in the picture. I bought it from a nursery about 25 years ago and it continued to grow into a large grouping, thriving in sun or shade. It is deciduous and when it comes up in the spring, the very large bulb throws up a phallus-like flower. The stems are very unusual, slightly nubby and speckled in a cream color. In my memory, the name "snake plant" comes to mind, but when I check that, it doesn't appear to be correct. Pat Lawrence, Lutz

A: What you have is voodoo lily (Amorphophallus bulbifer). You described the plant perfectly. It is a member of the Araceae or arum family along with philodendrons, caladiums, spathiphyllums, anthuriums and many more. They are all characterized with having a spathe, colorful petal and a spadix, the reproductive part or phalluslike part making up the flower. Amorphophallus species grow from a bulb, and yours (bulbifer) has bulbs that form up in the leaf axils. As the plant loses its leaf, the bulbs fall, making a grouping like yours. Amorphophallus titanum produces the largest flower, several feet tall, which catches attention because of its size and horrific odor. Fortunately, yours is not quite as pungent.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. E-mail him at drhort@tampabay.rr.com or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Need help?

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. E-mail him at drhort@tampabay.rr.com or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Ask Dr. Hort: Bougainvilleas often don't bloom in wet summer 12/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 17, 2010 3:30am]

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