Ask Dr. Hort: Choosing the best fertilizer for orchids

Choosing the best fertilizer for orchids

Q: Can I use Miracle-Gro on my orchid or would I be better to get orchid fertilizer? Roger Gingras, Seminole

A: Not such a quick answer. If your orchid media is made up of tree fern, osmunda, peat, charcoal or stone, the general consensus is to use a 1-1-1 ratio, nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) fertilizer. Common products would be 20-20-20, 10-10-10. If your orchid media is bark, a 3-1-1 ratio is popular. Products like 30-10-10 or 15-5-5 are acceptable. These numbers (20-20-20) are called the analysis and that's more important than Miracle-Gro or orchid fertilizer. This information is found on the label, usually on the back of the product in small print. Check the label to see if there are some micronutrients, like iron, manganese and zinc; this is also a plus. Follow label directions for application rate.

Nonflowering vines for a garden arbor

Q: I read in HomeLink about flowering vines for a garden arbor. We have an arbor also, but it is very close to our outdoor eating area. Are there any nonflowering vines you could suggest for this area?

Tony Militti, Holiday

A: The choices are much fewer for vines with inconspicuous flowers. If you have some upper canopy shade, English ivy and all of its cultivars (Hedera helix) or its cousin, Algerian ivy (Hedera canariensis), would have colorful foliage and be maintenance-free. Bush ivy (Fatshedera lizei) is an underused plant, but I think perfect for this application. It is a cross between English ivy and a much larger grower called fatsia. The leaves look like English ivy but five times the size. Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) and its many cultivars along with Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) and its cultivars would be good choices under full sun. The foliage here, even though much smaller, is also quite colorful and maintenance-free. You see Asian jasmine and the ivies used frequently as ground covers. All are hardy in your area.

Eliminate mealy bugs, keep the stink bugs

Q: What are these? I have been wiping the muhly grass with rubbing alcohol to get rid of the white insects (mealy bugs?). Good idea?

Barbara Gardner, Largo

A: The black bug is a stink bug, however a beneficial species. Green stink bugs feed on plants; brown and black species are predators. For your mealy bugs on muhly grass, cut out the infested part and use horticultural oil as a follow-up, applying every seven to 10 days for three applications. You seem to scout very well, catching infestations early. Keep up the good work!

Trying to grow royal poinciana in Pinellas

Q: I returned from a Keys trip and a friend gave me a pod 12 inches long with sounds like some type of seeds are in it. We think it is a royal poinciana. I tried every way I could to look it up on the Internet. No luck. Can you give us any help? Can it grow in Safety Harbor? How can we start the seeds, or should we even try?

Kay Kennedy, Safety Harbor

A: If the pod is flat like a big bean, looks like leather and the seeds rattle, it is probably a royal poinciana, Delonix regia. The royal poinciana is a spectacular reddish-orange flowering tree. Southern Pinellas is actually pushing the limit for cold. Zone 11 (Fort Myers, Naples, south to the Keys) is a better home. You can propagate the seeds by cracking open the pod and soaking the seeds overnight in hot tap water (run tap full hot, toss in seeds, let stand overnight). Then sow the seeds at a depth of 3/4 inch in peat moss and keep moist.

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, city and contact information, including daytime phone number. If possible, include a photo.

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, city and contact information. If possible, include a photo. We will print his advice on Saturdays in HomeLink.

Ask Dr. Hort: Choosing the best fertilizer for orchids 09/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 3, 2010 5:30am]

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