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Ask Dr. Hort: Feed the papayas well

Asian jasmine is tough

Q: My problem is with my Asiatic jasmine ground cover that I've had for six or seven years. There are now several spots that appear to be dying out and I don't know what to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Noel Hines, St. Petersburg

A: Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) is the toughest ground cover this side of the equator. Hot or cold, wet or dry, almost nothing seems to hurt it. You can even use a glyphosate product, half strength, over the top to control weeds and that doesn't phase it. There are no diseases that seem to hurt it. Either check for a broken sprinkler head, if someone spilled something or a new big dog in the neighborhood.

That's spittle bug foam

Q: What is the white foamy substance on my gaillardia? I have just been cutting off affected parts of plants but the foam continues to appear. How do I get rid of it?

Barbara Gardner, Largo

A: What you have is the larval form of spittle bugs. The adult is black, up to 1/4 inch with orange stripes. They lay eggs in a secretion in early summer, and upon hatching the little nymphs whip up the secretion into a frothy mass for protection. If you're really curious you can probe through the spittle to find the little green nymphs, which by fall develop into adults. They do very little damage with their little sucking mouthpart; just leave them be.

Herbicide okay in flower beds

A: I have three long, narrow flower beds plus one short bed in my back yard, plus one long irregularly shaped bed in my front yard. I have neglected them because I do not yet know what I will do with them after we finish removing an old spa and a dilapidated wooden deck from the back yard. I don't know yet what I will do where the deck was, but we do plan on installing a nice 6-foot fence around the back yard. Then we plan to do some landscaping. I have weeded the flower beds several times but, of course, the weeds keep coming back.

What can I do to get rid of the weeds until I decide what and where to plant in these beds? Is there something I can spray them with and not harm the soil without having to dig up and pull all out of the weeds? I don't have time to keep pulling weeds.

Robert Smoak Sr.

A: The easiest thing to do would be to spray the beds with Round-Up or other glyphosate containing herbicide like Glypro or Razor. Theses products need to be sprayed on the leaves of the weeds and will do a good job on most broad leaf and grassy weeds. If sedges are also a problem (shiny, looks like grass, but with a triangular seed stalk when cut instead of round), then Image (imazaquin) is the better choice. Together you'll whack everything. Neither product will harm your future landscaping.

Dwarf holly is native

Q: I started out about four years ago with pots made of compost material that have been falling apart. I'm going to get new ceramic pots. I have dwarf Walter's viburnum, but the drip system failed and I didn't know it until they all turned brown. No warning like leaves drooping, nothing; one day I found them brown. What's another Florida native plant (miniature) or something different that I can use in the pots (they are about 21 inches high)? I don't need flowers, just something that will stay green all year.

Judy Mattis, Holiday

A: There are many dwarf varieties of yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) that are evergreen and grow all over the state.

Need help?

Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles answers questions about landscape and garden pests. E-mail your questions to or to (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: Feed the papayas well 09/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 4:30am]
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