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Ask Dr. Hort: Flowering fig plant is hard to find

m Move misplaced plants

Q: We purchased our home two years ago. It had been professionally landscaped. All the plants have grown into one another and I'd like to move them to another part of the yard. I don't know the names of all the plants so I hope you can tell from the pictures I've shared. Is it a good time to move them now? Any help will be appreciated. Thank you. Nancy, New Port Richey

A: The landscaping you inherited is a classic example of "Let's cram everything against the house and sod the rest — and while we're at it, let's block the windows!"

Placing foundation plants close to the house was a practice through the 1950s (when houses were built off of the ground) to hide the crawl space between the bottom of the house and the ground.

In the '60s, the monolithic slab was introduced, and there was no longer a crawl space to hide. Yet we still smash plants against the house. Go figure.

From the photos (including the one that's shared here), the small-facing shrubs are Indian hawthorn, Rhaphiolepis indica, the tall shrubs against the house appear to be heavenly bamboo, Nandina domestica (not to fear, not a bamboo at all), and European fan palms, Chamaerops humilis. Not shown in this photo is your bushy shrub, which appears to be Hibiscus spp., perhaps. The St. Augustine grass, with chinch bug damage, is the turf.

The rainy season, from mid June to mid September, is a great time to transplant. There are no guarantees that they will live, but starting with moist soil will help.

With a sharp garden spade (it has a straight, long blade with a "D" handle) cut roots at the drip line of the plant (the edge of branches) straight down 12 to 16 inches. With a sharp garden shovel (it has a short, round, angled blade with a long handle) dig into the previous cut and under the plant, rocking it loose.

Keep as much soil on the root-ball as possible and move to a new site with the hole prepared (1 cubic foot of soil weighs 100 pounds, so don't be macho; get help and use a wheelbarrow).

Place in the hole, matching the top of the root-ball with the top of the soil. Water in, backfill and make a 6-inch-high soil saucer around the hole. Fill this every other day for six to eight weeks, then follow water restrictions. Good luck!

m Flowering fig hard to find

Q: Can you identify this flowering succulent for me, and where might I purchase it? Thank you. Barb

A: Your picture is of hottentot fig, Carpobrotus edulis. The figlike fruit is edible and the sap from the leaves can be used like aloe for sunburn, scrapes, burns and abrasions. It's not easy to find, but you might try the nursery at the St. Petersburg campus of the Pinellas Technical Education Centers, 901 34th St. S. The nursery is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. Call (727) 893-2500, ext. 1101, for availability and prices of plants.

m Help for hibiscus

Q: My azalea plant has somehow started growing out from the sides with no middle growth upward. Is there any way to correct this? Also, I planted lantana in the fall, and fertilized with Osmocote every couple of months. I have other lantana that are bushy and full, but one plant's stems are showing more than I've ever seen. Is it normal for the stems to show so much? Thank you. Linda Schatz, New Tampa

A: First off, you've got yourself a hibiscus rather than an azalea. It appears to have been frozen — nature's pruning — more on the left than the right. Prune the right side down halfway and again in July or August to try to balance the plant. Without a freeze next winter, the plant should be in balance, so begin to prune both sides equally. Also, pull mulch away from the base of the plant.

Regarding your lantana, it sounds as if something is happening to the root system. It may be getting too much water, as a result of a leaking or broken sprinkler head, or too much zoned sprinkling. Monitor and correct the problem. For lantana that has been in the ground for a few years, nematodes could be the problem. There's no cure for that, however.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. E-mail him at [email protected] 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: Flowering fig plant is hard to find 05/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 5:42pm]
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