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Ask Dr. Hort: Palmetto St. Augustine grass has familiar issues

Palmetto grass still needs plenty of care

Q: I have had St. Augustine grass for nine years and have replaced it four times. I was told about palmetto St. Augustine and its tolerance for cold and drought. What advice can you offer? Thank you. Steve Gorey

A: The semidwarf Palmetto is one of the cultivars of St. Augustine grass, which also includes Seville, Delmar and Jade. It performs well in part shade or full sun, but not dense shade. It is somewhat drought-tolerant, but it will require supplemental irrigation.

Like all St. Augustine grasses, it is susceptible to chinch bugs and lawn diseases. Before installation, irrigate so that sod is placed on moist ground. It will root faster. If it is "muck grown" (500 square feet per pallet), it should be rolled and irrigated after installation. If it is "sand grown" (400 square feet per pallet), it should be irrigated after installation. Irrigate daily, if no rain, for 30 days, then follow current water restrictions. Mow at 2 to 2 1/2 inches, with a sharp blade, unlike Floratam at 3 to 4 inches. Fertilize with a slow-release product in October and May and be vigilant for chinch bugs, diseases and occasionally grubs.

Unfortunately, there still is no perfect turf for Florida. We should all continue to think about alternatives: ground covers, shrubs, vines and trees that don't require being replaced four times in nine years.

Hibiscus blooms and rain lilies

Q: I have two questions. First, I have four hibiscus, all different species, which are full of buds. They keep falling off before they bloom. Also, I've been amazed at how quickly those beautiful rain flowers appear after a rainstorm. They are really beautiful. Where can I buy the tubers? I am in Hudson and wonder if there is a nursery around me to get them. Thanks for your help. Elaine L. Eichler

A: If I understand correctly from additional information you provided, your hibiscus are in pots and therein lies the problem of bud drop. A main cause is moisture fluctuation in the soil. Your potted hibiscus may likely be root-bound; when watered they drain excessively and then dry out quickly. This wet/dry cycle is causing your problem. Upgrade your plants to the next pot size with a quality container mix and your blooms should hold.

The rain flowers are more commonly called rain lilies (Zephyranthes grandiflora), which are the bright pink ones, the largest of the genus, which colonize our wet spaces along roadsides during the rainy season. There are other colors from white to yellow also spotted, and new colors from orange to red, created through hybridization. They can be ordered online.

After the flower falls, a seed pod will follow. As it turns yellow, open it and black, waferlike seeds will fall out. Pot them up and in two to three weeks they will germinate. Next summer they will flower, starting the cycle all over again.

A closer look at succulents

Q: Could you identify these plants for me? Thank you.

Frank Flesch

A: The little guy is Haworthia turgida (left), which is in the Asphodelaceae family along with a better known succulent, the aloe. The big guy is macrantha virescens (right), which is in the Crassulaceace family along with a better known succulent, the jade plant. Collecting succulents can be quite the hobby. I hope you have plenty of room and time if the bug really bites. Enjoy!

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

Ask Dr. Hort: Palmetto St. Augustine grass has familiar issues 11/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 4:30am]
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