Peach trees, flowering trees offer shade
Q: We live in a mobile home park and have a very small front yard facing west. We would like some kind of tree that will grow tall enough to provide some shade for our front rooms. We can't afford anything expensive but don't want to wait forever for it to grow up. We are in the outskirts of Zephyrhills near State Road 54. The tree would be very close to our driveway and the street. Can you help us? Jack and Julie
A: If you like peaches, that would be a good choice, one with low chilling hours such as the cultivars 'Florida Prince' or 'Tropic Beauty'. A couple of flowering tree choices would be crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia fauriei hybrids. Choose ones with Indian names like Natchez, Arapaho and Muskogee as they are medium-sized and deciduous, meaning they seasonally lose their leaves. Weeping bottlebrush, Callistemon viminalis, is a great evergreen choice with beautiful red flowers in spring. A good native choice would be dahoon holly, Ilex cassine. It is evergreen and has red berries for Christmas. All would be good choices for your small space and thrive in zone 9.
Fortuniana rootstock best for growing roses
Q: I received three bare-root hybrid tea roses referred to as "Sub-Zero Roses." One is labeled Helen Hayes Gold; one is Arctic Flame Red and the third is Senior Prom Pink. They are said to grow 3 to 4 feet tall, and 2 to 3 feet wide.
Can you advise on planting, fertilizing, watering, soil preparation and other care? Thank you. Robert V. Smoak
A: Unfortunately, mail-order bare-root roses are seldom grafted onto Rosa fortuniana rootstock, which is, by far, the best rootstock for growing roses in Florida. All of the culture and care in the world is not going to produce strong, healthy bushes blooming in profusion. If you are lucky however and your roses are on fortuniana rootstock, hop on the computer and go to edis.ifas.ufl.edu and type in "Growing Roses in Florida" in the search box for a wealth of information on rose culture. It is best to purchase locally, container-grown selections for best results and fewer headaches. And remember, always ask if fortuniana is the rootstock.
Zoysia grass no guarantee lawn will look good
Q: My lawn is terrible. Several of my neighbors are putting in zoysia grass. Do you know it? What are your thoughts? Nick Dininni
A: The key to a good-looking lawn is an effective and efficient irrigation system. Without this, Bahia is your only choice. Zoysia grasses have been tried in Florida for years and finally some may look promising. The cultivar 'Empire' seems to have caught on the best. It grows more slowly than St. Augustine, and that means less mowing. If not irrigated adequately it will turn brown, but fortunately that means it's dormant, not dead. Insects called hunting billbugs can be a problem, and dollar spot and large patch can be disease problems. Like all lawn grasses for Florida, they need to be managed well to look their best; zoysia grass is no different.
You might consider reducing your turf area and instead planting trees, shrubs, ground covers and wildflowers, a more Florida-friendly approach.
In the meantime, for everything that you ever wanted to know about lawn grasses for Florida, go to hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn.