Thursday, April 19, 2018
Home and Garden

Answers to your questions about jasmine; papaya; foxtail palm

Good fence-climbing vines

Q: Will jasmine, particularly confederate or star jasmine, grow well on a stockade-type wood fence? I believe that jasmine is not destructive and would love the fragrance and flowers they provide. I don't want a very "thick" plant as the space between my fence and pool screen goes from about 4 feet down to about 2 feet in the corner, and I want to be able to walk by it without getting entangled.

Jasmine should be easy to keep trimmed relatively close to the fence and still look good. I know that it grows up chain link and shadow box fencing, and trellises and lattice work where it can twine around. I'm worried it doesn't have the feet, or roots, to adhere to a board on board fence.

If they won't grow on my fence, do you have any suggestions that might work well?

Devon Preidis

A: You've got the wrong plants for the wrong place all the way around!

Confederate jasmine (jessamine*), Trachelospermum jasminoides, is a twining vine that needs the other surfaces that you mentioned to grow well vertically. Star jasmine, Jasminum nitidum, grows more as a shrub and would be too large a plant for your specified area.

Yet another problem with your idea is that growing vines on a wood fence traps moisture and causes the wood to rot prematurely. So, you might want to change the fence and grow confederate jessamine; honeysuckle, Lonicera spp.; Mandevilla spp., Madagascar jessamine (Hawaiian wedding flower), Stephanotis floribunda; and wax plant, Hoya carnosa. They're all twining vines, and provide a plethora of scent spring through fall, enough to drive your olfactory receptors insane!

* Jessamine is a term applied to plants that are called jasmines, but botanically are not. Only plants in the genus Jasminum spp., such as star jasmine, are true jasmines. The multitude of others are impostors.

Diagnosing brown, yellow palm fronds

Q: Can you tell me what I need to do to stop browning, yellowing palm fronds? I have used magnesium — I thought I read this in one of your articles. It's not working. Terry Murphy

A: The disease rachis blight can cause the uneven browning and yellowing of the fronds as shown in the photos of your foxtail palm (Wodyetia bifurcata), which will usually cure itself over time with no fungicides needed as long as nutrition is kept at optimum levels. The new growth (spear leaf) looks healthy, a good sign. Fertilize with 8-0-12 along with S/A Essential Minor Elements or 8-2-12 palm fertilizer applied now and October according to label directions. Keep in mind that some areas there is a "summer blackout ban" on sales of fertilizers that contain nitrogen or phosphorus, so the fertilizer may not be available. It will take about a year for the crown to replace itself.

Mystery seedling turns out to be .. .

Q: I found this as a seedling growing in my back yard. I thought it was a papaya, but all the papayas I've seen bear fruit close to the main stem or trunk. Notice how this fruit seems to be at the end of a stem, which at first appeared to be a male blossom. This is its first year. What do I have?

B. Leslie Rudloff, Safety Harbor

A: You do have a papaya. Yes, it is a male with the arching flower stalks, and you are correct that female plants have a single, much larger, flower where the leaf petiole joins the stem along with a hermaphrodite, where you commonly see fruit. However, every once in a while a male plant will produce a bisexual flower that will produce an elongated fruit with a thicker flesh and smaller seed cavity.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of varieties of papayas, Carica papaya, and when planted from seed, about 50 percent will be male. However, solo varieties — including Know-You No 1, Red Lady, Sunrise and Waimanalo — produce no male plants, either female or hermaphrodites, so are best for home gardens. A hermaphrodite flower contains male and female flower parts in the same flower, which produces a fruit every time, whereas a female needs a stud nearby to be pollinated in order to produce a fruit. The University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture website shows in detail the three types of flowers and also has descriptive information about each type. Visit and enter "papayas" in the Site Search field.

The wide world of the clerodendrum

Q: I noticed that a plant was possibly misidentified in the Aug. 25 HomeLink section. The red flowering plant looks like a pagoda plant, not a glory bower as described in your column. Glory bowers have a lilac-colored bloom and butterflies do indeed love them. We have a yard full of them. They are very invasive and we were advised to get rid of them by our local horticulture agent. However, because the butterflies love them so much, we have just tried to control them. They are easy to pull up and usually die back in the winter.

Pagodas are also invasive and much harder to pull up than the glory bowers. I've had to dig them up to move them or get rid of them. Our butterflies seem to like the glory bowers much more than the pagodas. The pagodas are also taller plants than the glory bowers.

Please check to see if I am right in my identifications.

Linda Reiland

A: There are more than 400 species of Clerodendrum and several have more than one common name, which can be quite confusing. Until recently, they were all in the verbena family, Verbenaceae, along with golden dew drop, lantana, porter weed and verbena. They have now been reclassified into the Lamiaceae family along with mint, rosemary, coleus and salvia.

If this isn't confusing enough, some of the clerodendrums' genus names (the first name) have changed, such as butterfly bush, also know as Oxford bush and Cambridge bush (the blue one called Clerodendrum ugandense, now Rotheca myricoides 'Ugandense'.

The one in Sunday's Times was correctly named as Clerodendrum speciosissimum, with common names of glory bower, pagoda flower and giant salvia, which have randomly spaced clusters of red and orange flowers. Then there is Clerodendrum paniculatum, with pagoda flower as its only common name, which has a column of well organized red and orange flowers.

As our reader mentioned, they all have a tendency to travel around the yard popping up from root suckers, but are easily pulled where they are not wanted and all are butterfly magnets.

Eric Schmidt's article "Clerodendrums for Central Florida" does a grand job of making sense of the ever-changing genus, Clerodendrum spp. (note that "spp." following a genus name means all of the species in that genus).