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Propagating plumeria is easy; planning butterfly garden is more complex

Propagate plumeria with perfect ease

Q: I'm writing to get some help with my plumeria bush (tree?) that I have grown from a "stick" that my granddaughter gave me a couple of years ago. It has grown very nicely and now stands about 6 feet tall with two prominent branches with blooms on them now. It had previously bloomed from the fork. I keep it in a pot so I can easily move it inside when cold weather sets in. Can I cut the tops off the two branches and have two "sticks" that can be replanted? If so, how do I treat or preserve the two pieces I have removed? Also, will it affect the main plant? Walt Perkins, Homosassa

A: Propagating frangipani, Plumeria spp., is a snap. Prune a 12- to 18-inch cutting, which is ideal, leaving a 6-inch branch or longer on your plant, which will resprout. Do this preferably in spring or summer (winter cuttings will root, but it takes longer). Let your cuttings dry for a week or longer, then remove leaves if present, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder such as Roottone F. Prepare a medium of 50 percent builders sand with 50 percent potting mix (Promix, MiracleGro potting mix) or similar. Put medium in a 1-gallon nursery pot, place cutting about 4 inches into the mix, water in and put in a sunny spot. This would be the ideal way to propagate your plumeria, but if you're feeling lucky, take your cutting and a gallon nursery container, dig some soil out of your back yard and pot up!

All aflutter about new garden

Q: After discovering an orange pup — the caterpillar of the giant swallowtail butterfly — on one of my citrus trees, I've decided to cultivate a butterfly garden. What native plants or trees would make for a vibrant butterfly community? Art Skinner

A: The topic is way too large for this column, but I'll give you some tips and websites on butterfly gardening. As you would with all other animals, you must provide food, water and shelter. Since butterflies go through complete metamorphosis (egg, caterpillar, cocoon and adult), you will need to provide different plants for the kids (larvae or caterpillars) than for the adults (butterflies). So part of your garden gets eaten by the caterpillars (no pesticides, please), while other plants produce nectar for the adults and, based on the plants you choose, dictate whom you'll attract. A great website to get you thinking is nsis.org/butterfly/ butterfly.html. A publication from the University of Florida, tinyurl.com/87tack6, supplies specific information on plants to choose for specific caterpillars and butterflies. If you're really serious, purchase the book Florida Butterfly Gardening: A Complete Guide to Attracting, Identifying, and Enjoying Butterflies, by Marc C. and Maria Minno. The book provides you with plants for both larval and adult feeding, as well as color pictures of both male and female butterflies. It's a must for every butterfly gardener.

Let winter wipe out carpet grass

Q: I recently had a lawn service salesman stop by and give us an estimate on nourishing and feeding our lawn. He indicated that our lawn has a significant amount of carpet grass that he couldn't eliminate. He did say that it can be removed by using Arm & Hammer Fabric Care, three scoops to a gallon of water. Is there any truth to his claim or is there a solution to this carpet grass problem? Matt Sheridan

A: Using household products for weed control is not new, but how they work and how effective they are is a different story. Using baking soda, a salt (sodium bicarbonate) or products containing baking soda (Arm & Hammer Fabric Care) dehydrate plant leaves, but rarely the root. You can accomplish the same thing with too much fertilizer (salts), dehydrating the plant. Carpet grass likes moist areas, so check your irrigation. It also dies off after the first frost. You would be better off to let the winter take its toll, rake out the areas, put down a pre-emergent herbicide, resod the areas after checking your irrigation system for overapplication, and leave the Arm & Hammer in the washing machine.

Mold finds its niche on Robellini palms

Q: I have a problem with my Robellini. It has developed a black film all over the plant, especially on the lower branches closer to the trunk. I am also seeing a few white, cottonlike areas. Any idea what's wrong with the palm? It is one of two plants on my pool deck planted in 2003. Also, can you tell me what will be a good fertilizer? Or should I just use regular soil? The beds are covered with lava rocks. I live in Pasco County, and these two trees do not get much water. They are 6 feet tall.

Blanca Colon, Wesley Chapel

A: It sounds like you have sooty mold, an opportunistic fungus that doesn't hurt the plant. The black film feeds on honey dew (sugary excrement) deposited from the mealybugs, white cottony areas that are sucking plant juices on your pigmy date palm, Phoenix roebelenii. Apply neem oil, as directed on the label, directly to the cottony masses and the leaves. The oil smothers the mealybugs and their crawlers (babies) and keeps any hatchlings from becoming adults, winding down the population. It takes some time but is very biofriendly. Purchase a good palm fertilizer, making sure it has magnesium and manganese. Water fertilizer in and continue watering weekly to continue to release the fertilizer through the winter.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at drhort@tampabay.rr.com or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay 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.

Propagating plumeria is easy; planning butterfly garden is more complex 02/25/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 3:30am]
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