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Start planting!

March is an excellent month to plant shrubs, trees, vines and perennials. Both hardy and tropical plants can be installed now.

When planting from a container or transplanting from another location, make sure you don't set the plant any deeper than it was originally growing.

CONSERVATION: March is usually the beginning of our drought period. Conserve water by using mulches around plants and in annual or vegetable beds. Weeds use a lot of water, so pull or hoe them out. This is also a good time to consider putting in a drip irrigation system. Studies prove that less water is used with drip irrigation, and less is lost to evaporation.

ANNUALS: Summer annuals can be started from seed directly in the garden or in seed flats. Marigold, impatiens, celosia and zinnia are easy to start from seed. Cover the seed bed with a very fine layer of milled peat moss or sifted soil. Keep the area moist until the true leaves appear by misting the soil several times a day.

AZALEAS: Established plants should be pruned after blooming. Several light prunings early in the spring and up until July will encourage numerous branches and produce a more compact shrub.

BULBS: Many different bulbs can be grown successfully in Florida. Amaryllis, canna, crinum, daylily and spider lily are common in our area. Some are true bulbs, other are rhizomes, tubers or corms. You may wish to try some different ones this year. Amazon lily (Eucharis grandiflora) can be planted from February through May and will bloom in the winter. It needs partial shade and should be planted with the tip of the bulb on the surface of the soil. Amazon lilies will grow in the ground, but in Florida they do best in pots because they bloom during the summer. If you're really daring, choose the voodoo lily (Amorphophallus spp). The corm is planted 4 inches deep. Flowers appear in the spring before leaves. The flowers are very showy but have a bad odor. The leaves are large and spectacular.

BROMELIADS: Have you tried Bromeliads? They adapt to conditions found in the home, require little care and therefore make excellent house plants.

Bromeliads are members of the pineapple family, native to the American tropics. Two very familiar members of this family are the common pineapple and Spanish moss.

Most bromeliads are air plants or epiphytes. In the wild they grow on trees, attaching themselves by special roots. But they're not a parasite, like mistletoe, because they use the host plant only as a support; all their nutrition comes from rain and air.

The nearly two thousand species of bromeliads provide plant lovers with an unbelievable selection of form, color, size and blooming characteristics.

Normal temperatures found inside homes are very acceptable for bromeliad culture. Homes with and without air conditioning are fine.

The University of Florida has published an excellent brochure on bromeliads. To order it, send a self-addressed, stamped (52 cents) envelope to: Bromeliads Cir. 1090, 12175 125th St. N, Largo, FL 34644.

PORTULACA: This annual or perennial, depending on the species, makes an excellent edging plant. It also can be used in a rock garden or planter box and will bloom all summer. It's commonly called purslane or rose moss. Salt tolerant, portulaca can take the heat. Its flowers come in various colors.

Compiled by JOAN BRADSHAW and OPAL SCHALLMO of the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension Service. If you have questions, call them at 582-2110.P

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