Q: I recently purchased a 21/2-foot Pink Delight butterfly bush. I planted it in the ground about 11/2 weeks ago in a mixture of peat moss, mushroom compost and garden soil. It gets early-morning sun and goes into shade around 2 p.m. About 10:30 a.m. it starts to look wilted and stays that way all day even after I have watered it early in the morning. In late evening and very early morning it does not look wilted. The bush looks healthy, with no yellow leaves. I have a smaller Honeycomb butterfly bush (12 inches tall) that gets the same amount of sun, and it never looks wilted. Do you think I should move the larger bush to where it gets less sun?
Beverly Mattix, Hudson
A: It appears to me that the problem is in the hole. There has been much research done on amending the planting hole in a sandy soil. It all comes back saying there is no need for organic amendments. The roots take off in the top 3 to 4 inches of soil and grow far beyond the planting hole in the first six to eight weeks. Peat and compost dry out quickly, hence the reason for your butterfly bush drying out so quickly in the afternoon heat. You would be better off by planting directly in the sandy soil, filling the hole with water before back filling, and then mulching to a depth of 2 to 3 inches with an organic mulch, like recycled yard waste.
One other reason your Pink Delight is wilting and your Honeycomb is not is that they both have fuzzy leaves that lose water (transpire) faster than the roots can uptake water in the heat of the afternoon. The larger plant simply has more leaves.
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Queen palm's a goner
Q: I have a queen palm that is not producing any new fronds. The remaining fronds are brown; however, there is still green showing on the center of the frond as well as the base or trunk of the tree. I was able to pull out the center fronds that were coming up. Is it still alive? Should I wait it out longer to see if I get new growth? Do I need to fertilize it to get it going?
A: It sounds like another one bites the dust due to Texas palm decline. That and Fusarium are two fungi wreaking havoc on our palms. A good thing to remember is that when a plant is stressed because of biotic or abiotic factors, fertilizer does not help. Fertilizers should only be used when nutritional problems are suspect.
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Battling water hyacinth
Q: We really need some expert advice on how to control or eradicate water hyacinth in our approximately 1/2-acre pond. Two years ago we waded in and pulled the plants out one by one. Needless to say, it was grueling. We'd like to avoid that this time. Just since March, a third of the pond has been covered with the plant; it grows so quickly. Another deterrent to manually removing the hyacinth is the gator that recently appeared in the pond! Any advice would be appreciated.
A: To avoid an encounter with the alligator, I suggest you call in a professional. You'll also need to do so because the aquatic herbicides that would work can only be applied by a certified professional. The main problem with water hyacinth is that as it descends, anaerobic bacteria decompose the organic material, robbing oxygen from the water. If too much is decomposing at one time, you end up with a fish kill due to lack of oxygen. Hiring a professional company that specializes in pond maintenance is the best solution for your problem.
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Enter Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles, who educated gardeners through the Pinellas Technical Education Centers for more than 30 years. He answers questions about landscape and garden pests. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com (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, city and contact information. If possible, include a photo. We will print his advice on Saturdays in HomeLink.