1. Archive


Q: Could you please identify this tree? Part of it is dying and we have tried everything on the market and can't seem to find anything that's helps. Thank you. Judy Bennett, Hudson

A: It appears that you have a ligustrum tree (Ligustrum japonicum) and it does look in bad shape. Some varieties such as 'Howardi' or 'Frazieri,' by nature, have yellow leaves. If that is not the case, it is very nutrient-deficient. Ligustrums are short-lived trees of about 20 to 30 years under optimum conditions. Sometimes we forget that plants have life spans, too. You can fertilize with a quality fertilizer containing at least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen, prune out dead wood and start considering a replacement.

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Jerusalem thorn tree grows well in bay area

Q: I read your article April 10 identifying some flowering trees. The Jerusalem thorn tree grows quite well in this area. It has small yellow flowers with orange throats. This drought- and cold-tolerant tree I think comes from Texas.

I live in northern Pinellas County, and have had one in my yard for 10 years, and it is blooming right now. Jonathan Bassett, Oldsmar

A: Thank you for sharing information about your tree. I, too, am fond of the Jerusalem thorn, Parkinsonia aculeata. It is native to desert grasslands and canyons in Mexico and the southwestern United States. It is quite hardy here, growing from zones 8 to 11, and will survive to 18 degrees. It used to be planted more in the greater St. Petersburg area, but it seems to have lost favor, maybe because of the thorns.

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Prune scheffleras in early spring

Q: I live in a condo and the board has hired landscape workers who have hacked back my scheffleras very drastically between the building walkways. It seems they do this every year just when I could use the summer shade over my windows. When would be the best time to reasonably cut them back so I could keep my shade and they wouldn't get too big between the buildings? Thank you. Mary, St. Petersburg

A: Early spring is a great time to do any major pruning of scheffleras so that they will recover before next winter. Maybe you could talk your board into taking a more selective approach to the pruning to provide you with the shade you need. Good luck.

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Need help?

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. E-mail him at or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg 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.