Q: I have a jatropha that was planted about six months ago, and almost immediately it developed mealybugs all over it. I have used insecticidal soap, malathion and neem oil many times but cannot rid the plant of them. As a last resort I have tried Bayer Rose and Flower Care, to no avail. Any more suggestions? It seems to be growing well in a partially shaded area with morning sun. Pat Alber, Sun City Center
A: Has anyone been painting in the area of your jatropha? If your plant indeed has mealybugs, as with other small sucking insects, it is the followup applications that do the trick. Neem oil, used according to label directions for three applications seven to 10 days apart covering 100 percent of the plant, should do the trick. Monitor closely for the next three weeks for any sign of return. If the small white spots are still there, I'd revisit the paint idea.
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Growing roses in Florida can be quite a challenge
Q: I'm reasonably new to Florida and have a question about roses. Do they thrive in Florida? I planted some hedge roses against the side of the house in full sun, and they haven't done well. This is their second summer, and they are spindly and weak. I have fertilized them, and they are still only about a foot tall. In western Colorado, they grew about 5 feet tall. Any suggestions? Chris Littrell
A: Roses are not a plant that I would suggest to novices to Florida gardening. Most roses for Florida need to be grafted onto fortuniana rootstock to have any success at all. An exception is the KnockOut series. Mail-order roses are a no-no! If roses are your passion, I would advise joining your local rose society, and for starters, check out the publication "Growing Roses in Florida" atedis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep339. There are so many flowering alternatives to check out, native and nonnative. Visit your local nursery or garden center for some guidance.
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Peace lily has survived moves but looks bad
Q: My peace lily has depleted 66 percent. First, I put it in shade. It didn't do well, so I dug it up and put it into a bucket and put it in the sun. It still got worse, with black leaves. Then I put it in partial shade, and it was still worse. It is now not blooming and looks terrible. I want to save it and make it thrive. What am I doing wrong?
I also have problems with the crape myrtles. They bloom well but not evenly on top and not like the neighbors'. At first, I trimmed in the fall all even on top, clipping all shoots below. But it still grew with uneven branches. I have noticed that the trees in malls and complexes are not trimmed. They just let them go. Betty Buehrle
A: The original blackened leaves on your peace lily, Spathiphyllum spp.,most likely resulted from a root-rotting fungi, especially if it started out as an interior plant and maybe got overwatered a time or two. It was already being stressed, and moving it all over the place really cut its survival chances. You could use a systemic fungicide, such as Spectracide Immunox Multi-Purpose Fungicide. Drench the plant following label directions, to treat the probable root fungus for the 34 percent you have left, after you have placed it in a shady spot where it will remain for eternity. Or you could cut your losses and let it "rest in peace" and purchase a new one.
The blooming of your crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, is dependent on age, variety, irrigation, light level (full sun), fertilization and pest problems. So if any one or more of the cultural factors are not met, bloom will be reduced. Check with your neighbors and find out what they are doing. The only pruning needed on your crape myrtle is to remove the spent flower clusters as they fade to promote reflowering of that stem. If you let the stem go to seed early in the season, that branch is done flowering for the year.
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Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe the 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.