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Ask Dr. Hort: Check climatic zones to see if plants can survive

Look up climatic zones to see if plants can thrive

Q: I have received bulbs from my granddaughter's fundraiser. They are Lilac Time dahlias, Mignon dahlias, Double Begonia Mixture and Twilight gladiolus. When should I plant them? I live in west-central Florida and the temperature has been in the 90s. Kathleen Flynn

A: The climatic zone where you live — 9A, 9B, 10A, 10B — makes a big difference with bulbs. Check the following link,, and click on Florida to find your zone.

Interestingly enough, botanically speaking, you don't have any bulbs at all. Dahlias and begonias are tubers and gladiolus is a corm, but all are underground stems. Dahlias probably won't make it; it's too hot. Tuberous begonias are usually grown as greenhouse crops and like cooler weather, yet are tender to cold. Gladiolus can be planted anytime, but February to September is on the safe side since they will be damaged in a frost or freeze. Plant them 3 inches deep and expect flowers in three months. The following link contains comprehensive information on growing bulbs in Florida: Hopefully you have friends or relatives farther north to benefit from the other bulbs.

Stinky plant identified as an Amorphophallus

Q: I have two stinky plants this year. One started smelling tonight and the other will in a day or so. I thought I was buying a leopard lily. Linda McIlroy

A: Your stinky is an Amorphophallus spp., one of many genera. The common name is corpse flower because of the smell. The largest of the group is Amorphophallus titanum, the 6-foot bloom that gets media attention all over the world when it blooms. Amorphophallus konjac and Amorphophallus bulbifer have spotted petioles and are commonly called voodoo lily, leopard palm and devil's tongue. Leopard lily sounds plausible. Aren't common names grand? However, it is not a lily; it is an arum, closely related to philodendrons, caladiums, pothos, nephthytis, aglaonemas, anthuriums, dieffenbachias and many more. They all have a spathe/spadix flower — a single petal, or spathe, with a banana-looking reproductive part, or spadix. The name Amorphophallus means "shapeless male genitalia."

Is overwatered desert rose doomed?

Q: I've had this desert rose for about 15 years. It used to be beautiful, but when I had to foster it out due to a move, it came back practically dead. I think it was overwatered. I have had it back for almost two years and it's still not doing well. It blooms with very few leaves, and white blotches are all over the body of the plant. Lesley Driver

A: Even with pictures, your ailing desert rose, Adenium obesum, is hard to diagnose. I even ran it by Andy Wilson, senior horticulturist at the Pinellas County Extension service, and we agree that the white splotches are probably lichens, which do no harm to plants. You will see lichens of many colors, including white, orange, tan and blue-green, adorning the trunks of many landscape shrubs and trees.

Now for the potential painful news: Due to the overwatering, your teenager may have a root-rotting fungus causing the branch tips to die back. Take it out of its container, if possible, to observe the roots. Brown, soft, mushy roots would be negative; brown roots, which when cut have some resistance and are white inside along with newly established white roots, would be positive.

If positive, do a little root pruning of any encircling roots to promote new roots. More roots, more shoots.

If negative, prune mushy roots back to roots with white inside, dipping your sharp clippers in a 1:10 bleach solution between each cut. If needed, add a "cactus potting mix" to fill any voids as you repot your patient following surgery. Prune any soft growth, if any, off of the top as well. If needed, a systemic fungicide such Agri-Fos, Bonide Infuse Liquid Systemic Fungicide or Thiomyl, used according to label directions, should help if disease is found. Fertilize with a soluble bloom booster fertilizer such as a 10-30-20, 3-9-6, or 11-11-21, something low in nitrogen (the first number) and high in potassium, the immune system booster (the last number) and a fair amount of phosphorus for new root initiation. Follow label directions and place in a high light area with as much sun as possible. If it was previously in some shade, every six weeks move it gradually into higher light levels. Hopefully, if you follow these cultural practices, your teenager will live well into adulthood — and may even reproduce.