Ask John

BearTools_Fotor If you have a question about gardening in the Birmingham area, ask John. John Floyd has been gardening–and learning about gardening–for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience in the garden, John has degrees in horticulture, plant taxonomy, and plant physiology from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

If you need to include a photo, you can email your question to BirminghamGardeningToday@gmail.com


Hi John, I’m trying to have a low maintenance garden and I need some suggestions for small shrubs to plant in front of 3 Frances Mason Abelias. I’m considering Obsession Nandinas because of their beautiful color but I’m afraid they might get too tall. I have 3 Peach Drift Roses in the front of the bed to the left of the Abelias. Could you suggest something low maintenance but with attractive foliage? Thanks! 18. May 2019

Seems to me with all that foliage color you are going to need some nice green foliaged plant that blooms when the abelia is not in bloom. What about Dwarf Gardenia, Rosemary, Yewtopia(if partial shade) or Gumpo Azalea.


Hi John, I have multiple mature oak trees in my natural area, and the acorns are having a banner year. I tried digging them up but it seems like it stimulates more. Will Brush-B-Gon kill them? Help! 6. May 2019

It should work but most folks recommend round-up or a good brush killer like brush-b-gone- john


The Camellia Society recommends spraying camellia bushes with Volck Oil spray. I 5. May 2019

Apparently it is not available in the market place unless it is old stock(which is fine to use). Most folks are replacing it with horticultural oil spray. It will take several applications to control scale if that is the problem.


We have lots of azaleas that bloomed a few weeks ago.. they were beautiful…now I am finding the strangest deformed looking white growths on just about all the new growth.. I looked it up, and came up with “gall”. How do I treat this..Is it a fungus? Thanks.. Linda, in Mt. Olive 27. April 2019

The only control that I know of is to cut them off. I would recommend that you cut them off and discard in a trash can not the compost pile.


Thank you John. 9. April 2019


When is the best time to plant azaleas? Is it fall or spring and what month? 9. April 2019

Most folks think spring or fall are both fine. Frankly, unless we are having a serious drought I am comfortable planting azaleas anytime as long as they can be watered.


I want to plant some Bonanza camellias and can’t find any locally. Do you know any growers nearby where I might buy them? 3. April 2019

You can get them locally but they are generally more abundant in the fall. Call around and I bet one of the local garden centers have some.


We have 8 native azaleas that have been in our yard maybe three years. They are blooming now and we do enjoy them, but many of them are leggy. Is it okay to prune them, and if so when? 27. March 2019

Absolutely when they finish blooming.


My family has just moved into a newly built house and I need some ideas on how I can landscape around the house. I have a few conditions that must be met for plants: need to be zone 8b hardy, non toxic to dogs(one of our dogs will eat everything),shade loving(very little sunlight on the front of the house),preferably non blooming or very little (one family member is highly allergic to stings),color pallet of greens,purples,blues,pinks,whites, and low maintenance(we have clay and sandy soil). 25. March 2019

Good description of your needs but if you want to do it right, hire a good professional to do it. If it has a landscape or you have a “builder’s landscape, I will be glad to make some suggestions based on your questions. So if you could give me a bit more information and perhaps a picture or two I think I could help you more.


Where can I buy reseeding petunia seeds? 23. March 2019

The only place I have ever seen them are in farmers bulletins but probably not this time of the year. Also posting on Craig’s list might turn up some but the best way is to get some from a fellow gardener in summer when they go to seed


Hi John – Can I plant Hydrangeas in the Spring? If so, when do you recommend planting them? 9. March 2019

Yes, spring is fine and I recommend after the last frost. That is generally around April 15.


We own a business and I have pots beside our doors. I am looking for something low maintenance, perennial and that has some height, maybe 3 – 4 feet. Thank you for any suggestions 7. March 2019

I like for pots to have year round appeal. So to get something 3 to 4 feet tall, I would first start with an evergreen like rosemary and tuck seasonal plants around it that are tough. For spring perhaps crocus or dwarf daffodils, summer lantana if in sun, impatiens in shade, and for fall marigolds, and pansies for winter. Most of these plant have to be watered and fertilized occasionally but are easy care.


I got some beautiful yellow roses for Valentines Day. They never dropped petals and still looked nice for the longest time. The leaves were dried out so on March 4 I decided to pull them out of the vase to put them in compost. To my amazement, I found new leaves budding out on each stem. Can these grow into rose bushes? If so, what do I do now? 5. March 2019

Probably, cut the old rose buds off and keep clean water in the vase by changing it when it gets cloudy. If after a few weeks you will start seeing small rises on the stems that are in water they will generally put out roots if not they will eventually die.


worms in peaches every year small pin hole in every one. Don’t know the type/kind old school call them clear seed the inside of the peach is clear. the tree is biooming.What can i do 3. March 2019

In all likelihood it’s either oriental fruit moth or plum curculio.

Oriental fruit moth early in the season lays eggs in new shoot tips, larvae feed on the new growth, and there’s flagging of the tips (appears wilted). Once wood hardens and fruit are growing, subsequent generations of larvae go into the fruit and eat them on the inside. Best control is sanitation – cleaning up old fruit and leaves from previous year. Also use of a general home fruit tree spray can be helpful. Spraying just after petal fall (so bees are not affected) can help reduce populations and then spraying every couple of weeks during growing season could be helpful.

Plum curculio also affects fruit. The female lays eggs in fruit usually with a small crescent shaped cut, eggs hatch, and larvae eat internally in fruit. Spray control probably beginning about mid-May could be helpful.

For both insects, once larvae are inside the fruit, they are well protected from insecticide treatments. Only way to get them is spraying the adults prior to egg laying.

This is from a friend of mine who is an expert


Hi John, I had a soil test done, and in the berm (excavated heavy clay soil) where I planted GiGi Gebring Azaleas, Endless Summer hydrangeas and Shi Shi Susanquas, the fertilizer recommendation was the following: Per 100 sq. ft. apply 1/3 pint triple superphosphate (0-45-0)or equivalent plus one quart 8-8-8 or equivalent in early spring then apply one cup 34-0-0 or equivalent in early summer. My question: Do I apply the triple phosphate at the SAME time I apply the 8-8-8, or should I apply the triple phosphate now to aid bloom production and THEN add the 8-8-8 after they have flowered? Thanks 1. March 2019

That is a complicated recommendation. Put the superphosphate on first then wait a week to start your fertilizer applications. Since it is a berm, I would water throughly after each application but not to water run-off. Hope you have beautiful plants this year-john


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13 thoughts on “Ask John

  1. Greetings John, My beautiful Peace lillies have an infestation of a scaly type of insect…aphids…I attempted to eradicate them by cleansing the stems and leaves with a damp paper towel and then followed up with a banana peel. As a deterrent, I would break off pieces of the peel and place around the top of the dirt. This seemed to work for a little while, but then I notice some of the leaves begin to grow limp and then turn yellow and I just cut them off. I would appreciate any suggestion and I really prefer the “Natural” remedy, but am open to whatever help you can offer. Thank you.

  2. thank you for replying re: fertilizing my various hydrangea types. I’m going to purchase the 15-0-15 you suggested and I plan to put some, dry, around the base of each plant. Some are very mature–the latest additions were planted in October, 2014. OK to treat all one time either now or very early summer? Thanks again.

  3. I transplanted some daffodils several years ago from my family home in Grove Hill, AL. The blooms do not seem as bright and yellow as they did in their previous environment. Is there a food they need to be more colorful and not so pale yellow? The foliage looks great; only the flowers are not as bright.

    • It might be several things, but usually the depth of color is pretty constant. Once they finish blooming, I would give them a bit of fertilizer. There are products especially for bulbs, but an all-purpose fertilizer like 15-0-15 (which is what most of us need to use in this area) can be sprinkled throughout the foliage. Also, if the bulbs you dug were in a sunny spot, and yours are in shade, that might affect the color somewhat. Other than that, I really do not have any ideas. Let’s hope next year the color will be brighter and clearer.

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