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

Awhile ago I heard a southern saying about the climbing hydrangea plant about its early growing years. I can’t find it anywhere . Do you know it ? 14. June 2019

Hard to find in local nurseries. Try Plant Delights. They have a web site.

Hi John- happy summer! Something is killing a large boxwood of mine. I’ve noticed a white, sticky, almost cotton-like substance on the branches. Then the affected branches turn brown and die. Half of my shrub is gone. Can I do anything to save it or is it beyond help? Thanks. 10. June 2019

You got troubles and the dead areas should be cut out immediately. Also purchase Bayer 3-in-1 pesticide. Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart all carry this product and apply according to label directions and hope we can control it before it spreads to other parts of the plant

How to kill cabbage worms 10. June 2019

I use dipel but sevin will also work

I have a Camillia which is in a large pot. It gets Morningshade a little bit of the afternoon sun. Until two days ago it looked wonderful but it started dropping its leaves. Question too much water,not enough water or something else 1. June 2019

Probably in this heat, too little water. Once the leaves look wilted they generally will drop but that does not mean the plant is dead. If the Camellia has been in the pot a long time take a sharp instrument about the size of a pencil and punch holes in the soil in several places. Water well. Also if the drainage hole is stopped up it could be too much water. Check that and if that is the case use something to unstop it.

Hi, John, 31. May 2019


Hi, John, in searching for recommendations on pruning for ‘ideal’ form of several small Japanese maples, I came across info on a course at MerrItt College in CA on Aesthetic Pruning. It appears to be a bit more drastic than what I have learned in classes and in reading. It generally opens up the tree more. Are you and the other volunteers doing something of that type at BBG? My reason for researching is to see if several of my Japanese maples are a bit shaggy and/or out of shape. If you would like to see photos, I can send them. Thanks! 30. May 2019

Yes, the volunteer group at the Japanese
garden does that type of work. Mike Rushing in our group will do it for you professionally if you need him- john

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.

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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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