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


Best care for fig bushes? 17. August 2017

Right now do nothing except water when needed. After the foliage come out in the spring fetilize lightly with a product like 5-10-10. They in my mind are one of the most care free fruit trees you can grow.


when and how much can you trim hydrangeas also arolina Jasmine 17. August 2017

Florist type hydrangeas should be pruned now as the new growth this fall is where they will bloom next year. It is so late now I would not reduce their size over about a fourth. All of the other Hydrangea types I would not prune until late winter before any foliage appears. As for Carolina Jessamine, it can be done anytime but to prevent bloom loss prune after they finish flowering in the spring.


Is it too late in the year to trim boxwood and apply Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed? 8. August 2017

Trim is the right word or maybe a light shape is ok now except on old-English box and I would be very careful with old American Boxwood,too. Removal of awkward branches or new growth is fine.


I have a promgranite tree that i have had three years and has not produced any fruit . Do you know if it needs another variety? 27. June 2017

No, but more than likely this year the blooms were affected by the late freeze. Also, it may be just too young to put on any fruit. You do not need another one to produce fruit, but in this region my experience is that they are not heavy producers.


Im having a terribel time with Aphids this year, mostly on my tomatoes… I have sprayed with Insecticidal Soap, Neem oil and a combo of Neem and Pyrethrin. They are relentless. Any thoughts or ideas? 21. June 2017

I am sorry you are having such a problem. Seems like you have tried most things. Soapy water sprayed on the leaves followed by a strong hose spray many times helps reduce them initially. Then hose spraying when you water will keep the majority of them off the plant. While not a control, it works to limit the amount on the plants.


John: This is Bob Davis on West Mall. I need to talk to you for about 20 minutes about your park on East Mall. 30. May 2017

Call me in Trussville phone book


What are the shrubs with large white flowers that are blooming now in Mountainbrook and Crestline village area? 22. May 2017

My first guest would be the old fashioned Gardenias. they are very fragrant and blooming great this year


How to deadhead geraniums? 10. May 2017

Break them off at the base of the flower stem after the color fades on the blooms.


I have a camellia that is about 12 feet tall at the corner of my house. When and how far down can I prune it? 7. May 2017

I would prune it as soon as possible. But if you plan to take it down more than a third, I suggest you do it over several years. If you just want to take a couple of feet off of it and reshape it, I think it is ok to do that now. Fertilize following severe pruning to encourage new growth.


I need to lower the PH in certain mixed borders contining acid loving plants such as gardenia, camelia, azalea, etc. I also have several blueberries groing in antoher area of my yard that are now three yrs old that i planted with a lot of compost and amended soil. What can i do to safely lower the pH in these areas besides spread soil sulfur around the plants? 1. May 2017

Sulfur certainly works, but a little goes a long way. If you only need a slight adjustment, use a ferilier that only puts nitrogen into the soil around the plants. Over time this will very, very slowly help. If you want to use sulfur, I suggest you buy the product that turns hyrangeas blue, and apply according to their directions.


try again – GraceKlein Community on Rocky Ridge Road has TONS of material for composting they are giving away free. Call Scott @ 910-2222 20. April 2017

Good to know and thanks for offering it


UGH…. Crane Flies again! Last year they were awful, large bare patches of grass gone before we knew what was happening… We are trying to be more diligent in our turf care, but the Crane Flies are back… any suggestions for something to kill before the eggs hatch? 5. April 2017

I am afraid that I do not have a magic cure. Aeration in spring helps, as well as an early application of nitrogen to the lawn can also help, but do not apply before green-up. Nothing beats having a healthy, active, growing lawn with the controls you have in place.


when do heirloom perinial petunias bloom 5. April 2017

My friend, the late Weesie Smith’s started blooming in early summer, and if we pinched off the old spent flowers, they bloomed all summer.


A friend gave me a piece of her Ginger Lily last year… I planted it in a pot and kept it covered with pine straw… I don’t know what to do with it… plant in the garden, or keep in the pot? It is getting really big. 5. April 2017

I really like them planted in a mass in part shade in the garden. While they will do okay in a container, they have a root structure that is going to fill the pot quickly, so it will take a lot of watering this summer. Either planted in the garden or growing in a large container is okay.


I had a border of Leland cypress that the drought murdered. I need to replace these with something fast growing and less disease prone. Can you give me some suggestions 22. March 2017

see answer below


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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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