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.

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Hi John! We have a smallish back yard with a pretty, curvy bed that goes alongside our wooden fence. We are not experts at gardening and just want to put in maybe 3-4 kinds of perennials that would flow through the beds. Do you have some reliable ones to recommend for Bham area? Would love to have some different heights and a little variety in foliage color. Thanks! 20. October 2019

Here are some of my favorites that are easy to grow- Goldstrum coneflower (summer flrs), Mexican Sage (fall flrs),sweet Williams(spring multicolor flrs),dianthus also called pinks (late spring multicolor flrs),lantana(summer multicolor flrs),asters(fall mulitcolors) plus many others

Hey John, I have had great success in my lawn using Hi-Yield Fertilome weed and grass pre-emergent. I would love to use something similar in my shrubbery beds and natural areas; oak saplings are a huge problem each year. What product do you suggest? 17. October 2019

There is not much that will give you total control. Of course heavy mulch will help and the only product I would suggest is PREEN. Get the type specific to your needs. Available at most big garden centers. I think the application time is early spring but follow the instructions carefully.

Hi John, lately I have had some critter TEARING up my yard. Not just a hole or two like a chipmunk, but digging DEEP holes in my shrubbery bed. One of them was so deep I put my flat foot in it and the side of the hole were up past my ankle. Every morning I go out and it looks like elves have moved huge clumps of pine straw. Could this be armadillos, and if so, how do I get rid of them? Thanks 24. September 2019

I bet it is armadillos. Mothballs and Cheyenne peppers both are reported to deter them. Thankfully I have never had them in my garden.

I didn’t get to finish… Is this a curse from all the rain this year, or is it just a curse !!! Linda, Mt. Olive 30. July 2019

Crazy weather year!

I just wanted to say… Everything in my landscape looks awful.. Drift roses are covered in black spot, Hydrangeas are covered in some awful fungus on the leaves, they are spotted and turning yellow and dropping like flies! Lace bugs have infested my azaleas… I can’t keep up with all the spraying!! 30. July 2019

I am having some unique issues this year too. Keep the faith, we all might have a great fall garden

Hi, I m from New York ,last week I was visited in Alabama for 4/5 days for family function , in between I visited to the botanical garden .I was so impressed to see the natural beauty in the park .My question to u is that in my backyard I have two fruit trees .One is Peach / Second is Green Apples .When it’s time to get a fruit I was surprised that Apple and Peach both r bad Rootten fruit .I don’t know ,this is second year now going on . 15. July 2019

Both apples and peaches in our area are tough to grow at home because they need to be on a regular pesticide program to produce good fruit. As for your area check with your local county extension agent for specifics on what you need to do to have successful peaches and apples in your area

Good morning, We have purchased a home near Tuscaloosa that has two steep slopes, one on side yard, one in back yard. They are currently planted with Creeping Juniper but it is not curtailing erosion. What is the most affordable way to deal with this type of issue? 28. June 2019

First, are the heavily mulched with pinestraw and are the junipers planted pretty dense. Now of course turf laid as sod around the rocks would work if they are in full sun which I assume they are since Shore Juniper thrives in sun. Another ground cover Asian Jasmine that if planted four to six inches apart and mulched heavily with pinestraw might do the trick. Also you might terrace the area to help with your slope.

So happy to have discovered this site! Do you spray your Star Jasmine vine with dormant oil in February, or is that necessary? 21. June 2019

Never had a scale problem with it so I don’t do anything but prune as needed

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.

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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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