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 have rosebushes that are bushy and overgrown. When’s the best time to cut them back and how aggressive can I be with pruning? 5. March 2015

Now is the perfect time to prune roses, especially overgrown ones. It depends on what type of rose you are talking about.  If it is one of the popular knock-outs or vigorous shrub roses, I would suggest you cut them to about half the size you want them to be, as they are vigorous growers. Roses, like the hybrid teas and floribundas, need to be cut back to about 6-8 inches tall, maintaining just the major branches. Go by the Dunn Rose Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and see a good example of how the different types are pruned.


Hi John! I’ve seen “Purple Pixie” Weeping Loropetalum at the garden center and really like it. They seem to be pushing it as a container plant, but how will it perform in the heavy clay soil of my yard? from Jason 28. February 2015

Well, they are really not the easiest plant to grow when it comes to the group of loropetalums in the marketplace, but they are definitely the smallest. When you purchase one and remove from the container, make sure the roots are cut several times vertically with a knife, where the water will be able to go into the root ball. As for containers, yes they do well if you give them proper watering and plant them in a good potting mix (not a potting soil). Place them in a filtered, sunny spot, and they will make a great looking pot mixed with summer annuals. — 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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