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


Reading the question concerning ground cover on hills, my would be categorized as a slope, when is the best time to purchase and plant junipers? We have some blue low growing already on hill but need more to cover bare spots. Slope faces east 6+ hours sun each day with Clay Al hard red clay with slight top of topsoil. 2. September 2016

It is no question I would plant them in late winter or early spring. The real problem is the red clay soil. It can hold water in the planting holes in the winter and dry hard in summer. Since it is on a hill, dig extra big holes. Fill around the plants with a good organic matter that contains at least 25% sand. After planting, put a raised ring of soil around the edge of the hole to catch water. Mulch heavily. This method should encourage good root growth, and thus allow them to cover well.


Is Asiatic Jasmine appropriate for use in Birmingham, AL? If so, when should it be planted? 25. August 2016

Yes, it does well here as a ground cover. If using small potted plants, most landscape folks plant them any time of the year. I would say now is not a good time. I would wait until the weather cools this fall to plant. Of course, the best time is late spring, and that will advoid any cold weather damage its first year.


Wine and Rose Weigelia….should I prune it? Thanks Linda 25. August 2016

The best time to prune weigelia is after flowering in the spring. The only thing I would do now is to shape the plant if needed.


Holes in leaves of a hosata grown in a pot… I don’t see any slugs or snails… Any idea what it could be… can I spray it with insecticide? 25. August 2016

I have the same issue, and my guess is that they are being chewed by flying insects like grasshoppers. You can dust with Sevin and that might help, but controlling insects like grasshoppers is nearly impossible.


Hello, John! My angelonia is all green, despite weekly fertilizing. Where are the blooms? Some of them are over 18″ high. I was told to cut them back. But will they bloom again before fall pansie/cabbage planting? Or do I give up? Thank you! 25. August 2016

First, some you can cut back and they will bloom again, others will not. My best advice is to stop fertilization. Keeped them watered, and I am sure they should have a nice crop of fall blooms.


John, ever heard of a product called Glean, used for weed control in grain fields? I was told it can be used on hillsides where junipers have been planted for weed control? Is that true and where can we find it around here? 21. August 2016

I looked it up and it is a herbicide used on commercial crops and I could not find any inforamtion if it is safe to use like you described.


When is the best time of year to plant hostas and ferns? 17. August 2016

The best time of the year is when the plants or dormant or early spring when the foliage is just sprouting. Now saying that folks transplant them all the time with big clumps of dirt around the plants but not all will make it even if they are kept constantly moist


I have an allotment and all my cabbage, cauliflower plants have been eaten by something,also my Brussels sprouts seem to be going the same way 6. August 2016

Look for little greenish worms. If that is the case it is cabbage looper and can be controlled with ‘Sevin’ or ‘Dipel'(organic). If that is not the case, it could be something like grasshoppers or some type of flying insect. In all cases I suspect ‘Sevin’ will help.


Is CubCadet RT 65, a rear tine garden tiller, useable in Shelby county area. We are relocating from Florida. In my visits to your area, I noticed rocky and clay soil. Thanks for your help. 5. August 2016

It will do great here. While our soils are a mix of sand and clay it has power enough to handle our soils just fine.


What do you suggest to fertilize hydrangeas with? 5. August 2016

I generally use a low nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 this time of the year on hydrangeas.


Are Pawpaw trees/shrubs suitable for Alabama and is there a specific one to purchase? I live on a farm and am trying to add birdand butterfly plants. 31. July 2016

I do not know of any selections and they are hard to find. The are great for Alabama gardens since it is a native plant in parts of our state.


What is the disease that is killing mature dogwoods limb by limb? I have lost several and it takes a couple of years for the entire tree to die. 29. July 2016

It is probably dogwood borer from what you describe. Ortho Rose and Shrub disease product is a homeowner product cleared to control dogwood borer. Apply according to label directions. If the trees are large, several applications will be needed in several seasons.


John, OK thanks for the response. I think my question is really can the portion that we remove be rooted and will it survive. We have three or four rooting going now from previous cuttings, but cutting ten or so inches down the main ‘tree’ will be different. What should we put the cutting in to try and have it survive? John 26. June 2016

I think it is worth a try as you have nothing to lose, but rooting these is not easy. But, if you have had success in the past, then if the wood of the plant is not too big and old, you probably can root it the same way you did the others.


OK JAF, we have a very tall fiddle leaf fig plant, and have cut the top several times and rooted new plants. The plant has four branches growing at the top from the last ‘trimming’, is it possible to cut ten or so inches below the branching and expect the cut portion to survive. Pics will follow. Thanks J & J Feagin 23. June 2016

Well, you can do that as long as there is foliage below where you are cutting the ficus. Just remember that you can also do it in stages, which I like to do.


Mountainside ground cover 14. June 2016

Need more information. Sun or shade, degree of slope, quality of soil, current state of erosion, are things I need to help you make a good decision. Also, see post on sun ground covers.


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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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