Spring is finally here and most of us will be storming the local garden centers for fresh pickings to put in our yards and patios. Some will be using annual flowers while others will be looking at a more permanent accent such as tropicals or palms. Whatever your choice, I have written about a few select plant terms that might be of interest to you while you are shopping for plants or garden chemicals.
The first area that I will cover is some of your basic plant categories. The first and most popular group of plants is called annuals. Annuals are simply defined as plants that complete their life cycle in a single growing season. The complete cycle from seed to the plant dying off is completed in one season. Some examples of annuals are impatiens, marigolds and begonias.
Perennial plants are another group that is very popular. Perennials are defined as plants that live for more than one growing season. There are basically two types of perennials: Plants that die off in the winter and send out new shoots in the spring and plants that live year round. Plants that live year round and grow larger each year are defined as woody perennials. Many of your most common flowering shrubs fall into this category. Some common examples are Plumbago and Lirope.
If you own rose bushes, a common term that will pop up is black spot. Black spot is commonly defined as a disease of the foliage of roses which is caused by moisture. The best way to help avoid black spot is not to plant your roses in the path of your sprinklers. This will help avoid the leaves being constantly wet which is how this disease often starts. You can treat black spot by spraying with Funginex or using liquid copper. If you prefer a natural cure, try using one teaspoon per gallon and spray on the plant in early morning before the hot sun hits the plants.
Mealy bugs are a common insect problem that affects many of our favorite ornamentals. Mealy bugs are defined as a scale-like plant-eating insect that is coated with a powdery, waxy secretion. These pests are very destructive and feed on the inner juices of the plant robbing it of needed nutrition. These pests can often be controlled with many types of insecticides available at your local garden center. Be sure that these pests are mentioned on the label before you purchase the product.
Scale is another common problem of many ornamentals and unlike the mealy bug, which has a cottony secretion; the residue on the leaves is usually of a harder consistency. Scale insects also have piercing-sucking mouthparts that allow them to use the sap of the plant as food. This can cause severe dieback in most plants that are infected. Scale can be very difficult to control and a systemic insecticide is the best choice.
The pH of your soil can be an important factor as to what type of plants that you might want to place in a given location. Soil pH is defined as the amount of lime (calcium) that is contained in your soil. If your soil pH is lower than 7 then you have acidic soil and plants such as Gardenia, Ixoria and Hibiscus will do well. If your pH is higher than 7 then you have alkaline soil, which will support other plant varieties that require a lower acid content. You can test your soil pH easily with a home test kit available at many lawn and garden centers.
I hope you enjoyed this "mini seminar" and found the information useful. I plan on adding more terms of interest in future columns so stay tuned!
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website, www.hometowngarden.com.