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Wednesday - June 11, 2008

From: Italy, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Transplants
Title: Promote blooms on non-native plants
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am trying to promote blooms on my several types of flowering scrubs and ornamentals, but not having much luck. I have used Miracid SuperBloom occasionally but not sure I am using enough, yet I may not be using enough.I have oleander-several colors-,crape myrtle, cannas, roses, bird of paradise trees, yard orchids, potato vine w/ bluish purple blooms, & esperanza. I also have one very sick looking allamanda who might be suffering from a heat stroke with the early high temperatures-I already moved it to shade. What should I do to promote flowering?


We'll try to find some information on each plant individually for you, but make some general comments first. It appears that all but a couple of your plants are non-native to North America in origin. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we try to encourage gardeners to buy and plant natives, not only of North America, but of the area in which they live. We do this because plants already accustomed to living in the conditions of the area by thousands of years of adapting will require less maintenance, less water and less (or no) fertilizer. They will be adjusted to local extremes of heat or cold, drought, etc. Because most of your plants are non-native, we will not have information on them in our Native Plant Database, but will find information on the Internet which should be of some help. We will deal with the oleander question in your other question to Mr. Smarty Plants on oleanders.

You seem concerned with bloom and general appearance of health or lack of same in your plants. You did not say when you purchased and installed them, but if it was recently they may be suffering from transplant shock. Any newly purchased plant needs to be gotten into the ground as quickly as possible, even more critical now that it is so hot. Because the roots must adjust to new soil, but continue to get moisture to the extremes of the plant, it should be trimmed at the top (yes, including blooms) about 1/3 to 1/2. Planting in the evening is a good idea, permitting the plant to have the "cool" of the night to begin to settle in. It needs to be watered immediately, pushing the hose down into the dirt, turning it on at a dribble, and allowing it to stay until water gets to the surface. This should be repeated every day or two until the plant seems to be recovering. No fertilizer, no plant under stress (and transplanting is definitely stress) should be fertilized. Another factor to be concerned with is drainage in the soil in which your plants are growing. If they are being watered but the water is standing on their roots, the plants could be drowning.

A common problem nowadays is that the big box home improvement stores seem to be selling most of the garden plants. The plants are very frequently non-natives, probably raised in California in greenhouses, forced into bloom for sales appeal, and shipped to stores where they will remain in a shaded building, being watered ever day, until purchased. The blooms usually die almost immediately when the plant goes into a homeowner's garden (and need to be trimmed anyway) and it could be a year or never before they bloom again. The labels are usually trade names, not the botanical name of the plant, so just finding out how it should be cared for, what kind of soil it needs, etc. can be very difficult.

Crape myrtle - Floridata. Lagerstroemia indica has been widely hybridized, but originated in Asia. Often infested by aphids, which causes drip of insect secretions.

Cannas - There is one native canna in our database, Canna glauca (maraca amarilla), but yours are probably extensively hybridized to obtain bright colors, intricately marked leaves, etc. The native canna is found on the Texas coast, in damp or swampy areas. The cannas are considered tropical or sub-tropical but grow very fast and can grow anywhere they get 6 hours or more of sun a day. This site on cannas from About.com will offer you some more information on care and culture.

Roses - nearly everyone's favorite garden plant. There are quite a number of Genus rosa plants native to North America, but most of those sold in nurseries are non-native and/or extensively hybridized. There are so-called "antique" roses, or old garden roses that seem to do well in Texas. However, even they are difficult to find unless you go to a specialized nursery. Some information on the old roses from roseinfo.com, Guide to Antique Roses. General information on the care of all roses is found in this Colorado State University Extension website Rose Culture.

Bird of Paradise Tree, native to sub-tropical South Africa. This Floridata website on Strelitzia nicolai will give you more information. You need to be warned that this plant is only hardy to USDA Zones 9 to 11. Ellis County is in Zones 7b to 8a, so a good Texas blue norther will wipe your plant out.

Yard orchids - Okay, you got us on this one. Even the Internet was stumped. If you'd like to have us attempt to identify it, you can go to the Mr. Smarty Plants page, look in the lower right-hand corner under "Plant Identification" and get instructions for sending us a picture.

Potato vine - This Missouri Botanical Garden site on Solanum crispum will give you some details. It can be invasive, but since it is only hardy in Zones 9-11, your winter temperatures will probably kill it. Native of Chile and Peru, all parts are poisonous.

Esperanza - At last, a native plant. Esperanza is a widely-used trade name for Tecoma stans (yellow trumpetbush), native to West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It may die back in cold weather, but should come back in the Spring.

Allamanda cathartica, also called Yellow Bell or Golden Trumpet Bush. Shrubs or vine native to Central and South America, highly sensitive to frost, USDA Zones 10 to 12. Another one for the blue norther. This University of Florida Cooperative Extensive Service site on Allamanda has more information-note on the map that all the areas this plant is viable are extreme southern portions of the United States.

Are you still there? Summary: Don't buy a plant until you have done research on it. Find out if you have the right kind of soil, or if the soil needs to be amended. Woody plants should be purchased and planted in the Fall, when the plant is more dormant. No amount of water or fertilizer is going to help a plant in the wrong place, including the wrong USDA hardiness zone. Consider going to gardening with plants native to your area. Read our How-To Article on A Guide to Native Plant Growing. Go to our Recommended Species section, click on North Central Texas on the map, and get a list of plants that will do well in your area. Finally, go to our Suppliers section, type in the name of your town and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant and seed suppliers, as well as landscape consultants, in your area.








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