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Frequently Asked Questions
Which side of the house will have the most damage to plants when it's cold?
What can I add to my soil to improve it?
When should I fertilize my plants, and what should I use?
How do I recognize iron deficiency in my plants? How do I correct it?
How often should I water my plants?
What causes my plants' leaves to be browned around their edges and at their tips?
When should I prune my plants?
How much can I prune my shrubs without harming them?
What is the best time to plant new trees and shrubs?
How can I start new plants from cuttings?
How do I start new plants from air layers?
What groundcover could I use to replace my lawn? I'm tired of lawn upkeep.
Should I trim my groundcover? When and how?
What is the best lawngrass?
I want to overseed my lawn for winter green grass. What should I use?
What is the best time to plant a new lawn?
How often should I water my lawn?
What time of night or day should I water?
How good are weed-and-feed fertilizers?
What mowing height is best for my grass?
How often should I mow my grass?
My lawngrass pulls loose from the soil very easily. It's as if something has eaten all its roots. What does that damage?
There are so many types of weedkillers. How can I choose the correct one?
How do I eliminate crabgrass and grassburs from my lawn?
How can I eliminate dallisgrass from my lawn?
What is the plant with the scalloped leaves and little purple flowers in early spring, and how do I get it out of my lawn?
Is it a good idea to scalp our lawn?
My St. Augustine has dead brown areas. The blades pull loose easily from the runners. What is it, and what can I do to stop it?
My St. Augustine looks like it is fading away. It lacks vigor. I don't see any insects or diseases. What can the problem be?
My St. Augustine is yellowing and looking dry along my sidewalk and out in the middle of the lawn. What is wrong?
My St. Augustine seems to lack nitrogen, yet, when I add it, the grass gets worse and worse.
How can I protect my banana tree over the winter?
When should I plant wildflower seeds in my landscape?
How do I store my caladium bulbs for next year?
My impatiens' leaves are rolled under and the plants have quit blooming. What is wrong?
My periwinkles are drying up one branch or plant at a time. What can I do to help them?
Is it true that perennials are less work than annuals?
What are some of the best perennials for Texas landscapes?
When should I dig and divide my perennials?
When should I plant new roses?
When and how should I prune my roses?
Why do my roses fail to open properly, looking browned and scorched instead.
What causes the brown spots all over my rose leaves?
What are the most dependable roses for my Texas landscape?
What do I do the night of the first killing frost or freeze?
What about when there's a chance of late frost or freeze in spring?
What if there's an unusually cold spell in winter?
What do I do about strong winds during growing season?
How do I combat ice?
How should I deal with extreme heat?
What advice do you have about drought/water curtailments.
What if my area experiences prolonged cloudiness, wet conditions?




Which side of the house will have the most damage to plants when it's cold?

The east and south sides. Plants on those sides will keep growing longer into the fall, so they'll be less prepared for the winter. Plus, most extremely low temperatures happen when it is clear. Sunlight hits the leaves of plants on those two sides before it hits plants on the north and west. The rapid thawing causes a great deal of damage.

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What can I add to my soil to improve it?

Whether you're dealing with a sandy soil or a clay, the answer is the same. Organic matter will help sandy soils hold moisture and nutrients when they might otherwise leach out of the root zone. That same organic matter will help loosen tight clay soils so water and fertilizer can penetrate more readily. Best sources of organic matter include brown Canadian peat moss, rotted manure, compost and shredded bark mulch.

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When should I fertilize my plants, and what should I use?

Have your soil tested every couple of years. Your county Extension office has the necessary sampling materials and instructions. The soil test will show which nutrients are deficient. Don't be surprised if nitrogen is the main concern. It's not uncommon, especially in clay soils, that an all-nitrogen fertilizer will be recommended for almost all of your plants. Ideally it will have at least half of its nitrogen in slow-release form.

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How do I recognize iron deficiency in my plants? How do I correct it?

Iron deficiency, or chlorosis, shows up first and most prominently on the newest growth (toward the ends of the branches and twigs). Look for yellowed leaves with dark green veins. It can progress into almost white leaf blades, then browned leaf tissues. It is a problem west of I-35 for the most part. Soils in the western two-thirds of Texas are alkaline and that turns the soil-borne iron into an insoluble form. You can either apply a foliar spray to bypass the roots or an iron additive to the soil, or you can add a sulfur soil acidifier to lower the pH, thereby releasing some of the insoluble iron. Arborists have iron products which can be injected directly into the trunks of chlorotic trees, although it will be only a temporary solution in most cases. For the record, plants whose lower and internal leaves are turning yellow and falling have had some type of environmental stress, primarily drought.

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How often should I water my plants?

There is no one good answer to this question because there are simply too many variables (species of plant, soil type, temperature, wind, level of growth activity, etc.). Remember that you don't take a drink on a regular basis, nor will your plants need to be watered on any specific interval. Learn to recognize signs of drying plants, then water deeply. Wait until the plants begin to dry out before watering again. Whenever possible, leave your sprinkler system in the "Manual" mode. Turn it on only when the plants need water.

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What causes my plants' leaves to be browned around their edges and at their tips?

Moisture stress. Those are the points farthest from the roots, so they dry out first and get water last. It's the same as with our ear lobes, fingertips and toes. Those are the places where our circulatory problems show up first. All of that said, moisture stress can be brought on by insufficient water, of course, but it can also be prompted by excesses of fertilizer, root or trunk damage, hot and drying winds and other environmental issues.

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When should I prune my plants?

It's best to prune most plants lightly and frequently rather than by massive amounts at any one time. However, there are some specific fine-tunings. Plants that should be pruned during the winter include shade trees, evergreen shrubs, summer-flowering shrubs and vines, groundcovers, fruit and pecan trees and grape vines. If any of these needs to be pruned it should be done during the winter dormant period. Bush roses are pruned in mid-February. Prune spring-flowering shrubs and vines (including climbing roses) immediately after they finish their main round of spring blooms. Blackberries are pruned immediately following harvest.

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How much can I prune my shrubs without harming them?

It's generally best not to remove more than 15 to 20 percent of shrubs' top growth at any one time. Late winter is the best time for that type of severe reshaping, as it allows the plants to regrow and fill in right away in the spring. Prune in a way that allows some leaf growth to remain. Hopefully you can prune with lopping shears and hand shears so that you can avoid unnaturally round or square shapes.

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What is the best time to plant new trees and shrubs?

Most woody plants do especially well when they are set out in the fall. Serious horticulturists prefer fall plantings since it allows the plants the balance of the fall, all winter and all spring to establish their new roots before the summer's hot, dry weather. Spring and summer plantings can also work well so long as you hand-water the new plants for the first season. Their roots will all be in the original soil ball from the nursery initially, and that soil will dry out much more quickly than the native soil in your landscape. Winter plantings work well, but avoid plants known to be winter-tender in your area.

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How can I start new plants from cuttings?

Some plants are much more easily started from cuttings than others. Most groundcovers, vines and shrubs are started this way. A few trees and perennials are, as are some annuals. Since seeds are not involved, each of the new plants will be genetically identical to the mother plant. "Hardwood" cuttings are taken during the winter dormant season. "Softwood" cuttings are taken from succulent new growth in late spring. "Semi-hardwood" cuttings are taken from partially matured new growth in the summer. Timing will depend on the type of plant being rooted. Cuttings should be 3 to 6 inches long (again, depending on the type of plant), and they are generally taken from near the terminal ends of healthy, vigorous shoots. Work quickly to prepare the cuttings, stripping the leaves off the bottom 60 percent of each cutting. If you're trying to root more difficult species you should "wound" the cuttings by removing two thin slivers of external tissue on opposite sides of the bases of the cuttings. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone powder (available from nurseries), tapping off any excess. Stick the cuttings into pots filled with some type of rooting medium, generally half Canadian peat moss and half horticultural grade perlite. Keep them warm and moist and in bright light until they form roots. It usually helps if you cover them with clear plastic such as dry cleaners' bags to keep the humidity up. It will help greatly if you have a greenhouse with a mist system to maintain 100 percent humidity. Cuttings will root in 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the species, at which point you can dig them carefully and pot them individually.

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How do I start new plants from air layers?

Air layering is another means of asexual (no seeds involved) plant propagation. Because it is relatively time-consuming, it's generally saved for the more difficult-to-root types of plants. Its main difference is that the new plants remain attached to the mother plants until they have formed their new roots, at which point you can cut and pot them. The layer should be made 6 to 10 inches back from the growing tip. Cut off all leaves for a 3- to 4-inch section, then use a sharp knife to cut a sliver of the external tissue on each side of the stem. That sliver should be about the thickness of a paper match, and you want to leave it attached to the stem as a flap. Wedge a toothpick into it to keep the freshly cut wood separated from the stem. Dust it with rooting hormone powder. Grab a handful of wet sphagnum moss (as you would use to line a wire hanging basket) that you have been soaking for at least one hour. Squeeze the moss until it barely drips, then place it around the stem. Carefully wrap a piece of clear polyethylene plastic around the moss several times, then secure it with electrician's tape to make the layer air-tight. Roots will begin to form within the moss sometime within the first 6 to 8 weeks, at which point you can sever the layer and plant it into good potting soil. Keep it moist and humid until its roots start to grow. Air layering is especially useful with tropical houseplants such as crotons and ficuses.

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What groundcover could I use to replace my lawn? I'm tired of lawn upkeep.

That's a bad plan. Groundcovers may seem like labor-savers since they don't have to be mowed, but there are many other maintenance factors. Consider the extra bed preparation and the labor of planting the groundcover (not to mention the very great expense of planting hundreds, even thousands, of plants). Then, all weeding and trimming must be done by hand. Grass is the lowest maintenance covering of bare ground that we have. Of course, there are times when groundcovers may be preferable. In heavy shade, where grass thins and dies, choose from liriope, mondograss, the various ivies and even Asian jasmine and purple wintercreeper (both outstanding full-sun groundcovers as well). Use deeply rooted groundcovers to hold soil on steep slopes where mowing would be difficult. Liriope, mondograss, purple wintercreeper and purpleleaf honeysuckle are possibilities.

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Should I trim my groundcover? When and how?

Groundcovers do sometimes grow too tall and trimming is a possibility. Trim mondograss and liriope by half in late winter before they start to make their candles of new growth. Their leaves are very fibrous, so use sharp tools to trim. Asian jasmine should be trimmed with your mower at its top setting, once again in late winter before the new growth begins. This is also a way to tidy up any Asian jasmine beds that have been damaged by extreme cold. Purple wintercreeper euonymus grows taller than jasmine so you'll need to use a line trimmer or gasoline-powered hedge trimmer to cut it. For the record, English ivy can pull loose from its bed if you use a line trimmer carelessly.

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What is the best lawngrass?

We do not have a perfect turfgrass. Common bermuda is the most popular. It's inexpensive to plant, durable and pest-resistant. It holds up well to pedestrian traffic, and you can use a variety of weedkillers to eliminate invaders. St. Augustine has a brighter green appearance and it grows better in shady conditions. It is not as invasive into flowerbeds as bermuda, but it's not as winter-hardy. It also must be planted from sod or plugs. Hybrid bermudas are beautiful, but they're high-maintenance. Buffalograss is drought-tolerant, but it is usually overtaken by bermuda (no chemical control is available). Fescues don't do well with the Texas summer heat in most areas. Zoysias probably offer the best hope over the next several decades. New varieties are being tested and introduced each year. They are, in many respects, intermediate to bermuda and St. Augustine in texture, height and shade tolerance.

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I want to overseed my lawn for winter green grass. What should I use?

Perennial rye is the best choice for Texas. It isn't truly perennial here due to our intense summer heat. It generally dies away by mid- to late May. Its seed costs more than annual rye, but it more than makes up for it in improved germination and much finer texture (better appearance and much less frequent mowing). Plant the seed at the rate of 8 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet in mid-September. Sow half going east-to-west, overlapping with the rest going north-to-south. Have someone hold a large piece of cardboard along bed edgings to prevent the seed going where it won't be wanted. Water daily for the first week to help it get established and growing. Some people even drop their mower blades down by one notch before sowing their rye seeds to improve soil contact and germination. Fertilize the rye in late fall and again in late winter to boost it along.

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What is the best time to plant a new lawn?

It will depend on the grass. Warm-season grasses such as the various bermudas, zoysias and St. Augustine should be planted from April through September. May is an outstanding time, since summer's blast hasn't quite hit yet. If you plant in the summer you'll have to be much more concerned about keeping the grass moist until it can root into the ground. Cool-season grasses fescue and rye are planted in mid-September. Some folks find themselves needing to plant grass during the winter, either to close on a house or to stop tracking of mud or erosion. The farther north you go in Texas, the more risky winter planting becomes. Bermuda is least likely to be damaged by extreme cold.

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How often should I water my lawn?

There is no good answer to that question. Turf needs to be allowed to dry somewhat between waterings. That encourages the grass to develop deeper, stronger roots. Frequency will vary greatly in the winter, spring and fall due to variations in the weather. However, during the hot summer weather aim to water no more often than every 4 or 5 days (3 or 4 days if temperatures exceed 100 degrees). Water heavily enough that the grass doesn't dry out any sooner than that. Leave sprinkler systems in the "Manual" mode so that they don't run when they're not needed.

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What time of night or day should I water?

Early morning watering (5 to 9 AM) is always best. Evening and night watering can lead to diseases as the grass stays moist for longer periods of time. Brown patch is the chief problem. It's a fall disease of St. Augustine turf, so morning watering at that time is especially critical.

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How good are weed-and-feed fertilizers?

Fertilizing and weed control are two separate processes and should be dealt with accordingly. It isn't that much more work, and the time savings of applying the combination materials certainly do not justify the risks you take in the process. You may need to fertilize your plants at times that would be inappropriate for herbicides and vice versa. For example, early spring applications of weedkillers are often made around or just before the average date of the last killing freeze. Warm-season lawn grasses should not be fertilized that early. However, the bigger concern is that many weed-and-feed fertilizers contain herbicides that can damage desirable landscape plants. Valuable trees and shrubs can be lost in the process.

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What mowing height is best for my grass?

Common bermuda should be maintained at 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches. Hybrid bermudas will be shorter, depending on the variety. St. Augustine should be mowed at 2 to 2-1/2 inches. Fescue and buffalograss can be mowed at 3 inches. Zoysias will vary depending on the variety.

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How often should I mow my grass?

Aim to mow your lawn on 4- or 5-day intervals while it is growing most rapidly during the summer. That way you'll not remove more than one-third of its growth at any given time. Letting the grass grow taller weakens it.

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My lawngrass pulls loose from the soil very easily. It's as if something has eaten all its roots. What does that damage?

White grub worms (larval form of June beetles) devour turf roots (both bermuda and St. Augustine) leaving the grass dead and lifeless on top of the soil. Their prime season of activity starts 6 weeks after the major June beetle flight in early summer and continues until frost. The fully developed grubs are 1/2-inch long. They are white with brown heads, they have legs, and they are always curled into crescents. If you see the damage and find 4 to 5 grubs per square foot, use an appropriate turf insecticide followed by a deep watering to eliminate them. There is little benefit from treating after early November. On a related note, if you see the same type of damage to St. Augustine, yet you do not find the grubs in the soil, there is the chance that you have take-all patch. It also devastates the grass roots, but you'll just not see the grubs. Use a labeled turf fungicide to stop its spread.

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There are so many types of weedkillers. How can I choose the correct one?

To choose the correct herbicide you need to answer three pairs of questions. (a) Is the weed an annual or perennial? (b) Is the weed a grass, or is it a non-grass (broadleafed) weed? (c) Does the weed do most of its growing in the cool months or during the warm months? If you can answer those three pairs of questions, you and your nurserymen will be able to choose the most appropriate weedkiller. Pre-emergent weedkillers, for example, will control annual weeds so long as you apply them before the weed seeds start to sprout. Early spring and early summer applications will prevent the warm-season annual weeds. Early fall applications will prevent the cool-season types. There are types for both grassy and broadleafed weeds. On the same line, there are post-emergent weedkillers for both grassy and broadleafed weedkillers. Your nurseryman can steer you in the right direction. Total-kill herbicides eliminate all vegetation, and there are specific weedkillers for nutsedge as well.

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How do I eliminate crabgrass and grassburs from my lawn?

Use a pre-emergent weedkiller in very early spring and again 90 days later in early summer. If you already have existing plants you will need to use a post-emergent herbicide containing MSMA for their control. MSMA can only be used in bermuda turf.

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How can I eliminate dallisgrass from my lawn?

Dallisgrass forms dense, dark green clumps in all types of lawns. Each of its seeds is fertile, so it's very important that you remove the seed stalks as soon as they start to form. They develop really quickly, so that may mean mowing every 4 days during the summer. You do have a couple of herbicide options. We'll state them a couple of different ways so there can be no confusion. Read carefully. In bermuda: spray with MSMA in June or July. It will yellow your bermuda, but it will not kill it. Earlier treatments will not be effective. You need hot weather. In other grasses, St. Augustine included: there is no herbicide that will kill dallisgrass without killing St. Augustine. Either hand-dig the dallisgrass clumps or spot treat them with a glyphosate herbicide. You may be able to apply the glyphosate in early spring, once the dallisgrass has greened up and started growing, but before the St. Augustine is green. Apply it only to the dallisgrass, as it will kill all other grasses. If you're careful in your application, the St. Augustine will fill quickly across it.

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What is the plant with the scalloped leaves and little purple flowers in early spring, and how do I get it out of my lawn?

That's henbit, and it's really annoying. The good news is, it's also easy to eliminate. Simply mowing the plants down once they have started to form their flower buds will usually kill them. They are reluctant to send up new shoots. You can also use a broadleafed weedkiller to control existing plants in late November or mid-February warm spells (follow label directions, especially as they pertain to temperature). Best option of all, however, is to apply a pre-emergent in mid-September to keep them ever from sprouting. You can also use the broadleafed weedkiller and pre-emergent treatments to deal with dandelions, clover and chickweed, among other annual broadleafed weeds.

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Is it a good idea to scalp our lawn?

Scalping is primarily an aesthetic endeavor. You'll remove the stubble left over by the winter so that the sun will warm the ground more efficiently. You'll see the new green growth of the spring several weeks earlier. You'll also remove many of the winter weeds in the process, most especially henbit. On the downside, scalping is a terribly messy task. Wear a quality respirator and goggles.

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My St. Augustine has dead brown areas. The blades pull loose easily from the runners. What is it, and what can I do to stop it?

That's brown patch, a common and comparatively harmless fall disease. It attacks the leaf blades where they attach to the runners. That's why they pull loose so easily. You will see it in late September and through October. It is spread by moisture, so don't water at night during the fall. Turf fungicides will generally stop it in its tracks, but treat at the first signs of an outbreak. You'll see leaves starting to turn yellow in fairly distinct round patches. That's the time to treat.

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My St. Augustine looks like it is fading away. It lacks vigor. I don't see any insects or diseases. What can the problem be?

Take-All Patch. Big sections of my St. Augustine lawn started thinning and dying over a 3-year period. It was gradual, and it seemed to be most prominent in the heaviest shade. I just assumed the grass wasn't getting enough light. Late in a fall, however, the problem began to invade areas that received direct sunlight. The is a presence of the fungus under a microscope. The recommendation for take-all patch for the past several years has been to put down a layer of acidic organic matter, preferably brown Canadian peat moss. That acidic layer, in contact with the runners, retards development of the fungus and allows the grass to regrow strongly. Two questions that are frequently asked "How often will I need to repeat this process?" One treatment of peat will probably remain effective for up to three years. Can't I use agricultural sulfur, since it develops into sulfuric acid when it becomes wet?" Sulfur is too soluble and is too easily moved by heavy rains. Peat, on the other hand, stays put.

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My St. Augustine is yellowing and looking dry along my sidewalk and out in the middle of the lawn. What is wrong?

Suspect chinch bugs. They will show up in the hottest parts of the yard and in the middle of the summer. The grass will appear dry, but watering won't bring it back around. You can see the b-b-sized insects with white diamonds on their wings flitting around in the interface between dying and healthy grass. If left untreated they are capable of killing the grass in large patches. Use a general-purpose turf insecticide to eliminate them. Check again in a week to be sure they are gone. They often will reappear summer-after-summer in the same parts of your yard.

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My St. Augustine seems to lack nitrogen, yet, when I add it, the grass gets worse and worse.

That sounds like gray leaf spot. If you see pin-head-sized gray-brown lesions on the blades and runners, that's your culprit. It is accelerated by nitrogen fertilizer during the summertime. Do not fertilize St. Augustine between June 15 and September 15 if this disease is present. Turf fungicides will help, but reducing the nitrogen is the biggest single solution.

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How can I protect my banana tree over the winter?

Bananas will survive most Texas winters with the exception of the colder areas along the Red River and in the Panhandle. Allow the first hard freeze to kill the tops back to the ground, then trim to remove the dried stubble a few days later. You'll gain several degrees' worth of protection if you pile mulched tree leaves over their crowns. If you are growing a dwarf banana in a patio pot you will need to protect it from sub-freezing weather. You give up about 20 degrees of winter hardiness in containers, and bananas don't have that luxury.

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When should I plant wildflower seeds in my landscape?

Sow wildflowers generally at the same times that nature would. For our spring-flowering types such as bluebonnets, late summer is best. Plant them into tilled soil away from competing turfgrass. Keep them moist until they are well established. Little or no supplemental fertilizer should be needed.

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How do I store my caladium bulbs for next year?

Most gardeners only try this once. It's too much trouble for the rewards you may or may not get. Dig the tubers once their tops have dried and fallen to the ground, but certainly before the first hard freeze. Lay them out on newspaper in the garage for several days. Do not wash them beforehand. Dust them with fungicide, then place them in single layers in flats filled with dry perlite or sawdust. Do not allow them to touch one another. Store them at 60 to 65 degrees until mid-April planting.

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My impatiens' leaves are rolled under and the plants have quit blooming. What is wrong?

That sounds like high summer temperatures. Impatiens grow and flower best when temperatures are in the 70s and 80s. They mysteriously slow in their flowering when temperatures consistently hit the high 90s, generally by mid-June. If you can keep the plants moist over the summer they often will resume blooming in September. You may want to shear them somewhat to keep them compact. Watch, too, for spider mites over the summer.

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My periwinkles are drying up one branch or plant at a time. What can I do to help them?

That's a soil-borne water mold fungus called Phytophora. Unfortunately, we do not have an effective chemical control for it. Most commercial landscapers and nurserymen advise against planting periwinkles, particularly if this disease has been a problem. Consider planting in containers away from your native soil, and wait until summer to plant, once the splashing spring rains are behind you. Drip irrigation lessens the chance of the disease attacking the plants.

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Is it true that perennials are less work than annuals?

Not necessarily. While you can plant perennials and leave them in place for several seasons, you still have to prepare their soil very carefully. After all, once they are in place and growing it will be difficult to lift all the perennials and rework the entire bed. Also, perennials bloom for only a few weeks per year, so it's especially important that you plant a mixture that will bloom in sequence. All things considered, perennials and annuals are probably about the same amount of work. Both categories deserve places in any well-designed landscape.

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What are some of the best perennials for Texas landscapes?

It will be hard to list all the good types, but they would include (in general sequence of flowering) violets, oxalis, thrift, iris, Texas Gold columbines, hardy amaryllis, Byzantine gladiolus, butterfly weed, Salvia greggii, purple coneflower, Shasta daisy, daylilies, mallows, coneflowers, cannas, summer phlox, fall asters, spider lilies, oxblood lilies, fall crocus, Salvia leucantha and chrysanthemums.

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When should I dig and divide my perennials?

That will vary with the type of perennial, but, in general terms, types that flower in the fall should be transplanted in the spring, while those that bloom in the spring and summer should be dug and divided in the fall.

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When should I plant new roses?

Roses can be planted in February, while the plants are dormant. They can also be bought and planted in April and May (and later) while they're in bud and bloom. Buy modern roses in 2-gallon pots (or larger) to ensure that you have well-developed root systems. Antique roses are grown from cuttings, so 1-gallon plants will do quite well.

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When and how should I prune my roses?

Bush roses are pruned in mid-February. Trim them by 50 percent, making each cut directly above a bud that faces out from the center of the plant. That will encourage open, more compact growth. Climbing roses and spring-only bloomers should be pruned immediately after their burst of spring flowers. Trim them by half, removing all weak, unproductive canes in the process. Rosarians suggest sealing the cut ends with white glue. You will also have ongoing pruning to do during the growing season. Remove all spent flowers by cutting just beneath the second 5-leaflet leaf.

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Why do my roses fail to open properly, looking browned and scorched instead.

That's thrips. If you peel an affected bud open you'll see the tiny sliver-shaped, honey-colored pests moving about freely. Use a systemic insecticide to prevent and control them.

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What causes the brown spots all over my rose leaves?

That's a fungal leaf spot called black spot. Some varieties are highly susceptible to it and will require weekly spraying with a systemic insecticide just to exist. Without the protection the plants grow stemmy and weak. Other types, including the recognized EarthKind roses identified by Texas A&M, are far less prone to the disease and can exist without heroic spraying.

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What are the most dependable roses for my Texas landscape?

Following are those that have already been selected for their superior performance under a variety of Texas conditions and without heroic soil preparation or spraying. Groundcovers: Sea Foam is a creamy white double that blooms from mid-spring until frost. It grows in spreading shrub form to 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Dwarf Shrubs: Marie Daly is a semi-double, fragrant pink variety that blooms from spring until frost. It is a Polyantha rose that grows to 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. The Fairy is a light pink, small-flowering double Polyantha that grows to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It blooms all season long. Small Shrubs: Caldwell Pink is a very double, lilac-pink rose that blooms from spring until frost. It grows to 4 feet tall and wide. Knock Out is a cherry red, semi-double shrub rose to 4 feet tall and wide. It blooms from spring, through the summer and all the way until frost. Perle d'Or is a double-flowering, peach-colored rose that grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It flowers from spring until frost. Medium Shrubs: Belinda's Dream is a double pink rose that is also fragrant. It is fragrant, blooming from spring until frost. The plants grow to 5 feet tall and wide. Else Poulsen is a pink-flowering, semi-double floribunda rose that blooms from April until November. It grows to 5 feet tall and wide. Katy Road Pink grows to 5 feet tall and wide. It produces semi-double, pink flowers all season long. Mutabilis (butterfly rose) is a 6-foot shrubby China rose with single yellow, pink, then crimson flowers. It is the first rose to be named EarthKind™ Rose of the Year (2005). Vines: Climbing Pinkie grows to 10 feet tall, or it can be kept as a 6-foot shrub. It bears semi-double, fragrant pink flowers all season long. It is a Polyantha rose.

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What do I do the night of the first killing frost or freeze?

What do you do when it looks like the growing season might come to a halt? Many times, if you can pull your plants through that first frost or light freeze there will be several more frost-free weeks before winter arrives to stay. For a light frost: Frost, which forms on plants' leaves, just as it does on car windshields, during clear and still, cold weather, can disfigure or kill plants, so take precautions even when temperatures are expected to fall only into the high 30s. Covering plants with lightweight nursery cloth or old sheets can gain several degrees' worth of cold protection. Move container plants under the cover of porches or beneath eaves. For an actual freeze (32 F or below): Protect hardy plants (such as chrysanthemums in bloom, also leafy and root vegetables) with lightweight nursery fabric. You'll gain 2 to 4 degrees of protection (or more) from those PETERe fabrics when you use them to cover tender annuals such as tomatoes or marigolds. Freeze-sensitive annuals can be protected from hard freezes by covering with plastic suspended away from their leaves. Supply supplemental heat to keep temperatures above freezing beneath the cover. Do not allow their leaves and flowers to touch the cold plastic.

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What about when there's a chance of late frost or freeze in spring?

For a late frost: Buds, flowers and tender new foliage are vulnerable to frost, which can form on cold, still nights, particularly if it is clear. Lightweight nursery fabrics will protect against frost damage and can easily be removed and stored for the next event. Secure them against winds that may accompany cold fronts. For a late freeze: Floating lightweight nursery fabrics can still gain you several degrees' worth of protection, provided they're draped over your plants prior to the low temperatures, and if they're left there until temperatures are back into the high 30s. Some folks want to put a sprinkler under their fruit trees if a late freeze catches them in flower. That's something commercial growers do, but you have to be careful that the weight of the ice that forms doesn't break the branches. You have to leave the sprinkler running until the temperature has risen above freezing. It may be better not to do this unless you're familiar with the technique.

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What if there's an unusually cold spell in winter?

Know your area's USDA Hardiness Zone. That will tell you the average low temperature you can expect to see most winters. Hopefully your plants will have been chosen accordingly. If you have an unusually tender plant, or if temperatures are expected to drop lower than you would normally expect to be your coldest weather, follow these guidelines: Use compost, shredded tree leaves or some other form of mulch to moderate the rate of soil temperature changes. Water all plants carefully and deeply prior to the cold front. Cover the vulnerable plants with lightweight nursery fabric or old sheets. Secure the covers tightly in place, since most cold fronts are accompanied by strong winds. Provide stakes to support the cover if rain, ice or snow are expected. If you see what you think might be freeze damage, wait several weeks or even until spring to assess its magnitude. Even if leaves are scorched by cold, plants often send out new spring leaves to replace them. You'll know within a week or two if new growth of hollies, pittosporum, gardenias, oleanders and others has been damaged. Look for shriveling twig tissues. Bark near the soil line may also rupture. REMEMBER: You lose about 20 degrees of winter hardiness in most woody plants when you grow them in containers, above the ground. Their root systems are much more exposed and vulnerable. Either wheel them into the garage for a day or two during extreme cold, or wrap them securely in sheets of insulation.

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What do I do about strong winds during growing season?

New trees and large shrubs should be carefully staked to keep them rigidly in place. Keep lines taut, and use 3 or 4 stakes. Cushion trunks to prevent damage of rubbing. Mature trees may lose limbs during wind storms. Cabling allows branches to counter-brace one another. It is a procedure probably best left to professional arborists. Declining trees can actually topple during high winds. Since they can do significant damage in that process, keep a close eye on all your trees' vigor. Periodic check-ups from a certified arborist might be in order. Watch closely, for example, for Bradford pear (and other ornamental pears) trunks to split due to their weak branching structure.

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How do I combat ice?

Ice doesn't damage plants from its cold. It breaks their branches and causes them to become misshapen. Your best defense, then, is to have your trees cabled so that branches will support one another. Prop up suspect branches during ice storms. Don't brush against shrubs and groundcovers that are encased in ice lest you break them.

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How should I deal with extreme heat?

Obviously, water your plants deeply and regularly. If a plant is dry, don't feel that you have to wait for early morning hours to water. If a plant is dry at 2 p.m., water it then. Keep water off foliage any time the sun is shining to prevent sunscald. Mulch your plants deeply to lessen the soil-to-air contact, and, in the process, to conserve valuable soil moisture. Of course, you should plant only trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, turf and flowers that can handle the normal Texas heat in the first place.

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What advice do you have about drought/water curtailments.

We probably water our plants too much. Automatic sprinkler settings undoubtedly contribute more to that than any one other feature. Here are miscellaneous tips to get the most from available water: Avoid plants known to need excessive water. However, this is not meant to imply only desert-type plants. Do not fertilize during periods of mid-summer curtailments. Rampant growth requires more water. Mulch plants with roll-type or organic mulch, or both. Water in evenings or early morning hours. When possible, use soaker hoses turned upside-down, rather than spraying water into the air. Water thoroughly and infrequently, to promote deeper root growth that is better able to withstand dry periods. Leave the sprinkler system in the "Manual" mode, then turn it on yourself when your plants show need. Use a hose-end sprinkler to spot-water dry areas between automatic irrigations. Use "gray" water, that is, water from the washing machine and utility sinks. When conditions are most extreme, use available water for those plants that would take the longest or cost the most to replace, for example, shade trees and turf, rather than annual flowers. Just one good soaking every couple of weeks could keep turfgrass alive for the summer¬ beautiful, but alive.

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What if my area experiences prolonged cloudiness, wet conditions?

If you get a good bit of cloudy, rainy weather in late spring or fall, expect fungal diseases to show up. Watch closely, then treat with an appropriate fungicide at first signs of an outbreak. Expect, too, for your healthy, vigorous plants to wilt temporarily when they're exposed to full sun for the first time in several days. If you continue to have troubles with plants in one particular part of your garden because of excessively wet soils, consider installing guttering and downspouts, also in-ground grates and drains, and perhaps even a French drain to carry the excess water away to a storm sewer or to the curb.

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