How To Take Care Of Your Plants

Wildflowers: Require a week of daily watering and some slow release fertilizer to become established. They may need watering two to three times a week until the end of the month if showing signs of stress . The plants may need watering once a week, if at all, during long dry periods after the initial establishment period.

Shrubs and Trees: Require two weeks of daily watering and every three days for an additional month. There is a period from March to July that may be especially dry; this ends with the summer rains. During this time your plants may require watering every two to three days depending on the moisture holding capacity of the soil. Within three to six months, most trees and shrubs should be on their own unless there is no rain for more than two weeks. Always keep an eye on your plants and water them if necessary as it may take one full year before some trees are fully established and can make it through our long dry spells.

When planting a tree or shrub pull apart the roots from opposite sides of the root ball to break up any roots that have completely circled the inside of the pot. These will otherwise continue to get thicker in diameter until they strangle the trunk years later. To do this run your thumb from top to bottom and about two inched into the ball or cut with a shovel. The plant should be installed so that the top of the root ball is level with the ground and the soil is firm beneath the root ball. If the soil is too loose beneath the plant, it may settle and you will find the root ball several inches below the surface in a few months. Replant if this happens. Build a ring of soil around the outside of the root ball with the extra soil to hold the water in place when you water. Use a forceful stream from the hose to soak the soil; a sprinkle will do little to wet the ground.

Florida has a variety of soils to deal with. Coastal and scrub soils, which are just west of I95 to the ocean, are very dry. Plants in these soils require more weeks of watering as well as frequency. Traveling west of this zone the soil becomes moister, yet may have pockets of scrub, until wetlands are encountered near the turnpike and beyond. If your soil is always moist, your plants will only need the first week of watering and as needed thereafter. Use a slow release fertilizer to help your plants send down their roots. The three to 12 month fertilizers work well. Flowers will need one treatment and trees and shrubs may need three.

Keep weedeaters away from your plants, they will girdle the lower trunk and kill the plant. Stake the tree loosely, if at all, so that it can move and strengthen. Cut your shrubs back several inches to a foot or two by hand only if needed. Some plants like beautyberry and necklace pod can be cut to the ground every year or two. Don’t sheer them or the growth will be on the outer tips and none in the center. And don’t square your plants, it is just an ugly thing to do.

If you notice insects, especially newly introduced ones, causing a lot of damage, try the organic oils or other sprays to control them. Since these introduced insects have no enemies, they can multiply unchecked and weaken or kill your plants.

Call me if you have any further questions about how to take care of your plants.

Carl Terwilliger