Mag­no­lia tree’s stems might be dead, but hope re­mains

Orlando Sentinel - - STYLE & HOME -

the ones back that grow way above the nor­mal height of the shrubs. Do re­frain from heavy prun­ing that would re­move the nor­mal growth, as these have likely swelled no­tice­able plump buds that can open late win­ter or spring blooms.

The leaves on my aza­leas have black spots. Is this nor­mal?

Leaf spots that even­tu­ally cause leaf drop on aza­leas are nor­mal but not de­sir­able. Most brown to black leaf spots are caused by a fun­gus called cer­cospora. It is too late in the sea­son to ob­tain much control of the fun­gus. The leaf drop weak­ens the plants, but it should flower and pro­duce new growth for spring.

Plants af­fected by cer­cospora could have an end-of-sea­son fungi­cide spray ap­plied at this time and re­sumed monthly start­ing at the begin­ning of the rainy sea­son through early fall. The fungi­cide Da­conil and some of the newer sys­temic fungi­cides are giv­ing good control when used to pre­vent in­fec­tion dur­ing the sum­mer and early fall months fol­low­ing la­bel in­struc­tions.

There are a num­ber of bare spots in my St. Au­gus­tine lawn. Can I patch them at this time of the year with new sod?

St. Au­gus­tine turf can make lots of growth dur­ing the fall through spring months. Now would be a good time to add patches of sod so cool sea­son weeds don’t fill the bar­ren ar­eas. The only risk would be pos­si­ble freezes dam­ag­ing turf that is mak­ing growth as it be­comes es­tab­lished. Even dur­ing lo­cally se­vere win­ters, St. Au­gus­tine is usu­ally a sur­vivor, so it is worth the risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some cold dam­age to have a full lawn by spring.

I have a tall-grow­ing dragon fruit with five shoots com­ing off the side and one at the top. Do I leave the side shoots or cut them off?

Tra­di­tion­ally, sin­gle or mul­ti­ple stems of the dragon fruit plant, also known as pitaya and night­bloom­ing cereus, are trained up a post or trel­lis and left to sprout shoots at the top. These shoots then flower and sup­port the large, odd-look­ing fruits. Prob­a­bly this is done more for com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion and easy pick­ing as the plants are thorny. It is doubt­ful pro­duc­tion or the qual­ity of the fruit would be af­fected if you leave the side shoots. The only shoots that should be re­moved are those close to the ground where the flow­ers and fruits would touch the soil.

In mid-Novem­ber, my 5-foot-tall tomato plant fi­nally de­cided to bloom. What are the chances it sets fruit?

Hope for lots of warm win­ter weather, as this is what toma­toes need to set fruits. A few fruits might form at this time of the year, but per­haps your best ex­pec­ta­tions would be an early start on spring tomato pro­duc­tion. Keep the tomato grow­ing through the win­ter, and by March, the sea­sonal tem­per­a­tures should be con­sis­tently high enough for the fruits to hold on the plant.

My Christ­mas cac­tus is drop­ping whole stems that ap­pear to be rot­ting. What can I do to save the plant?

Stem and root rot problems can spoil an­tic­i­pated flower dis­plays for the hol­i­day sea­son. Try to sal­vage this year’s color by first re­duc­ing wa­ter­ings to only when the sur­face soil be­gins to dry. This may control the rot prob­lem. The hol­i­day cac­tus is tough and likes to stay on the dry side this time of the year.

If the rot prob­lem ap­pears to be ex­ten­sive, re­pot­ting is needed to re­move some of the old, in­fested soil. Re­plant in a loose pot­ting mix. Clean the orig­i­nal con­tainer with a one part house­hold bleach to ten parts wa­ter so­lu­tion, or ob­tain a new con­tainer of the same size or slightly smaller. Christ­mas cac­tus also likes to be a bit pot-bound.

You could ap­ply a fungi­cide, but prod­ucts that give control are nor­mally more ex­pen­sive than the cost of sev­eral new plants. If needed, con­tact your lo­cal ex­ten­sion of­fice for a list of root and stem rot prod­ucts that would be ef­fec­tive.

ARNO BURGI/AP

The fail­ure of a mag­no­lia tree to drop its brown leaves is not a good sign.

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