Dear Neil: This redbud tree was dug up on the side of a mountain in Arkansas about 12 years ago. It has done really well, but this spring only one side bloomed. The other side appeared to be dead, and it hasn’t leafed out even now. Is it dying?
A: Unfortunately, the one side is gone. In fact, you can see the small sprouts it has tried to send up from its roots to form a new set of trunks. That’s how they often operate. Redbuds, as pretty as they are, often operate exactly like this. I can show you a dozen or more within a couple of miles of our house that look about like this. I wish I could offer a solution, but short of pruning out the dead side and trying to retrain the tree, there isn’t much you can do. It’s probably time to replant. I’m sorry.
Dear Neil: We had a lush spathiphyllum on our deck. One night, several of the leaves disappeared entirely, leaving only stubs remaining. We brought the plant inside. Do you think it will recover? Will a possum eat their leaves? I have read here that you have many spathiphyllums and wondered if you have encountered this.
A: I’ve had 15 or 20 spathiphyllums in our landscape each summer for probably 25 years. And, living in the country with all kinds of wild animals roaming around us — possums included — I can honestly tell you that I have never had leaves eaten like the ones in your thumbnail photo. I assume you didn’t see any droppings that would indicate caterpillars. Also that you’ve not had other plants chewed nearby. No grasshoppers in the neighborhood? If you’ve answered “No” to all those, it must have been the possum. I’ve had good luck with a humane trap, releasing them some distance away (miles) where they won’t do damage to other landscapes.
Dear Neil: How can I kill Bahiagrass in my lawn? It’s driving me crazy.
A: Owing to the many questions I get on this grass invading lawns, many face the same problem. With MSMA now off the consumer market, we have no product that will kill one grass within a bermuda lawn without harming the bermuda. Your best bet is to mow low and maintain high levels of nitrogen and moisture. The bermuda will be fairly assertive in crowding out the Bahia in those situations. Bahia was introduced into the U.S. long ago as a forage grass, and you’ll see as many references online to how to maximize its use that way as you will on how to eliminate it in lawns. A lawn care company might have access to products that would be more effective in eliminating it than we consumers can buy in stores. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.
Dear Neil: I’m attaching photos of my Autumn Blaze red maple trees. I am starting to see slits in their trunks, and black ooze is coming out of them. The leaves above these slits are turning colors. Have you ever seen this before? What can I do?
A: I have seen and been asked about this several dozen times already this summer, on maples, pistachios and especially oaks. This is sunscald. These trees were probably not protected with paper tree wrap when they were planted. That is really a requirement for the first two years. In the nursery they were grown pot-to-pot and they shaded one another, but in our landscapes we expose them to hot south and west sun. Wrapping now won’t help. All you can do is hope they will recover. I wish I had better news. I wish nurseries would instruct their customers. It’s so easy to do this.
Dear Neil: I am trying to grow zucchini in a planter (potting mix in top and a water reservoir in the bottom). The plants get big and start to set fruit, but the leaves turn yellow around the edges, then brown, then die. Why would this happen, and what can we do to correct it?
A: That’s hydroponic growing of zucchini, and it is certainly possible. However, (a big “however”), there is a lot of chemistry involved, and it’s highly possible for the wheels to come off. When you grow in topsoil containing clay, you get all the trace elements. When you grow hydroponically, you have to add them, and it’s very easy to be off target and get too much or too little of any of them. Some of them can cause exactly what you have experienced. It takes only a little more boron or sodium (present in many Texas city water supplies) or other trace elements to have too much. And all of that begs the question of whether spider mites or lace bugs might have entered the picture. I really think hydroponics might be better saved for other, slower-moving crops that would be easier to maintain.
Dear Neil: What is this weed grass that has shown up in my bermuda lawn? How can can I get rid of it?
A: Goodness. That’s hard to see. The flowers/seedheads are just starting to emerge. The good news is that it’s not dallisgrass (a perennial weed that is much more difficult to eliminate). It looks like it’s probably crabgrass. Pre-emergent weedkiller granules applied next spring and early summer to prevent germination in the first place would be your only means of dealing with it and all other annual, warm-season grassy weeds. Timing would be two weeks prior to the average date of the last killing freeze for your county, with a follow-up booster shot application 90 days (3 months) later. Granules could be Dimension, Halts or Balan. You must make both applications. Once grassy weeds start to grow you do not get a second chance. (Note: You will see me touting application of pre-emergent granules here in another week. That is for winter weeds, not this one.)
If you’d like Neil Sperry’s help with a plant question, drop him a note in care of The Eagle, P.O. Box 3000, Bryan, Texas 77805. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.