Blue Morpho Butterfly feeding on banana. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS
Have you been thinking about creating a butterfly garden but don’t know where to start?
Afraid it’s too much upkeep or has to look wild and untamed?
Red Admiral Butterfly. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS
Spend a Saturday morning with the UF/IFAS Master Gardeners of Bay County to see how to design, install, and maintain a colorful low maintenance butterfly garden.
Next Saturday, June 3rd, is the free Butterfly Gardening Workshop in Panama City at the UF/IFAS Extension Office at 2728 E. 14th Street. Come learn about butterfly gardening and see our vibrant garden.
Please register ahead of time so that we can supply enough materials for all attendees by calling 850-784-6105 or sign up online.
One of the main Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles is to plant the right plant in the right place. In Florida, not only does this apply to the zone you’re in, soils you have, and light conditions in your garden, but also ensuring that invasive, exotic plant species are not used. While most of us have heard about invasive, exotic plants – those that invade and disrupt our unique natural habitats – some may not know where or how to find out which plants are, in fact, invasive and exotic. Some of the more famous invasive, exotic plant species, such as kudzu and hydrilla, are familiar to us and we may have an idea of a plant in our garden that is “aggressive”, but how do we know for sure? Since only a handful of the worst invasive, exotic plants are legally prohibited from being sold, how do we know if a plant we are considering purchasing at our local nursery or another plant already in our gardens is an invasive, exotic? A quick internet search for Florida invasive plants gets you various sources of information. How do you choose which to use?
The unique habitats of Florida need our help. Prevent the spread of invasive, exotic species by planting Florida-Friendly plants. Source: Mark Tancig/UF/IFAS.
Fortunately, the researchers at UF/IFAS want you to be able to find the best information in one spot – the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas. This site systematically reviews individual plant species and provides a recommendation as to whether it should be used in North, Central, or South Florida landscapes. Many landscape plants have been reviewed – over 800 – and more are added to the site as reviews are completed. The UF/IFAS Assessment also reviews cultivars of known invasive, exotic plants to ensure that they are sterile and will not revert back to their wild type or hybridize with known invasives, or even closely related native species.
The UF/IFAS Assessment is a simple, convenient source for deciding if a plant should be used in your Florida landscape.
To use the site, simply visit the main web address – assessment.ifas.ufl.edu – and begin typing in your plant name in the search bar. You can begin spelling the scientific or common name and it will start showing possible results as you type. Once you select the plant you’re interested in, it will take you to a new page with photos of the plant, some general information, additional links, and, most importantly, the assessment conclusion for each zone. The conclusion will be one of the following:
- Not considered a problem species at this time,
- Caution, or
Of course, if it’s not a problem, then feel free to use and share that particular plant. If it is a caution plant, then it may be used, but you will want to be extra careful in where you plant it. Those may be better suited as potted plants or planted in areas that are confined, to limit its potential spread. If it’s invasive, don’t plant it.
Caution plants are reassessed every two years while those that are not considered a problem species or are considered invasive are reassessed every ten years.
Another way to use the UF/IFAS Assessment is to filter all reviewed plants by various criteria you’re interested in. If you select assessments on the main page, it will lead you to a list of all reviewed plants. A filter button allows you to choose geographic zone, conclusion type, and growth habit, among some other criteria. This will create a list that can then be exported to a Microsoft Excel table.
As you can see, UF/IFAS is trying to make it easy for you to determine which plants can be used in the landscape without potentially spreading and causing disruption to our unique natural areas.
If you have any questions about individual species that have or have not been assessed, contact your local County Extension Office.
This time of year, people flock to nurseries and garden centers to purchase trees or shrubs that will enhance their landscapes. However, there are certain management measures to keep in mind to ensure plant establishment. Depending on the season, newly planted trees and shrubs need varying degrees of watering, mulching, pruning and trunk staking.
Figure 1: Tree Planting.
Credit: UF/IFAS Communications.
The primary focus in care of your newly planted tree or shrub is root development. It takes several months for roots to establish, and newly planted trees and shrubs do not have a very strong root system. Start by digging the hole in a popcorn bowl shape. Once planted, backfill around the root system, but be careful not to compact the soil. Compaction will hinder root growth. Be sure to keep the topmost area of the root ball exposed, about two inches. A layer of mulch will be applied here.
Frequent watering is much needed, especially if you are planting in the warmer months. Water thoroughly, so that water percolates below the root system. Shallow watering promotes surface root growth, which will make the plant more susceptible to stress during a drought. Concentrate some of the water in a diameter pattern of a few feet from the trunk. This will cause the root system to grow towards the water, and thus better establish the root system and anchor the tree.
Mulch is important in the conservation of soil moisture. Pine needles, bark and wood chips make a great mulch for ornamental shrubs. A two to three inch layer of mulch will usually suffice. It’s important to keep the mulch at least a few inches from the trunk. Mulching too close to the tree trunk can cause trunk rot.
You should always prune the bare roots of trees and shrubs during planting. Exposed roots in containers can be damaged in shipping. Removing some of the roots will also help trigger growth. In addition, pruning some of the top foliage can reduce the amount of water needed for the plant to establish.
Newly planted trees and shrubs often have a difficult time establishing if the root system cannot be held in place. Strong winds and rain can cause the plant to tip over. Avoid this by staking the plant for temporary support. A good rule of thumb for plant staking is if the trunk diameter measures three inches or less. Tie the stake to the plant at every six inches from the top. However, only tie the trunk at one spot. Don’t tie too tightly, so that the tree has no flexibility. This will stunt the growth of the plant.
Larger trees and shrubs will need diameter staking with wire support. Four stakes evenly spaced at six feet around the trunk is a good arrangement. Each stake can be attached to the tree just above the mid-point using cable or wire. Be sure to cover the wire around the trunk with a short piece of hose to prevent any scarring of the bark. The wire should be snug, but not tight. After one year, the staking can be removed.
Following these tips will help ensure your tree or shrub becomes well established in your landscape. For more information please contact your local county extension office.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Specification for Planting Trees and Shrubs in the Southeastern U.S.” by Edward F. Gilman: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP11200.pdf
Supporting information also provided by UF/IFAS Extension Forestry Specialist Dr. Patrick Minogue, of the North Florida Research Education Center in Quincy, Florida.
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
As oak trees are now fully leafing out and people start hanging out in the shade of the canopy, many of you are noticing strange growths on the branches. They look like potatoes, spiky cones and fuzz balls on the leaves and stems. Don’t worry. It’s just a harmless wasp that chose that tree to create a nursery for her young.
Galls are abnormal plant growth or swellings comprised of plant tissue. Galls are usually found on foliage or twigs. These unusual deformities are caused by plant growth-regulating chemicals produced by tiny wasps. The chemicals produced by these insects interfere with normal plant cell growth.
The life cycles of the various gall-forming wasps are highly variable. Two or more years are required for gall wasps that develop in woody twig galls to reach maturity. Gall-forming wasps usually overwinter as adults in protected places away from the host tree. As the buds break in the spring and the leaves begin to expand, these small wasps start to lay their eggs in expanding plant tissue. During the egg-laying process or early larval-feeding period, specialized body glands secrete growth-regulating chemicals that interact with certain plant chemicals to produce these abnormal growths.
After a brief period of cell growth, gall development stops completely. Once these galls are formed, they do not continue to use nutrients from the host plant. The insect is confined within “its house” and feeds only on gall tissue during the remainder of its development. The galls provide shelter, protection, and food for the immature wasps. Inside a gall, the larvae are surrounded by tissues rich in nutrients
There are a variety of gall-forming species of small wasps that commonly infest oak, Quercus spp ., trees. Galls generally are aesthetically objectionable to homeowners who find them unattractive and fear that galls will cause damage to the health of their oak trees. Most leaf galls on oak cause little or no harm to the health of a tree. However, twig or branch galls may cause injury by distorting branch development in a heavily infested tree.
Chemical control is seldom suggested for management of leaf galls on oak. Cultural methods of control may be effective in reducing the impact of these insects. Some fallen leaves may harbor various life stages of gall-producing pests. Therefore, it may be useful to collect and destroy all infested leaves. Some of these pests overwinter in twigs and branches of oak. Where such woody galls are detected, prune and destroy the infested plant material when the galls are small and have just started to develop. But, remember every bug needs a home!
All photos by Eileen Buss, UF Entomologist
If you’re like me, growing turfgrass is often more of a hassle than anything else. Regardless of the species you plant, none tolerates shade well and it can seem like there is a never-ending list of chores and expenses that accompany lawn grass: mowing (at least one a week during the summer), fertilizing, and constantly battling weeds, disease and bugs. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an acceptable alternative, at least for the parts of the lawn that get a little less foot traffic or are shady? Turns out there is! Enter the wonderful world of perennial groundcovers!
Perennial groundcovers are just that, plants that are either evergreen or herbaceous (killed to the ground by frost, similar to turfgrass) and are aggressive enough to cover the ground quickly. Once established, these solid masses of stylish, easy to grow plants serve many of the same functions traditional turf lawns do without all the hassle: choke out weeds, provide pleasing aesthetics, reduce erosion and runoff, and provide a habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife.
The two most common turfgrass replacements found in Northwest Florida are Ornamental Perennial Peanut (Arachis glabra) and Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum); though a native species of Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is gaining popularity also. All of these plants are outstanding groundcovers but each fills a specific niche in the landscape.
Perennial Peanut Lawn
Perennial Peanut is a beautiful, aggressive groundcover that spreads through underground rhizomes and possesses showy yellow flowers throughout the year; the show stops only in the coldest winters when the plant is burned back to the ground by frost. It thrives in sunny, well-drained soils, needs no supplemental irrigation once established and because it is a legume, requires little to no supplemental fertilizer. It even thrives in coastal areas that are subject to periodic salt spray! If Perennial Peanut ever begins to look a little unkempt, a quick mowing at 3-4” will enhance its appearance.
Asiatic Jasmine is a superb, vining groundcover option for areas that receive partial to full shade, though it will tolerate full sun. This evergreen plant sports glossy dark green foliage and is extremely aggressive (lending itself to very rapid establishment). Though not as vigorous a climber as its more well-known cousin Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), Asiatic Jasmine will eventually begin to slowly climb trees and other structures once it is fully established; this habit is easily controlled with infrequent pruning. Do not look for flowers on this vining groundcover however, as it does not initiate the bloom cycle unless allowed to climb.
For those that prefer an all-native landscape, Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), also known as Sensitive Plant, is a fantastic groundcover option for full-sun situations. This herbaceous perennial is very striking in flower, sending up bright pink, fiber-optic like blooms about 6” above the foliage all summer long! Sunshine Mimosa, like Perennial Peanut, is a legume so fertility needs are very low. It is also exceptionally drought tolerant and thrives in the deepest sands. If there is a dry problem spot in your lawn that receives full sun, you can’t go wrong with this one!
As a rule, the method of establishing groundcovers as turfgrass replacements takes a bit longer than with laying sod, which allows for an “instant” lawn. With groundcovers, sprigging containerized plants is most common as this is how the majority of these species are grown in production nurseries. This process involves planting the containerized sprigs on a grid in the planting area no more than 12” apart. The sprigs may be planted closer together (8”-10”) if more rapid establishment is desired.
During the establishment phase, weed control is critical to ensure proper development of the groundcover. The first step to reduce competitive weeds is to clean the site thoroughly before planting with a non-selective herbicide such as Glyphosate. After planting, grassy weeds may be treated with one of the selective herbicides Fusilade, Poast, Select, or Prism. Unfortunately, there are not any chemical treatments for broadleaf weed control in ornamental groundcovers but these can be managed by mowing or hand pulling and will eventually be choked out by the groundcover.
If you are tired of the turfgrass life and want some relief, try an ornamental groundcover instead! They are low-maintenance, cost effective, and very attractive! Happy gardening and as always, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office for more information about this topic!