Why don’t camellia buds open?

Question: My camellia is loaded with buds but they fall off before opening. What’s wrong?

Answer: LSU AgCenter horticulturist Denyse Cummins said there could be two reasons.

The first is blossom blight.

“It’s a fungal disease that has a stage of its life in the soil so keeps reinfecting every year,” she said.

The solution? Keep mulch under the bush to break the cycle and, if you do end up with some blooms, pick up and discard the fallen flowers.

The other possibility is a tiny insect.

“They should also look for bud mites by breaking up some flower buds from the plant over a sheet of paper and looking closely for tiny insects.”

Treat with all-season oil or a systemic pesticide labeled for both camellias and bud mites.

Is there a Confederate rose whiteflies don’t like?

Question: Is there a Confederate Rose that is less inclined to be infested by white flies?  I loved mine but could not deal with spraying pesticides under each leaf top to bottom over and over so I had to remove it.  I miss it.

Answer: So sorry those nasty whiteflies caused you to remove  your Confederate rose.  Whiteflies are notoriously attracted to plants in the hibiscus family, so I doubt there’s a variety that escapes them.

If you decide to try again, here are some potential remedies, but, as you already know,  they are really difficult to eradicate. Because they are usually present in egg form, as juveniles and adults,  it’s likely treatments will have to be repeated multiple times.

Some organic remedies include:

  • Blasting them off the plant with a hard spray from a water hose.
  • Picking off leaves that are covered with eggs.
  • Spraying the plant with horticultural oil.
  • Placing yellow sticky traps nearby to catch the flying adults.
  • Spraying thoroughly with soapy water.
  • Applying a layer of earthworm castings on the ground underneath the plant. (This is a new one to me, but it was recommended by several gardeners online so I thought I’d include it. What could it hurt?)

Two systemic chemical controls recommended by LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill are Orthene and Bayer Tree and Shrub Insect Control with Merit. Follow product instructions carefully.

Maybe once the bad memories fade, you’ll be willing to give Confederate rose another try.

How do I get rid of armadillos?

Question: Got any tips for getting rid of armadillos rooting around in my beds? Someone told me to mix castor oil, shampoo and water in a spray applicator and cover the garden area thoroughly. Moth balls have not worked.

Answer: Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with this nuisance myself. My daddy used to take care of the problem with a .22. Since that’s unlikely to be a solution for you,  I did a little digging and found out that 90 percent of a  “diller’s” diet is insects and their larvae. Treating your lawn or beds with an appropriate pesticide should reduce the size of the buffet and perhaps send him looking for a more hospitable yard. I also found out that their burrows are usually located within 100 feet of the area they are damaging. If you can find it, you could try filling it with dirt after you’re sure he’s left for the night. It might take several tries, but eventually he should get discouraged and abandon it. You say you’ve already tried mothballs in your yard. Some information says dropping them, or a vinegar-soaked rag, into the hole can offend their sensitive snouts enough to be effective.  If you’d like to channel you inner Grizzly Adams, you could trap the intruder and release him in the country. … Hmm, that .22 is sounding less and less objectionable, isn’t it?

Why won’t my irises bloom?

Bearded iris. Photo by Kathie Rowell

Louisiana iris. Photo by Kathie Rowell

Question: My beloved Louisiana Irises (purple, of course) have been in the ground for nearly 10 years, but they are only about 10 inches tall and they have only bloomed once. They are in a partial sun area. How to get them to grow, spread, and ultimately bloom?

Answer: Irises should be divided about every three years so yours are probably suffering from crowded conditions. Irises also need at least six hours of sun a day to bloom, so make sure yours are in the right spot.

The best time to divide irises is when they are dormant, which is now through about October. I can’t imagine doing it in August, so I’d wait until the weather cools off a bit.

Use a shovel or garden fork to lift the clumps out of the ground, keeping as many of the roots as you can. Set them aside out of the sun. Then add a layer of compost or other organic material over your bed along with some all-purpose fertilizer and dig it in.

Now examine the irises. You’ll want to break off or cut the young rhizomes with leaves at the tip to keep and discard the old ones. Replant the rhizomes horizontally. Make sure the leaves face the direction you want it to grow.

If you have true Louisiana irises (checks the photos to tell), their backs should end up just below or at the soil surface. Add a layer of mulch. Because Louisiana irises originally grew in boggy conditions, they won’t rot and appreciate a little protection.

If you have bearded irises, and I think that might be the case because of the height they grow, plant them so their backs are just above soil level. I’ve heard is called planting them like ducks sitting on the water. Don’t cover with mulch because they are susceptible to rot.

Hopefully, with a little TLC, you’ll have purple irises again.

Why is my mint dying?

Question: I’m having a hard time keeping my mint alive. I always heard “you can’t kill mint” but I can’t keep it alive. Any tips?

Answer: When something isn’t growing well, it’s usually either because it’s getting too much/too little sun or too much/too little water. Mint also gets fungal diseases, but that’s usually a byproduct of overwatering. I’m assuming you have it in a pot, so try giving it a different exposure. And give it the “finger poke” test before watering. If the soil feels moist, don’t water. Hope this helps.

What can I plant in summer?

Question: My petunias are fading. Is there anything else with a colorful flower I can plant in the heat of the summer?

Kathie: It’s risky to plant this time of year but you can have success if you make sure the transplants get the right amount of moisture – enough to keep them from wilting in the heat, but not so much the roots will rot. Try heat-resistant plants like periwinkles, blue daze, zinnias and angelonia for sunny spots and impatiens, begonias and caladiums in shadier areas. A layer of mulch around the plants will hold moisture in and keep the roots cooler.