Geraniums need<0x000A>an ideal spot to grow

Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 2:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 2:28 p.m.

Q: Every spring, I buy a red geranium for my patio. It starts out so lush and beautiful, with lots of leaves, and blooms like crazy. After a while, the leaves start turning yellow and brown, but the plant still blooms well. So now, the one I have has plenty of blooms, but it looks bare because of leaves turning yellow. I cut them off because they look bad. What am I doing wrong? My patio gets quite a bit of afternoon sun. I keep the plant well watered. Too much water, sun?

A: Geraniums are considered an annual plant in North Florida, and they are very difficult to grow through the heat of summer. Only if you have an ideal spot in the garden or deck is it possible. Your plant is probably succumbing to a fungal leaf spot; this is their common demise. They are one of the most popular plants that are sold at gardens centers in the spring. The range of bright colors, interesting leaves and northern nostalgia make them irresistible to many. Geraniums grow and bloom best when temperatures are in the low 60s at night and in the 70-85 degree range during the day. I doubt your sunny patio has seen those temps for a few months now. By my best calculations, we have those pleasant temperatures in March and April, and then again in October and November.

All geraniums will freeze during cold weather, so the optimal time to plant them is after the last frost in March. For best success, plant them as close to the last frost date as possible, as a late planting of geraniums rarely do well. Also keeping them in a container helps to reduce fungal problems because they will get better air circulation. But the best bet for next season is to select tougher plants that will go through our hot and humid summer without blinking. Try pentas, coleus or angelonia.

Q: Can you help in identifying a tree in Newberry. The tree is large with big, rough leaves. It has an orange fruit/pod that is about the size of a quarter and round. The orange fruit has a sticky substance when squashed. The tree stems have a milky substance when broken. We have tried tree identification books and Internet searches and have not been able to identify this one. Do you have any ideas?

A: You are seeing a tree called the paper mulberry tree, or Broussonetia papyrifera. They are related to our native mulberry, as well as the mulberry trees that are grown for their tasty fruit. Like the native mulberry, they have large leaves with different shapes on the same tree or even branch. The leaves of the paper mulberry are more coarse and rough than the native red mulberry, but they are often confused. The paper mulberry is from Asia and is considered an invasive and undesirable tree for our area. They pop up in the landscape from time to time, and some gardeners leave them to see what develops. Their curiosity is answered by a huge tree that grows fast and spreads into the native habitat. In the worse cases, thickets will form and displace native plants. In Alachua County, we have large stands on roadsides and disturbed sites. This tree can be found throughout the Southeast and has become a problem in Florida and Texas.

The orange fruit you are seeing is only on the female tree, the male trees have a catkin type fruit. Birds spread the fruit from one site to the next. The best way to control this tree is to pull or cut the trees when they are small. In some cases herbicide can be used.

In Japan and parts of the South Pacific, the bark of paper mulberry is used for paper making or cloth weaving. So it is useful in some parts of the world, but we don't want this invader in our Florida backyards.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top