Pentas are blooming their hearts out
Published: Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 3:32 p.m.
Q: Walking around our neighborhood I see bright clusters of red flowers. I believe they are pentas plants, but what surprises me is that the plants are 4 to 5 feet tall. The ones we use as annuals never get that tall and certainly don't last through the winter. Are they supposed to be perennials?
A: The pentas in my butterfly gardens are still blooming their hearts out, much to the delight of the butterflies. Normally, freezing temperatures burn the pentas back to the ground or kill them off entirely. Depending on the micro climate of your landscape, pentas can be annuals or root-hardy perennials. With the weather this year, most of the plants still are growing strong.
How tall they grow is a matter of variety selection. Butterfly gardeners prefer the tallest red varieties such as Ruby Red, because they are nectar-rich and attract many butterflies and pollinators. The shorter annual types which are found in white, light pink and lavender colors are lovely but don't seem to have the nectar to bring in the butterflies.
The shorter forms seem less likely to perennialize in North Central Florida. Grow this easy bloomer in full sun for best results. To learn more about these and other butterfly plants, contact the UF/IFAS Alachua County Master Gardener at 955-2402.
Q: I am trying to figure out what to put on the St. Augustine grass now. I am running behind on putting down winterizing fertilizer. The nursery center told me with all the warm weather, I would be wasting my money to put out the winterizing fertilizer this late. Also, I have dollar weed and clover coming in vigorously, but I think it might be risky to use "weed and feed" now. What should I do?
A: This year, the weather pattern is confusing to gardens and plant growth in the landscape. The nursery led you in the right direction; we apply winterizing fertilizer, one with a low nitrogen and high potassium analysis, at the beginning of the cold season to protect the turf from the stress of freezing temperatures. The nutrient potassium helps plants survive through stressful growing conditions.
It is too soon for a traditional fertilizer such as a 15-0-15. That level of nitrogen might stimulate new growth which could potentially be burned in a late freeze. If you need to do a weed treatment, and it sounds like you do, spot treat the clover and dollar weed with an herbicide spray such as atrazine, and make sure to only spray the weeds.
You also could attempt to hand-pull the weeds if they are in a small area. The use of "weed and feed"' at this time isn't recommended because the "feed" portion of the product also will give the grass a jolt of nitrogen. A thick healthy lawn is the best way to prevent weeds.
The presence of dollar weed can be a symptom of overwatering. Check your sprinklers to see that you are only applying one-half inch to three quarters of an inch at each watering, and only water once a week or once every 10 days in the winter.
Wait to fertilize until the middle of March when the warm weather is here to stay. At that time, apply a 10-0-10 or a 15-0-15 with at least 50 percent of the nitrogen in a slow-release form. Apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of turf. It would be a good idea to get your soil tested so you know that your soil pH is around 6.5, which is ideal for St. Augustine grass.
For more information on fertilizing your turf grass, visit the UF/IFAS Extension website www.solutionsforyourlife.com, or request "Figuring out the Fertilizer Label" from your local County Extension office.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at email@example.com.
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