Orchid or a lily? Nope, it's an iris
Published: Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.
Q: A friend shared a plant with me that has strapped green leaves and a beautiful flower that emerges from the leaf. It looks like an orchid, but I think it is a lily.
A: The photo you sent is of a wonderful Florida-friendly plant called Neomarica or walking iris. So it really isn't an orchid or a lily; it is in the iris family.
This evergreen plant from Brazil is easy to grow and should be more common in our landscapes. They tolerate a wide range of soil and light conditions, but seem to perform best in full sun with some shade in the afternoon, or in bright shade.
Provide water regularly in well-drained soils. The leaves of this plant are sword-shaped and can be 12 inches in height. They add an interesting textural component to the landscape. The flowers of Neomarica are what everybody loves. They are blue with dark blue centers, or white with royal blue centers.
The flowers appear from April to November, and each bloom only lasts for one day. As one bloom fades, it is quickly replaced by the next. If the flower is pollinated, a new plant will develop where the flower was.
The weight of the developing small plant causes the leaf to bend and touch the ground. The plantlet will root in the soil and it appears as if the plant is walking. That is why it is called walking iris.
Walking iris is easy to grow and to share. Once the plant gets large, you can easily divide the clump in the fall and spread the iris around the garden. They will tolerate temperatures in the low 20s, making walking iris a great plant for your Gainesville garden.
Q: My yellow crookneck squash plants have white spots on them. Some are turning yellow and then die. Is this powdery mildew, and what should I do? Can I spray something?
A: It sounds like you are seeing powdery mildew c like cucumber, zucchini, squashes and even tomatoes.
Powdery mildew first appears as white spots on the top and bottom of the leaf. The spots spread over the leaves and stems and then the leaf turns yellow and dies. The disease is mostly limited to the leaf and stem, and doesn't usually get on the fruits or flowers.
The white spots that you are seeing are the actual layer of fungal mycelium and spores of the fungus. These spores are carried by wind to other plants in your vegetable garden. Favorable conditions for powdery mildew disease are temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees and shade or cloudy weather.
This can just about sum up our spring weather this year, so it is no wonder that the powdery mildew has been a common garden scene.
The best method of controlling this disease is prevention. Plant resistant vegetable varieties in the full sun and allow for good air flow in the garden. Very susceptible varieties from the squash family (cucumber, melons, squash and pumpkins) may require fungicide sprays.
But you have to apply the fungicide no later than the first sign of the disease. Use oil products such Ultra-Fine Spray Oil or Neem Oil at 7 to 10 day intervals. Do not spray oils in the heat of the day because it can damage the plant. It is best to spray in the early morning or late evening hours. Sulfur sprays also can be effective on powdery mildew, but again it has to be applied before the disease takes hold.
Do not spray oil and sulfur within two weeks of each other. For more information about this disease and other problems in the vegetable garden, visit the UF/IFAS Extension website www.solutionsforyourlife.com.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at email@example.com.