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Creating a Tropical Paradise with Banana and Elephant Ear Plants

tropical paradise patio

By Kathy Torres

If you have a pool, or a home on Lake Murray, or you just want to feel like you’re on vacation, it’s easy to bring the feel of the tropics home with a variety of plant selections.  Fortunately, our climate typically supports growing and maintaining tropical banana plants as perennials. These exotic beauties thrive on sun and humidity, so our summers are perfect!   We don’t have a long enough growing season to produce fruit on banana plants, however, these tall, tree-like plants with delicate, elongated leaves can be enjoyed throughout the warm weather year after year, with a cut-back and mulch when frost arrives.  Elephant Ear plants, sometimes considered annuals in our area, can be used as a focal point in the landscape, a stand-alone plant, or a “thriller” in a container garden plant grouping.  Many colors are available, accented with beautiful veining, offering a dramatic effect.  If you take the container garden route, it’s possible to overwinter by bringing it inside to provide protection from the cold temperatures.  

There are a variety of species and cultivars of banana plants, and most that we have access to belong to the genus Musa.  Banana plants originated in Southeast Asia near present-day Malaysia and Indonesia. Travelers introduced the plant to Africa sometime in prehistoric times and brought it to South America during the mid-1000s.  While we often hear banana plants referred to as trees, they’re actually large, herbaceous plants. Banana leaves emerge from a corm, which is a swollen, underground stem in a tightly-rolled form. The leaves lead to what looks like a trunk, but the structure is actually a pseudostem and if it were to produce actual bananas, the stem would then be cut away.  Each pseudostem that develops will only produce one time.  It’s not really an issue in this area of the country where fruiting is not likely to occur, but it’s interesting to note and supports the cutting back of the stem(s) in winter. It’s normal procedure for the plant.  Some locals have been known to dig up the banana tree each Fall, cut the leaves off, lay the trunk and roots down, “bury” trunk and roots under heavy mulch in a protected area (crawl space of the house works well), and replant it each Spring.  This technique keeps the trunk from freezing and creates the potential for fruit development over time.

Banana plants are very fast-growing and are not particularly vulnerable to pests.  Mature size varies anywhere from 2 ft. (dwarf varieties) to 15 ft.  They like heavy feeding with a high Nitrogen fertilizer and like to stay moist, but not completely saturated with water. 

Elephant ears, also native to Asia, provide dramatic foliage with their enormous, heart-shaped leaves, ranging from 2-6 ft. long on top of 3-7 ft. stems.  Species Alocasia and Colocasia do well in the Midlands with many varieties and colors available. These tuberous plants can be grown as summer annuals however, Colocasia varieties are often perennial in our agricultural zone. In general, morning sun and afternoon shade are preferred, but if the leaves point up full sun can be tolerated.  Elephant ears prefer fertile, loamy soil that is slightly acidic and they don’t like to dry out.  Keep them wet.  If you’re looking for something to plant around the edge of a pond or in a rain garden, Elephant Ears are perfect for the job.  You may need to dig up the tuber and replant in the spring (after danger of frost) if it is not a type that can hold its own in cold weather.  Bring vulnerable Elephant Ear plants in container gardens into the garage or greenhouse in the winter.  Fertilize regularly with a high Nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season.  If you see aphids, whiteflies, or spider mites, spray an all-purpose plant insecticide to eliminate the little buggers.  See info at the end of the blog for pest control options.  Interesting Fact… Elephant ear is grown as a food crop in much of the tropical world and the traditional Polynesian dish, poi, is made from the tubers. It is, of course, cooked.  Note… The calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves are toxic and very irritating to the mouth (if uncooked), so be sure to keep pets and small children away from Elephant Ears in the garden.

The following (*) Banana and Elephant Ear plants are available right now at my favorite Midlands Garden Center – Wingard’s Market.  Others listed will likely be available later in the season, so check back as the inventory increases.

*Cavendish, Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’

Cavendish, Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish

Mature size 3’ H x 3’ W, will stay smaller in a container, leaves develop maroon/purple coloration that fades.

*Red Abyssinian, Ensete ventricosum

Red Abyssinian, Ensete ventricosum

Mature size 8-10’ H x 6-8’ W, red coloring on the leaves, cold hardy to 25 degrees, not a true banana plant.

Hardy Fiber, Musa basjoo

Hardy Fiber

Mature size 6-15’ H x 6-15’ W, leaf size up to 6’ long x 2’ wide, cold hardy to -10 degrees.

Zebrina Rojo, Musa acuminata zebrina ‘Rojo’

Zebrina Rojo

Mature size 5-6’ H x 5-6’ W, large green leaves splashed with burgundy-red coloring, reddish stem.

Little Prince, Musa hybrid ‘Little Prince’

little prince

 Mature size 2’ H x 2’ W, Compact with green leaves, great in a container garden.


*Colocasia Esculenta, AKA Taro

Colocasia Esculenta

Mature size 3-6’ H x 3-6’ W, green leaves, conspicuously-veined.

*Colocasia Esculenta ‘Black Magic’

*Colocasia Esculenta ‘Black Magic’

Mature size 3-6’ H x 3-6’ W, smoky purple leaves about 2’ long.

*Colocasia Esculenta ‘Waikiki

*Colocasia Esculenta ‘Waikiki

Mature size 3’ H x 3’ W, glossy green and white with vivid pink veins on dark stems.

*Alocasia Calidora

Alocasia Calidora


Mature size 5-9’ H x 3-5’ W, grows in a vase shape with green, arrow-shaped, ribbed leaves 6’ long x 3’ wide, upward facing leaves indicates sun tolerance.

*Alocasia Odora AKA Night-Scented Lily

*Alocasia Odora AKA Night-Scented Lily

Mature size 4-8’ H x 2-3’ W, brilliant green leaves grow to 2’ long, fragrant at night, sun tolerant

*Alocasia Portora

*Alocasia Portora

Mature size 6-8’ H x 4-6’ W, dramatic green, ribbed leaves, sun tolerant.

When you can’t get to a tropical paradise, just create one in your own back yard.  Bring drama and interest into your landscape or combine smaller versions in containers with summer annuals.  Pay attention to cold weather characteristics of the different varieties you come across and take the necessary action to overwinter them successfully, or simply plant as annuals.  There are SO many tropical plants in addition to these favorites, so come on out to Wingard’s and check them out.  After you’ve planted your tropical accents, relax and play a little Jimmy Buffett music.  Imagine you’re sitting on a beach somewhere on an island in the Carribean and head on over to Margaritaville.

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!


Here’s the scoop on fighting aphids, whiteflies and spider mites:

  • As a preventive measure, use Fertilome Tree & Shrub Drench in the spring. This is a systemic product that is absorbed through the roots and works its way into the plant foliage.  Pests are eliminated as they feed on the leaves.
  • A contact pesticide is best if you actually see these insects on the plant.  We recommend Bayer 3 N 1, which also contains a fungicide and mitecide.  It’s a good product to have on hand for many plant pest problems. It is not oil based, so it is safe to use when temperatures are hot in the summer.
  • Fertilome Spinosad or Spinosad Soap are our organic products.  The “Soap” version also contains Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids (soap), sort of a one-two punch.  Spinosad kills in one way, soap kills in another.
  • For a REALLY natural solution, we will have live lady bugs all summer.   They love aphids, but will also eat other insects…. according to  they eat aphids, scale, mites, mealybugs, small caterpillars, insect eggs and pupae, whiteflies, mites, and psyllids.  WARNING:  DO NOT USE LADY BUGS TOGETHER WITH INSECTICIDE, AS IT WILL KILL THE LADYBUGS.

Surviving the Cold, Our Poor Plants!


Freeze Damaged Distylium

Freeze Damaged Distylium

Freeze Damaged Gardenia

Freeze Damaged Gardenia

By Kathy Torres

The Blizzard of 1973, the worst snow storm in South Carolina history! Nearly two feet of snow accumulated in the Midlands in February over a 3-day period, at the average rate of an inch per hour in the first 24 hours. My family had just moved to South Carolina, our driveway was on a slope and we couldn’t get the car up the hill for a week. We never, in our wildest dreams, thought severe winter weather would impact our lives so dramatically in South Carolina. I can’t think of a better example to use to demonstrate the unpredictable and traumatic effect of severe weather. A winter storm of this nature is certainly not the “norm” for us here in South Carolina, but sometimes… it happens! A more recent example of abnormal weather here is the 6-day cold spell we had last Christmas. shows the low temperatures between Dec. 23 and 28, 2022 all below freezing, with 4 nights from 12–18 degrees. Casualties of this cold spell were our power bills and our plants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a guide for planting by distinguishing zones throughout the country directly related to the average low temperatures. Click HERE for the map. South Carolina is divided into the following zones which include the upstate, midlands, and coast:

Primarily for farmers, this information provides a guide for selecting crops that will grow and thrive in various regions throughout the U.S.  In addition, most ornamental (landscape) plant growers provide a zone recommendation, which can usually be found on the plant tag.  At Wingard’s, our inventory consists of plant specimens zoned for the Midlands (8a), however, we include some plants that will need to be protected in winter, such as citrus and other tropicals.  Keep in mind, the zoning recommendation is provided with the “typical” climate in mind.  Because of the possibility of unpredictable severe weather, there is not a guarantee that all plants zoned appropriately will survive.  How many times over the years have the peach farmers in SC suffered loss of crops because of a late frost or freeze.  If we have our typical seasonal weather, all is good, but Mother Nature can be quite fickle and decide she’s just not yet in the mood for warmer days and nights.

It’s painfully obvious now… many plants that usually do fine in winter here were damaged by the extreme cold we recently experienced, some, even beyond help.  Covering vulnerable plants may have helped, but potentially may not have been enough in these lower than normal temperatures, especially with consecutive days.  Camellia buds may have dropped without opening into full flowers.  Plants such as Palms, especially the Sago, as well as Oleander, Bottle Brush, Farfugium, Acanthus and even Lomandra Breeze ornamental grass are showing signs of damage.  I’ve noticed my Mediterranean Palm and Distylium are looking burned.  These are plants that typically handle our “normal” cold weather without an issue.  I moved my Meyer Lemon to the garage, so it’s ok.  There is nothing to do about plant damage right now.  Do not prune!  Be patient and wait until spring to see if new growth appears.  After the danger of frost has passed (usually April), fertilize and prune away the brown foliage.  If new growth does not appear, cut a branch or two on the plant to determine if the plant is dead.  If the inside of the branch is green, it may just need a little more recovery time.  If the inside is brown, you are out of luck.  Sometimes, only a portion of the plant may have been affected.  Then it’s up to you to determine whether to remove the dead part and see if the plant will regain shape and fullness, or dig it up and start over.

Sometimes plants such as Azaleas, Pittosporum, Hollies, Gardenias, and Mimosa trees won’t reveal winter damage until the heat kicks in about June.  If you see branches beginning to yellow and die out this summer, look closely at the bark on the dying branches.  If you see the bark has split, this is due to the sap freezing.  When the plant tries to function in the summer, it can’t get enough water and nutrients in its stems, so it dies back.  If the affected areas are just some of the limbs, you can cut out the dead material and let the plant recover.  If the primary trunk is affected, the plant may not survive.

At Wingard’s, we guarantee our plants after purchase, as long as proper planting and care are indicated.  We do not, however, guarantee their survival in extreme winter weather.  It’s only February, and we may have more cold weather ahead, so here are a few tips for protecting plants that are vulnerable:

  • Do not cover plants with plastic.
  • Cover with sheets, burlap or frost cloth when below freezing temperature is expected.  
  • Anchor cloth with bricks or rocks to keep it from blowing off.
  • Remove cover when temperature is above freezing.
  • Wrap plant with outdoor low voltage lights, underneath cover (be sure to turn them off and remove cover when temperature rises above freezing).

Spring is a bit far away at this moment in time, and as much as we want to be outside, it’s often more sensible to stay in.  So, in that case, embrace the winter … sit by the fireplace, grab a blanket and a good book, a cup of hot chocolate, and RELAX.  Be mindful of any freeze warnings in the weather forecast and cover plants that need protection, but don’t stress over it.  And let’s all cross our fingers that Mother Nature is in a good mood for spring 2023!

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Wingard’s Lawn Care Program Blog


By Kathy Torres

Happy New Year everyone – here’s to a happy and healthy 2023!  January is a time of year for resolutions and organization, a period to begin anew, in which most of us are inspired to make changes and improvements.  We were too busy in December, but now it’s time to get back to the gym to the exercise class or workout routine. Taking down the Christmas tree and packing away the decorations encouraged us to clean, organize and put things back the way they were.  It’s a time for pondering what is ahead of us in the coming months… tackling a project at work, focusing on a home improvement idea, planning a family vacation, or thinking about your summer garden. This is also the best time of year to get organized and prepared to care for your lawn. You can’t wait until the weather gets warm or you’ll be scrambling to catch up!  Lawn care can be over-whelming and complicated, but not if you follow Wingard’s 4-Step Lawn Care Program.  Wingard’s has taken all the guess work out of the equation by recommending exactly what is needed for your type of Southern grass and providing the timeline for application of products to keep your lawn looking it’s absolute best during both the dormant and growing seasons.

Wingard’s 4-Step Lawn Care Program was established to provide customers with a SIMPLE, easy-to-follow guide to lawn applications, and has proven to be a dependable, cost-effective solution.  A discounted price (25%) is offered if you sign up each year in January and pay for the steps in advance.  It’s your choice to either take all the products with you at the time of purchase, or let us hang on to it for you until it’s time for the application.  Either way, you will receive an e-mail reminder from Wingard’s to remind you when it’s time to apply.   Whether your grass is Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda, or Zoysia, our program can help you be the envy of your neighborhood!

You have a homework assignment to complete before you get started.  First of all, you need to know what grass or combination of grasses you have in your landscape.  It all looks green to you?  Bring us a clump and we will try to identify the variety. If we’re stumped, we will refer you to Clemson Extension.  Next, measure the square footage of your lawn.  A rough estimate is sufficient.  In addition, consider having your soil tested, front and back.  It’s not absolutely necessary, but will give you the best results.  Stop by one of Wingard’s checkout stations to pick up the soil sample bag(s) and form you need to provide for Clemson Extension to test for you.  We can also assist you with filling out the form, but you will need to mail the sample to Clemson University or deliver it to the Clemson Extension office in Lexington.

Another important prep is to make sure you have the best type of spreader and that you understand the settings.  We highly recommend the broadcast (disperses in a circular motion) versus the drop spreader.  Broadcast spreaders provide a more even application, reduce your passes by more than half, and you won’t end up with stripes. Here are a few more spreader specifics: 

  • When spreading fertilizer, put the setting a notch or two above half.  For example, if there are 20 notches on the spreader, 11-12 would be the setting.  You don’t have to cover every square inch of turf to get good results, so if you think that’s too much, drop to a notch below half.  With hand-held spreaders, if there are 5 or few settings open it all the way.  If a hand-held spreader has 10 or more settings, put the setting a notch or two above half.
  • For pre-emergent herbicides, put the setting on, or a notch above, one quarter.  (If there are 20 notches, 5-6 would be the setting.)  On hand-held spreaders, if there are 5 or fewer settings lower the setting to 3, or even 2.  If a hand-held spreader has 10 or more settings, put the setting on, or a notch above, one quarter.  If your gut tells you the dosage is not enough – you don’t think it’s covering the zone that needs to be covered – then up it a notch or two.

Don’t overthink the math on this. You can be off by a notch or two without fear of over doing it.  Lastly…always wash your spreader after every use to prevent corrosion.

The 4 STEP PLAN:  Each step in Wingard’s Lawn Care Program is designed for the season or time of year and the needs of each type of grass. In addition to the recommended products for weed control, fertilizer, and nutrients, the plan includes the appropriate pH, mowing height, and water needed for each type of grass.  There is no “one size fits all” for lawns, however, when a combination of grasses exists, the best solution is typically the care plan for Centipede grass.  All of the information on the Lawn Care Plan is available on the Wingard’s Market website.  (CLICK HERE).

Just to give you some basics, let’s talk a little about each step:

Step 1:  Application of pre-emergent weed control is recommended for February to March, usually when the Forsythia begins to bloom, or when temperatures remain above 65 degrees for 4 consecutive days.  Fertilizer is NOT applied this early!  The same product is used for all grass types on this application.

Step 2:  In April or May, after you have mowed your lawn two times (mowing early-sprouting weeds does not count), it is time for weed & feed. This is applied when grass is fully out of dormancy and ready to absorb and use the fertilizer.  The “weed” component will prevent germination of new weeds, but you may need contact weed control for spot treatment of pesky weeds.  More about that ahead.  This is also time to apply product to prevent this particularly pesky weed… Chamberbitter (CLICK HERE) that shows up in August.  

Step 3:  The grass is really looking good in June and July because the main ingredient, warm weather, has arrived.  The goal now is to give the lawn the nutrients it needs to stay green and healthy.  St. Augustine needs an application in June, however, Centipede, Zoysia and Bermuda will wait until July.  St. Augustine and Bermuda need iron, which is included in the product for this application.  Because of the ideal growing conditions for the grass, the weeds also are on board, so a bit of contact weed control may also be necessary.  It is nearly impossible have a completely weed free lawn, but you’ll get as close as you can with this lawn care program.  

Step 4:  September to October is time to prepare for overwintering the lawn.  Another application of pre-emergent weed control is recommended because of the mild temperatures and the ability of some weeds to germinate in cooler weather.  For St. Augustine and Bermuda, potash is applied to provide nourishment needed in winter.  Step 4 (a) is an optional application of pre-emergent weed control applied in November/December for lawns with Poa Annua (Annual Bluegrass) issues. (CLICK HERE for more info on Poa Annua).

Contact weed control (spot treating for weeds) can be tricky, so it is VERY IMPORTANT to read the label on any product you use.  Staff at Wingard’s can provide assistance in identifying a particular specimen, as well as directing you to the appropriate product for your type of grass.  There is no “one size fits all” here either!  

There are basically 2 kinds of weeds…broadleaf and grassy (the name pretty much describes the beast), and the weed killing products are for either broadleaf weeds or grassy weeds. When spot treating the lawn with products to destroy persistent weeds, you must identify whether broadleaf or grassy first, then find a herbicide that is safe for your type of lawn AND works on that particular type weed.  Broadleaf weeds are easier.  For most of them, use Fertilome Weed Free Zone, which is safe for all southern grasses. Grassy weeds are more complicated. For Centipede or St. Augustine, use Atrazine, and for Zoysia or Bermuda, use Weed Out w/Crabgrass Killer.  The label will indicate which weeds are controlled.  There are some very determined specimens like nutsedge that need a more specific product like Weed-Out with Nutsedge Control.  When in doubt, ask one of Wingard’s knowledgeable staff. 

Now, if all that weed talk makes you scratch your head, don’t panic.  It’s just an example of the complexities of lawn care.  From nutrition to fertilizer to weed control, there is a lot to know.  Educating yourself is key to success in just about everything, so don’t be discouraged, just push up your sleeves and meet the challenge.  OF COURSE…if you want to make lawn care just a little easier, rely on Wingard’s 4-Step Lawn Care Plan to give you an outline to follow.  We still want you to learn, but we will lead you through the process!

Take some time to review the plan at then give us a call or come in and sign up for the pre-pay option in January.  You’ll save a few dollars AND be reminded of the exact time to make appropriation applications for your lawn.  That means less doing and thinking for you and more time for those other New Year’s resolutions and projects!

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!


Camellia sasanqua ‘Shishigashira’ (Kathy’s)

Camellia sasanqua ‘Shishigashira’ (Kathy’s)


By Kathy Torres

Cherished in southern gardens, the Camellia has no actual “native” significance here. In fact, its journey began in the ancient temple gardens of the Orient. Before the westernization of Japan, Camellia, known as “Tsubaki” or “tree with shining leaves” was believed to provide a home for the gods in spirit form when on an earthly visit. Plantings of Tsubaki were an essential feature of temple gardens, graveyards, and other areas associated with religious life in the community. Camellia is the symbol of love in Eastern culture. The reason is due to the inseparable parts of the flower, which represents everlasting love. In Korea, camellia has been a part of traditional wedding ceremonies since 1200 BC because it symbolizes happiness, longevity, and faithfulness. We may find OUR historical connection to the Camellia through the most economically important species, Camellia sinensis, the common tea plant. The East India Company brought tea from China to Europe where it became very popular in London in the 1700’s. I think you’ll remember the next part of this story. Tea becomes universally popular, the government decides to tax it, leading to the Boston Tea Party, and the American Revolution. So…while one of our favorite southern plants is not native, it is “rooted” in our history!

The Camellia was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), in honor of a Jesuit missionary, pharmacist and naturalist in the Phillipines, Joseph Kamel. Linnaeus is known for developing the binomial system of nomenclature used to classify plants (the idea that all organisms should be described by only two Latin words: one denoting its genus, and another its species). The Camellia genus now includes over 260 species and over 30,000 ornamental varieties according to the International Camellia Society. Thanks to the beauty of their flowers, ornamental camellias have spread from Asia to the whole world.

Camellias flourish in the southeastern United States, where winter temperatures are typically mild. Some new varieties may be cold hardy, but often the blooms will be smaller, especially if temperatures drop quickly below 28 degrees. Lucky for us in South Carolina, the climate is perfect! If you’re on the lake, however, it’s a good idea to plant in an area that has some protection from the wind, and in any landscape, be mindful of too much afternoon sun exposure.

The two species most prevalent in our area of the country are Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua. Both are evergreen, have glossy leaves and grow fairly slow (sasanquas, a bit faster than japonicas). The descriptions below note the differences.

  • Camellia japonica varieties typically reach 6-12 ft. tall; the leaves are large, 3-4 inches long; they prefer more shade (however, in dense shade, blooming may be hampered; morning sun, afternoon shade, or filtered sun is best); and they bloom December to March.
  • Camellia sasanqua varieties are usually smaller in size, some only 3-4 ft. tall at maturity, but some may reach 10 ft. The leaves are smaller, 2-3 inches; they can handle more sun; and they bloom in the fall.

Other species exist like Camellia vernalis, a hybrid between japonica and sasanqua, but very few are known. Camellia reticulata were brought over from southern China in the 1940’s and have the largest of all camellia flowers. Mentioned earlier, Camellia sinensis is the common tea plant. It grows well, but the blooms are not significant as an ornamental. Camellia oleifera, was used for its oil in China and Japan and is used in the US as a parent in hybrid varieties. Camellia chrysantha or nitidissima has been used successfully in hybridizing yellow camellias, however, it is not cold hardy. There are many Camellia hybrids that combine features resulting in more colors, bloom types, fragrances, and hardiness. Selecting a Camellia is one of the most difficult plant choices to make because there are SO MANY in beautiful shades of red, pink, yellow and white. The American Camellia Society has established official classifications of the flower forms for Camellias. A variety of flower forms is just another attractive feature of this shrub.

Class I, SINGLE, One row of not over eight regular, irregular, or loose petals and conspicuous stamens

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Class II, SEMI-DOUBLE, Two or more rows of regular, irregular, or loose petals and conspicuous stamens

Greensboro Red

Greensboro Red

Greensboro Red

Class III, ANEMONE, One or more rows of large outer petals lying flat or undulating; the center a convex mass of intermingled petaloids and stamens

Victory White

Victory White

Victory White

Class IV, PEONY, A deep rounded flower of either a Loose Peony Form consisting of loose petals, which may be irregular, and intermingled stamens, and sometimes intermingled petals, petaloids, and stamens in the center (Betty Sheffield) or a Full Peony Form consisting of a convex mass of mixed irregular petals, petaloids, and stamens or irregular petals and petaloids never showing stamens (Debutante).

Betty Sheffield

Betty Sheffield

Betty Sheffield




Class V, ROSE FORM DOUBLE, Imbricated (layered like scales) petals, showing stamens in a concave center when fully opened




Class VI, FORMAL DOUBLE, Fully imbricated, many rows of petals, never showing stamens.

Guest Star

Guest Star

Guest Star

Fall is the best time for planting Camellias, and Wingard’s is stocked up right now with a large selection for you. All of the varieties shown above are available and many more! Make sure you add soil amendment if you have clay or sandy soil. Mulch and water weekly after planting if we don’t get a good rain. Don’t fertilize until next spring. Not much pruning is needed with Camellias, except for occasional shaping – do this after blooming. Keep an eye on foliage in the summertime. Humidity and overhead watering can cause fungus. Try to stay on top of it and spray as needed before buds begin to form.

Camellias bloom about the time we are removing our summer annuals and feeling the loss of all that rich, bright color in the yard. As we face the bleakness of winter, it’s so nice to bring in lovely Camellia blooms and float them in a shallow vase, or just enjoy them as they appear on the shrubbery. They also make a wonderful Christmas gift for a friend, especially a new homeowner. With their rich history and distinct characteristics, Camellias add so much beauty and elegance to the landscape. Even though its native homeland is far, far away, it remains a classic in the southern garden.

Here’s a little something extra that I found in my research…

The University of South Carolina has one of the major collections in the United States of rare, illustrated books about the camellia, it’s history, cultivation, and early varieties. The collection was formed by Mrs. Sheffield Phelps (Claudia Lea) of Aiken. Mrs. Phelps was the first president of the Garden Club of South Carolina (1930-33), and her daughter Miss Claudia Lea Phelps succeeded her as the Club’s third president (1936-38). The exhibition tells the story of how camellias were brought to America, how they were identified and named, and how the major varieties were developed by 19th-century specialist growers. It includes some of the very earliest published depictions of the camellia, from as far back as 1702, as well as gorgeous hand-colored copperplate engravings from the heyday of camellia books in the early and mid-19th century.

How cool is that?

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!


bird standing on bird feeder


By Kathy Torres

No fewer than 63.1 million people fed birds in their backyards in 1991, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, $2 billion was spent on bird seed alone, a figure that does not include money spent on bird feeders and other equipment (reported by The Washington Post – Click HERE for the article.) I believe it’s a safe bet that the numbers have only increased in the last decade and that birding is alive and flourishing in the United States standing firmly in the outdoor recreation economy.

Turning our homes into our playgrounds became very popular recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did we spend more time at home, but we also spent more money on our landscapes, gardens, etc. to enhance our experience while stuck at home. The appeal of a bird feeder or two, combined with a bird bath, also inspired us, as our interest in the beautiful wildlife right around us expanded. Of course, as the numbers above illustrate, there was a hefty population already on the birding bandwagon. It’s certainly not new, and a hobby enjoyed by many, but the interest has risen to new heights. Humans seem to be realizing the pleasure and reward found in observing and caring for birds, our charming neighbors of many colors, sounds, and characteristics!

The Post also reported “when just two bird fanciers get together, they can talk at length about the relative merits of different kinds of bird seed and the myriad ways to foil squirrels bent on snatching seed. Further, bird fanciers proudly list the kinds of birds that visit their backyard feeders as if they were counting precious pearls.” The variety of birding merchandise available to the consumer in local garden centers has opened up a whole new world of choices for bird enthusiasts. Because it has become so popular, new creativity in products available has emerged on store shelves over recent years, providing an upgrade in feeders and seed, and the conclusion is that the benefits of spending a little more are definitely worthwhile.

Many of us have learned the hard way, that good seed is a must in our feeders. The first feeder that I added to my yard was quite inexpensive and so was the seed I purchased. I had no clue what was in it or what varieties of birds it would attract. What I realized quickly, was that a lot of the seed was being discarded, creating a lovely patch of weeds under the feeder. The last thing you want is for the seed to create a mess. The primary reasons this happens are… (1) Seeds may have inedible hard outer shells. Birds crack open the shell to get to the meaty kernel inside while the outer hulls drop to the ground below, and (2) Not all birds like all seeds or foods. Birds will eat their favorite first and throw the rest out of the feeder and onto the ground. Buying a better seed or seed mix gives you more bang for your buck and cuts down on creating additional work for yourself cleaning up the ground around the feeder.

So, what is better birdseed? If you want to keep it simple but attract a variety of birds, black oil sunflower seed reigns supreme in the backyard bird-feeding world and is a great way to get started. (There will be some cleanup of the discarded shells, so, if you would rather not go there, consider the shelled version.) “Black oil sunflower seeds are related to regular sunflower seeds, but they’ve been cultivated to have a higher fat content,” says John Rowden, the senior director of bird-friendly communities at the National Audubon Society. For more information on black oil sunflower seed, including what birds it attracts, check out the Birds and Blooms website HERE.

When selecting quality seeds, you’ll find combinations that attract a variety of birds, as well as seeds created to attract specific birds, for instance, thistle, for finches. If you’re a beginner, it’s wise to choose the “one size fits all” version, then as you gain experience, you may wish to add a feeder with a more selective following. Most important in selecting good bird seed is making sure it doesn’t contain a lot of stuff the birds DON’T eat. Many of the less expensive seed combinations have large portions of milo, a cheap grain harvested from the sorghum plant. It is used as “filler” and most backyard birds don’t like it. Here’s an easy GUIDE from Cornell University Ornithology Labs to give you some direction on seed types to look for and the birds they attract.

The easy path to good seed will take you to Wings-n-Things, Wingard’s Birding Department, located in the Produce Market, where you will find Cole’s Wild Bird Seed brand. Like Wingard’s, Cole’s is a family business with an interesting history. To read all about it, click HERE. Their philosophy is “Birds can be very picky eaters and if you put out the wrong feed, they’ll snub their noses at you and move on to your neighbor’s feeder looking for something better.” Cole’s offers quality seeds that will bring you success at the feeder with ingredients, thoughtfully produced to meet the wants and needs of many different species of birds. The seed contains no added synthetics, no added chemicals, and no artificial flavors. And most importantly, the birds love it, so you won’t be wasting your money!

Cole’s Wild Bird Seed has a great website to access all the information you need on their products, Check it out and if you have any questions, call Zach Steinhauser, Wingard’s wildlife conservationist, and he will get you headed in the right direction. In the meantime, here are a few of the Cole’s seed products at Wingard’s, just to get you familiar.

blue ribbon blend coles bird food

BLUE RIBBON BLEND: Contains sunflower, white millet and cracked corn. Guaranteed to bring the best combination of perch and ground feeding birds.
Attracts: Cardinals, titmice, chickadees, Goldfinches, juncos, White-throated sparrows, Indigo Bunting, wrens, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, towhees

blazing hot blend coles bird food

BLAZING HOT BLEND: traditional mix with most preferred seeds of backyard songbirds, combined with a habanero chili oil formula to discourage squirrels. Harmless to birds.
Attracts: Woodpeckers, grosbeaks, buntings, cardinals, chickadees, bluebirds, goldfinches, song sparrows, titmice, wrens

sunflower meats coles bird food

SUNFLOWER MEATS: No waste, no mess, pure sunflower. You will get more feed per pound and no messy hulls to clean up. Perfect for decks and balconies.
Attracts: Bluebirds, chickadees, cardinals, titmice, finches, woodpeckers, wrens, buntings, grosbeaks, towhees, nuthatches, song sparrows, and doves

safflower bird seed coles bird food

SAFFLOWER: Favorite of Cardinals. Squirrels and large “nuisance” birds don’t like it!
Attracts: Cardinals, nuthatches, titmice, and chickadees

blue ribbon blend coles bird food

SUET BLUE RIBBON BLEND: Bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, warblers, buntings, nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens
Attracts: Cardinals, nuthatches, titmice, and chickadees

Cole’s DOES NOT use filler seeds like Milo, Wheat, Red Millet, Flax, or old crop leftovers. Only the top 1-2% of each crop is used and cleaned a minimum of 4 times to ensure you get good quality seed – not sticks and dirt. Seeds are kept as close to a natural state as possible and never washed with chemicals or oil to make them look better.

As winter approaches, it’s time to think about helping the birds get through. By providing food, we can increase their capability to survive and flourish. And while giving this aid, we are paid back in full, and then some, by the beauty of wildlife right in our own backyards. If you really get the birdwatching fever, you can participate in Cornell’s FeederWatch tracking program. The season begins November 1. FeederWatch – Count Feeder Birds for Science.

Just to entice you, take a look and listen HERE.

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

The Language of Plants

The Language Of Plants

By Kathy Torres

I think I inherited the “gardening gene” from my Grandmother and my Dad. As a young girl, I
witnessed my Grandmother’s love of roses. When my sister and I visited in the summer, we
watched her tend to her small rose garden, and after the work was completed, she would bring
in her cuttings, fill a vase and place it on the kitchen table. In the fall, we also helped collect the
pecans that had fallen from the two enormous pecan trees in the front yard. Then, of course,
we helped to “crack and pick” them, munching on a few here and there. In his later years, my
Dad built a greenhouse where he spent time in the spring rooting clippings and making
gorgeous hanging baskets that he gave to friends and neighbors (and daughters). He even sold
a few. He was especially proud of the Christmas cactus baskets that he would deliver in full
bloom during the holidays. I cherish these memories. I didn’t realize it then, but these
experiences and, maybe, that “gardening gene” stoked some kind of CRAZY desire in me to dig
in the dirt and tend to the trees, bushes, and flowers. And, tomato plants! Either way, I began
to notice, appreciate and understand the language of plants.

Plants really do speak to us in what they represent, how they make us feel, and the messages
we apply to them. Actual flower codes were established in the Victorian era. During a time
when social etiquette (for the upper class) was quite restrictive. A nosegay or tussie-mussie, a
combination of flowers and herbs, was a popular choice when expressing interest in a particular
young lady. Suitors presented tussie-mussies and watched to see if the recipient held it at
heart level, indicating happiness and acceptance. Holding the bouquet pointing downward was
a sign of rejection. Not only did a certain flower have significance, but colors also expressed
variations in intent or emotions. Even today, a red rose is considered an expression of
passionate or true love, a pink rose is a sign of affection, white roses are associated with purity,
and yellow roses with friendship. Several floral dictionaries were published to explain the secret
language of flowers (floriography). Sweet freesia signifies trust and friendship in floriography.
Thrift or armeria symbolizes sympathy. Hollyhocks stand for fruitfulness and ambition. The
earliest flower dictionary was written in Paris in 1819; it was titled, Le Language de Fleursand.
In 1879, a book written by Miss Corruthers of Inverness, became the guide to the meanings
behind flowers throughout England and the United States.

Understanding the characteristics of plants guides us to place them properly, understand their
family history and relation to other species. Another way of looking at the language of plants is
through botanical names, a Latin combination of at least two names that have been assigned to
every single plant in creation. Many of the Latin names translate in English so that we
recognize the meaning. For instance, Juniperus horizontalis is a Juniper that spreads over the
ground. If the second word in the botanical name is odoratum or odoratissimum it is fragrant.
Color is sometimes identified… Red is rubrum, as in the red maple (Acer rubrum); purple is
purpureus; white is albus. For most of us who are limited in our understanding of Latin, the
common name, is how we identify plants, but unless the color is included, the name doesn’t tell
us much. The common name is more like any other name; it is a title, not necessarily a
description. Magnolia, Azalea, Boxwood, are a few examples. Educating ourselves and
becoming familiar with a plant’s name and features allows us to get acquainted and connect.
Various ideals and characteristics are often associated with certain plants, and they are given as
gifts in that spirit. Here are a few in the house plant category symbolizing a particular theme or

Air Plant (Tillandsia) – Freedom and creativity – For people who like change or live in small

Bonsai (Juniperus procumbens) – Harmony, wisdom, and calm – For someone who needs more
balance in their life.

Cactus (Cactaceae) – Protection and endurance – For someone who is very determined or going
through a tough time.

Ficus (Ficus microcarpa) – Abundance and peace – For someone who is a leader to symbolize
unity and success.

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena braunii) – Good fortune and longevity – For someone who is entering
a new chapter in life.

Money Tree (Pachira aquatica) – Wealth and good fortune – For someone who is career-driven
or starting a new business.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) – Peace and sympathy – For someone who went through a recent
loss or needs a reminder of peace in their life.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) – Cleanliness and tenacity – For someone who is creative or
as a housewarming gift because it naturally purifies the air.

Succulent (Sedum morganianum) – Loyalty and endurance – For someone who’s trustworthy
and always there for you.

If you’d like to go further with this, check out these plants and what they symbolize. Click HERE.

The holidays are the best example of plants sharing a message. Lilies give us the hope of spring
at Easter. Mums, pansies and brilliant fall leaves remind us it is time to be thankful, and then
Christmas! Nothing makes the home feel more festive than bright red Poinsettias, fresh
wreaths, Christmas cactus, and of course, the fresh cut Fraser Fir. The Christmas tree is a focal
point in our home that holds cherished ornaments and warms our hearts with bright lights and
feelings of nostalgia. It may take us back to years past and sometimes we may even drift back
to childhood. Nature softens the harshness of the world in a way that we really need at these
busy times. And what better way to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” than by giving
a live plant as a gift.

Life presents many joys and sorrows. Plants are often a messenger of love, thanks,
congratulations, best wishes, holiday greetings, as well as sympathy, to provide encouragement
as we navigate through our time on earth. Not only do plants help us to convey our feelings,
they often help us hold on to a memory. For instance, the first time your special guy sent roses,
the chrysanthemum corsage you wore to Homecoming, the pink carnations sent by friends
when your daughter was born, the tree you planted when you bought your first home, the rose
bush sent by a friend when you lost someone you love. My Mom passed away a few years ago
and a friend sent a miniature yellow rose plant. It was about 8 inches tall. I have tried to take
particularly good care of it over the years and have since transplanted it at least 3 times; it’s
now about 3 feet tall. The small yellow roses are a beautiful reminder of my Mom and the
friend who gave the plant to me.

Plants are accents we use to soften and enhance the look and feel of our homes, both inside
and out. Garden rooms are created to entertain, spend time with family, to enjoy quiet time
alone. Of course, it’s about making a pretty landscape, curb appeal, etc. but at the root is our
intention to provide a “welcoming” environment. If our shrubs, trees, and flowers could speak,
I believe that is what they would say. Plants make us feel happiness and joy; they feed us, give
us a wonderful hobby, all the while painting a picture that accents important times in our lives.
Receiving good wishes from others or sending good wishes, feeling satisfaction and joy from
working the garden is hearing the language. Investing yourself in the flower bed or the
vegetable garden or simply creating a collection of container gardens offers a relationship with
nature, a connection to growth and beauty. Through caring for the plants you maintain a sort
of friendship, which, like human relationships, thrives with care or suffers with neglect. Think
about extending that friendship to a neighbor by giving away plants you are dividing. Sharing
brings joy on both ends. I had a special friend, Mrs. Carrie, who taught me all about day lilies
years ago. She gave me quite a few from her garden. When they bloom, I think of her and how
she inspired me. That’s the language of plants.

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Northern Cardinal – The Infamous Red Bird

Chances are you have probably received a Christmas card illustrating a snowy white landscape as the backdrop for a barren tree or fence post holding a bright red cardinal.   The Northern Cardinal, AKA Red Bird, is common throughout the eastern United States from Maine to Florida, continuing north into Canada, and west to southern Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and the eastern half of Mexico. It’s hard to take your eyes off the male Northern Cardinal, with its brilliant red feathers, black mask, and orange/red beak.  The female is a buff golden-tan with a red tinge to the wings and tail, with a smaller, less distinct mask.  Both genders have a prominent head crest that can be raised and lowered to indicate the bird’s mood. 

When spring arrives, one of the first songbirds noticed is the Northern Cardinal. Males, in particular, may sing throughout the year, though the peak of singing is in spring and early summer. Males often sing to scare away the competition when courting.  Few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male. The cardinal repertoire includes sounds like what cheer, what cheer, what cheer or purty, purty, purty.  For a sampling, click HERE.

Cardinal couples typically mate for life and produce up to 3 clutches of eggs in a season.  These birds bond over a feeding courtship ritual in which the female bird mimics the behavior of a nestling and the male bird offers her seeds or berries in a kiss-like gesture.  The male becomes aggressive in his protection of his territory and is known to engage in a battle with his own reflection.  If you ever see a cardinal hitting a window over and over, that’s what is happening.  The female cardinal builds the nest, usually 3-10 feet above the ground in a dense tree or shrub. While the female tends the nest, the male cares for her by bringing food and guarding against predators.  Both parents tend to the cardinal chicks, and even after the chicks have matured, they stay together as a family.

When given the opportunity, cardinals will feed on a wide variety of insects, however 90% of their food intake is sourced from weed seeds, fruits, grains and berries.  Many of the foods contain carotenoids, the source of phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lutein.  Cardinals have an enzyme that converts yellow carotenoids to red before depositing them in the feathers.  Some cardinals have a defect that fails to convert the carotenoids, causing the birds to have yellow feathers instead of red.  Cardinals will forage while hopping on the ground or in low bushes, and sometimes higher in trees.  They readily come to bird feeders, where they favor sunflower and safflower seeds. Because they do not migrate, it is likely your cardinal visitors will return to the same feeders.

An interesting fact about the Northern Cardinal….it is the State Bird in 7 states in the US.  Those states are: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Northern Cardinals are also associated with a great deal of folklore, legends, and spiritual beliefs in many different cultures. It is common folklore that a visit from a cardinal represents a sign from a loved one who has passed.  Birds have often symbolized heavenly visitors, messengers to the gods, or even the gods themselves in feathered form. This belief has been part of ancient Egyptian, Celtic, Maori, Irish, and Hindu spiritualism, as well as the lore and legends of many Native American tribes.  Cardinals are often associated with romance, and it is believed that if you are single and see a cardinal, romance is in your near future. At the same time, if you are in a relationship and a cardinal crosses your path, it is said to be a reminder to honor your partner and remember the romance that brought you together. 

If you haven’t been charmed by the Northern Cardinal or another of the birding community in your yard, you’re missing out.  Get acquainted by installing a feeder somewhere in a spot that you can view from your porch, deck, or window.  You’ll be in awe when you see that male cardinal sitting on the bare tree branch or the fence post…so beautiful, with or without the snow!

Visit Wings & Things, the Birding Department in the Wingard’s Produce Market, select a feeder and grab a bag of Cole’s Birdseed.  While Cardinals will eat a variety of seeds, safflower is one of their favorites.  Safflower is also a lifesaver for those having trouble with squirrels or large “nuisance” birds. Since most squirrels and blackbirds don’t like the bitter taste, it is an easy way to send a message to any undesirable visitors. 

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

What’s wrong with my plant?

It’s a common question we get this time of year! In fact, a customer sent us this picture.

Here are some things you can do to troubleshoot the problem: 

1. Pull the mulch back about 4″ away from the trunk of the plants, and make sure it is not more than 3″ thick. If more than 3″ thick thin it out.  

2. For newly planted trees and shrubs, check to make sure the top of the root ball is 1″ above ground level.   If it is at ground level or below the plant should be replanted higher. It should take 9 to 12 months to settle to ground level. 

3. It would be good to dig up the plant and see if the ground is holding water like a bowl and not soaking in. Lack of drainage will create root rot which will kill the plant. The roots will be brown, instead of white, and can be mushy. 

To fix this a drainage problem, 

  • dig up the plant and cut off all mushy roots and remove a large amount of soil out of the hole. Bring in fresh soil to re-plant in. Treat the hole and plant roots that are left with Captan fungicide.After re-planting add root stimulater to the soil to get the white feeder roots boosted and growing. They are the main ones that take in moisture and nutrients.
  • adjust irrigation length of time to allow only 1” of water to hit the plant. You can put some sort of container near the base of the plant and measure how long it takes your irrigation to add 1” of water to the container. That’s how long you should be running that zone. If you can’t adjust the time for that zone, then adjust how frequent you water. 

4. If you dig up the plant and find the soil is very dry, follow the instructions above to make sure you are getting 1” of water to your plants when you irrigate. If you checking and make these adjustments you should see a major improvement in your plant provided the root damage has not hit the point of no return. 

5. Do you have a dog ? If so make sure the dog (or a neighbor’s dog) is not urinating on the plant. With time the urine will kill the plant. Normally it starts on one side and moves across the plant. Or, has the dog laid on the plant or has somebody stepped on the plant and broken it up?  

6. Freeze damage often doesn’t show up until summer when the heat kicks in. Look at the base of the trunk or the stems close to the trunk. See if they have split open. You may see wood and no bark or bark torn away from the wood.  If this is the case, you will just have to replace the plant.7. If none of the above are the issue it would be good to get a soil test done 

  • The ph could be way off.
  • The lack of a nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) would indicate a fertilizer issue.

The soil test is done through the Clemson extension office located below the Cook Out in Lexington next to the magistrate’s office. It should cost $6 for the standard test. The test results will tell what needs to be added to the soil to balance the pH and n-p-k needs.


Japanese Beetles

 You may have seen some beetles munching on your roses or crape myrtles or a variety of other flowering plants.  These are Japanese Beetles, and they arrived a little late this year, since we had such a cool Spring. Japanese beetles feed mainly on flower buds or open blossoms, but can feed on leaves. Since many beetles feed mainly at night, the gardener rarely sees them, only the damage that they cause.

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) feed during the day and are perhaps the most readily recognized of the beetle pests that feed on plants in your garden. An adult Japanese beetle is about ½ inch long and has a metallic green body and legs with coppery-brown wing covers. It can be distinguished from similar beetles by the tufts of white hair that are clearly visible at the end of its abdomen.

The adults begin emerging from the soil in mid-May and are present through August. They can live from 30 to 45 days. They lay their eggs in the soil. Grubs hatch from the eggs and feed on grass roots. As the weather cools, the grubs move more deeply into the soil to overwinter (survive the winter). In the spring, the grubs migrate back up to the root zone and continue to feed. They pupate (change to adult form) in late April and May.

Japanese beetles have chewing mouthparts and feed on flowers, buds and leaves of roses (as well as numerous other plant species). Partial or entire flowers and buds may be eaten. Typically, flowers and buds that have been fed on have ragged edges and/or holes in the petals. Affected buds may fail to open. Rose leaves are typically skeletonized (only leaf veins remain) by the feeding. Leaves with tender veins may be eaten completely.

Control: Various non-chemical control options are available for Japanese beetles. They can be handpicked and destroyed by dropping into soapy water. When only a few plants are involved, fine netting, such as tulle fabric, can be placed over the bush or individual blossoms to exclude the beetles. Japanese beetle traps are available commercially, but should be used with caution. They can be effective at reducing adult populations, but they should be kept at least 50 feet from the plant(s) that you are trying to protect. The traps have the potential to create more of a problem by attracting numerous beetles to the area. Also, traps must be emptied frequently as beetles are repelled by the smell of ammonia which is released by dead, rotting beetles.

It is important to keep in mind that rose blossoms openly quickly and are very attractive to Japanese beetles. These circumstances make it difficult to keep the blooms adequately covered with insecticide to protect them.  So, the best chemical-free method is to just let them have their feast and your plant will recover after they’ve had their fill. 

Insecticides that are labeled for homeowner use include sprays containing bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, lambda cyhalothrin, neem oil, permethrin, or pyrethrin to control beetles.  We recommend Bayer 3-in-1 Insect, Disease & Mite Control if you are prone to using chemical insect control.  Additionally, treat your soil this summer with Hi Yield Grub Free Zone, to kill the grubs which will morph in to beetles next year.

Nurturing Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs faithfully reappear at the most advantageous time – after a long, cold winter, just when we’re longing for bright colors to relieve the monotony of winter snow and ice. Most spring bulbs are perennial and multiply in number every year, bringing more beauty to the flowerbeds each spring, but some problems can destroy a carefully planted bulb bed. Seemingly carefree, bulbs do require a bit of nurturing to ensure they perform their very best for years to come.

Tips for Bulb Care

  1. Plant spring bulbs in October.  Be sure to read directions on the package for planting depth.  Different flowers required different depths.  Position bulb in ground with foliage tip up and root end down.
  2. Good soil drainage is important to prevent bulbs from rotting so plan your site accordingly. Do not plant bulbs near areas where downspouts let out or in low wet areas.  Amend clay soil with soil enhancer to promote good drainage.
  3. When planting bulbs in the fall, add a high phosphorus fertilizer to the planting hole for the development of strong roots. This will help the bulbs establish well so they can renew themselves each year.  Bone Meal is a good fertilizer to use.
  4. Bulb foliage will often break through the soil after a few warm winter days. This vegetation is hardy and its exposure to the cold will not damage your plants or prevent them from blooming. There is no need to cover, wrap or otherwise protect this initial foliage.
  5. Fertilize bulbs as plants are emerging from the ground. Do not fertilize once flowers appear. Use a 5-10-5 granular fertilizer to assist in foliage and flower development, ideally one that is formulated especially for bulbs.
  6. After blooming, cut back the flower stalk, but not the foliage. Cutting back the flower stalk will force the plant to put its energy into the bulb for next year’s flowers and not into seed production that would dampen the strength of the bulb.
  7. Allow the leaves to die back naturally. The leaves are vital for producing food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. Cut leaves, never pull, once they have turned yellow – pulling can damage the bulb. Do not tie leaves as this reduces the leaf surface required for adequate food production.
  8. When the foliage has completely died back the bulb is dormant, and this is the proper time to dig and separate bulbs if necessary. Flowering will often be reduced when bulb beds become over-crowded. If division is needed, bulbs should be dug and stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place and replanted in the fall.
  9. Fertilize bulbs again in the fall with a high-phosphorus, granular fertilizer.
  10. Daffodils and Narcissus are the easiest to grow in the South, and most of them are deer resistant.  Tulips are the hardest to grow in the South, because they prefer a colder climate.

With thoughtful care, you can easily help your bulbs reach their full potential and they will thrive for many years.

Autumn: Why Plant Now?

Although many gardeners plant trees and shrubs in the spring, knowledgeable gardeners plant in the fall to take advantage of all this fabulous season has to offer. But why is fall planting better than spring planting?

  • Stress Reduction
    Transplanting causes stress as plants are removed from containers, balls or established locations and changed to new locations. Planting in the fall, when a plant is entering dormancy and is generally hardier and sturdier, reduces this stress so the plant can thrive.
  • Establishing Strong Roots
    Fall planting “establishes” trees and shrubs by encouraging root growth. Because the soil is still warm, the roots continue to develop until freezing, though the upper parts of the plant are already dormant. When transplanting in the spring, the developed roots are active and delicate tips or rootlets, as well as buds and new leaves, are more easily damaged.
  • Weather Resiliency
    Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are better able to withstand the rigors of the next summer’s heat and dry conditions because they have much longer to develop healthy roots systems and become thoroughly established. This is especially critical in dry climates or areas prone to drought or irregular rainfall.
  • Faster Maturity
    The “head-start” of fall planting results in a larger plant in less time, helping create a mature landscape without waiting for smaller plants to catch up. This can be especially critical when replacing dead or damaged plants in a mature landscape to avoid a gap or uneven look.
  • Water Conservation
    Planting in the fall saves watering time and promotes conservation by eliminating daily watering. Cooler temperatures with the addition of both morning and evening dew contribute greatly to soil moisture availability in fall without as much supplemental watering.
  • Color Confirmation
    Fall is the best time to see a plant’s autumnal color. Planting in the fall eliminates the surprise of the wrong color or unexpected shades that may not coordinate with nearby plants. By planting in autumn, you’ll know exactly what you’re purchasing and planting, and you will be able to match better with your existing landscape.

Autumn can be the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs, whether you are adding to your landscape, replacing plants or starting a whole new look. If you plant in autumn, you’ll be amazed at how lovely your landscape will look next spring.

Watering: How Much?

Water is critical for a healthy garden and landscape, but how much water is too much, how much isn’t enough and how much is just right? Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific answer that suits every gardener’s needs. All plants have different water requirements, which change depending on the type of soil, amount of sun, temperature, humidity, season, maturity of the plant and overall growing environment.

Initial Watering

All plants, including specimens described as drought tolerant, will require water when first planted. This is because many of the smaller roots responsible for water uptake are usually damaged during shipment and planting. Build a small circular soil wall around the plant to contain water while it percolates into the soil. Watch new plants carefully and keep them well-watered as their roots settle in and they adapt to their new or transplanted location.

Groups Are Good

It’s a good idea to have some knowledge of the plant’s water requirements when determining the location in the garden. It will keep watering simple if you plant a new specimen near other plants with similar water requirements. In this way, there is no need to readjust an irrigation system or watering schedule, since all the plants in the group have similar needs.

Need a Drink?

Because plants’ watering needs can change through the season, how can you tell if a plant needs more water? Most plants will wilt as the soil becomes too dry. The leaves may droop, and if it’s an upright plant, the top ends may become soft and bend over. Glossy plants may begin to look dull, while thick leaves will shrivel. If you notice these signs, it is time to water! Most plants will revive if watered quickly enough, but be sure to water deeply rather than allowing moisture to run off the surface.

How can you tell if you should water? Push your finger into the soil an inch or two from the base of a plant. Perfect soil should feel cool and slightly moist. Some soil should stick to your finger. If none does, it’s too dry. If it’s muddy, don’t water. Overwatering kills plants by depriving the roots of oxygen. Some gardeners use water meters to see the precise amount of moisture. If you’re unsure, this tool can be helpful.

Adjusting Your Watering Schedule

The amount you have to water your plants or landscape can change from day to day. A cool morning will allow more dew to form and drain to the soil, or a sudden afternoon thunderstorm can be enough water to keep your plants hydrated for a few days. An overly hot day, however, can rapidly deplete water resources and extra watering may be required. Check your plants and landscape regularly to be sure they are getting adequate water, and make adjustments as needed to keep them suitably moist without either too much or too little water.

How MUCH water?

Established lawns require approximately 1 inch of water per week in the summer.  Put several
containers out on your lawn and put a mark at a depth of 1 inch. Then turn on the irrigation. Determine
how long it takes to fill the container to the 1 inch mark. Divide the time by 4 and set the zones to run that
amount of time every other day starting at 5:30 am. Keep an eye on the lawn as some zones may need
more or less water due to the soil’s ability to drain. 

New lawns – follow the instructions by the installer, or the place of purchase.

Trees or shrubs (3 or 7 gal) installed within the past six months – Each plant will need about 1 inch
of water a day when daytime temperatures are 90 degrees or higher. (Even more if temperatures exceed
100 degrees.) You can use the same container method explained above to determine how long it takes
your irrigation system to put out 1 inch of water. You will need to water for that amount of time every day.

Trees (15 gal) installed within the past six months – Take a 5 gallon bucket and put a hole on the side
near the bottom using a 1/16 inch drill bit (approximately the diameter of the lead in a #2 pencil). Fill it
with water daily, and it will slowly trickle out. Put a brick in the bucket so it doesn’t blow away when it is
empty. For larger trees, use more buckets.

Remember to reduce the water when our high temperatures decrease as we go into the Fall.
If the temperature high is in the:
80’s – water every other day
70’s – water every 3rd day
60’s – water every 4th day
50’s – water once a week

These are some general rules, but not an absolute answer to irrigation of a lawns, trees, and shrubs due
to natural rainfall, soil variables, slopes, drainage, and other issues. Every location is different. Watch
how your plants respond and adjust accordingly.

For more information,