Showy caladiums prefer to avoid full sun
The return of warm spring days and gentle rains has produced limitless opportunities to garden. Annual bedding plants, vegetable sets, herbs and bulbs can be planted in these lengthening days.
One popular tuberous ornamental with showy leaves is the caladium. The foliage offers a striking display of colors whether in containers or in mass landscape plantings.
Plant the roots in light soil that is rich in organic matter but well drained. Peat moss is an excellent amendment as it allows easy root penetration and acidifies the bed while adding nutrients.
Mulch with three to four inches of leaves and pine straw over the planting bed. The layer of mulch helps regulate moisture and soil temperature.
Exposure to direct midday sun should be avoided. The delicate arrow-shaped leaves need a shady setting to produce their best color with ample shrubbery.
The variety of colors and patterns available is almost endless. Plant breeders have at least one new offering of this warm-season perennial every year.
Pest pressure on these plants is relatively minor. Aphids may attack the foliage, and moles sometimes eat the roots.
The bright foliage will last into autumn but will die back as the season moves toward winter. Adding several inches of leaves and pine straw to the bed will help the roots successfully overwinter.
In the spring, many of the roots will sprout new leaves when the soil temperature stays above 75 degrees. The regrowth will renew the colorful show for another year.
Maintaining tree health
A prudent course of action is to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. One area of preparation is readying trees for the potential assault of hurricane season.
Trees in decline are especially hazardous. Their compromised health makes them vulnerable to uprooting and loss of limbs.
There are several key indicators for tree health.
Mushrooms growing on or very close to trees is a sign the tree is dying. The fungus is not the cause of decline, but only an indicator of the eventual fate.
Spores of the mushrooms are scattered on the wind and by water. Landing randomly, most never sprout when arriving on a site devoid of necessary resources.
Those lucky spores that land on decaying wood will likely sprout and take nourishment from the rotting plant material. Their roots expose more of the tree to colonization by mushrooms.
Another indicator of tree health is its crown, or the uppermost branches and leaves. Healthy trees and plants have green and growing crowns.
When the crown turns brown and the leaves drop off, the tree’s days are numbered. The causes may be disease, lightning or damage to the root system.
Lastly, bifurcation or trunk forking results in a structurally weak tree. This condition may display itself when the tree emerges from the ground or at a place on the trunk.
When the wind direction stresses the tree with enough force at its angle of vulnerability, a collapse results. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to tell how much wind is required to produce the failure.
Small bugs, big appetites
Aphids have an insatiable thirst for the juices of plants. They locate a suitable victim and latch on to try to satisfy their unquenchable need while avoiding exposure to the sun. They prefer to stay in the shady cloisters of their plant hosts. All the while, these tiny vampires are draining life-sustaining fluids by using their piercing mouthparts to savage the plant’s vascular system. Aphids are tiny, pear-shaped, soft-bodied insects. Their reproductive potential and ability to transmit viral diseases make aphids a significant pest of crops worldwide. In spring, female nymphs hatch from the eggs on the primary host plant and feed to maturity. Winged forms of this insect migrate and feed on summer crops. Winds carry them to places they would be unable to reach unaided. Males and females are hatched in the fall. They then migrate onto winter hosts where eggs are laid for overwintering during the cold weather. Aphids come in several colors. Red, black, yellow and green can be found in the area. Ladybugs are tiny carnivores and nature’s pest control agents and have an affinity for aphids. The slow, soft-bodied aphids are easy prey for the much larger ladybugs’ fearsome jaws.