Neighborhood Gardener – December 2018

All-white poinsettia cultivar called 'Polar Bear'

Happy holidays, from the staff of the UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener and Florida Yards and Neighborhoods programs.

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Red bird with black around its beakCardinals Add a Splash of Winter Color – Bright colors are always a great addition to the landscape, but the color doesn’t always have to come from flowers or foliage; sometimes birds can bring on the color. Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are some of the most easily recognized birds. In winter cardinals stand out against the evergreens or leafless trees and in the summer their whistles are one of the sweet sounds of morning.
(Photo: Johnny N. Dell,

Yellow butterflyWhite and Yellow Butterflies – Whites and yellows provide some of the more delicate hues of the season. For more garden color that comes from creatures, we have a sampling of white and yellow butterflies found in our state. Whether you prefer the subtle markings of the checkered white butterfly or the bold colors of the tiger swallowtail, when planning to attract butterflies remember to plant both caterpillar host plants and nectar plants for adults.

Pale pink camellia flowerCamellia Problems — Camellias are a favorite cool-season bloomer, but while you are enjoying their beauty keep an eye out for signs of damage. This month we’re featuring a condensed version of the UF/IFAS publication, Key Plant, Key Pests: Camellia, covering some of the common diseases, pests, and deficiencies that afflict camellia plants. Knowing what exactly ails your camellia may help you treat the problem more effectively.

State Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — It is the gift-giving season and if I could give gifts to all my gardening friends it would be for agreeable weather, fertile soil, and plenty of time to work in the garden and landscape. When folks find out you garden they love to give gardening gifts, but do they give garden gifts you love? Here are some of my favorite suggestions for useful tools for the gardener, and if you don’t find these under the tree maybe you will take yourself shopping with a gift card.

Small round green shrubPlant of the Month: Dwarf Hollies — Hollies are well known for their evergreen leaves and bright red winter fruits. They come in many forms and low maintenance. For smaller spaces and even containers, consider a dwarf holly. These smaller shrubs can also be used as hedges and foundation plantings, and there is a dwarf holly for all areas of Florida. ‘Bordeaux’, ‘Nana’, ‘Schillings Dwarf’ (pictured at left), and ‘Taylor’s Rudolph’ are just a few of the available cultivars.

A coleus plant with bright gold leaves edged in red in a plastic potCommon Landscape Pitfalls: Selecting Plants for Purchase — Landscapes with plants that match their preferred growing conditions require less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and maintenance than landscapes with plants growing in the wrong locations. When choosing the right plant for the right place, there are a number of factors to consider to ensure a long-lived, healthy landscape. Starting out with quality plants plays a huge role in the long-term well-being of your plants.

Bright yellow cassia flowers against a blue skyChristmas Cassia Causes Confusion — As winter approaches in Florida, plant lovers cannot help but notice the golden spectacle of the Christmas cassia (also known as Christmas senna, climbing cassia, or valamuerto). This shrub or small tree bears clusters of showy, bright yellow blossoms, on often-arching branches. Flowering begins as early as mid to late October and in frost-free parts of the state may extend through April, but in most areas peak bloom coincides with the holiday season. Extension botanist Marc Frank explains that your Christmas cassia is likely an invasive plant.

Poinsettia with pink and cream bractsDecember in Your Garden — Reliable cool-season vegetables to plant this month include cabbage, collards, kale, and broccoli. Enjoy one of the most popular indoor holiday plants, poinsettia. Protect it from cold until spring, and then plant it in the garden for next year. Inspect regularly for pests on indoor plants. Keep in mind that plant-specific temperature, light, and humidity are key to ensuring that indoor plants thrive.

Read the full December issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener – March 2017

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

Happy spring, gardeners!

Man working on the underside of a mowerSpring into Action for a Healthy Lawn – Warmer weather means Florida gardeners will be spending more time keeping their lawns looking lovely. Now is the perfect time to check out equipment, do your research, and create a landscape plan before heading outside. We have four steps that can help you get ready for your lawn’s active growing season.

Artistic rendering of the words International Flower and Garden FestivalEpcot Flower and Garden Festival – There’s a special event that heralds the arrival of spring in Florida—the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Running now through May 29th, the festival features gorgeous gardens, world-famous topiaries, and special events. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, our very own Master Gardener volunteers will be answering questions at the garden information desk, and Master Gardener Coordinators will give instructional seminars on topics such as hummingbird gardens and orchids.

Wendy WilberWendy’s Wanderings — I never know how spring fever is going to hit me. Sometimes it’s the pleasant shock of finding my shopping cart full of beautiful perennial plants—when I only went to the big box store for light bulbs. Or waking up on Saturday with a full-blown panic attack realizing that if I don’t get to the nursery immediately they will be sold out of my favorite tomatoes, and if they are sold out, I won’t have my favorites and I will suffer with lesser tomatoes all spring omg where are my keys?

Purple blossom of queen's wreathPlant of the Month: Queen’s Wreath – Queen’s wreath is a tropical flowering vine that looks wonderful this time of year. With drooping lavender flowers, this plant resembles wisteria—without that plant’s invasive issues. While usually found growing as a woody vine, queen’s wreath can be maintained as a shrub or a small, single- or multiple-trunked tree. Left to its own devices, queen’s wreath can reach 40 feet tall, but you can keep it much smaller with occasional pruning. Gardeners in zones 9B and further south can plant this long-flowering vine and enjoy blossoms for many months.

Logo for FruitScapes website over a photo of papayaFruitScapes – State Master Gardener Coordinator Wendy Wilber thinks growing fruit trees is a fabulous idea. They provide nutritious food to eat and share with both friends and wildlife, they provide shade, and are an attractive addition to home landscapes. But with so many fruit tree (and shrub) options available to Florida gardeners, it can be difficult to know where to start. Enter FruitScapes, the UF/IFAS website that offers you information on planting and growing over 50 different fruit plants in Florida.

Red zinnia flowersMarch in Your Garden – Spring is one of the busiest seasons for Florida gardeners. There are many edibles that can be planted in your garden this month and we have an updated Edibles to Plant this Month infographic that gives you a glance at what can be planted across the state. Now is also the time to start planting heat-tolerant annuals like angelonia and zinnia in your landscape.

Photo of a doe, mostly her headPlant Damage? Oh, Deer! – Spotting deer in your backyard can be a sweet treat; spotting damaged plants that have been chewed up by deer can sour your joy. While there are no guaranteed deer-proof plants, there are plants that are resistant to deer damage, as well as steps you can take to protect your garden and landscape.

Read the full March issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

The Neighborhood Gardener – July 2014

Happy July, gardeners!

This month in The Neighborhood Gardener:

EPA graphic about stormwaterStormwater Runoff – Summer marks the beginning of Florida’s rainy season, which means lots of water could be running through your landscape. While it’s great for most plants, the rainwater running off your landscape is not so great for our water supply. What most people don’t realize is that water running through storm drains doesn’t go to a treatment facility like the wastewater from homes does. There are a number of things you can do to keep water in your landscape and ensure that the runoff that does leave is as clean as possible.

New Gardening Web Tools from UF/IFAS – Gardening decisions are now easier with the release of new mobile web tools from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Plant Guide is a web-based mobile application with information on more than 400 plants, and Landscape Pests lets users identify pests by plant or damage symptoms.

Purple evergreen wisteria flowersPlant of the Month: Evergreen Wisteria — Evergreen wisteria is not only a beautiful vine, it’s also an excellent alternative to the more commonly seen Chinese wisteria, which is invasive. Sometimes called summer wisteria, this plant thrives in USDA zones 8 to 10 and will grow best in areas with full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. It will adapt to most soil pHs and can grow in any soil type, so long as it is well drained.

July in Your Garden – Use summer heat to solarize the vegetable garden for fall planting. It takes 4–6 weeks to kill weeds, disease, and nematodes, so start now.

infested sagoFriend or Foe? Foe: Asian Cycad Scale — The Asian cycad scale put a major dent in the sago population throughout Florida, but the problem is seeing something of a decline. The damage from these tiny sucking insects initially appears as yellow or bleached-looking spots, eventually making the leaves brown and crispy. But the introduction of two beneficial predators, along with use of horticultural oils, is slowly making a difference.

Read the full July issue.

Or subscribe today, and receive it directly by e-mail.

Beat the Heat!

2010 has brought record temperatures to Florida!  As we’re working in our yards, we need to be aware of the heat and take precautionary measures.  Here’s an excerpt from a Solutions for Your Life article that gives some tips on heat.

Summer in Florida can be overwhelmingly hot, even for long-time residents. Heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are illnesses that can overcome you when your body is unable to cool itself.

Floridians get new gardening tool

Walter Reeves
Walter Reeves, Your Southern Garden host

Floridians have a new tool to help them in the garden. “Your Southern Garden” with Walter Reeves is a new educational television show to help gardeners of all levels learn new tips, get fresh ideas and visit interesting sites.

The show, produced by University of Florida IFAS Extension and the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is a one-of-a-kind program specifically for the Southeast.

“Your Southern Garden” is a spin-off of UGA’s highly-rated “Gardening in Georgia,” which has aired on Georgia Public Broadcasting for a decade. Show host Walter Reeves, a retired UGA Cooperative Extension agent and nationally recognized gardening expert, brings the same down-home flavor to this new project. You may recognize Walter from appearances on DIY, HGTV and TurnerSouth garden shows. He’s also hosted a highly-rated call-in radio show on WSB 750AM in Atlanta for almost 20 years and has a weekly garden column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Each week’s show includes a blend of how-to projects, visits to local sites and tips. UF Extension specialists and agents appear with Walter and there is a calendar of tips for what to do in Florida landscapes.

The show began airing in select Florida markets in 2009. The 2010 season of “Your Southern Garden” began airing on public broadcast stations in north Florida in February and areas of Florida within the Georgia Public Broadcasting viewing area in April. The program will air weekly through the end of October.

Check your local public broadcasting station’s programming listings for days and times “Your Southern Garden” airs in your area and visit our website:

If the show isn’t available in your area, contact your local Florida Public Broadcasting station to request it.

Before you cut your grass this spring…

lawn mower care remember to sharpen your mower blade!

It may seem like a dull chore, but sharpening your mower’s bladeis actually one of the best things you can do for your lawn.

No matter what kind of mower you have, it works by cutting the grass with a blade. But when the cutting edge is dull it actually tears instead of slicing the grass.

Dull blades damage grass, making it more vulnerable to disease, sun damage, and insects like chinch bugs.

How often your mower blade needs sharpening depends on the size of your lawn and how often you mow, but a general guideline is at least twice a year.

Rotary mower blades should not only be sharpened, but also balanced. Reel mower blades should be sharpened only by a professional mower repair service.

Wind Chimes

Do you love the sound of wind chimes in your garden? If so, watch this video with horticulture extension specialist, Erin Alvarez, as she teaches you how to make wind chimes from recycled materials.

EDIS Docs We Like

We really like EDIS.   UF/IFAS peer-reviewed documents live on this site and we use it extensively for everything.  We highly recommend becoming familiar with it.

Some of the publications we have recommended in our e-newsletter, The Neighborhood Gardener, are listed below.  These are just a few of the many great articles EDIS has to offer.

Basic Repairs and Maintenance for Home Landscape Irrigation Systems

Reclaimed Water for Homeowner Irrigation

Hypogeococcus pungens Granara de Willink (Insecta: Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), a Mealybug

Fuller Rose Beetle, Naupactus godmanni

American lady, American painted lady, Vanessa virginiensis

Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa

‘Firepower’ Nandina (Nandina domestica): A Noninvasive Nandina for Florida

How To Make a Treefrog House

Growing Gardenias in Florida

Deciduous Fruit for the Home Garden in Central Florida

Giant Swallowtail, Orangedog, Papilio cresphontes Cramer

Establishment of Leavenworth’s Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii) on Roadside Right-of-Ways

Sharpening Tools for Landscaping and Gardening

Black Spot of Rose

Soil Sampling and Testing for the Home Landscape or Vegetable Garden

New Florida Foliage Plant Cultivar: ‘Emerald Bay’ Aglaonema

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Soil Organic

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Soil Formation in Florida

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Soil Drainage and Water Holding Capacity

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Organisms in the Soil

Soils and Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Soil Physical Properties

Soils and Fertlilizers for Master Gardeners: Soil Fertility

Soils and Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: The Soil Profile and Soil Classification

Soils and Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Tackling Soil Salinity Problems in the Home Landscape

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: The Florida Gardener’s Guide to Landscape Fertilizers

Plant Identification Learning Module

Have you ever wanted to beef up on your plant ID knowledge?  Well, now you have a quick and easy way to do just that.  The Plant Identification Learning Module is an online tool that you can use to help with your identification skills.

Each year during the Florida Master Gardener conference, teams compete in the plant identification and judging competition. The Plant Identification Learning Module is an online tool that you can use in preparation for the competition, or if you simply want to learn more about identifying ornamental plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also, see the competition rules and glossary.

This is also a great tool to prepare 4-H youth for horticulture judging competitions.  Check it out today and see what it’s all about!

But first, can you identify this plant?  Use the tool if you have to, but the first to answer correctly gets bragging rights!

Take your best guess.