We have just finished installing a new swimming pool in our home and are now ready to plant some tropical landscaping. The planting area will benefit from full afternoon sun. I heard you say that November is the best time to plant trees – does this also apply to palm trees? What types of palm trees are the hardiest and which would you recommend? What other types of smaller tropical plants (palms, bananas, etc.) do you recommend? – Paul Baranova
Fall planting is for hardy trees and shrubs that aren’t bothered by winter frost, not tender tropical plants. Palms belong to the group of tropical plants and are best planted from May to August. They root best when the soil is warm. The August deadline is such that the newly planted palms have time to grow their roots and settle down before winter. Late planted palms are at a greater disadvantage if we have heavy frosts like we did last February. Among the hardiest palms are cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto) and wind palms (Trachycarpus fortunei), and these are beautiful palms to plant around swimming pools because the heads are not that large. Queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana) and pygmy date palms (Phoenix roebelenii) look great around swimming pools, but are less hardy and will be damaged or killed in temperatures below 20.
As for the smaller tropics, it’s a matter of taste (what you like) and availability in the nurseries. Popular choices for sunny areas include hibiscus, bird of paradise, variegated seashell ginger, tibouchina, angel’s trumpet, banana, firecracker plant (Russelia), ixora, night-flowering jasmine and the split-leaf philodendron, to name a few. It is late in the season, however, for planting tropical plants. I would recommend that you install any hardy trees, shrubs, ground covers, and perennials that you plan to use in landscaping this fall and wait to install the tropical plants in April or May. It’s not like tropical plants would look so beautiful in winter anyway, as frost will make bananas, gingers, etc. Wrong. Keep this in mind when deciding what percentage of plant material around the pool will be hardy and evergreen and what will be tropical. If you exclusively use tropical materials, the area will be much less attractive during the winter cold.
This time of year with St. Augustine grass dormant for the winter, all we have are weeds covering our lawn. The most predominant weed is dollarweed. What can we use this time of year to try to rid our lawns of weeds? – Melissa Longman
Atrazine is the best herbicide against dolomite in Saint-August. It will also control a wide variety of other weeds. You can make one application in mild weather (70s / 60s day and 40s / 50s night) this fall. Carefully follow the directions on the label. Atrazine will also suppress the growth of weed seeds. Assess your lawn weed problem in January or February. If necessary, you can make another application for a gentle period afterwards.
I grow a variety of peppers (cayenne, Tabasco, Habanero, etc.). I know I can order seeds online, but what is the process for collecting seeds from my existing plants? How to dry / treat / store them so that they are viable next year? – David Miller
First, let the fruit ripen completely. I like to wait until the pepper starts to shrivel slightly before harvesting it. Open the fruit and extract the seeds. Use a colander to rinse the seeds thoroughly under running water. Spread the seeds out on a paper towel and allow them to dry completely for about a week. Then store the seeds in an airtight container in your refrigerator until you plant them next year. If you are growing F1 hybrid peppers, be aware that they do not come from seed. The offspring will be different from the original plants. Also, it is possible that different types of peppers growing nearby could have been pollinated by crossing, which will lead to offspring that combine the characteristics of the parents.