Maintenance Information

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Helping SubTropicals to Overwinter

We haven't had many hard freezes in the past few years but delicate sub-tropicals i.e. bougainvillea, gardenia, mandevillea, hibiscus etc.................need some help even in mild winters.

Spray these plants in early December with Wilt-pruf or Cloud Cover anti-dessicants to help them survive the winter cold.

If there is a warning out for a hard freeze cover plants with an old sheet or ground cloth (never plastic!)
supporting cloth off of the foliage. Putting a lamp or light (turned on) below the cloth adds heat to help in a freeze.

Move potted sub-tropicals under an overhang on a warm wall (south or west facing).

When planting these plants try to locate them below an eave on a warm wall so that even in winter the wall will warm in the day and retain some heat at night.

Avoid pruning back frost damaged areas of plants until way after the last freeze to allow plants additional coverage from old foliage and to see where new sprouts will appear.

Powdery Mildew

A fungal disease, Powdery Mildew, shown here on the leaves of a Lilac shrub is a common problem in our area.  Many times it is not a serious disease appearing on leaves just as the plants are about to go dormant or die off for the winter.  New growth in the spring can also be affected and the leaves usally drop off or can be removed without treatement.

The fungus is most common in the foggy,humid  days of spring and fall clearing up with the advent of warmer weather or the chill of winter.

Some plants are very prone to powdery mildew and it requires spray to help contol the disease on those plants- Squash, Zinnias, Hollyhocks,the older Rose hybrids and Dahlias are some plants that spring to mind.

Plants that are in areas of poor air circulation, the wrong light for the plant or overly humid areas can become so diseased that the plants will never thrive, so choosing the right location for the plants and not overcrowding or overwatering helps also.

With all fungal diseases it is important to remove any diseased leaves from the area below the plants as they fall or hand pinching out diseased leaves to stop the spread of the spores.

Sunset Western Garden book sites this fungus as one that likes dry surfaces so they suggest spraying plants with a jet of water early in the day to remove spores.  They also site sprays of baking soda or garlic diluted as helpful non-toxic methods for treatement.
An anti-dessianct of Wilt-pruf or Cloud Cover can aslo help to block the action of the fungus.

As I said this is a common, mildly serious disease which usually clears up on its own so my action is to just remove diseased leaves and make sure I rake up under the diseased plants.