GARDENER'S MAILBAG: Bougainvillea sprouted

By Neil Sperry
Special to the Herald Democrat

Dear Neil: I have property in South Texas, and after the winter I left the roots of my bougainvillea in the ground rather than digging them out. To my delight, they sprouted out in early June and are now growing vigorously. Sometimes it pays to wait! 

That’s great news. Several plant species have surprised us over the past month or two. The real test will come in how well they survive July and August temperatures. Good luck!

Dear Neil: We have had this unknown tree in our courtyard for 22 years. The landscaper who planted it is out of business. It died in the wintertime, but it is coming back strongly from its roots. I would like to prune it and retrain it, but I don’t know when or how to prune it. Please identify it and advise me.

Yaupon whole plant frozen back
Yaupon regrowing from base

This is a yaupon holly. I am amazed that it would have frozen back. I have seen thousands of photographs of other plant species that froze, but this is the first yaupon. You are correct in wanting to prune it and retrain it. Cut the dead trunks back as close to the ground as you can. Let all the new shoots develop for the rest of this growing season. Select seven or eight that you leave to develop into trunks next spring. By fall 2022 you will be able to select three to five that will be the permanent trunks. Remove all the rest. You will be very pleased with how quickly your plant re-develops. Obviously, its roots are still very healthy.

Dear Neil: Is there a spray I can use to get rid of this very invasive vine in my jasmine bed?

how to control vine

Not without running the risk of damaging the jasmine. You would be trying to kill one species of broadleafed vine growing within another species of broadleafed vine. They are just too closely related. You’re going to need to use both hands to scoop the long stems of this weed together into a large ball and then cut or pull it out of the jasmine. It will come back, so you’ll need to repeat a time or two. Try not to let it get this far involved the second time around.

Dear Neil: My husband and I have had this magnolia in a large pot for four years. It finally became too large to keep in the greenhouse, so we planted it this past April. We have been watering it weekly during dry spells. Suddenly it started developing brown spots on its leaves, and many of the leaves have been falling. No chemicals have been used near it, and we don’t see any kind of insects. What might be causing this?

Magnolia leaves turning brown

This plant has gotten too dry one or more times. That is what causes this pattern of browning on magnolia leaves. You don’t want to water according to the calendar. You need to water when the soil begins to dry 1 to 2 inches down. For a new plant like this, that water must be applied to the original soil ball by deep and slow soaking from the end of the garden hose. I water all of my newly planted trees and shrubs every two or three days when temperatures are in the 90s or above. It would be almost impossible to over-water trees and shrubs in mid-summer.

Dear Neil: is it OK to plant bermudagrass seed now and water, water, water, or should we wait until fall?

Bermudagrass is a warm-season grass. That means that it grows best when temperatures are 85F or 90F or warmer. This is its season. Do not wait for fall. Also, bermuda seed is very tiny, so you will have to do proper soil preparation prior to planting. If there is other vegetation growing there now, use a glyphosate herbicide (no other active ingredients) to kill all weeds and unwanted grasses. Wait 10 days for the glyphosate to do its job, then use a rear-tine rototiller to pulverize the soil. Use a garden rake turned upside-down to prepare a smooth planting bed. Sow the bermuda seed at a rate of 2 to 4 pounds per 1000 square feet. Thoroughly stir in equal amounts (by weight) of cornmeal to extend the seed and make it easier to sow.

Dear Neil: What are the prospects for this giant ash tree at a friend’s place in Hood County? 

Ash tree after cold

Not good. Unfortunately, ash trees all across the northern half of Texas look very much like this. The February cold caught them getting ready to leaf out, and it did a terrible number on them. Since this tree is out in the open, your friend could certainly leave it to see what happens. However, most arborists and foresters are not offering much encouragement with ash trees. I’m sorry for the dismal nature of my reply.

Dear Neil: I thought my persimmon tree was dead after the February cold, but leaves finally sprouted out. In the past two weeks I have noticed that the leaves are curling up. What could be causing this? Also, I saw no blooms, so I assume there will be no fruit this year?

Persimmon frozen regrowing

The curling leaves could be reaction to cold damage to the plant tissue. Check closely to see if there’s any evidence of aphids on the leaves. If you don’t find any insects, then it probably is leftover effects of the cold. And if the cold did impact the plant that dramatically, it probably will come as no surprise that there were no flowers and will be no fruit until at least next year.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of this newspaper or e-mail him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.