July 20th, 2016

Diagnosing an Avocado Tree Problem

TheGardenLady received this question from Ray.

I have an avocado tree that is over 15 years old. The leaves keep falling off. This year it produced about 15 small avocados, they keep falling off. I live in Central Florida. What coud be the problem?

Avocado trees can have a host of problems. Here is a list of problems and diagnosis that might be helpful. I have also written about problems with avocado trees. You can read some of my posts here and here.

However, the first thing this Garden Lady would do to try to find out what is ailing the tree would be to have the soil around your avocado tree tested. You can buy a soil test and do the soil testing yourself or to make it easier, go to your local Master Gardener office and buy a soil test. The Master Gardeners will explain how to take the soil for the test and how to send it to your agricultural extension to get the results.  The results will be sent back to you with information about what is needed to grow your avocado.  And if you need help understanding the information, you can take the results back to the MG office and they will go over the results answering your question. The soil test costs a few dollars but the information you ask the Master Gardeners will be answered for free.  This is always the best first step in trying to diagnose any problem one has when growing plants. This is what good p not need an avocado tree is having some insect problem or some disease that needs to be treated.

Go here to find your local Master Gardener office to get your soil testing kit.

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July 20th, 2016

African Marigolds

TheGardenLady received this question from Barry.

I direct sowed some marigolds and started 72 in a tray. Put them all about 2 months ago. Other than this I have only grown wildflowers. I had 2 different kinds and of course got them mixed up and the packages got blown away. Didn’t realize I had small regular marigolds and some that are now well over 4 feet tall with no flowers. I think they were white african marigolds. I now have small flowered marigolds in with all the big ones and these huge plants with no flowers. Now there is small things on the top that resemble grass seed pods. I pulled a plant thinking it wasn’t a marigold, I think it was. Could someone please help?

There are tall marigolds that are referred to as African marigolds. Though this Garden Lady has never planted them, the tall marigold plant is supposed to be spectacular. They are a little trickier to grow, but be patient and hopefully yours will eventually bloom. Here is an article about tall marigolds. Here is another article on them.

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July 20th, 2016

A Blooming Mother-in Law Tongue Plant in June

TheGardenLady received this question from Alice.

My sister gave me two pups from her mother n laws plant about 7 years ago. She passed away in 2014. Now my plant blooms in the same month (June) that she passed. I have never saw these plants bloom before.

You are taking perfect care of your Sansevieria to get it to bloom regularly- correct amount of fertilizer, perfect light and amount of watering and properly pot bound. What a lovely memorial to have it bloom for you in June when your loved one passed. Keep up your good care so that you can be lucky enough to have the plant continue to flower.

The person in the video above has the mother-in-law plant Sansevieria, flower at the end of summer.

June 18th, 2016

Eradicating Goutweed

TheGardenLady received this comment from Susan:

My mother planted [Snow on the Mountain] 37 years ago. We bought her house 21 years and we are still trying to get rid of it. I am at my wits end!! But I have decided this year is gonna be the end of it! I have made it my personal challenge to finally see the end of it. I curse my mother every year when I see it. She thinks it’s funny. I however do not!! I cringe every time I’m in a garden center and see them selling it. It gives me anxiety. It must die!! Lol

It is interesting to this Garden Lady that so many of the plants that were brought to the US as ornamental or medicinal plants, have now
become invasive, noxious weeds. My lawn problem is ground ivy, glechoma hederacea, which was brought to the US as an ornamental or medicinal plant in the 1800s. It is interesting to me that it seemed to take so long for these plants to become pests. There is a long list of ornamental plants that have become invasive. Ornamental plants like Japanese and Chinese Wisteria wisteria floribunda and W sinensis, Callery Pear pyrus calleryana and Common periwinkle, Vinca minor are a few plants that have become invasive. Go here for some other invasive plants.

Your problem is Snow on the Mountain also called Goutweed or Bishop’s weed- Aegopodium podagraria. You are correct that this plant is difficult to eradicate. One has to get rid of all the root. To do it without chemicals, first remove your good plants from the area where you want to get rid of the Snow on the Mountain. Dig down 2 1/2 feet to get all the root. Put removed roots in the garbage, do not compost it. Then cover the dug area with black plastic and let sit fallow for 6 months. This should get rid of at least one area of the plant. See here.

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May 29th, 2016

A Peek into TheGardenLady’s Garden



Check out some photos taken by Laura Hawkins of the flowers in my garden.

It is the end of iris season, so the photo shows a lot of dead blooms. Nonetheless, you can get some idea about how many irises I had blooming.

The second photo above shows Baptisia in bloom next to the yellow flag. You can’t see a rose in bloom behind these flowers.


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May 25th, 2016

Hosta Problems




TheGardenLady received this question from Pete (You can see images of his hostas above):

I have many green hosta plants that for the last couple years have wilted leaves or are otherwise distorted.The plants are quite old but were always healthy till now. Any ideas?

Though hostas are known to have few pest and disease problems, sadly they do develop some diseases and do get some pests. Some of these
problems may not kill the plant but makes them look unattractive. I have a feeling that your problem is not a killer.

You do not say where you live, but in many areas of the US, this spring has had a lot of rain. Some diseases need the excess moisture
to cause problems. This excess moisture on the plants is either through excessive rain or excessive overhead watering.

Keep reading →

May 16th, 2016

Monarch X-ING


TheGardenLady has written before about the disappearance of the Monarch butterfly. There was not one Monarch in my garden last summer. And TheGardenLady has written about the need to raise plants in your garden that will feed Monarch butterflies if they come to your area. Special plants are needed for Monarchs to feed and breed.

On this subject of the Monarch butterfly, an excellent new book recently appeared on Amazon.com about what one town is doing to encourage Monarchs to come and feed before laying eggs for a new generation of Monarch butterflies or migrating to Mexico. The book is ” MONARCH X-ING” by Pecki Sherman Witonsky. You can buy it here.

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March 23rd, 2016

Yellowing Avocado Leaves

Here are some more suggestions for yellowing avocado leaves.

Since avocados are considered a plant that is generally free of diseases, TheGardenLady offers this list of possible problems an avocado tree can have.

Generally avocado trees are tolerant of a lot of water if there is EXCELLENT drainage.  Drainage is very important.  But if you feel that you have over-watered your plant, it cannot hurt to cut back on the water. Test the soil with your finger before watering again and water only if the top of the soil feels dry. The frequency of irrigation depends on the temperature. In hot, dry weather, the avocado tree may require irrigation every day.  As a general rule, a potted plant in a container measuring 6 inches in diameter needs water when the top 2 inches of soil feels dry to the touch. A larger container measuring 8 to 10 inches in diameter is ready for water when the top ½ to 1 inch of soil feels dry. Avocado trees like the soil to drain quickly.

Hopefully, when you transplant the avocado tree, you do it carefully because the trees have weak root systems and sections of the root balls can break off during transplanting.  See here.

Avocado trees prefer full sun but need protection from strong sun until they develop a deep root structure and dense foliage to protect the sensitive bark. So young avocado trees have to be slowly introduced to the sun or their leaves can yellow. See here. Even after transplanting them into their final planting site, if they have not become used to the bright sunlight, you might have to give them some shade at first.

To learn how to grow avocados at home or a container, you should watch this:

If you’re interested in why people fail at growing avocados, you should watch this:

If you’re interested in some helpful tips for the backyard grower, read this:

Keep reading →

March 16th, 2016

Avocado Tree Problem

TheGardenLady received this question from Tricia.

About a month ago I transplanted 2 young avocado trees (bought at the local nursery) into large containers (their spots in the orchard aren’t ready yet). I had watered them 2x/wk week in the beginning and then 1x the following week because the soil was staying wet and I was afraid there wasn’t enough drainage. One of the trees’ leaves started yellowing, even though it gave me flower buds already. So I stopped watering it, afraid that’s why it was yellowing (the other one is fine). It now has all the upper leaves completely yellow and some turning brown and curling. The lowest ones are still green. I’m not sure what to do? Water it or not? The soil still appears moist.

Fungus is the most serious disease of avocado trees, which may be the problem of your avocado tree. As you wrote, you over-watered the plant and also the plant might have had poor drainage in the pot you put it in. You should take your plant to your nearest Agriculture Extension
office for an accurate diagnosis. They can offer you, for a fee, lab tests and soil tests to see if your tree has a fungus. (see here)

It is difficult to diagnose the problem from just a brief paragraph. Here is what UCDavis has to say about avocado diseases.


December 27th, 2015

Siproeta epaphus

TheGardenLady received this question from Michael.

I’m not seeing a black monarch. It’s a butterfly with black wings and orange tips. What is it?

We readers of TheGardenLady column also wish you had sent a photo of the butterfly with black wings and orange tips. Or perhaps you could tell us the area of the country where you saw this spectacular butterfly. Both a photo and the location could perhaps help us figure out which butterfly you saw.

Could it have been Siproeta epaphus with the common name of Rusty-tipped Page or Black and Tan butterfly?This butterfly is seen in the southern part of the US and in Central and South America. You can see more photos of this butterfly on this website.

If this is not the butterfly, see if you can find the name of the butterfly by using this website for identifying butterflies.

And let TheGardenLady readers know which butterfly you saw.