Horticulture Update
JANUARY & FEBRUARY 2001

HORTICULTURE UPDATE is designed as a source of information for County Extension Agents and Specialists to utilize in local news releases and as part of their educational programs across Texas, but will also appeal to gardeners and plant-lovers of all kinds, especially those interested in growing plants under the tough conditions of Texas and the Southern United States. Our information is oriented for Texas gardeners and Texas conditions.

Each issue includes a monthly checklist for suggested garden activities along with articles on gardening topics and profiles of plants especially suitable for Texas and the South. Another feature of the publication is information about forthcoming educational opportunities sponsored by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

Dr. William C. Welch and Dr. Douglas F. Welsh, both Extension Horticulturists in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University, share editorial responsibilities for the newsletter. Articles from County Extension Agents (Horticulture), and Specialists in related disciplines are welcome and encouraged.

Dr. William C. Welch, January-February 2001 Editor

Contents

You may click on a title below to read an individual article (and print out only that article), or you may scroll down to read the entire newsletter.

Photographs in this issue are courtesy of Dr. William C. Welch and Cynthia W. Mueller.

Winter Honeysuckle,
Lonicera fragrantissima

Plant of the Month . . .

By Dr. William C. Welch
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

onicera fragrantissima is no newcomer to Texas gardens. It can be found growing unattended in old cemeteries and homesites where few other ornamental plants survive. The two most-often used common names are winter honeysuckle and standing honeysuckle, both of which provide useful insight into the landscape character of the plant. Robert Fortune, the great plant explorer from Scotland, found L. fragrantissima in China and introduced it to Europe in 1845. Soon thereafter, it appeared in American gardens.

The flowers are small and creamy white. They appear during midwinter and, although not outstanding in appearance, are highly fragrant. Foliage is rounded and bluish-green in color. In all but far South Texas, L. fragrantissima is deciduous, and the flowers occur on bare branches. It is unusually well-adapted, and can be found in far North as well as South Texas. Any good garden soil is sufficient, with quality specimens being found in either moderately alkaline or acid soils.

Maximum height is about 8 feet with an arching form to the branches. Red fruit in spring will often follow the winter flowers. Landscape uses include specimens, background plantings, or hedges. Winter honeysuckle is very cold- and drought-tolerant. Propagation is from seed, cutting, or division of older clumps.

Availability on a national scale is fairly good. L. fragrantissima is often sold as a packaged deciduous shrub during winter. Although not a spectacular plant, the form is nice. Its winter flowers and fragrance are welcome, and its hardy character is a real asset. Early Texans often placed a specimen of winter honeysuckle near a frequently-used gate to the garden so that the fragrance and flowers could be easily enjoyed. Stems are also nice to cut and bring into the home where partially-open buds continue to open. Like many of the plants popular in the last century, L. fragrantissima is enjoying a renewal of popularity. Few plants will thrive in Texas gardens with less attention.

Roses

By Dr. William C. Welch
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

he rose is America’s favorite flower. The genus Rosa includes numerous species, including some natives. The major appeal of roses is in the color and beauty of the blossoms. Some bloom almost year round while others provide massive displays for several or more weeks.

There has been considerable question over the landscape value of roses. Actually, there are some roses that lend themselves very well to use as vines, masses, or even specimen use. Hybrid Tea roses, which are the most common class of roses currently available, are best grown in well prepared, sunny beds where they receive at least half a day of sun and good air circulation. Hybrid Tea roses require a regular spray program for prevention and control of black spot and mildew diseases.

Garden roses require very little cold weather to satisfy their dormancy requirements. This means that it is possible to successfully grow roses in all parts of Texas. They are best transplanted during the winter from late December through February. Many garden centers order bare root plants for delivery in December and January. Immediately upon arrival, these plants are potted in containers. This method allows the planting season to be extended later into the spring. Most rosarians like to set out new plants during January and February so that the root systems can be well established before the hot weather arrives.

Roses are classified according to growth and flowering characteristics. A brief description of the most common classifications should be helpful in planning their use in the landscape.

Hybrid Teas
Because of their almost continuous flowering habit, Hybrid Teas are often called monthly or everblooming roses. They are the result of crossing two old-fashioned rose classes, the Hybrid Perpetual and the Tea rose from China which gave the repeat blooming trait. In general, the buds are pointed, long, and borne one per stem. Hybrid Teas are the most common class sold today but are generally grown for cut flowers rather than as landscape plants.

Floribundas
The Floribundas originated from crossing the Hybrid Tea with Polyantha roses. Plants are vigorous with large masses of well shaped flowers that resemble miniature Hybrid Teas. With proper care Floribundas can provide an almost continuous source of landscape color. They are most effective in mass displays of the same variety. Floribunda roses are usually more compact in growth form than Hybrid Teas.



Polyantha 'Marie Daly'


Polyanthas
Polyanthas produce small flowers in large clusters and are primarily used for mass plantings or borders. Probably the most popular variety available in this class is ‘Cecile Brunner,’ which is often called the “Sweetheart Rose” and is available in both climbing and bush form. There are very few Polyanthas on the market today because Floribundas seem to have more appeal and are more widely available.

Grandifloras
This is a relatively new classification which resulted from crosses between Hybrid Tea and Floribunda varieties. Grandifloras are usually very vigorous plants. ‘Queen Elizabeth’ is probably the most popular rose in this class.

Climbing and Pillar Roses
Many of the popular varieties of the classes previously described have climbing forms. There are, however, some varieties considered natural climbers which include such popular choices as ‘Blaze,’ ‘New Dawn,’ and ‘Lady Banks.’ Climbers are usually very vigorous an require different pruning practices from those of bush types. Most climbers should be pruned after they bloom in the spring, since many of them flower primarily on last year’s wood.

Old Garden Roses
This is really more of a generalized grouping than a class of roses. Included are China, Hybrid Perpetual, Tea, Moss, Damask, Bourbon and Noisette roses. Recent years have seen considerable interest in may of these plants. Part of their popularity is due to nostalgia and interest in historical plantings. Old rose enthusiasts quickly point to the superior fragrance, hardiness, growth habit, and disease resistance of some of the old varieties that may have been lost or weakened in the hybridization process of newer varieties.

Whatever the reason, there is a definite emerging interest in old roses in Texas as well as the nation. Catalogs from nurseries specializing in old roses have become popular references and sources of information for the older varieties.

Miniature Roses
Most of these plants grow no more than 16 to 36 inches in height. They are natural (genetic) dwarfs and have become popular in recent years. Unlike most other rose classes, miniatures are usually grown as and are valuable for mass landscape plantings or container culture. Their growth requirements are similar to those of other roses, and most varieties need to be sprayed regularly to control black spot and spider mites.

There are hundreds of varieties available with new ones appearing on a regular basis. A major reason for the popularity of miniature roses is their ease of propagation. Cuttings can be rooted during the cooler months, and older plants can usually be divided. Most miniatures bloom profusely and regularly.

Own-root roses are propagated from cuttings rather than grafted or budded onto rootstocks. This is the method used by our ancestors to propagate roses and is still popular today. Many of the modern roses don’t seem to be vigorous enough to do well as own-root plants but most miniature roses and many old garden roses are offered for sale as own-root plants. An advantage is that many roses seem to be more vigorous and live longer when grown from cuttings. Own-root roses are less likely to be permanently damaged by excessive cold because when they are frozen above ground and sprout out from below the next spring they will remain the original variety instead of the root stock. For additional information on rooting roses from cuttings click on Rose Propagation.

Purchasing Roses
Roses are readily available during the late winter and spring. Packaged roses are often featured in discount and grocery stores as well as some garden centers. There is nothing really wrong with this method of handling roses; but if they are stored or displayed in warm temperatures, sprouting occurs almost immediately. Sprouting severely weaken the plant and may result in poor performance or even death.

Bare root roses are often available from mail order nurseries and are usually packed in plastic with some sort of moisture retaining material around the roots to further prevent drying. It is important to plant these roses as soon as possible upon arrival; if planting is to be delayed, the rose should be “heeled in” in a good garden soil and kept moist until planting.

Roses in containers are featured by many garden centers in Texas. It is important that the container be large enough to adequately hold the root system. A one-gallon container is usually too small for a normal sized, two-year-old bush. Two or three-gallon containers are much better. Some nurseries use containers that will decompose soon after planting and recommend that the entire container be set into the rose bed. Seasoned rose growers usually prefer to remove the plant from the container so that the root system can more quickly become established in the surrounding soil.

Roses are usually graded to standardized criteria. This includes #1, #1-1/2, and #2 grades. Homeowners are probably wise to choose #1 or #1-1/2 grade, since the vigor and size of these plants is usually superior.

Rose Culture

By Dr. William C. Welch
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Planting
If planting only a few roses, dig individual holes for them. Holes should be at least 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide. Mix about one-third organic material (peat, pine bark, or compost) with some of the soil from the hole, along with a gallon or two of well-rotted cow manure, if available. A half-cup of bone meal or superphosphate, thoroughly mixed with the soil, is a good addition. A similar amount of agricultural gypsum is beneficial for heavy clay soils.

Soil preparation can be done just prior to planting, but is more effective if completed several weeks or months before planting.

Spacing of the plants will vary with varieties. Most Polyanthas can be planted as close as 18 to 24 inches, while Chinas, Bourbons, Teas, Hybrid Perpetuals, Hybrid Teas, and Hybrid Musks are best at a 3- to 5-foot spacing, depending on the variety. Climbers and ramblers need more space to develop their potential. Eight to 10 feet is appropriate for most, but under good growing conditions, Banksias, Cherokee, and certain others could be spaced at 15-foot intervals.

Bare-root plants should be set out as soon after receiving them as weather and time allow. If a delay of more than a few days is necessary, remove the plants from the shipping bag and 'heel them in' by covering the roots and part of the tops with loose soil. Container-grown plants may be set out at any time, but most rose growers avoid the hot summer months, when extra irrigation and care may be necessary to insure success. Prune tops back an inch or two to just above a live and healthy bud on each cane. Cut back canes or roots damaged in shipping or handling to healthy tissue. Dig the hole large enough to accommodate the natural spread of the roots, and fill with the soil mixture described earlier. Firm the soil well around the roots, and water thoroughly to remove air pockets and settle the soil firmly around the root system. Set plants at approximately the same level at which they had been growing, or slightly deeper.

Fertility
Roses are heavy users of nutrients and require frequent application of fertilizers. To determine fertility of existing soil, contact your county Extension agent for instructions on submitting a soil sample.

Do not apply fertilizers until the first set of flowers begins to fade for everblooming types, or in the case of once-blooming roses, 8 to 10 weeks after planting. A heaping tablespoon per plant of a complete fertilizer, such as 6-10-4 or 8-8-8, may be applied every 4 to 6 weeks until about September 1. Application after that time can promote soft fall growth that may result in freeze damage. The time-honored fertilizer for roses is well-rotted cow manure. Since manure may not be available, commercial fertilizers have become popular. Phosphorus is the material that helps plants develop strong, healthy roots and prolific flowering. Superphosphate is usually available, and can be applied at the rate of 3 to 4 pounds per 100 square feet. Since phosphorus is not very mobile in the soil, it should be well mixed during preparation.

Nitrogen is easily and quickly depleted from the soil, and needs to be applied periodically during the growing season. It is necessary for more and bigger canes, stems, and leaves. Slow-release commercial fertilizer or natural materials, such as cottonseed meal, last longer and require fewer applications through the growing season.

Potassium is needed for promotion of new growth, disease resistance, and cold tolerance. All 3 nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) are included in balanced fertilizers. Many rose growers apply a balanced fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season.

Timely Tips on Starting Seedlings at Home

By E. E. Janne, Extension Landscape Horticulturist (deceased), and Dr. R. E. Roberts, Vegetable Specialist (retired), Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

tarting transplants from seeds in your home is a good way to get a head start on the growing season. At least 4 to 8 weeks can be cut from the time required between planting and harvesting or of getting effective landscape color by setting vigorous transplants rather than seeds into the garden.

Growing your own plants may be the only way to obtain a new or special variety you want. Commercial plant growers cannot be expected to grow all of the hundreds of varieties offered by seedhouses. And, plant nurseries are often reluctant to offer varieties which have not been given widespread publicity.


Growing Media
Use of a loose, fertile, disease-free soil mix is a basic key to success. To prepare a mix of this type combine by volume one part sandy loam with one part sand or vermiculite plus one part Michigan or Canadian sphagnum peat. Anyone having clay loam should use one part soil to two parts sand or vermiculite and one part peat.

The mix must be pasteurized to kill harmful fungi,bacteria, weed seeds and nematodes which it may contain. This is easily done by placing the soil mix in a shallow metal pan, covering the pan tightly with aluminum foil and heating the soil to 160o in an oven. Keep the soil at this temperature for at least 1 hour or until a potato imbedded in the soil is baked. After cooling, the soil is ready for planting.

Premixed, soilless material can be bought in nurseries and stores. Soilless mixes are more expensive than the home mix but can be used right from the bag without pasteurization. These mixes are economical when used carefully. The following soilless mix can be prepared at home if the ingredients are available in a local nursery or through a catalog.

This "peatlite" mix is excellent for starting seeds and growing seedlings to transplant size.

The peat mixes with the other ingredients more easily if it is moist - not soaking wet. The night before, spread the dry peat out and sprinkle with just enough water to dampen it, or dampen in the bag. Follow these steps in mixing the ingredients:

  1. Pour the dampened peat moss or shredded pine bark and perlite or vermiculite in a rough pile. Sprinkle the fertilizer over the top.

  2. Shoveling from the base of the pile, make a second cone-shaped pile by pouring each shovelful directly on top so ingredients dribble down the sides.

  3. Shovel from the second pile and repeat the cone-shaped pile as before.

  4. Repeat the process again. It should now be well mixed. Store the mix in clean plastic bags or plastic cans to keep it moist and clean.


Containers
Any shallow wood, metal or plastic container at least 3 inches deep makes a suitable plant growing box. Milk cartons, foam cups, peat pots, and egg cartons make nice individual plant containers. Punch holes in the bottom of any carton, cup or pan to allow water to drain from the soil.

Sow seeds in rows 2 inches apart in a box of soil. If seedlings touch, remove some and transplant to give them more room to grow. If enough growing space is available, plant seeds directly into individual pots thereby eliminating the initial transplanting.

Regardless of the starting method, gardeners should allow proper space for each plant to develop. Crowded seedlings become stretched and unhealthy.


Seedings
Consult Table 1 for the optimum seeding date. Peppers require 7 to 8 weeks and tomatoes 5 or 6 to grow to transplanting size. Squash and cucumbers require only 2 to 3 weeks to grow to an ideal size. Members of the cabbage and lettuce families need 4 to 5 weeks. Flowering annuals also vary in the time required to produce a size suitable for transplanting. Much depends on local growing conditions. It is important to keep a garden notebook and record seeding dates, length of time to germinate and time required to reach transplant size. Seedlings are ready to transplant when they have the first set of true leaves.


Table 1. Planting and growing information for vegetables.

Kind of vegetableWeeks needed to grow transplants*Seed planting depthOptimum temperature for germinationPlant-growing temperatures
DayNight
(weeks)(inches)(oF)(oF)(oF)
Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower5 to 71/4 to 1/28560-7050-60
Lettuce4 to 61/4 to 1/27560-7050-60
Onions8 to 101/27560-7045-55
Tomatoes5 to 61/4 to 1/28570-8060-65
Peppers7 to 81/4 to 1/28570-8060-70
Eggplant7 to 81/4 to 1/28570-8065-70
Cucumber, squash, muskmelon and watermelon2 to 33/4 to 18570-9060-70
*Depends on type of plant-growing structures used, heating facilities, and lighting available.



Soil temperature is important. Cool soil retards germination. Warm the soil to about 75o if possible until seedlings have emerged above the soil surface.

Provide an air temperature of 70o to 75o during the day and night temperature of at least 60o to 65o.

Cover the seed only enough to make it disappear from view [rule of thumb: 2X their diameter]. The seed packet usually gives correct planting depth. After seeding, water the soil gently but thoroughly until water drains out the bottom of the container, being careful not to wash seeds away. Place containers in plastic bags or cover the soil surface with plastic film until the first sign of seeding emergence. Then remove the plastic cover immediately and be sure the container gets maximum exposure to light. Most seeds do not require light to germinate, but seedlings need full exposure to light as soon as they emerge.


Transplanting
Begin transplanting when the first true leaves are forming, usually 2 to 3 weeks after sowing. Set the seedling at the same level it was in the seedling flat. When firming the soil avoid injuring tender stems.

Immediately after transplanting, water each seedling container thoroughly. Wilting at this point can damage young plants severely. To prevent excessive wilting, shade plants from strong sunlight for 2 or 3 days after transplanting.


Spacing
Frequently, plant quality suffers from crowding too many plants into a small area. Crowded seedlings become weak and spindly and are more susceptible to disease. Wider spacing or larger containers permit stronger growth. As a rule of thumb, to produce high quality plants, space them so that the leaves of one plant do not touch those of another.


Watering
Add water to soilless media only when moisture can no longer be squeezed out by pinching the medium between the thumb and forefinger. Water soil only when it no longer feels moist when rubbed between the fingers. Apply enough water at each irrigation so that some drips out of the drain holes in the bottom of the container. Be sure the water is passing through the rootzone-not just down the inside wall of the container.


Fertilizing
After seedling emergence and during early development, strong, rapid plant growth can be assured by watering the soil with a carefully prepared solution of a soluble fertilizer which is specifically designed for plant production. Prepare the solution exactly as prescribed on the label. Apply the solution as an irrigation when water is needed. Apply the solution as an irrigation when water is needed. Apply enough to allow some to flow out the drain.


Problems--An aid in diagnosing plant-growing disorders

SymptomsPossible causesCorrective measures
Spindly growth or leggy plants1. Shade causes excessive elongationFull sunlight whenever possible
2. Prolonged cloudy weather during growing seasonMaintain lower temperatures during cloudy weather. See Table 1
3. Excessive wateringWater when necessary to maintain a moist but never wet soil condition
4. Temperatures too highSkillful management of temperatures. See Table 1
5. Excessive fertilizerApply fertilizer less frequently and/or reduce the concentration
6. Poor plant spacingAt all times provide young plants with adequate space for stocky development
Dwarf plantsLow fertility. Severe cases will be accompanied by nutrient deficiency symptoms. See A1 and A2 belowNutrient levels difficult to maintain because of small volume of soil. Apply fertilizers often and in low concentrations.
A. Leaves discolored1. Phosphorus deficiency. plants dwarf early in growth; stems are slender, fibrous and hard. Underside of leaves and stems becomes reddish-purple. Leaves are small and roots stunted. Soil may be too acid.Apply a high-phosphorus plant-starter solution, such as a 10-55-10, 10-52-17 or 15-30-15 analysis. Use 2 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water.
2. Nitrogen deficiency. General indication of nitrogen deficiency is lack of green in the retarded growth with stems and leaves. If the soil is very deficient in nitrogen, symptoms may appear early in the seedling stage. If there is adequate nitrogen to support early growth only, deficiency symptoms may appear later.Apply nitrogen in water. Dissolve 2 teaspoons of ammonium nitrate or 3 teaspoons of ammonium sulfate per gallon of water. Be sure to wash solution from foliage with plain water after fertilizing.
B. With root discoloration1. Excess soluble salts from overfertilizing. Plants wilt in bright sunshine. Lower leaves turn yellow and drop off, and plant finally dies or has very small root system which is often discolored.Leach excess salts. Not generally a problem where regular feeding schedule is maintained. Maintain a moist soil condition.
C. Without root discolorationLow temperature. Retarded growth.Maintain proper day and night temperatures. Do not start plants too early.
Tough, woody plantsPlants likely to be over-hardenedApply plant starter solution 3 to 4 days before setting out. Use analysis such as 10-55-10 or 10-52-17 at the rate of 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) to a gallon of water.
Decay or rotting of the stems of young plants near the soil surface.Damping-off. Disease organisms attack germinating seeds and young plants, especially during prolonged cloudy weather.Use of sterilized soil-mix, skill in watering and ventilating and proper regulation of temperature.
Retarded root growth1. Poor soil mixtureAll factors influencing root growth are especially important. Root growth and formation of new roots are dependent on the food supply from the plant top, good aeration, ample supply of nutrients, adequate moisture and temperature.
2. Poor soil aeration
3. Poor drainage
4. Lack of fertility
5. Excess soluble salts
6. Low temperature
Green algae and mosses growing on soilSuch growth usually occurs on soils with a high moisture content. It is more evident in shade and when prolonged cloudy weather exists during the plant-growing season. Under these conditions, moisture is retained near the soil surface, making conditions favorable for its growth. Poor soil structure, poor aeration.Increase air movement around plants and practice morning watering. Add coarse, aggregate material to loosen the media, to decrease its water-holding capacity and to increase its air space.


Planting and Growing Information for Flowering Annuals

Columns A, B, C and D in the table refer to the following:

Column A--Optimum soil temperature for best germination.
Column B--D-Seeds germinate best in darkness; DL-No light requirements; L-Seeds germinate best in light.
Column C--Usual number of days required for uniform germination at optimum temperature.
Column D--Time (in weeks) needed to grow transplants.


ABCD
Ageratum70oFL5 days6-8
Alyssum70oFDL5 days3-5
Calendula (pot marigold)70oFD10 days7-8
Carnation (annual)70oFDL20 days11-12
Celosia70oFDL10 days8-9
Coleus65oFL10 days7-10
Cosmos70oFDL5 days6-8
Dahlia (from seed)70oFDL5 days6-8
Dianthus (annual pinks)70oFDL5 days6-7
Dusty Millers
Centaurea gymnocarpa65oFD10 days7-8
Others75oFL10 days6-7
Gaillardia (annual)70oFDL20 days7-9
Impatiens (sultana)70oFL15 days4-6
Lobelia70oFDL20 days5-6
Marigold (dwarf types)70oFDL5 days6-7
Marigold (tall types)70oFDL5 days3-4
Pansy65oFD10 days10-12
Petunia70oFL10 days5-7
Phlox drummondi (annual phlox)65oFD10 days5-6
Portulaca (rose moss)70oFD20 days4-6
Rudbeckia (coneflower)70oFDL10 days6-7
Salvia splendens70oFL15 days5-6
Snapdragon65oFL10 days5-7
Verbena65oFD20 days5-7
Vinca rosea (periwinkle)70oFD15 days7-8
Zinnia70oFDL5 days3-5


Pecan Seed Germination

By Dr. George Ray McEachern
Professor and Extension Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

et’s plant a pecan from seed. Nature’s way is simple, native pecan seeds fall to the ground, overwinter in litter, squirrels bury them or floods cover them with soil and they germinate in the spring. One million acres in Texas have been planted by this method, but no one is depending on the system for growing nursery trees. When we want to grow nursery trees, the system can go in as many directions as there are nurseries. Their secrets are not for me to explore, so I will present some of the basic concepts here.

J. W. Worthington in the Texas Pecan Handbook discusses pecan seed germination, and I will summarize. The seeds are taken from dry storage, placed in moist soil, absorb water through the shell for about 2 weeks, enzymes stimulate growth, the kernels swell, the shell splits, the young root emerges and grows l/2 inch per day, extending a foot or more into the soil before the shoot emerges through 2 or 3 inches of soil. Germination is staggered for each individual seedling and 4 to 8 weeks is required for all seed to come up.

Dry Storage is required for the nuts as soon as they are harvested. Kernel percent moisture needs to be reduced from 20 at harvest to 6, 5, or 4 before going into storage. The drying needs to be as fast as possible without using heat.

Stratification is the period of time from drying to planting. For pecans they can be stratified with moist chilling or dry chilling. The ideal temperature is 45 degrees F and in a polyethylene bag to allow oxygen and carbon dioxide movement through the bag, but no loss of moisture. Some stratify pecan seeds in poly bags with both pecans and a very slightly moist packing medium such as sand, peat moss, or vermiculite. Some stratify as nuts only with no medium. The temperature should never go below 35 degrees F because freezing will kill the embryo. Stratification should be from as soon as the nuts are dry until they are presoaked for planting in late February. Most people are now using dry stratification.

Pre Soaking is used to stimulate germination. The nuts are placed in a mesh bag, submerged in a water bath, and soaked in running water for one to four days. Barrels, irrigation canals, or rivers have been used, just so that the water is not standing still. Top quality seed will swell and split in only one day. These seed should be checked at least twice daily, handled carefully and planted immediately without allowing them to dry.

Seed Bed should be ready so that the swollen nuts can be planted immediately.

Variety Seedstock for pecan rootstock is discussed by L.J. Grauke in the Texas Pecan Handbook and is summarized but not limited to the following: Giles in north, Riverside in west and central, Apache in the southwest, and Elliott in east and southeast Texas. Outstanding native trees in the area can also be used for seedstock. High quality kernels which are well filled should be used.

Sprouting on the Tree or premature germination while the nuts are on the tree has been a major problem in the year 2000. Why does this occur? The pecan, like all deciduous trees, has a rest period which controls seed germination and spring bud break. Surprisingly, the two systems are very similar. In general, the seed goes through three stages of rest: pre rest, mid rest, and post rest. The rest is controlled in part by an inhibitor hormone called Abscisic Acid (ABA). This hormone is produced in healthy leaves from bud break to leaf fall. In late August and September if a heavy loaded pecan tree is stressed, its leaves will stop producing ABA and consequently the mature seed in the shucks on the tree have no inhibitor, thus sprouting can occur when rain and warm weather occur together. Once pecans are harvested and dried they are in mid rest and will not germinate. Once stratified for 30 to 90 days, the seeds enter post rest and will germinate when soaked or planted.

Violet (Viola odorata)

By Dr. William C. Welch
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

iolets were once considered indispensable perennials for the well designed garden. Although numerous native violet species occur in Texas, the violet of choice for most southern gardens was V. odorata, which is of European, Asian, and African origin. Dark blue or purple is the predominant color. Well into the early 20th century, violets were among the most popular florist cut flowers. Their fragrance, rich colors, and relatively easy culture contributed to nationwide popularity.

Violets prefer a rich, moist but well drained soil high in organic content. Partially shaded locations are preferred. Their natural bloom period is late winter and early spring. Although evergreen, garden violets become semi-dormant during our long, hot summers. They can, however, endure considerable drought and heat stress, and usually become lush and healthy with the onset of cooler and more moist fall and winter conditions.

Landscape uses include borders and ground covers. Large container shrubs can often be enhanced by a mass of violets at their base, providing attractive foliage, fragrance, and color at a season when few other plants are at their peak. Mature height is usually 8 to 10 inches. The rounded foliage is attractive even when the plants are not in bloom.

Usual propagation is by division of mature clumps during early to mid fall. Seeds can also be used to produce new plants, but require considerable attention during the early stages.

Borders of garden violets may still be found in some of the old gardens of East and Central Texas. They can be long-lived and relatively low-maintenance perennials. Few plants perform as well in shady areas and offer color and fragrance during January, February, and March. Availability in nurseries is inconsistent at present, but garden centers specializing in perennials or native Texas plants usually offer violets.

Coax Your Poinsettia to Bloom Again Next Year

Excerpt from an article about the Ellison Tourism and Gift Center
which appeared in "Weekend Gardener," November/December 1996

ith patience, you can coax your poinsettia to bloom again for another year, according to Ellen Ellison of the Ellison greenhouses in Brenham, Texas. Here's how:

Christmas. Pick a colorful plant with tightly clustered yellow buds. Protect from hot or cold drafts, water when dry, and place in a room with enough natural light for reading.

New Year's. Apply all-purpose house plant fertilizer. Continue light, water, and fertilizer. Plant should remain colorful for many weeks.

Valentine's day. Do nothing unless your plant has become long and leggy. If it has, prune to 5 inches from the soil.

St. Patrick's Day. Remove faded and dried parts of the plant. Add more soil, preferably a commercially-available sterile mix.

Memorial Day. Poinsettia should be around 3 feet high. Trim off 2 or 3 inches from ends of branches, to promote side branching. Re-pot to larger container. Move plant outside . . . first to indirect, then direct light.

Fourth of July. Trim plant again. Make sure it has full sunlight. Slightly increase the amount of fertilizer. If you would like root cuttings, they will root easily if kept warm.

Labor Day. Poinsettia may have grown to 5 feet or more. Move indoors, but make sure it has 6 hours of direct light from an uncurtained window. Reduce fertilizer.

First Day of Autumn. Starting on or near September 21, give plant 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light per day. Keep night temperatures in the lower 60s. Continue to water and fertilize. Rotate plant each day to give all sides even light.

Thanksgiving. Discontinue day/night treatment. Put plant in a sunny area. Reduce water and fertilizer.

Christmas. Enjoy your now-new poinsettia !

Ellison Tourism and Gift Center is located at 808 S. Horton Street, Brenham, TX 77833. Telephone number is (979) 836-0084.

Vegetable Gardens

This article by Dr. Sam Cotner, Head, Department of Horticulture, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, appeared in "Earth-Kind Gardening,"
produced by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.

f "green-thumb" vegetable gardeners have a secret to their success, it is proper soil preparation and fertilization. Experienced gardeners know the potential for producing good yields of high-quality, homegrown vegetables is greatly enhanced by a well prepared soil containing liberal amounts of organic matter and adequate available nutrients.

Cottonseed meal is an excellent means of providing both the organic matter and the nutrients vegetables need. It is an organic, slow-release, premium fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as numerous minor elements. When incorporated into the garden soil, cottonseed meal decomposes over a period of time, slowly releasing its nutrients and forming soil-improving humus.

When starting a new vegetable garden, apply 4 to 6 pounds of cottonseed meal and 1 to 12 pounds of recommended garden fertilizer per 100 square feet of gardening area. For soil improvement, spread 1 to 2 inches of cottonseed hulls, decomposed leaves or grass clippings, well rotted hay, or other form of organic matter over the surface of the garden. Till or spade the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, thoroughly mixing in the meal, recommended fertilizer, and organic material. When soil is prepared for planting in established, productive vegetable gardens, apply the same amount of meal; reduce the amount of garden fertilizer by about one-half, and continue to work in liberal amounts of organic matter.

When the garden is established and the soil warms, mulch around the plants with a 1- to 2-inch layer of cottonseed hulls or other suitable organic material. About 2 to 3 weeks later, apply a topdressing of cottonseed meal at the rate of 12 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet, or per 35 feet of row. Lightly work the meal into the mulch, and water thoroughly. Depending upon the crop and the weather, additional applications of meal at the same rate may be needed periodically during the growing season.

Christmas Cactus

By Cynthia W. Mueller, Master Gardener
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

hristmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesi) is a favorite holiday season house plant, but one which needs careful attention to details if it is to live and flower again the next year. It is closely related to Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri) and Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncatus), all with fleshy, flattened, segmented joints and showy flowers ranging in color from white through pink, red and purple. These are cacti which in nature live in the crotches of jungle trees, and benefit from light, porous soil mixed with leafmold and sand.



Christmas Cactus




When the flowering period is finished, an active growth period will commence. Keep the plant in a sheltered place until danger of freezing is over. Water carefully, keeping in mind that overwatering is the major cause of failure with Christmas cactus. Soak the potting medium when watering, then allow the plant to become almost dry before watering again. (When the plant is put outside during warmer weather, it will be easier to keep if placed on the porch, or in a situation where it will not be soaked with rainwater over a period of several days). Fertilize with a water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer with trace elements while in an active growth stage. Occasionally, leach out excess fertilizer salts with plain water.

Christmas Cactus will thrive in a well-drained, sterile potting medium high in organic material. A little sand may be mixed with the medium to provide weight, important as the cactus increases in size. A pH of 5.5 to 6.2 is considered optimum for growth.

Although a temperature of 70 - 80 degrees F during the growing season is considered ideal, plants will tolerate Texas-type temperatures in the 90 to 100 degrees F range, although growth may be slower. Reduce water and fertilizer in August in preparation for the beginning of bud development, which is regulated by the shortening of fall days, along with cooler night temperatures. By late October and early November buds should be in evidence. Help to maintain bud set by adequate watering, taking care not to expose the plant to cold drafts, unvented heaters, or rough handling. Night temperatures above 70 degrees F may inhibit bud development.

As the cactus becomes larger, shorter tip portions may be broken off and rooted in loose, sandy medium with very little trouble. Mealy bugs, scale and aphids may be rubbed away with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. Use stronger controls such as houseplant insecticides only if the infestation appears to be gaining the upper hand. With good tending, Christmas Cactus may live for many years.

Camellias for Texas Gardens

By Dr. William C. Welch
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

ike so many of the South’s cherished ornamental plants, camellias originated in China and came to North America via Europe. The genus Camellia includes many species, but of these, three are of special importance and interest as Southern plants: Camellia sinensis, Camellia japonica, and Camellia sasanqua.



Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis)



Of these three, the one that evoked the most intense interest in the early days of the Southern colonies was Camellia sinensis, a shrub that, truth be told, is of no special ornamental value. It is a reasonably attractive evergreen plant that bears single, cream-colored flowers. The blossoms were of no concern to colonial planters. What they were interested in was the plant’s foliage, which when dried and processed may be brewed into the popular beverage, tea. This was an ancient taste in China and Japan, and the cultivation of the tea plant had been carried on in those landscapes since ancient times. Tea-drinking became the fashion in England in the late sixteenth century or early in the seventeenth century, but because the leaves had to be shipped in from China, for a long time tea remained an expensive luxury.

Because of the interest in tea consumption the British took an early interest in establishing domestic tea production in the American South. The famous Trust Garden in Savannah was the first to receive seeds of tea. This occurred in 1744. Those first seeds did not grow but plants were sent in 1772 to Georgia and recorded as growing on Skidaway Island near Savannah before 1805. By 1813 a serious effort to grow tea was underway at Charleston, South Carolina. That planting did not flourish there either nor did they prosper in Texas—there is a record by the Cat Springs Agricultural Society of unsuccessful attempts at tea culture by early German settlers. Cat Springs is located near Bellville, Texas.

A successful commercial planting of tea was finally established by the Lipton Tea Company near Charleston where it is still in production although under a private label and no longer owned by Liptons. Like all camellias, Camellia sinensis requires an acid, well-drained, moist soil.

The tea bush has a more beautiful relative, one which did take root in the American South, and that is Camellia japonica. This species is best known to Southern gardeners for its handsome foliage and elegant winter and early spring flowers. A native of Korea, China, and Japan, this camellia has flower colors that range from white to turkey red, with many variegated forms. Although well-adapted to much of the south, C. japonica has a reputation for being difficult to grow when exposed to less than its ideal conditions. It is, however, by far the most important species of the three in relation to our Southern gardening heritage, and specimens of Camellia japonica mark the site of many important plantations and old homesteads throughout the South. C. japonica’s less popular rival in the Southern garden is Camellia sasanqua, a shrub of Japanese origin. Individual blossoms of Sasanqua camellias, though beautiful, are much less spectacular than those of C. japonica. Nevertheless, sasanquas fill an important garden niche because it is fall blooming—C. Japonica cultivars (known as “japonicas” in the South) bloom in late winter or early spring.

Practically speaking, camellias are best grown in the eastern third of Texas. The combination of acid soil, rainfall and temperatures are much more conducive to success with all three of the species mentioned in East Texas. Even there, camellias are likely to require considerable attention to watering, mulching and soil amendment than some gardeners are willing to provide. Sasanquas are considered to be somewhat easier to grow than japonicas and are often used as hedges as well as specimen plants and as background shrubs in borders.



Camellia in a container growing in College Station



Another possibility for growing camellias is to place them in large containers. Growing camellias in my College Station soil and water is not very practical, but I have a fairly large specimen growing in a 22-inch clay pot that is thriving on an open porch where it receives morning sun and afternoon shade. I also provide water from a cistern containing rainfall runoff from the roof. Our local water has too much sodium for continued success with camellias or many other ornamental plants. The soil mix I have used is about 1/2 sphagnum peat moss, 1/4 sharp builder’s sand, and 1/4 compost.

Camellias have been important to southern gardeners from the mid-1800s to present. Unlike old garden roses, that may be rooted fairly easily from cuttings and were grown in nearly every southern garden, camellias have always been favorites in upscale gardens where the relatively high cost of the plants and difficulty in propagating them were not as significant. Although japonica camellias sometimes set seeds that can be germinated, most are reproduced from cuttings or grafted onto sasanqua rootstocks.

Among the first camellias brought to America was ‘Alba Plena’, a beautiful, formal pure white, which is still popular today. Other Southern favorites include ‘Purple Dawn’, ‘Pink Perfection’, ‘Rose Dawn’, ‘Professor Sargent’ and ‘Debutante’. With careful selection it is possible to have camellias blooming from November through April. The plants grow relatively slowly, but begin flowering at a young age. At peak bloom times the bushes can be quite colorful. Individual flowers are often picked and floated in bowls.

English Ivy is an Easy Container Plant

By Dr. William C. Welch
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

nglish Ivy (Hedera helix) is a popular ground cover for shaded Texas gardens, but is also useful and attractive when grown in containers. A native of Europe and Asia, English ivy is an evergreen, woody vine available in many forms including variegated green and white foliage. “Needle Point” types have more pointed leaves. Leaf size also varies considerably. Dwarf foliage types are generally the best choices for use in containers.

English ivy is tolerant of a range in moisture conditions from very dry to fairly moist. When grown in containers it does well in commercial potting media. I find some of these mixes to be a little on the heavy side and like to add about 1/3 sharp sand or calcined clay.



English Ivy
(Hedera helix)



Since they are vines, English ivy lends itself quite well to training into topiaries of various shapes. They are also useful simply as pots containing several individual plants as shown in the photograph. Occasional pruning keeps the plants compact and attractive. Mid-winter is an excellent time to take and root cuttings of English ivies. The plant in the photograph is a result of five individual cuttings stuck directly into the pot and placed in a shady area of the garden for about a month. Take four to six inch tip cuttings and remove the leaves from the lower third of the cutting. Using a pencil or similar dibble stick form holes in the media before inserting the cuttings and firming the media around each one. The application of rooting hormones will increase success with the cuttings but is not necessary. Water every two or three days as needed to keep the media uniformly moist during the rooting period. English ivies prefer shaded areas and can become scorched in hot, sunny exposures. A real advantage to having some pots of these plants is that they are quite cold hardy and do not need to be taken indoors during winter. They also thrive in brightly lit areas inside the home.

Garden Checklist for January & February 2001

By Dr. William C. Welch
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas


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