Friday, July 3, 2009

Mixed Caladium Beds Provide Strong Appeal

By Keith Markensen

The first heavy burst of rose bloom occurs in May in most of the South, and now in June the plants are slowing up a bit, both in growth and bloom, taking a little rest for the next good spurt of bloom just a few weeks ahead.

Now the plants need regular attention and treatment with fungicides until the weather gets hot and dry. Clip off all faded flowers; in the case of the fioribundas, take off the entire head of faded blooms.

Assuming that your plants were fed in February, this is a good time for a second feeding, using your favorite plant food according to the manufacturers directions. Do not forget to use plenty of water after applying the fertilizer.

Camellias can also use a second feeding now. I do not like the idea of feeding later than July; and June is much better. This, the last feeding for the year, if accompanied by plenty of water, will encourage the plants to good second growth which will have time to harden before winter arrives.

June is also the best month to take summer cuttings of camellias. If properly handled, they will be well rooted in ten to twelve weeks. Azalea cuttings taken early this month should have good roots in eight to ten weeks.

If you use one of the fertilizers compounded especially for azaleas and camellias, it will probably not be necessary to add an acid-forming material to the soil; but if you use a standard garden plant food, you should increase the acidity of the soil by adding sulfur, iron sulfate or aluminum sulfate.

Beds of caladium planted solidly with one variety have strong appeal, but beds of mixed colors are also effective. If using a mixture of varieties, be sure to get a proper proportion of white varieties to dark ones. One white to five or six dark would probably be most effective. You should be able to buy the plants in pots from your local garden center or nursery. Be sure to learn when to repot plants and get plants that have just started growth , not those that are mature and ready to fade out.

Rooted cuttings of chrysanthemums can be planted now. There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by setting out cuttings in March and April. Early plantings will require several more pinchings than those planted around the first of June. It seems to be more difficult to keep the early-set plants in continuous and vigorous growth than those planted later. Continuous, vigorous growth is essential for once growth is checked, the plants tend to become stunted, sometimes never recovering.

It is time now to pinch the garden type chrysanthemums for the second or third time. The more often these plants are pinched, the better they will branch; and more branches mean more flowers.

The early-flowering perennials that have become a bit dormant can be divided and transplanted now. Day-lilies and bearded and Oriental iris that flowered in March or April can be transplanted this month. Cut the foliage about halfway back and keep the plants adequately watered until they have time to become established.

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