Saturday, September 10, 2011

Song of India (Dracaena reflexa variegata)

The Dracaena reflexa, commonly called as Pleomele or the Song of India, boasts a bright yellow variegation. When grown as a houseplant, D. reflexa grows much smaller. But this dracaena planttypically grows up to 6 meter in protected areas under ideal conditions.
The Dracaena Song of India slowly grows into an upright bushy plant following a common oval or palm-like shape. Its lanceolate evergreen leaves are spirally arranged on the irregular stems and grow in tight whorls thereby looking stunning en masse. The bold yellow markings that run along the edges of the leaves differentiate Dracaena Song of India from the other dracaenas. During winter, white small clustered flowers appear along with occasional fruit production.
Because of its richly colored,evergreen leaves, and thick, irregular stems, the Dracaena song of India becomes a favorite decorative foliage shrub. It provides a good focal point various places such as airports and stations, bars and lounges, conservatories, offices, malls, and even swimming pools. It is widely grown as an ornamental plant and a houseplant. Its flexibility in terms of use and purpose, makes D. reflexa Song of India a perfect provider of focal point even in mixed displays and in various landscape designs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lucky Bamboo Care

If your lucky bamboo is healthy, you'll notice that it quickly outgrows its original shape. Instead of maintaining the nice, twisted corkscrews or interlocking patterns, the new shoots tend to grow straight up. Attractive at first, they will quickly result in an unbalanced plant. Fortunately, lucky bamboo is easily propagated.

Taking cuttings. The first step is to take a healthy cutting. I usually take cuttings after I've trimmed the mother plant. Make sure the cuttings have at least one leaf joint, and preferably more. Trim excess leaves away to expose the growth node. Lucky bamboo can be rooted bare, or you can use a rooting hormone. Under normal circumstances, rooting hormone shouldn't be necessary because the plant readily roots. However, if you have several failed attempts, a rooting hormone might increase your chances.
Rooting lucky bamboo in water. This is the preferred method. Take trimmings that include at least one leaf joint and put them into distilled water. New, slightly reddish roots should emerge from the bottom of the stalk. Keep the water clean. Once the roots have emerged, you can either put the plant in a vase with decorative pebbles or pot it up in regular soil.
Rooting lucky bamboo in soil. Lucky bamboo will also readily root in soil. To root a new plant, gently push the trimmed stalk down into fresh potting soil, making sure that at least one root node is beneath the soil level. Keep the plant moist and warm until new growth begins to emerge.

When rooting lucky bamboo, however, remember that the new plant will not have the same distinctive stalks and growth habit of the parent. It'll still be a pretty and resilient houseplant, with narrow green leaves and straight stems, but it won't look like a professionally shaped and grown lucky bamboo.

Cortaderia selloana

Impressive size, graceful aspect, durable toughness, and spectacular flowers all combine to make pampas grass one of the most recognized plants in the landscape. The leaves are narrow, 1/2 to 3/4 in (1.3-1.9 cm) wide, and up to 10 ft (3 m) long. They are arranged in dense fountainlike clumps that are up to 12 ft (3.7 m) high and 6 ft (1.8 m) wide. The real show starts in midsummer when the flowers, spectacular 1 ft (0.3 m) tall white plumes, suddenly erupt above the foliage. The show continues well into winter as the feathery plumes persist and the foliage turns golden brown when touched by frost and cold weather (see photo below). When using the species you'll probably want to select female plants as they have prettier flowers - the males' are thinner, more elongated and not as full. This garden beauty commands attention wherever it is used.

Many varieties of pampas grass are available for use in the landscape. There are dwarf varieties (C. selloana 'Pumila') that are perfect for smaller spaces. Others have pastel colored flowers, while others provide an assortment of leaf variegations ('Silver Stripe', 'Gold Band').


Pampas grass is native to the South American countries of Chile, Brazil and Argentina. This grass acquired its common name from that of Argentina's grasslands which are called thepampas. This grand green goliath is grown around the world and just might be the most popular of all ornamental grass species.

Like many plants, pampas grass prefers fertile well-drained loamy soils. It is a survivor however, and will tolerate everything from poor, dry, sandy soils to heavy, damp clays. It will even tolerate flooding and wet soils if not persistent. Expect slow growth and scraggly looks when grown under extreme conditions.
Light: Give pampas grass full sun. Will also grow in light shade.
Moisture: Provide occasional water during times of drought to keep plant looking good. Very drought tolerant.
Propagation: By division (which is a huge chore!)in spring or fall Seed is occasionally available for the species but the selected varieties must be propagated by division to preserve their unique characteristics.

Pampas grass has long been a popular lawn highlight in the south where it looks great alone or arranged in groups of several clumps. Because it is inexpensive and fast growing it also makes a great screen for hiding unsightly views. Pampas grass is armed with razor sharp leaves. Planted in a hedge, it makes a formidable barrier. It looks great used with palms, pines and other grasses. The flowers become even more dramatic when grown in front of dark backgrounds, such as juniper trees, Leyland cypress or podocarpus.

Tough, beautiful and inexpensive, pampas grass has everything going for it. A plant can be purchased for a few dollars at a garden center, stuck in the ground, given minimal care, and within a year or two it will be transformed into a striking specimen. For dried arrangements there is nothing better than the beautiful plumes of pampas grass. Cut the plumes as soon as possible after they blossom for more durable dried specimens.
Dried plumes, dyed flamboyant colors and often sprinkled with glitter, can be purchased at better discount and souvenir stores throughout the country - especially in areas frequented by tourists. Always in good taste, these can be used fearlessly in even the most sophisticated interior designs. So versatile are these prodigious plumes that no matter what color you select rest assured they will combine effectively with pink flamingos, Elvis-on-black-velvet art and lava lamps.
Due to the sharp leaf edges do not use pampas grass near walkways, swimming pools, benches, play areas, etc. Even light brushes with the leaves can result in cuts that have a tendency to become inflamed - wash immediately and apply antibiotic salve.
Pampa grass is highly invasive in certain dry frost free climates like California where it invades natural habitats and displaces native species. In these environments pampas grass must not be planted and existing plants removed if possible. Also beware of related species sometimes sold as "purple pampas grass" (C. jubata) which is also invasive.

Callistemon Tree

Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Callistemon

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Bloom Color:
Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer
Grown for foliage
Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
Patent Information:
Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow after last frost
Seed Collecting:
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

Gypsum & Lawn

Garden centers and lawncare services often advise applyinggypsum (calcium sulfate) to your lawn to “decompact” a hard soil. This is supposed to accomplish softening by improving the structure of the compacted clay soil. With the exception of the arid western United States and our coastal areas (where sodium can be high and clay soils may be common), adding gypsum as a soil-softening amendment is not necessary in nonagricultural areas.

Urban soils are generally mixtures of subsoils plus native and nonnative topsoils. In home landscapes, high levels of organic and inorganic chemical additives are common. They may also be highly compacted and layered, and gypsum does not work well on layered soils. In such landscapes it is pointless to add yet more chemicals in the form of gypsum unless you need to increase soil calcium. Adding gypsum to sandy or nonsodic soils ( low in sodium) is a waste of money and natural resources and can have negative impacts on plant, soil and ecosystem health. Excessive soil calcium may release cations like aluminum or tie up nutrients like phosphorus. In our noncoastal soils, the soil calcium (Ca++) concentration is much higher than the sodium (Na+).

Really want to know why gypsum doesn’t work here? In arid parts of the country, sodium occupies many of the cation exchange sites in the soil. And since it is only a +1 charge, soil colloids tend to disperse and can be easily compacted together causing a poor soil structure. Adding gypsum (CaSO4) allows the Ca++ to release and replace the soil-bound Na+.The released Na+ is leached out as Na2SO4, and the soil tends to granulate due to flocculation (fluffing up and colloidally glued together on the microscopic level) with more Ca++ on the exchange sites. This granulated condition improves soil structure, and soil is then less prone to compaction. Since there is far more calcium than sodium on exchange sites in our Louisiana soils, adding calcium via gypsum has little or no effect on most of our soils.
Instead of gypsum, consider core aerifying in spring, summer or early fall to reduce the compaction and improve plant health. Aerifying with large half-inch hollow tines and punching about 25 holes/square foot will produce good results. Very compacted soil can benefit from several corings each year (common with sport fields). This does not minimize the benefit of have a high Ca and Mg level reading in your soil test, but coring does physically reverse a physical compaction of soil particles. Yes, coring is an expensive service to buy, and most lawns really don’t need it; but it won’t hurt. And if the soil is compacted, it’s usually the best solution to the stifled growth.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Grow A Tree or Shrub From Seed

Starting trees from seed can be one of the most rewarding gardening activities, but tree seeds often require a little more preparation than many common flower or vegetable seeds.

In most cases, there are two ways to start tree seeds: The natural way, which often includes sowing the seeds in the fall, or through forced or “assisted” germination, which is initially done indoors.

The Natural Way to Germinate Tree Seeds

Seeds have been sprouting and trees have been growing for an awfully long time without any help from humans. The “natural way” to germinate tree seeds, then, is to allow nature to take its course. Most seeds, when sown in the fall without any pre-treatment, will begin to germinate the following spring. Be sure to sow the seeds at the recommended depth. If the seeds are planted too deep, this could delay or inhibit the spring germination process. With some seed varieties you may see germination spread over two or three years with some seeds germinating in the first spring and others taking longer to break dormancy and germinate. 

It is important to remember that many species originated in cooler climates where seeds drop to the ground and are covered by leaves in the fall. Over the winter, the seeds remain bedded in this cool moisture environment. As the warm spring weather arrives the seeds then begin the germination process. For many types of seeds, the embryo inside the seeds is immature and unable to germinate (this is called ‘dormancy’) until it matures in this manner. The delay in the germination process is vital to the survival of many tree species. In a natural forest, if seeds germinated immediately upon falling to the ground in late summer or fall, the tender seedlings would die off during the cold winter.

Forced or “Assisted” Germination

Although natural germination is an acceptable way to start most tree seeds, sometimes better and more consistent results can be achieved through forced or “assisted” germination. Basically, it means using various techniques to mimic the role nature plays in causing tree seeds to germinate.

There are several techniques that may be involved to force the germination of any given tree seed. Please carefully read the recommended steps listed on each individual seed package.

Many seeds require one or more treatment steps to stimulate the germination process. The three steps are: 1) Scarification, 2) Cold Stratification, and 3) Warm Stratification. Keep in mind that not all seeds require all of these steps. In fact some seeds do not require any pre-treatment whatsoever.


Scarification is the process of reducing or breaking the seed coat so that moisture can penetrate and the embryo can begin the germination process. Scarification is commonly required on seeds with dense or hard seed shells. Many tree seeds do not require any scarification, and for those that do, the most common treatment is a simple water soak.

Hard seed coats can be broken down by a) a water soak, b) a physical or mechanical breaking of the seed coat, or c) a chemical or acid treatment (not commonly required).

a) Water soak: Pour water over the seeds and let them soak for the recommend time, often 6 to 24 hours. Most water treatments are done using room temperature water. It is best to use a glass container for soaking the seeds. Some seeds may require hot water as per instructions. Follow the above noted directions, using water at the recommended temperature. 

b) Physical/Mechanical: Using a small file or sandpaper, rub the outside of the seed coat to reduce its density or to nick the seed coat so that moisture can more easily penetrate to the embryo. Take care to avoid damaging the seed embryo.

c) Chemical (Acid) Wash: The chemical wash method of scarification is generally used by commercial growers for select seed varieties and is often not required for home gardening purposes. If you are attempting it, you may want to consult a more detailed protocol and follow these basic guidelines:
1) Wear goggles and protective clothing. Wash immediately if any is spilt on your skin
2) Use a large glass jar or vessel
3) Place seeds in the dry glass container
4) Add the sulphuric acid concentrate at a volume about twice the volume of the seeds
5) Stir the mixture with a glass rod
6) Periodically check the seed for coat thickness by extracting a few seeds and cutting in half with pruners. Even in the same lot, the coat thickness may vary from seed to seed.
7) After soaking the seeds, decant acid and seeds through a screening device and wash for 5 to 10 minutes under cold water
8) Spread the seeds on a paper and allow to dry at room temperature. - be sure to spread the seeds out so that they do not clump

Cold Stratification:

Stratification is the process of mimicking the natural over-wintering process by exposing the seeds to cool, moist conditions. The easiest way to undertake the stratification process is:

1) Take a few handfuls of peat moss and soak it in water until it is saturated
2) After soaking, use your hands to squeeze out as much water as possible
3) Place a layer of the moist peat moss in the bottom of a zip-lock plastic sandwich bag
4) Place the seeds on the layer and fill the rest of the bag with the peat moss
5) Seal the bag closed
6) Store the sealed bag in the bottom of the refrigerator for the appropriate stratification time. 

During the cold stratification process, occasionally check the seeds for signs of early germination. If the seeds begin to germinate in the refrigerator, remove them and plant as normal.

After the prescribed stratification time in the refrigerator, remove the seeds and sow them in the normal manner. 

Warm Stratification:

The warm stratification step is designed to mimic the seed’s summer dormancy when it is often imbedded in warm damp soil or mud. For warm stratification, follow the same steps outlined in cold stratification, except place the zip-lock bag in a warm location at or slightly above room temperature for a target temperature range of about 72 to 86 degrees F. (Often placing the bag on top of the refrigerator achieves this.)

During the warm stratification process, occasionally check the seeds for signs of early germination. If the seeds begin to germinate, plant as normal.

Planting the Seeds:

Seeds may be sown into individual containers or into seed trays. It is important to ensure that the seeds are planted at the recommend soil depth. Most tree seeds are planted much shallower than other annual seeds, but it typically depends on the size of the seed. Please follow the directions on each seed packet for appropriate planting depth. The seeds should be sown in a well-drained medium, such as a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite.

When sowing the seeds, fill the container or seed tray to about ½ inch form the top with the moist medium (soil). Level the medium by gently shaking or taping the container.

For larger seeds – those over a 1/3 of an inch tall, press half the seed into the medium. For smaller seeds, sprinkle them lightly over the surface of the soil. Cover the seeds with a fine layer of sand to a depth about the thickness of the seed.

After planting the seeds, gently water them and keep them moist but not wet. Maintaining high moisture and relative humidity is critical to germinating seeds. You can increase the humidity by enclosing the seed tray in a plastic tent. Be sure to poke some holes in the plastic cover to ensure adequate air circulation. Keep the trays in a warm but dimly lit location.

Germination can be as quick as a few days or as slow as several months, depending on the species and the environmental conditions. Once the seeds germinate, move the seedlings to a brighter location. You may need to nurse the seedlings indoors for a few months before planting outdoors. Try to give the young plants as much sun light as possible.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Scientific Name
: Gerbera jamesonii
: Asteraceae/Compositae  (Daisy Family)
Common names
: Gerbera, African daisy, Transvaal daisy, Barberton daisy
Flowering Period
: All year round
: white, red, cream, orange, pink, purple & yellow

Gerbera flowers comes in vibrant colours adding beauty to your garden. It has around 40 species spreading from Africa across to Madagascar into tropical Asia and South America. Gerbera are plants with a height up to 18 to 24 inch and 4 to 10 inch diameter flowers. There will be more than ten leaves in a plant, medium green in colour spread out in a circle parallel to the ground. These plants can be planted in gardens, mixed containers and pots. Its cut flowers last long and gives colour and beauty to any room. There are many hybrids that come in white, cream, yellow, orange-pink, purple or violet. These plants are usually grown in greenhouses and are used for cut flowers. Gerbera flowers all year round.
Planting Propagation may be achieved through seeds, basal cuttings or through dividing. Basal shoots or cuttings from the parent plant should be taken in summer (March- April). Seeds are sown or cuttings can be inserted in sandy soil until the saplings become an inch tall or the cuttings form roots. Plants grown from seeds can differ from the parent plant and seeds which do not germinate within about twenty days are likely not to germinate at all.
Replanting is done in April. The saplings (germinated seeds) and the cuttings can be replanted in pots filled with a mixture of sand, dried organic mix, loam. When repotting ensure the crown of the plant is above the level of the soil.  Until the plants settle, they should be kept in shades and sprinkled with water. After that no shading is necessary. The settled plants lasts for 3 to 4 years. After that flowers will lessen and the growth of the plant will get stunted. 
For best results the plants need a liberal amount of sun and water. Half day of direct sun and half day of partial shade and remaining slightly moist at all times is ideal. High source of light can give an abundance of flowers. Healthy Gerberas are rarely bothered by pests. Fungus and stem rot is a common problem with over watered plants. Remove old leaves regularly to prevent fungus infections.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Carica papaya L.

Carica papaya L.

Scientific name: Carica papaya L.
Common names: Papaya and pawpaw (English and Spanish), malakor, loko, ma kuai thet (Thai), and du du (Vietnamese).
Family: Caricaceae
Origin: Lowlands of Central America and southern Mexico, possibly West Indies (Caribbean). Center of diversification southern Mexico to Nicaragua.
Relatives: Mountain papaya (Carica candamarcensis Hook.f.).
Distribution: Throughout the tropical and subtropical world; in protected culture in cool subtropical regions.
History: Papaya was taken to the Caribbean and Southeast Asia first and then spread to India, Oceania, and Africa.
Importance: Papaya is a major commercial crop throughout the tropical and subtropical world and exported widely to areas where production is not possible.


Tree and tree types

Giant arborescent plant to 33 ft (10 m)tall; generally short-lived although may live up to 20 years; usually single trunked, no secondary growth.


Leaves are palmately-lobed and short-lived, 6-8 months.


There are 3 basic tree types, male plants, female plants, and hermaphroditic (bisexual) plants. Fruit is normally only produced from female and bisexual plants.
The inflorescence is a an elongated (25-100 cm long), branched cyme in male plants and a much reduced cyme for bisexual and female plants. Papaya is a polygamous species with 3 basic plant types. Male (staminate) plants, in which small, tubular, yellow flowers possessing only 10 anthers are held in cymes at the ends of long peduncles. Female (pistillate) plants with large yellow to whitish flowers which possess a large, superior ovary which is held on a much reduced cyme in the leaf axils along the trunk. Bisexual (hermaphroditic) plants possess perfect flowers held on a much reduced cyme in the leaf axils along the trunk.


Papaya fruit is a berry with a thin, smooth exocarp (peel) and thick, fleshy mesocarp surrounding an open cavity containing many small seeds. Fruit may be globose, ovoid, obovoid, and pyriform, 7-35 cm long, and 0.250-10 kg in weight.
In addition, some plants may produce more than one type of flower and exhibit different degrees of male or femaleness. This may be triggered by temperature, changing day length, and soil moisture availability. Female plants produce medium to large round-shaped fruit of good quality and a large seed cavity. Bisexual plants produce small to medium elongated fruit of good quality and a smaller seed cavity. Male plants with bisexual flowers may produce a few, elongated, poor quality fruit.


Papaya plants may be self-pollinating (bisexual plants) or cross pollinated by insects or wind. Pollinators include honey bees, wasps, midges, thrips, surphid flies, and butterflies.


There are numerous varieties of papaya. However, very few are available to most urban residents because of the seeds are not commonly for sale in small amounts. Important varieties in the U.S. include 'Red Lady', 'Maradol', and various Solo-types.


Any climatic factor such as cool or cold temperatures, lack of water (drought), high constant winds, or shade will reduce papaya growth and production. Papaya plants grow and fruit best in areas where temperatures remain warm to hot (70°F-90°F; 21-32°C). Root growth is best if soil temperatures remain above 60°F (15.5°C) and slow or decline below that temperature. Papaya plants are not tolerant of freezing temperatures and are damaged or killed below 31°F (-0.6°C). High temperatures above 90°F (32°C) may cause flowers to drop, and low temperatures below 59°F (15°C) may inhibit flowering or cause misshapen fruit. Well distributed rainfall is required for best plant growth and fruit production. Any non-favorable weather conditions may lead to a reduction of plant growth and fruit production.
Papaya plants are susceptible to wind damage and will not establish or grow well in continuously windy areas. Papaya plants with a large amount of developing fruit are very susceptible to toppling due to high winds. Therefore plants should be planted in wind-protected areas of the landscape.


Papaya is mainly propagated by seed, but tissue culture and rooted cuttings are practiced to a limited extent. The sex of the plant is determined by its parents.
To propagate by seed, remove the seeds from an elongated ripe fruit and place in a colander. Press the seeds against the side of the colander to break the sarcotesta (sac) surrounding the seed (this sac inhibits seed germination). Rinse seeds thoroughly and place on a paper towel to dry (not in the sunlight). Once seeds are dry they may be placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator for several years for later use.
In general, propagating and planting 2 to 3 plants is best to insure fruit production from at least 1 plant. This is because depending upon the source of seeds, they may produce female, bisexual, or male plants. Plant 2 to 4 seeds in each 1-gallon (3.8-liter) container in a clean, sterile artificial media. Water thoroughly, and place the containers in a warm sunny location. Germination may take 2 to 3 weeks. Once seedlings have emerged, select the most vigorous one and snip the others off at the soil line with clippers. Fertilize the seedlings with a dilute complete fertilizer solution every 10 to 14 days. Once plants have reached 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) tall, plant in a sunny location.

Production (Crop Yields)

Well-cared-for plants may begin to produce flowers 4 months after planting and fruit 7 to 11 months after planting. The amount of fruit produced by a papaya plant varies with the general climate, weather conditions during the year, and plant care. Yields vary from 60 to 80 lbs per tree over a 12 month period.

Spacing and Pruning

Papaya plants should be planted in full sun and at least 10 to 20 ft (3.1-6.1 m) away from other plants, buildings, and power lines. In general, planting 2 to 3 papaya plants 7 to 12 ft (2.1-3.7 m) away from each other will insure that at least one will be fruitful, and it will also facilitate fertilizing and watering.
Papaya plants are not pruned because their main growing point is terminal, and branched trees generally do not produce as well. If the main growing point is damage or killed, side sprouts may grow. Selecting 1 or 2 of the most vigorous shoots and removing the others will facilitate growth and fruiting of the remaining shoots. Tying these side shoots to a stake will reduce the chance they may break off due to a heavy fruit load or high winds.
Removal of dead leaves is a good practice and results in less scarring of the fruit from the base of the leaf petiole. It also reduces disease and insect problems.


Papaya plants grow and fruit well in many well drained soil types. Plants will do well with care in sands, loams, and rocky soils with a pH of 4.5 to 8.0.

Planting Papaya Plants

Properly planting a papaya tree is one of the most important steps in successfully establishing and growing a strong, productive tree. Some nurseries offer papaya plants and the first step is to choose a healthy nursery tree. Commonly, nursery papaya trees are grown in 1- to 3-gallon containers and trees stand 6 inches to 2 ft tall. Large trees in smaller containers should be avoided as the root system may be "root bound." This means all the available space in the container has been filled with roots to the point that the tap root is growing along the edge of the container in a circular fashion. Root bound root systems may not grow properly once planted in the ground.
Inspect the tree for insect pests and diseases and inspect the trunk of the tree for wounds and constrictions. Select a healthy tree and water it regularly in preparation for planting in the ground.

Site Selection

In general, papaya trees should be planted in full sun for best growth and fruit production. Select a part of the landscape away from other trees, buildings and structures, and power lines. Select the warmest area of the landscape that does not flood (or remain wet) after typical summer rainfall.

Planting in Sandy Soil

Many areas in Florida have sandy soil. Remove a 3- to 5-ft-diameter ring of grass sod (0.9- to 1.5-m). Dig a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the papaya tree came in. Making a large hole loosens the soil next to the new tree, making it easy for the roots to expand into the adjacent soil. It is not necessary to apply fertilizer, topsoil, or compost to the hole. In fact, placing topsoil or compost in the hole first and then planting on top of it is not desirable. If you wish to add topsoil or compost to the native soil, mix it with the excavated soil in no more than a 50-50 ratio.
Backfill the hole with some of the excavated soil. Remove the tree from the container and place it in the hole so that the top of the soil media from the container is level with or slightly above the surrounding soil level. Fill soil in around the tree roots and tamp slightly to remove air pockets. Immediately water the soil around the tree and tree roots. Staking the tree with a wooden or bamboo stake is optional. However, do not use wire or nylon rope to tie the tree to the stake because they may eventually damage the tree trunk as it grows. Use a cotton or natural fiber string that will degrade slowly.

Planting in Rockland Soil

Many areas in Miami-Dade County have a very shallow soil and several inches below the soil surface is a hard, calcareous bedrock . Remove a 3- to 5-ft-diameter ring of grass sod (0.9- to 1.5-m). Make a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the tree came in. To dig a hole, use a pick and digging bar to break up the rock or contract with a company that has augering equipment or a backhoe. Plant trees as described in the previous section.

Planting on a Mound

Many areas in Florida are within 7 ft or so of the water table and experience occasional flooding after heavy rains. To improve plant survival, consider planting fruit trees on a 2- to 3-ft-high by 4- to 10-ft-diameter mound of native soil (0.3- to 0.9-m x1.2- to 3.1-m).
After the mound is made, dig a hole 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times as deep as the container the papaya tree came in. In areas where the bedrock nearly comes to the surface (rockland soil), follow the recommendations for the previous section. In areas with sandy soil, follow the recommendations from the section on planting in sandy soil.

Care of Papaya Plants in the Home Landscape


Frequent applications of small amounts of fertilizer are best for continuous papaya growth and fruit production . Young plants should be fertilzed every 14 days with 1/4 lb of a complete fertilizer with the amounts increasing as trees become larger. Complete fertilizers include nitrogen (N), phosphate (P2O5), potash (K2O), and a source of magnesium (Mg). Once trees become about 7 to 8 months old they should be fertilized with 1 to 2 lbs every other month. Minor elements may be applied up to 1 time per month. Minor elements including manganese and zinc may be applied to the ground in soils with a low pH (7 or less) and foliarly applied for plants growing in high pH soils. Similarly, iron sulfate may be applied to the ground for plants growing in low pH soils. However, for plants growing in high pH soils, chelated iron should be mixed in water and applied as a soil drench.

Irrigation (Watering)

Watering is essential for best papaya plant growth and fruit production. Papaya plants that lack water (drought stress) may drop flowers, leaves, and young fruit and produce small fruit of low sugar content.
Plants growing in sandy or rocky soils that are well drained and do not hold much water should be watered every other day or every day during hot, dry conditions and less often during cool parts of the year (late fall, winter). Plants growing in soil with a capacity to hold water (loams, sandy loams) should not be overwatered and therefore should be watered at 3- to 4-day intervals, especially during hot weather.


Mulching papaya trees in the home landscape helps retain soil moisture, reduces weed problems adjacent to the tree trunk, and improves the soil near the surface. Mulch with a 2- to 6-inch (5- to 15-cm) layer of bark, wood chips, or similar mulch material. Keep mulch 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) from the trunk.

Insect Pests and Nematodes

Papaya plants are attacked by a number of insect pests including:
The papaya fruit fly (Toxotrypana curvicauda), which lays eggs through the papaya fruit peel into the fruit cavity where the larvae feed and eventually emerge from the ruined fruit. This fly is commonly mistaken for a wasp due to its long abdomen and yellow and black markings. Fruit infested with papaya fruit fly may show yellow areas and may drop from the tree prematurely. The easiest control for this pest is to place a paper bag over individual fruit when they are small and leave the bag on until harvest.
The papaya webworm (Homolapalpia dalera) is mainly a pest of the developing fruit peel and papaya stem and is usually found in, on, or near the stem amongst the flowers and fruit. Control includes hand removal and hosing off the plant with a strong stream of water from a garden hose.
The papaya whitefly (Trialeuroides variabilis) is generally only a pest of the leaves causing, leaves to drop and reducing fruit production. Control includes removing infested leaves and applying appropriate pest control products.
The two-spotted mite (Tetranychus urticae) is a major pest of papaya leaves and may cause defoliation and early leaf drop. Symptoms include a browning of the leaf surfact and eventually upper leaf surfaces and skeletonizing of the leaf. For current control measures please contact your local County Extension Agent.
A number of nematode species (Meloidogyne incognita, Rotylenchulus reniformis). Nematodes are small, microscopic, worm-like organisms that feed on papaya plant roots, causing plants to decline in vigor and making more plants more susceptible to toppling over because of the loss of roots. Papaya plants should be planted in areas with clean soil, avoiding areas of the landscape with known nematode problems.


Papaya plants in Florida are susceptible to a number of diseases:
Papaya ringspot virus is the most important disease of papaya in Florida. The earliest symptoms are a yellow mottling of leaves and vein-clearing of leaves. As the disease progresses, the lobes of the leaves become distorted and leaf size is greatly reduced. Dark green streaks may develop on leaf petioles and the main stem. Fruit symptoms consist of dark circles or C-shaped markings on the fruit peel. Homeowners wishing to grow papaya in their home landscapes should avoid using seed from small, pear-shaped Solo-type fruit which, tend to be more susceptible to this virus than the larger, elongated, oval-shaped fruit found in many local markets. All papaya plants showing symptoms of the virus should be removed so as not to be a source of infection for new plants. Due to the problems with this virus, we recommend replanting papaya plants every 18 to 24 months.
Anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporiodes) primarily attacks the maturing fruit. Symptoms include small water-soaked spots that enlarge, turn brown or black and become sunken. Eventually the fungus grows into the fruit tissue, ruining it for consumption. Please contact your local County Extension Agent for current control recommendations.
Powdery mildew (Oidium caricae) is primarily a disease of the leaves in Florida. A superficial white growth on the leaf surfaces leads to small, light yellow spots on the lower surfaces of the leaves. Next, pale yellow spots appear on the upper leaf surfaces. Eventually, dead leaf areas fall out of the leaves, giving them a shot-hole effect. Control includes removing infested leaves and removing them from near the plants.
Phytophthora blight (Phytophthora spp.) includes a number of diseases including damping-off, root rot, stem rot, and fruit rot. These diseases decrease plant vigor and may result in plant death.
Corynespora leaf spot (Corynespora cassiicola) is a disease of the leaves and begins as small, yellow areas which expand into larger (0.2-0.4 inches) circular brown spots.
Papaya apical necrosis is a relatively new virus in Florida. Symptoms include a drooping and downward cupping of the leaves, reduced leaf size, and browning of the leaf margins. At present there is no control for this disease.

Papaya Trees and Lawn Care

Papaya trees in the home landscape are susceptible to trunk injury caused by lawn mowers and weed eaters. Maintain a grass-free area 2 to 5 or more feet (0.9-1.5 m) away from the trunk of the tree. Never hit the tree trunk with lawn mowing equipment and never use a weed eater near the tree trunk. Mechanical damage to the trunk of the tree will result in weakening the tree and if severe enough can cause dieback or kill the tree.
Roots of mature papaya trees spread beyond the drip-line of the tree canopy and heavy fertilization of the lawn adjacent to papaya trees is not recommended because it may reduce fruiting and or fruit quality. The use of lawn sprinkler systems on a timer may result in over watering and cause papaya trees to decline. This is because too much water too often applied causes root rot.

Harvest, Ripening, and Storage

Papaya fruit may be harvested green for use as a vegetable and ripe when full yellow to orange color develops on the peel. Generally, fruit may be picked when yellow color covers 1/5 to 1/3 of the surface peel, however, greater color development of the fruit while on the tree increases fruit sugar content. After picking fruit, should be placed at room temperature to fully ripen before being stored in the refrigerator. Ripe fruit will keep up to 4 to 7 days.

Uses and Nutritional Value

Papaya fruit are commonly used as a ripe fresh fruit alone, in fruit salads, drinks, and desserts. Non-ripe fruit may be used as a vegetable or used in green salads. Fruit is also dried, candied, and made into pastes, jellies, and jams. Papaya fruit is low in calories and high in potassium and vitamin A .

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Princess Palm

The Princess or Hurricane Palm is a beautiful palm allegedly resistant to hurricane force winds.  It is suitable for sub-tropical climates and is moderately drought tolerant.   Of the tribe Arecceae, and subfamilyArecoideae it is also known by the botanic name Dictyosperma album.  Princess Palms are native to the Mascarene Islands where they are considered close to extinction.
Plant Facts
Common Name:  Princess or Hurricane Palm
Botanical Name:  Dictyosperma album
Subfamily:  Arecoideae
Plant Type:  Solitary Palm Tree
Origin: Mascarene Islands (endangered in its native habitat)
Height:  30'
Rate of Growth: Moderate
Salt Tolerance: Moderate
Soil Requirements:  Widely adaptable
Water Requirements: Moderate drought tolerance
Nutritional Requirements:   Moderate
Light Requirements: High
Form:  Solitary, relatively slender trunk.  Canopy of 10-20 leaves.
Leaves:  Pinnately compound, reduplicate; twisted 90° near tip.
Inflorescence: 1.5' long, horn-like in bud
Fruits:  Purple-black
Pests or diseases:  Moderately susceptible to lethal yellowing.
Uses:  Specimen tree
Bad Habits: Drying winds can burn foliage.  Irrigate during prolonged drought.