Q: My neighbor and I use the same lawn care company. We have runners of St. Augustine that are lying on top of the lawn. The runners are green, but their roots are brown. I’ve attached the list of products my neighbors’ have applied this spring. Other neighbors’ lawns don’t have this issue. What can we do to stop it?
A: All three products they have applied to your lawn so far this year are very high in the middle and third numbers (phosphorus and potassium) and very low in the first number (nitrogen). That’s completely the reverse of what soil tests usually suggest for most Texas soils.
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Have they shown you a reason why they’re using what they’re using? Also, two of those three applications included pre-emergent weed products. They slow development of root growth even in established grass. Again, if they have a reason for applying all those things, perhaps they are needed, but they certainly do merit your investigation.
Q: I’ve been admiring coral honeysuckle in landscapes this spring. I’d like to put it on our back fence. Can I root it from cuttings?
A: Yes. That’s how it’s often started, but do consider your choice for a few weeks before you commit.
It’s beautiful for the couple of weeks that it’s blooming, and the blue-green foliage is attractive as well. It’s a refined grower — more than some of its rampant sisters.
However, it’s highly susceptible to powdery mildew if that’s a problem where you live, and it really only blooms well that one spring season. Most of us score it quite high while it’s blooming and rank it much lower once we’ve looked at it through the summer.
Q: Neighbors are going to be putting in a pool soon, and they have offered us a 10-foot crape myrtle that will have to be moved. They’ve had it for about four years. Its four trunks are about 1 inch in diameter. Will it survive?
A: If any tree would, a crape myrtle would. However, this is the worst possible time of the year to move any actively growing plant. But let’s try to save this one.
Make the move as soon as you can so it will still have a few weeks before summer’s really hot weather rolls in. Dig it while the soil is moist, and hold a solid ball of soil in place around its roots. Wrap the root ball in burlap tightly.
Lift it carefully by the root ball and transport it in a way that it’s not exposed to any highway wind. Replant it immediately and prune it to compensate for roots that have been lost in the digging. You’ll probably want to remove 75 or 80 percent of the twigs and leaves.
Water it deeply immediately after you replant it, and apply a liquid, high-phosphate root-stimulator monthly. Very few plants will survive transplanting at this time. Hopefully this one will.
Q: It looks like my periwinkles are coming back from their roots. Is there any problem with letting that happen?
A: You’re probably seeing seedlings, not sprouts from last year’s roots. Periwinkles do reseed themselves rather freely.
For years we got by letting them do that, but as diseases like the fatal water mold funguses started wiping out entire plantings, it became more and more important that we replant only with new, vigorous transplants of the resistant hybrid varieties such as Cora. For the record, even those resistant types are at risk during periods of rainfall and when we we water carelessly, splashing water all over the plants’ stems.
So, no, don’t leave the seedlings in place unless you’re willing to take the risks. And if you’re going to plant Cora periwinkles, wait another month for most of the spring rains to run their course. It just improves your odds.
Q: I need a tall screen to give us some privacy between our pool and new apartments behind us. We have about 20 feet of ground space in which to plant. What would be best? It needs to grow 15 feet tall.
A: My first choice would be Nellie R. Stevens hollies. They’re the perfect size.
They’re dark green, evergreen and they produce showy red fruit. They’re suited to all of the state, and they grow well in all kinds of soil, sun or shade. You can buy them in any size your budget allows, and I’ve never seen pests be a major problem with them.
The biggest concern will be that you can’t really tell when they’re getting too dry. They don’t wilt. They just change to a dull, olive-drab color.
It will be critical that you water them by hand, deeply and thoroughly, a couple of times weekly for their first couple of years in your landscape. Once they’ve started to grow they’ll be able to function well on your regular lawn and landscaping irrigation.
Other options: Teddy Bear dwarf magnolias, Oakland and Mary Nell Hollies, waxleaf ligustrums, but not the highly disease-prone redtip photinias, Italian cypress or upright junipers.
Mail questions to Neil Sperry, c/o Features Department, San Antonio Express-News, P.O. Box 2171, San Antonio, TX 78297-2171, or email him at SAENgardenQA@sperrygardens.com.