Miscellaneous Questions ????

Q. We are new arrivals to South Florida and are overwhelmed at the variety of plants and things to learn. Can you recommend some places to go or books to read?

A. New arrivals to Florida can be bewildered by the vast array of exotic plants and new things to learn. The first place I would go to is the Mounts Horticultural Learning Center. This small botanical garden in West Palm Beach is perfect for the newcomer as plantings are grouped by usage. Examples include hedge plantings, native plants, flowering trees, salt-tolerant plants, herbs, tropical fruit trees, etc. Most of the plants are labeled. Bring a pad along to write down the names of your favorites. The garden is located directly behind the Palm Beach Co-operative Extension Office. All Extension Offices are wonderful resources on gardening questions. They have plant clinics for specific plant problems and excellent free literature on a wide range of gardening topics and recipes if you become a tropical fruit enthusiast. 

 There is a series of small books by Lewis Maxwell at a cost of around $6 each that has a lot of good basic information. These include subjects such as Florida vegetables, fruits, insects, flowers, trees, lawns and gardens. Write to him for more information. (see suppliers list)

The state of Florida puts out two excellent books free to Florida residents. One is Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees for Florida Homes and the other is Native Trees and Plants for Florida Landscaping. Write Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for these books. 

I think the best horticultural bookstore is at Fairchild Gardens in Coral Gables. This is well worth a field trip, and the gardens are beautiful. Flamingo Gardens in Fort Lauderdale is also a good horticultural spot to visit and has a nice plant shop with some rare plants available. Nova University has a medicinal garden where you can see the plants and read about their pharmaceutical properties. 

Educational classes are held at all of the gardens and at the Extension offices. If you feel like getting more involved, there are garden clubs galore. There are specialty clubs on orchids, begonias, cacti and succulents, bonsai, rare fruit and vegetables, hibiscus, gesneriads, roses, aeroids, native plants, etc. 

Broward Community College offers a complete two -year horticultural degree at its main campus in Davie. This is an excellent high quality program. Various adult education programs also offer gardening classes from time to time. Garden clubs offer horticultural lessons at every meeting and many are open to the public. 

Q. Enclosed is the soil from the flower box attached to my villa. The impatiens wilt and die when they are planted in the box. I have the same plants in a plastic flower box and they are doing fine. What do you suggest? 

A. Your soil is probably infected with Rhizoctonia disease. Subdue may offer some control. Follow label directions and treat the soil.



The planter boxes attached to buildings are usually a nightmare in one way or another. They are usually under building eaves, so must be watered by hand or with an irrigation system. The boxes often leak into the house. Bug populations quickly build up under the eaves, particularly spider mites. Plants usually suffer one way or another. I personally would cover the soil in the box with a weed barrier and put decorative red lava rock or river rock over the weed barrier. 

Q. You write about invasive plants and suggest removing most of them from the yard. But, some of Florida's weeds are attractive. My tradescantia was given to me by a neighbor a two years ago. There were a few sprigs and I tossed them at the bottom of a ficus tree. Other weeds like oyster plant and mother-in-law's tongue have their place in the landscape as well. 

A. You are correct. Such plants can be used if you select the proper place that controls their invasive habit. I recently used mother-in-law's tongue against a wall in a narrow bed along a sidewalk. It is limited by the concrete and cannot spread to other parts of the yard. It is a perfect location for this aggressive plant. Ficus roots are a horror and the tradescantia covers them nicely. As the roots expand and the grass dies off the tradescantia will continue to cover the bare ground so it will not be too noticeable. Common sense is the key to good planting and pest control! 

Recommended websites: 

The Florida Wild Flower Showcase at