In the Garden

What to do

Like March, April is a rather dry and windy month. Monitor the landscape for water distress. Fruiting trees need at least an inch of water weekly. Replace disease-prone impatiens and heat-sensitive annuals with pentas, gailardias, salvia, or other hardier, less thirsty plants.

• Add a rich look to beds with beautiful new suntolerant coleus cultivars,

• This is the season for “pass-along plants” so divide bulbs, ornamental grasses and herbaceous perennials to share with friends.

• April is a buggy: watch for spider mites, aphids, leafhoppers, and thrips.

• Inspect mature trees and trim as needed before hurricane season begins.

• Be vigilant. Examine your garden and landscaping on a regular basis to avoid major problems caused by drought, insects, or disease. Apply a good layer of mulch to keep moisture in and weeds down but don’t let mulch touch the trunk of trees. Ideal depth: 2 to 3-inches around trees and shrubs and 1-inch in flowerbeds.

• Think about creating low maintenance perennial beds, a butterfly area, or clustering herbs and flowering plants in pots, which can be moved to a location where there is shelter from the relentless summer sun.

Water only when the soil begins to dry or plants show signs of stress.

• Use seed, plugs or sod to start new lawns or fill in the bare areas. Chinch bugs are causing yellow spots in St. Augustine lawns; treat if needed.

• Trim old flowers stalks from amaryllis, Amazon lilies and other spring flowering plants.

• Feed palms with a slow release fertilizer as instructed on the label.

• Add holiday poinsettias to the landscape and give them a spring trimming.

• Complete herb plantings before hot weather; many grow best in containers.

• Feed vegetable plantings lightly every 3 to 4 weeks.

• Finish spring feedings of fruit trees.

• Wash away dust and insects from leaves and stems.

• Give foliage plants a spring feeding if you haven’t already.

• Apply wonder-worker


on both sides of leaves of fruit trees and stressed, ailing plants. As with all sprays the best time to use is late afternoon; second best is early morning.


Seeds to plant in April: Celosia, Coleus, calliopsis, Crossandra, dusty miller, Exacum, Gaillardia, Gazania, hollyhock, Impatiens, Lobelia, Marguerite daisy, marigold, Nicotiana, ornamental pepper, Pentas, periwinkle, Phlox, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Streptocarpus, sweet William, Thunbergia alata, Torenia, Verbena and Zinnia. PERENNIALS AND BULBS

Bulbs to plant in April: Achimenes, African iris, Amazon lily, Aztec lily, tuberous Begonia, blood lily, Caladium, Canna, Crinum, Gladiolus, gloriosa lily, kaffir lily, shell ginger, society garlic, spider lily, tiger flower, walking iris and Watsonia.


In April, plant beans, cantaloupe, collards, okra, sweet potatoes, southern peas, New Zealand Summer Spinach, and peanuts for summer harvest. Through June plant sweet potatoes, southern peas, peanuts, okra and Swiss chard.


Plant bananas and other tropical fruits such as guava, papaya and pineapple to take advantage of the frost-free growing season. Containerized fruit plants can be planted throughout the year. See below for details of April plant sales.


• Delay planting balled and burlap palms until the summer rains begin. Keep the bud tied until it forces new growth. This keeps the young leaves from drying out until the new roots get established

• Mark Peters, local croton breeder says feed crotons in April, June, and August.

• Fertilize trees and shrubs, which have not been fertilized yet this spring. Fertilize again late June and late September. Fertilize roses each time the plants produce a flush of bloom (about every 6-8 weeks).

• Cut back spring blooming shrubs, such as azalea, spirea, and camellia soon after they bloom. Don’t prune azaleas after June.

• Several light prunings with hand pruners over the summer will keep fast-growing shrubs such as Ligustrum, viburnum and Photinia looking neat. “Pinch” tips for compact growth. Prune poinsettias several times from May through August.

• Root 4” to 6” long softwood cuttings for potting after about 6-8 weeks.

• Check weekly for powdery mildew (crape myrtles, roses), black spot on roses, scale, aphids, and lace bugs on azaleas, thrips on roses, spider mites on daylilies, chewing caterpillars on cannas and oleander and grasshoppers on lilies.

• Psocids (tree cattle) cause harmless webs on tree trunks. Wash off with a squirt of water hose or whisk off with a broom.

• Apply Bacillus thuriengensis (Dipel, Thuricide) to kill caterpillars. It won’t affect most beneficial insects.

• Spider mites, aphids, soft scales and other soft-bodied insects can be killed using a spray of 21⁄2 tablespoons each of baby shampoo and vegetable oil per gallon of water. Repeat in 5 days for mite control, as needed for others.

• Roses need weekly spraying once the afternoon rains begin in order to prevent many diseases. Alternate approved fungicides weekly or as the chemicals are used up.

• Apply magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) to poinsettias, gardenias, fruits and palms showing yellowing deficiency symptoms on oldest leaves.

• Replenish mulch around all plantings (except annuals & citrus) to a depth of 3 inches. Turn an empty milk jug into a watering can by poking holes in the lip with an ice pick.

• Call me if you have a question at 951-7607 or email

• Find Answers to Your Garden Questions - Native Edible Plants of Central Florida -

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