It’s spring, time for blossoms and butterflies. This year’s capricious bounces from hot and humid conditions to crisp, cool air for days at a time has meant later blooms for fruit trees, notably mangoes and for orchids. It has also suppressed the plant pests and diseases that usually flourish at this time of year. Remember we are still in a drought
situation so pay close attention to the elements that make up your landscape. Above all revel in the wonderful weather and enjoy gardening!
WHAT TO PLANT
Flowers – Coleus, Celosia, 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.
Vegetables - 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.
Fruits - 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 BRFC’s April tree sale details below.
Trees - 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.
WHAT TO DO
Our recent rains were helpful but didn’t break the drought. April and May are the most stressful months for planting as rainfall is in short supply and the heat and wind increase. Bug populations increase with warmer weather and new growth.
Since chemical spraying kills the good guys as well as the bad be alert to early infestations and nip them in the bud with natural remedies.
If you did not fertilize garden beds and shrubs in March, do so now. Only apply about two-thirds of your normal amount due to the drought.
Clean out weeds before the hot summer temperatures return. Apply mulch to help conserve moisture. Keep all mulch 1 to 2 inches away from plant stems to minimize bark and leaf decay.
Prune water sprouts, suckers, dead wood and crossing limbs from trees and shrubs to maintain a clean appearance.
Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs: There are four major reasons for pruning a plant: to affect flower or fruit production, to direct the growth and shape of the plant, to change the look of the plant, and to promote plant health.
Pests: Monitor landscape plants weekly for aphids on tender new growth. See Landscape Insect and Mite Pests and Landscape Pest Management
Beneficials: Identify and conserve beneficial insects. Some insects should be encouraged in your yard! See Beneficial Insects
Flowering plants: Check for thrips if leaves and/or flowers of gardenias and roses are damaged. See Landscape Pest Management
Perennials and bulbs: Divide clumps of bulbs, ornamental grasses, or herbaceous perennials to expand or rejuvenate garden beds or to pass along to friends. See Bulbs for Florida and Perennial Landscape Plants
Lawn insects: Rule out cultural problems, such as lack of water, that resemble insect damage before applying a pesticide. See Turf Grass Pest Insects
Lawns: Apply fertilizer after new growth has started which is usually early April in north-central and central Florida. Choose a fertilizer (not a "weed and feed") with little or no phosphorus unless a soil test indicates the need for it. A fertilizer with controlled-release nitrogen yields longer-lasting results. See Lawn Fertilizer
Shrubs: Choose from a wide variety of shrubs to add to the landscape now. See Shrubs and The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design
Mulch: Add mulch to minimize weeds and conserve moisture during dry weather. Organic mulches add nutrients to the soil. See Landscape Mulches
The Oldest Known Butterflies Existed Before Flowers - Smithsonian