Roses, Gardenias, Tomatoes, & More — Grumpy Knows All

May 20, 2010 | By | Comments (17)

It pleases every fiber of the Grump’s being to supply you with inspiring and informative answers to your most pressing gardening problems. Here is the knowledge you crave.

Dko Knockout roses
— “My ‘Double Knockout’ roses have bloomed and are gorgeous, but they’ve grown so fast and tall, they’re bending over and touching the ground. Is it OK to prune them now or should I have done that in early spring?” Shyla, Gainesville, Georgia

Answer: Many plants bend over and touch the ground when Grumpy approaches, but that’s purely out of respect. As for your roses, go ahead and prune them now. It won’t hurt them at all, and they’ll put on another big flush of blooms.


Poppies — “Please help me!! I want to know what poppies will grow and bloom in Baton Rouge!” Suzette, Baton Rouge, Lousiana

Answer: Perennial poppies won’t grow for you (or for anyone else in the Lower and Coastal South either), but the annual ones will. All you do is scatter the seed over bare soil in the fall and barely cover them (don’t mulch). They’ll germinate in early spring, bloom, set seed, and then die. You can also set out poppy transplants in fall. The two types of poppies Grumpy recommends are Iceland poppies and Shirley poppies. It’s too late to plant now, but you can do it this fall.

Sasanqua Sasanqua camellias — “I have two sasanqua plants. Last year, they had some black, sooty-looking stuff on the leaves that I wiped off with paper towels. Now this spring there are lots of white oblong insects about 1/4-inch long on the undersides of the leaves. They don’t seem to move. Are these two problems related?” Ruth, Clemmons, North Carolina

Answer: Like kissing cousins. The white insects are scales. They suck juice from the leaves and secrete a sticky honeydew. Black mold then grows on the honeydew. If scales grow numerous enough, they can kill your sasanquas. Get rid of the scales and you’ll get rid of the mold. To do this, go to your garden center and and buy some year-round horticultural oil. Spray it according to label directions on both upper and lower leaf surfaces, as well as stems. It’s non-toxic to you, but weighs heavily on scales. What a terrible pun.

Bearded iris — I found some roots of bearded iris that I bought a year ago. Is it too late to put them in the ground? Lisa, Whereabouts Unknown

Answer: Not if you want them to turn into nutritious organic matter that will feed earthworms and your other plants. But if you want them to grow and bloom, yeah, it’s too late. About a year too late. (See our excellent story about growing bearded iris in the May 2010 issue of Southern Living.)

Tomato Tomatoes — My month-old tomato plants are turning greenish-yellow. What do I need to do to make them a healthy green? We used compost-enriched garden soil when we planted. Faye, Planet Tralfamador

Answer: Lots of rain and cooler than normal weather could cause this. The problem should resolve itself as the weather on Tralfamador improves. You might also try giving your plants a drink of water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro. Say hello to Ms. Wildhack for me.

Azaleas: I have lots of azaleas circling my oaks in Savannah and would like to move them. Can you tell me the best way to assure that they’ll live? Danny, Savannah, Georgia

Answer: The key to successfully transplanting azaleas and other shrubs is minimizing disturbance of the roots. This is especially important in warm weather. You need to get as big a root ball with each plant as possible and water thoroughly after you transplant it. Ideally, you should wait until fall to do this, but if you can’t, transplant carefully.

Daffodil-m Daffodils: When can I cut back the foliage and dig up clumps of daffodils to transplant? Gaye, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Answer: If you want your daffodils to bloom next year, wait until the foliage turns yellow to do either of these things. If you cut off the leaves while they’re still green, the bulbs won’t bloom.

Tree for planter: I have a 30″ x 36″ fiberglass planter I would like to use as a centerpiece to our flower bed. The area receives full sun all day. What small palm would you recommend planting in it? What about annuals for seasonal color? By the way, I am a low-maintenance girl!  Angela, Lakeland, Florida

Answer: Wow, you’re what every guy dreams of — a girl who’s low-maintenance! What you need are flowers that bloom nonstop, take the heat, and don’t require lots of water. Try angelonia, lantana, and Mexican heather. For a small palm, try lady palm, sago palm (not a true palm, but it looks like one), saw palmetto, or Chinese fan palm.


  1. Steve Bender

    Go ahead and prune them now.

    October 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm
  2. Linda

    When should I prune a single petal double blooming(spring & summer) gardenia? Mine have never been pruned and now are rather scraggy looking. I love where they are and am scared to touch them. They may be getting ugly but man, do they smell good!!

    October 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    You are right. Your gardenia has little time left. Why did you bring it inside? It’s harder to grow inside than outside. Anyway, what I suspect is that sucking insects (such as scale, mealybugs, aphids, or whiteflies) are feeding on the leaves and secreting a sticky honeydew. Black mold then grows on the honeydew. If you kill the pests, the mold will go. So take the gardenia back outside. Spray the foliage according to label directions with all-season horticultural oil. You can get this at garden and home centers. Be sure to wet upper and lower leaf surfaces. Do this 3 times at weekly intervals. This should kill the bugs plus their larvae and eggs.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:37 am
  4. Stephanie

    My gardenia is turning black.I moved him inside for the summer about a month ago, and he was doing great for a while. Now almost all the old growth leaves have gotten crunchy and black and fallen off, and the new shoots are starting to do it too. Please help there’s not much time left.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Gardenias losing all of their foliage does not sound good. But since the bark is still green inside, I’d give them a few more weeks to show signs of life. Do not fertilize until they send out new leaves. If the transplanting shock ends up being too much for them, they’ll need replacing.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm
  6. Carol

    Dear Grumpy, I live in Florida and never had problems with my outdoor gardenias. I transplanted 2 4′ shrubs in Feb.It’s been 2 months, lost all leaves and no hint of regrowth. I scrape the tiny twigs to the thick bark and all is green inside. How can I make promote leaf growth? I’m stumped, no pun intended :/

    April 19, 2012 at 12:27 am
  7. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    The problem with your holly is probably due to growing conditions. My guess is that the soil is either too wet or too dry. Either could cause droopy or dying branches. Use your hand to check the soil around the root balls. It’s important that the root balls stay moist (but not soggy) during this first growing season.

    July 18, 2010 at 10:46 am
  8. Carroll

    We planted some Nellie R Stevens Holly early in the spring. Some have dying branches and dead leaves. Some of the holly look great and some are starting to look droopy. I am new at gardening and at a total loss.

    July 17, 2010 at 7:41 am
  9. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Gardenias like acid soil. Unfortunately, the soil around San Antonio is alkaline (pH of 7 and above). Such soil will cause chlorosis (leaves turn yellow between the veins) in gardenias due to a lack of available iron. Left untreated, it will kill your plants. Just using acid-forming fertilizer will not be enough. You either have to plant gardenias in containers filled with good potting soil or in raised beds filled with at least 18 inches of peat moss, composted cow manure, and ground pine bark. Adding garden sulfur to the soil will also make it more acid.

    July 14, 2010 at 10:25 am
  10. Alaina

    Please help…my gardenias are dying. I noticed the leaves were turning yellow and discovered I wasn’t supposed to shower them with water (oops) but water toward the base of the plant. But even now…they have not perked up and are dying. The fertilizer I use is for gardenias…I’m just so confused and feeling a bit helpless. :-S I’m sure it also doesn’t help that our boxer likes to “shower” them as well.
    ~Alaina, San Antonio, Texas

    July 13, 2010 at 9:52 pm
  11. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    If the ground cover is a broadleaf type, you can kill it without harming your grass by spraying it with a broadleaf weed-killer, such as Weed-B-Gon. Follow label directions carefully and make sure the product is recommended for your type of grass.

    June 14, 2010 at 11:38 am
  12. Frank

    I have a neighbor with ground cover in his yard and it is invading my grass. Is there a way to keep the ground cover from growing in my grass? Can I kill it without harming the grass?

    June 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm
  13. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Try giving them some water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro, about every 2 weeks.

    May 31, 2010 at 8:34 am
  14. Allison, Dallas, Texas

    My begonias seem to have died off a bit, and they didn’t last long at all. I don’t know what I did or didn’t to do cause this. I live in central Texas, so it has gotten warmer. I have them in the shade. I water them about every other day. Thanks!!

    May 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm
  15. georgiagirl

    What about Ladybanks Roses? I have two, one on each side of my front porch steps, and they grow wildly all over the place. When can I cut them back, and is there any rules to follow for giving them a good shape?

    May 26, 2010 at 9:20 am
  16. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Sorry for the confusion, Jen, but I was talking about planting year-old iris. You can plant yours in the ground right now. You can plant all of that other stuff too.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm
  17. jen j

    hey grumpster, your comment on the Iris confused me a little, and made me think of the bulbs I purchased recently because they were on sale. I don’t know if I will have time to put them in the ground this year, is there any way to keep them around until next year? I have some calla lilies, liatris and freesia. It was an impulse purchase, and I don’t have a bed to put them in right now, I suppose I can always put them in pots? Thanks!

    May 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s