I have a runaway vine in my garden and it grows over shrubs and up trees and fences. How do I get rid of it?


It sounds like you have a smilax vine. There are 12 species of smilax in Florida and nine are fairly common in different parts of the state. Seven of those nine have the word “greenbrier” in their name and many people use that as the common name. It should be noted that many of the smilax species are prickly and some have large needle-like thorns. To answer your question directly, there is very little you can do to get rid of it permanently.

Two of the species are herbaceous, that is, not woody. The rest are woody and produce rhizomes that spread into huge underground tubers. Therefore, the only way to eliminate them completely is by digging them up, which may mean digging up half your yard or garden. Smilax is resistant to weed killers such as Roundup and most experts say the best you can do is clip it off at ground level wherever you find it and after five or more years it may just give up. See edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr375 for more information.


We have an abundance of a vine with five leaves on our fence. My husband says it is poison ivy, but I thought poison ivy has only three leaves?

We don’t usually get involved in husband/wife disagreements, but you win this round. You did not say if you wanted to get rid of your vine or are enjoying its beauty, but if it has five leaves in a palmate (shaped like a hand) form, it is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). If you enjoy it, you can clip this climber to keep it under control. If you don’t like it, you can cut it back to woody stumps and treat those ends with diluted glyphosate (Roundup), but follow label directions. Unlike the smilax mentioned above, Virginia creeper will succumb. More information at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp454.


I loved my oakleaf hydrangeas when I lived in Alabama. I don’t see many here and I wonder if they will thrive in North Florida.

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) can be grown in North Florida, with a few stipulations. It will bloom in the sun, but it blooms longer in the shade. It needs room unless you prune it each year after it blooms. Without pruning, the plant will grow 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.

This is a beautiful, showy plant and is especially attractive at the edge of a woods. Oakleaf hydrangea needs little care once it is established, but it needs plenty of water in the early weeks after planting, while spreading its roots. It can be propagated with seeds, cuttings or separation of suckers which develop at the base of the plant. See edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp259.


The top one-third of my redbud tree has turned yellow and the leaves are wilting. What’s happening?

Your tree is probably the victim of the black twig borer (Xylosandrus compactus or Xylosandrus crassiusculus). They have recently been noted in our area; they attack 62 species of trees in Florida and is fond of the Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and red maple (Acer rubrum) trees.

If you carefully examine the branches where the wilting has occurred, you will probably find a small, clean hole bored into the branch. If the branch is larger, it may have more than one hole. The female twig borer lays eggs in the hole and the larvae feed on the plant tissue and ambrosial fungus in the walls of the bored tunnel. Therein is the cause of your yellowing and wilting.

When you find the lowest or solitary hole in a branch, prune the branch below the hole and remove it. When you have pruned all the damaged branches, put them in a sealed black plastic bag and remove them from your property. Removal and destruction is very important because adult twig borers overwinter in the damaged twigs and branches. Find more information at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in577.


My rabbiteye blueberry bushes are finished for the year and I want to know when and how much to prune them.

Pruning your rabitteye blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum) is mostly a matter of reducing the height of the bush and cane removal or thinning. If blueberry bushes are not pruned, they will become dense and nonproductive. If your plants are 4 or 5 years old, remove one to three of the oldest canes. This stimulates new growth and assures that no cane is more than 3 or 4 years old and still productive. For mature plants, topping a foot or more from the plants immediately after harvest will stimulate next year’s growth and prevent plants from becoming too tall.


Karl Zedell Sr. is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.