I have a night blooming cereus that has crawled up my house. Unfortunately it is damaging the siding on the second story of my house and my husband says it has to go. How can I make peace without giving it up? It came from my Mom’s house in South Florida.

 

The night blooming cereus is a wonder to some, but it can get a little unwieldy. It’s often allowed to grow up into tree canopies where it does no harm. On the side of a house it will scramble up two stories. Along the way it is going to put out roots. These won’t be so damaging on brick although it can dig into mortar. But on siding, even concrete siding, they aren’t really a good thing.


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This plant can be kept at 10-12 feet tall, so you may just want to trellis it off the house.

Night blooming cereus is a subtropical cactus and needs a sheltered location in Jacksonville. Mine has survived just fine alongside a brick wall on the southeast side of the house – no cold damage in 20 years. They don’t want full sun, which is why they survive well tangled in tree canopies. They get protection from the sun and from the cold temperatures, catching the warmth that rises from the ground and gets caught by the tree canopy. They like moist, well-drained soil.

The bloom is an adventure. It occurs after midnight and lasts until early morning, an occasion for a bloom party among some late night horticultural fanciers. It’s an elaborate bloom with many white petals and a strong fragrance. The blooms are designed to attract a moth for pollination and only last one night.

The sections of these plants are easily propagated and given as gifts.

This plant doesn’t have a lot of insect of disease problems. It’s pretty trouble free.

My azalea has scale insects on the stems. How do I treat them?

Insect problems are bound to be showing up now. Our hot dry weather has been a serious stressor on plants and that guarantees that we will begin to see problems.

Scale insects are devious beasts. They are very well protected. Either they have a hard shell or a fuzzy covering that protects them from our sprays. Only the crawler stage of their lives is susceptible to our attempts to control them. The rest of the time they go right on piercing and sucking the lives right out of our plants.

Some varieties actually can be scraped right off the stem with your fingernail. There is a certain sense of reward in doing that. You won’t be getting the eggs, or the crawlers, but any you remove will be an advantage for the plant. You will still need to spray your plants, and several applications will be necessary to make sure you kill all generations. Lightweight horticultural oil should always be in your garden tools and you can find heavier pesticides to combat scale insects in this document: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg005

One way we help plants avoid problems during drought and recover from problems is to water them. Azaleas in particular are sensitive to drought because they are shallow-rooted. They should be well mulched to help them survive our spring drought.

I bought two small trees to plant in my yard, but it has been so dry I’m afraid to plant them. Can I safely plant them and how do I know how much to water them?

I understand your concern. A new tree brings with it the picture of what it will be in ten years and you don’t want to dim that image. We probably have more than a month more of dry heat to contend with, based on normal seasons. So I will base my recommendations on that.

Your young tree will need to be watered based on the diameter of the trunk. Try to figure out from past experience and locale whether the area you are placing the tree drains rapidly or slowly. Hopefully, you are placing it well away from your house. Make sure you plant it at the same level it was planted in the pot, neither deeper nor shallower.

New trees need 1 ½-3 gallons per inch of diameter of trunk. If you have well drained soil, Edward Gilman at the University of Florida recommends you water every day for 2 weeks, then every other day for 2 months, then weekly till established. Depending on the size of the tree, it takes 9-24 months for a tree to become fully established. But the final result – a masterpiece!

Becky Wern is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS. If you have gardening questions, you can speak to a master gardener from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Duval extension office at (904) 255-7450.