The “balloons” on the perennial platycodon should open in bloom in summer

Q I would be grateful if you could identify this plant for us. This is his third year and the last two he was born from the roots. Is it sometimes called a “balloon plant”?

A The plant in question is a large perennial named Platycodon, commonly known as the balloon flower. The emerging flower buds look like miniature hot air balloons. There are a few older varieties that never open the ball, but most do. It loves full sun to partial shade and will flower for months in the summer.

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Q I live in Batesville and my loropetalum seemed doomed after the snowfall but I took your advice and gave it time. It seemed to be recovering well, but now a lot of my plants look faint in color. We had a lot of rain and our land is drained by the land above us. One diagnostic tool said they were healthy and another said they needed fertilizer. One article mentioned possible root rot. What are your thoughts?

This loropetalum looks a bit washed out, maybe from recent weather. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A This is not a definitive answer, as it can be caused by a variety of things, but my best guess is the intense heat and humidity that comes so quickly after the rain and the lower temperatures have scorched them a bit. plants. I can’t imagine a drainage problem starting this far in their life if nothing has changed with the soil. If these were new plants and the soil wasn’t draining well, that could be a problem, but it looks like they’ve been around for some time. I think they just got a bit of a shock. All the leaves of our loropetalums are still new leaves, a little more tender than the older, established leaves. Be patient. Water the plants when they are dry and see if the darker color does not reappear. It hasn’t been an easy year to be an outdoor plant. I think we were all blown away that they flipped through as completely as they did, and they would all benefit from a little TLC this season.

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Q This flower appeared in the middle of my garden. The leaves look like a lily, straight and tall. The petals bloom in a row on a stem. I asked around and searched on google but I can’t find the name. Thoughts?

This gladiolus volunteered in a reader's yard.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

This gladiolus volunteered in a reader’s yard. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A It really looks like a gladiolus to me – a summer bulbous plant that grows from a bulb. The size of the flowers is quite impressive, especially if they come from a seedling. I would like something like this to appear in my garden.

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Q We bought a packet of mixed seeds. We watch with wonder their flowering. Can you tell us what the bigleaf plant is?

Tithonia, or Mexican sunflower, grows tall and thrives in warm, sunny weather.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Tithonia, or Mexican sunflower, grows tall and thrives in warm, sunny weather. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A It looks like a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia diversifolia. There are several species of Tithonia, but this one will likely have large yellow flowers. There are species with dark orange flowers. He grows tall and takes the heat in stride.

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Q All of my mint plants have these little white dots on the leaves. I don’t see any bugs or eggs on the leaves. Since I am using mint for cooking, is there anything I can do about this problem?

Mites cause damage like the tiny white dots on the leaves of this mint.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Mites cause damage like the tiny white dots on the leaves of this mint. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

A The damage looks like spider mite injuries to me. Turn the sheets over and see if there are any tiny straps on them. Damaged leaves are perfectly edible. An insecticidal soap sprayed on the underside of the leaves can help. These insects tend to grow quickly in hot, dry weather.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas’ best-known horticultural experts. His blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to him at PO Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or by email [email protected]

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