Garden Myths Debunked: Part 3
Myth 9: OMG!!! My plant has yellow leaves………it must be DIEING!!!
Yes, yellow leaves can be an indicator of declining plant health. They can represent nutrient deficiencies, over watering, under watering, insect damage, etc. This is not always the case. I’m speaking specifically of evergreen trees and shrubs during the spring months. Inevitably I receive a plethora of calls from worried customers asking if their gardenia or holly is about to bite the dust. During the spring months, the vast majority of the time the answer is NO! So what causes yellow leaves during the spring months on your evergreen plants? Good question. Deciduous plants lose their leaves every year. We do not freak out when our oaks, hydrangeas, spiraea, etc. change color and drop their foliage. Evergreen plants do the same thing……..just at a different time of year and in a different fashion. The yellow leaves that you see on your gardenia, holly, magnolia, or whatever evergreen you may have, are two or three year old leaves. They are dropped by the plant and replaced with new foliage on the ends of the branch. It works the same way with conifers like arborvitae, cryptomeria, and spruce. The difference there is that the foliage turns brown, not yellow like evergreens. Take home lesson………don’t freak out if you have yellow foliage on evergreens in April or May.
Myth 10: Mulch………the more the better!
Mulch is fantastic for a lot of reasons. Mulch helps retain moisture, helps reduce weeds, and helps moderate soil temperatures. Sounds great, right? Well, it is………..until too much is applied to the base of plants and around the trunks of trees. Too much mulch around the base of plants can interfere with water flow, discourage proper aeration, and provide an excellent environment for fungi and bacteria to thrive. I don’t know about you, but I do not want fungi or bacteria hanging around my plants more than they have to (barring the beneficial types). That sounds like a pretty good way to develop root rot, different types of wilts, cankers, and other diseases. It is best to keep mulch pulled away from the base of plants to avoid these issues.
Myth 11: I’ve done some pruning…….now I need to cover the wounds
Hold your horses on this one. If you have pruned off branches and are considering covering the cuts with tar, wax, asphalt, or something like that, STOP! I guess I can see where putting a band-aid over a wound seems like a good idea, but it really is not. Those wounds can never be fully closed off. There is always going to be pockets between the wound and sealant where moisture will gather………with high humidity. Seems like a great environment for pathogens. The best practice is to leave the wound open so it can fully heal on its own. Remember, plants are resilient. Most wound will heal over just fine.
Myth 12: Poinsettias are poisonous
Nope. I don’t know where this myth even came from. There are MANY other plants that are commonly found in our landscapes and homes that actually are poisonous, but poinsettias get the bad rap. Some people can have a mild allergic reaction to the sticky white sap produced by the plant, but it is not going to kill you. I’m certainly not advocating chowing down on poinsettia foliage but rest assured, the big bag poinsettia isn’t going to get you in the middle of the night.
Myth 13: Gardening is black and white
It seems appropriate to end this series of articles on number 13 and with this topic. Gardening is not black and white. Answers can not always be found in books or online. Gardening is best learned through trial and error…….with a little common sense thrown in. What works for some folks might not work for others. ALWAYS test the boundaries of plants. Who cares what the literature says? Try something different. Not every garden is the same. Most importantly………..ENJOY IT!!