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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for September

When we reach the month of September, we say goodbye to summer. Labor day barbeques and festivities abound. The children settle back into the routine of school, vacations have been planned and executed, and conversations begin to wrap around football whether it be college or high school. September is also a transition month as far as gardening is concerned where some annuals have flagged and need to be pulled out, and some perennials have flagged and need to be cut back. Caladiums, which we planted back in late May, have seen better days with the tough decision whether to pull them out or save the bulbs over the winter. My rule of thumb on this question is to keep the bulbs and replant one more time. The leaves on caladiums get smaller the longer they are held over. Now I have recycled the old bulbs after the second year and planted new bulbs with them the next spring with good results. When holding them over, I store them in brown paper sacks dusted with Sevin powder, and place them in a garden shed to keep the bulbs from freezing.

It is time to perk up the garden for a fall look. If you have verbena, dusty miller, and blue salvia, then just give them a slight haircut and additional fertilizer. As I have stated above, the caladiums and vinca will look ratty and if not today, then soon. Pull these up and replant with perhaps chrysanthemums or other flowering plants found on the open market. Look for impatiens, petunias, begonias, pansies, dianthus or other perennials which will bloom through frost and fill in the blank spaces. Now that we are facing cooler night time temperatures, geraniums and petunias will thrive. So cut these back, fertilize and water them in. Watch them come into their own. Tropicals such as plumbago, hibiscus, bougainvillea, should be well until frost, so cut back slightly and fertilize. Very importantly, I should not need to remind everyone to" WEED, WEED, WEED".


Mexican heather(cuphea hyssopifolia) hails from Mexico and Guatemala and this genus comprises over two hundred species distributed over the Americas. It is also known as false heather, hawaiian heather or elfin herb. It needs about 4 hours of sun a day and is hardy in zones 7 and 8. The lifespan of this perennial is about 8 years, grows to about 12-18 inches and is virtually disease free. Blooming all throughout the summer, butterflies have an affinity for these blooms. These plants do well as a filler for the garden and also do well in a pot garden. I planted perhaps 20 several years ago, left them in the ground over the winter, and have had just a couple that did not come back in the spring. Mulching would probably have helped in an especially bad winter. After the first freeze, the leaves turn brown but the roots live on. I showcase them as front row or second row status in the garden and they do well with verbena and petunias. The pink and magenta blooms do not have to be deadheaded which is a blessing since there are thousands. In zones 9 and 10 this is a small evergreen shrub. Another attribute worth sharing is that they are easy to propagate by taking cuttings, dipping in a rooting hormone and planting in potting soil. My advice to my readers is to plant these Mexican Heather and just sit back and bask in their beauty all summer. Also these plants are readily available in all nurseries and big box outlets.



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