How To Identify (and get rid of) Mealybugs

Mealybugs thrive in warm/hot conditions on indoor and outdoor plants alike and spread quickly from plant to plant. This is THE time of year you will find them on a variety of plants. 

How do Mealybugs hurt my plants?

They suck juice from your plant and over time will cause leaf drop, stunted new growth, and eventually kill the plant. This pest’s waste causes mold growth on the plant which attracts other insects.

What do Mealybugs look like?

Kin to scale, they look like white fuzz on leaves or stems. The females lay up to 100 eggs in cotton-looking sacs you will see on the plant. The eggs will hatch in 6-14 days and the newly hatched mealys crawl to a spot on the plant, insert their “beak” into the plant and begin feeding.

How do I protect my plants?

1.   Keep your plants healthy. A hungry, weak, or stressed plant is more susceptible to mealybug infestation.

2.   Use a systemic insecticide as a preventative. By applying a systemic insecticide to your plant you are protecting it from future infestations. When a mealybug feeds on a plant that has been treated with a systemic insecticide it kills the mealybug. No eggs can be laid, your plant is protected.

3.   Inspect your plants for Mealybugs, look for them at the juncture of the stems and on new growth

4.   Spray your plant with an insecticide that kills mealybugs. This will require more than 1 treatment to make sure all have been killed.

5.   Use both a systemic for long term, future protection along with an insecticide spray if you see mealybugs on your plant. This 2-prong approach will kill the bugs on the plant and prevent mealybugs and other pests from harming your plant.

6.   On houseplants you can remove the individual Mealybugs with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. This would not be feasible for large infestations.

7.   Organic methods include the use of insecticidal soaps, Neem oil and other natural techniques.

How do I know if the mealybugs are dead?

If the mealybug is alive it is gooey, if it flakes off it is dead.

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Keeping Your Re-Bloom Azaleas Beautiful

Re-Blooming Azaleas (those that bloom 3-4 times per year) are one of the most versatile flowering shrubs available. But, maybe yours aren’t doing as well as you hoped they would.

Here’s 5 reasons why they may not be blooming and how to fix that (info provided by Encore Azaleas)

1. They need 6 hours of light per day – 

morning sun is better than afternoon, and bright dappled light is OK. Without enough light they will be thin and lanky and will not bloom much. Either transplant them to a sunnier spot (at the appropriate time of the year) or prune trees to allow more sunlight through.

2. Bad weather – 

an early season freeze prior to the plant hardening off through fall can damage buds and keep them from blooming. A late freeze in spring can have the same affect on blooms. Unfortunately, there isn’t a remedy for Mother Nature.

3. Pruning improperly – 

If you prune at the wrong time and remove buds you will have no blooms. The best time to prune is immediately after blooming in the spring.

4. Lack of Water – 

Once established they need 1” of water per week in mild climates and more than that here during our summer heat festival. Mulch 2-3” deep to help cool off the roots and retain moisture in the soil around your shrubs.

5. Using the wrong fertilizer – 

Use a fertilizer specifically for azaleas and acid loving plants. Don’t use a lawn fertilizer since it has too much nitrogen (1st number listed) and this will cause the plant to grow leaves instead of flowers.

I am going to add 2 more tips to the list:

6. Don’t plant too deeply – 

dig your hole only as deep as the size of the root ball. You don’t want the plant to settle and be in a bowl that will hold water. Some suggest leaving an inch or so of the rootball above ground level and then cover with mulch.

7. Plant in well-drained soil – 

azaleas do not want to be in soil that does not drain well. They prefer soil that will dry out between watering. Too much water will make the plant weak, and eventually branches and sections will begin to die. Yellowing leaves is a sign that your plant is getting too much water.

Follow these suggestions and enjoy the beauty of reblooming azaleas year round.

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Get To Know Sedums

We all love those cute little succulents that we plant in everything, but you need to get to know their cousins, the sedums, better.

These perennials are also known as stonecrops because they are found growing in rocky areas. They come in lots of different sizes, colors, and textures and are perfect mixed in containers or in beds or rock gardens.

They are not only drought-tolerant like succulents but are winter hardy and able to survive in cold weather and look great year-round. They are easy to grow and requires little maintenance.

There are 2 main types:

Ground cover sedum which is low growing and spreads as a ground cover or drapes over the side of your containers or hanging baskets, over rocks in a garden or over a retaining wall. The shapes and textures of these plants lend themselves to so many “cool” planting ideas. They have small blooms throughout the summer and into the fall, but their foliage alone is outstanding.

Upright Sedum have succulent type leaves and will grow into a small bush shape as it matures. It is evergreen (stays green throughout the winter) so you can enjoy them all year. They bloom in the late summer and early fall with flat clusters of tiny flowers that change color as the bloom matures over several weeks. The texture of these plants and interesting blooms works in a variety of plantings.

Tips on planting sedums in pots:

· Use a well-draining soil. They can develop root rot and turn mushy if they are grown in too wet of soil.
· Make sure your pot has drainage holes. Sedums roots are shallow so they don’t need a deep pot.
· Don’t overfeed them with fertilizer. Use a slow release fertilizer.
· They prefer full sun, but can take some shade.
· Allow sedums to dry out between waterings.
· Water potted sedums when the top 1 inch of soil dries out.

Here’s some of my favorites:

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All About Panicle Hydrangeas

These hydrangeas are so easy to grow and their blooms are stunning – both in size and in color. Proven Winners even calls them the “black thumb hydrangea” because of their ease of growing. The blooms are larger than other hydrangeas and shaped like a football. They all start out pure white and change to pink and reds as fall approaches.  

They bloom later in the summer on new wood – meaning they leaf out in the spring and then set their flower buds. This means you can prune the plant in the fall or in early spring without negatively affecting the blooms. (Goof Proof!)


  • They like morning sun and afternoon shade – too much shade will result in fewer blooms.
  • Don’t amend the soil – plant them directly into your soil – super simple!  
  • They grow in different soils (even clay) if the soil is well-drained. Soils that are too wet lead to root rot, so make sure the soil does not stay wet for any length of time.
  • Their color cannot be changed to blue by adjusting the pH level of your soil – the blooms start out white and will naturally change to pink or red as the bloom matures.
  • You can prune in fall or spring. Prune off about 1/3 of the plant. You may find it easier to prune in the spring after new growth appears. Cut the stem above where healthy buds are emerging, this is usually about ½ or 1/3rd down the stem.  
  • The blooms make excellent cut flowers but the color they are when you cut them is the color they will keep. They will not change from white to pink/red after cutting, so if you want pink/red wait until they are pink/red to cut them.

Watering is important. If you see your plant wilt it can be caused by too much water or not enough water. 

Here’s how you can tell the difference:

  • Overwatered hydrangeas drooping foliage feels soft and limp and the flowers often wilt. 
  • Underwatered hydrangeas drooping leaves feel dry and crispy, can have light brown spots around the leaf edges or look dusty in color. Unless they are exceptionally under-watered the flowers usually won’t be wilted.

If you have a spot in your yard that gets morning sun and afternoon shade, plant one of these lovely ladies. Their showy blooms, flower color transition and ease of care makes this a much sought after plant.

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How To Change The Color Of Your Hydrangea

The pH level of your soil dictates what color your hydrangea will be.  Here’s the cool part – you can change the pH level of your soil. 

First test the pH level of your soil to determine if you have alkaline or acidic soil.  Alkaline soil (7.0 or higher) creates pink hydrangeas blooms and Acidic soil (lower than 6.0) creates blue blooms.

Add lime to the soil to create an Alkaline soil condition and pink blooms.

Add aluminum sulfate to the soil to create an Acid soil condition and blue blooms.

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What Do The Numbers On A Bag Of Fertilizer Mean?

Fertilizers have 3 numbers listed on their container known as N-P-K

N = Nitrogen which makes your plant grow and makes it greener.

P = Phosphorus makes it bloom, fruit and build good roots

K = Potassium heat and cold hardiness

Hang in there – we’re going to talk numbers, but I’ll keep it simple.  The NPK numbers tell you how much of each item is in the fertilizer.  Knowing what the NPK does will help you choose the fertilizer for your need.

General Lawn fertilizers – look for a larger 1st number.  (29-0-4)

To increase blooms or fruiting – look for a larger 2nd number (12-24-12)

For all purpose fertilizing – look for a balanced number (13-13-13)

For you Geeks, if you add up the numbers of the NPK it totals the amount of fertilizer in the bag.  For example, the total fertilizer in a bag of 13-13-13 equals 39.  So, 39% of the material in the bag is fertilizer and 61% is filler which helps in spreading the fertilizer.

Fillers can include sand, limestone, sawdust, clean or sterile dirt, peat moss, sphagnum, ground corn cobs or other similar fillers.

You may have noticed that organic fertilizers show much lower N-P-K numbers than a synthetic fertilizer.  By law, the ratio can only list nutrients that are immediately available to a plant. Many organic fertilizers contain slow-release nutrients that are available over time instead of immediately and therefore cannot be counted in the N-P-K numbers.  However, they will continue to fertilize a plant longer than a synthetic fertilizer. 

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All About The Endless Summer Hydrangea

This brightly-colored hydrangea revolutionized the way hydrangeas are used in landscapes. ‘Endless Summer’ was the first hydrangea discovered that blooms on the previous year’s woody stems and the new season’s growth.

A whole series of Endless Summer Hydrangeas followed “the Original”.  There are now 5 varieties:

The Original – Large, mop-head blooms in either blue or pink depending upon your soil’s pH level. It grows to 3 x 5 feet tall and wide and is a rounded shaped plant.

Twist-n-Shout – was the first re-blooming lacecap hydrangea in deep pink or periwinkle blue (depending on soil pH).  The stems are red which ad even more interest to the plant and it grows to 3-5’ tall and 3-4’ wide.

BloomStruck – Depending on the pH or your soil, it blooms rose-pink or purple flowers.  It has red/purple stems and red veins on the leaves and grows to 3-4’ tall and 4-5’ wide.

Blushing Bride – has white semi-double florets, which change to blush pink or Carolina blue depending on the pH of your soil.  It grows to 3-6’ tall and 3-6’ wide.

Summer Crush – the newest addition to the family this has bright, raspberry red or neon purple blooms, again dependent upon the pH or your soil.  It is very bright!.  It is smaller growing 18-36” hight to 18-36” wide.  Great in containers or in the ground.

Plant these in a shady spot and be prepared to water daily – especially once we reach 90+ degrees.  This series will not disappoint if you do your part. 

Disease-resistant and hardy, this hydrangea offers color from spring until fall.  Versatile and beautiful, the ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea is a great addition to almost any landscape.

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A Little Bit About Grass Seed Planting

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the best type of grass seed to plant. My answer is two part –

1) the ground temp is still a bit cool to germinate all of the seed, so I’d suggest waiting a couple of weeks;

2) are you planting in sun or shade?

Common Bermuda is the most economical grass to plant and the most forgiving. It germinates in 5-10 days and grows in most soil conditions and is drought resistant. It will spread and cover your yard quickly. It does best in sun and does not do well in shade.

Centipede Grass germinates slower than Bermuda – up to 30 days. It also prefers sun but will tolerate shade. It is an aggressive grower when healthy and will choke out weeds and other grasses. Being heat tolerant and low-maintenance it is a favorite in East Texas.

Zoysia Grass is a dense turf and once established creates a thick lawn that also chokes out weeds. However, getting it established from seed can take a long time. Germination is 21 days, but its growth rate is so slow most people choose to plant with plugs or sod. It prefers sun but tolerates more shade than Bermuda.

Methods for planting warm season grass seed can be spreading seed directly with a seed spreader or through hydromulching. This is a method of mixing a slurry of water, mulch, seed and fertilizer and spraying it on your soil through a hydroseeding machine.

There is no warm season grass seed that performs well in the shade in our area. The best grass for shade is St. Augustine but can only be planted from plugs or sod.

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Heat-Loving Annuals

As David Bowie sang Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – it’s time to change out your cool season annuals for those heat lovers of summer. 

I know – some of your plants may still look really good and it’s hard to dig them up.  Planting summer annuals now allows them to establish a good root system that is so important in our summer heat.

Here’s some of our favorites:


Vinca – Upright blooming plants in vivid colors that bloom non-stop.  Don’t overwater them and make sure they are in well drained soil and they won’t let you down.  Here’s a hint, if they get too tall and leggy you can cut them back by half their height, feed them with water soluble fertilizer (Schultz) and they will come back compact and blooming.

Profusion Zinnia – Aptly named they bloom profusely until our first frost.  Making mounds of blooms, these hardy plants are easy to care for.  Requiring no trimming or cleaning.  One of my favorites!

Bronze Leaf Begonia – The old standby.  Leathery leafed plants that can even make it all the way through a mild winter.  These grow in sun and shade so they are perfect for those “is it sun or is it shade” areas.  These short, round mounds of blooms are so versatile – bedding plants, hanging baskets and containers.

Annual Salvia – all colors and shapes of annual salvia.  Most are tall, upright plants with spikes of color blooming throughout the season.  Great to use in the back of beds to create height or as thrillers in containers.

Penta – Excellent butterfly and hummingbird attractors.  These plants are compact and bushier than most annuals and covered with clusters of red, pink, violet or white flowers.  Perfect for beds and containers.

Sun Coleus – Known for it’s bright foliage colors in all colors and shapes.  Another compact bushier annual that will handle the sun.  If it gets too tall you can cut it back and it will grow out a new top.  So many varieties to choose from – a go to plant of mine.


Impatiens – Mounds of flowers, forever blooming in so many colors.  Great as a stand alone or can be used as borders or planted as a ribbon of color throughout a bed.  Used in beds, hanging baskets and containers.  These plants don’t mind morning sun, but like the shade in the afternoon.

Torenia – 2 types available – an upright variety that has multiple blooms on each plant or a trailing variety that is good for hanging baskets or containers.  Either of these do well in shade and can tolerate some morning sun. 

Green Leaf Begonias – Cousins to the Bronze Leaf variety, but these will only do shade.  They have the same mounding characteristics and bloom colors.  Good in beds, baskets or containers.

Shade Coleus – Bright foliage that grows best in shade.  A newer variety, Kong Coleus, has been a great addition to our shade gardens.  The large, brightly colored leaves get your attention. Use in beds or containers.

Caladiums – Graceful and colorful these shade and part sun loving plants can be used in beds as mass plantings, as a border or plant several in a small cluster.  These are a great choice for container plantings also.

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How To Grow Beautiful Annual Vinca

Vinca like it sunny, hot and dryer than a lot of plants. The dark, glossy-green foliage and bright flowers add color to our flower beds and pots from April through the first hard freeze. They bloom consistently, and don’t require deadheading of their flowers.

What they don’t like is to be overwatered or to be planted in poor draining soil. If your vinca turns yellow, it’s too wet. Either too much water or the soil is too wet – one of these is the problem. They almost melt away (like the Wicked Witch who had water issues too) or rot from being too wet.

One solution is to plant them in a raised area that is higher than the surrounding ground level. This allows the water to drain away faster.  You can create this higher ground by adding soil to the area or form a berm to plant them on.

Feed them with a water soluble fertilizer like Schultz weekly to help them produce even more flowers.


You will find these in many of the same colors as standard vinca. The difference is in their growth habit – they drape or cascade over the side of the container instead of growing upright. 

These are perfect in hanging baskets, they are nice and full, bloom nonstop and cascade as much as 12” over the side of the basket, Use them as a spiller (thriller, filler, spiller) in containers or create a carpet of flowers by planting in beds. Use water soluble fertilizer on them weekly to keep them healthy.

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