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Yesterday, I showed you a photo of a citrus tree that I came upon during a landscape consultation.  



I mentioned that there was more then one problem affecting this tree.  There are actually two large problems and one small problem.

Problem #1: Look at the area near the trunk.  Notice a little green shoot coming up from a small citrus root?

This innocent-looking little sucker can cause a lot of problems if allowed to grow.  The reason for this is that citrus trees are grafted onto a vigorous rootstock.

Basically, the top of a citrus tree and the roots come from different plants.  Citrus trees we enjoy in our landscape don’t have a particularly strong root system.  So, they are grafted onto a thorny, citrus tree that has vigorous roots and sour fruit.


Occasionally, small suckers from the thorny, citrus tree start to grow up from the roots or the base of the trunk below the bud union.  The bud union is a bulge around the lower part of the tree, about a foot above the ground.  Any suckers that originate from below the bud union should be removed, because if allowed to grow – the thorny citrus tree will grow and take over.

Now, back to our original picture for our second problem…


Problem #2: Look closely at the soil and you can see signs of shallow irrigation. How can you tell? Look at the small citrus roots criss crossing out from the tree.  In a properly watered citrus tree, you shouldn’t see the roots at all.

This indicates that when the tree is irrigated, that the water is not turned on long enough to penetrate to the recommended 3 ft. depth.

When I pointed this out to the homeowner, she indicated that if the water is turned for too long, that it runs out from the basin.

There are two solutions for this problem.  

 Elevate the sides of the basin to at least 6 inches high and allow to fill with water.  Next, check to see how deeply you have watered by taking a long, narrow stick or piece of rebar and push it into the wet soil.  It should go down fairly easily to the point where the water permeates.  Pull it back out and you will get a good idea of how much more or less water you will need.

– If after trying the first solution and you still haven’t hit the recommended 3 ft. depth, then try this trick – water in the morning, filling up the basin.  Allow the water to sink and fill the basin again later in the day.  This should help you achieve the right depth.


The smaller problem is really nothing to be overly concerned about…



If you look closely, some of the leaves have ragged edges and holes.  The damage is caused by the Orange Dog Caterpillar.  This caterpillar appears in the summer months and resemble ‘bird poop’ which makes them hard to spot.  


These caterpillars will turn into the beautiful Giant Swallowtail butterfly.  Mature citrus trees can usually handle the damage from the caterpillars, so in most cases, the best thing to do is nothing.

For additional resources for raising citrus in the Valley of the Sun and other areas throughout the Southwest, check out this helpful link.


Do you have citrus trees in your landscape?  Which kinds?

Welcome to the second edition of “AZ Plant Lady  House Calls.  


Earlier this month, I shared with you a landscape dilemma that a homeowner needed help with.  I was able to help her find a solution that would introduce color and herbs to a sunny corner of her garden. 


Well, this same homeowner had another problem area.



This shady area lies next to her sliding glass door and she has had a tough time getting anything to grow in this area.  

You can see some straggly Vinca minor and a raised container growing a few weeds. 
I have rarely seen nice-looking Vinca minor growing in our area – so it is not a plant I recommend.

The homeowner wanted a plant for her container that would flourish along with a flowering groundcover.

What would you do in this area?

Believe it or not, it can be hard to find a plant that can handle our hot, dry temperatures that can also do well in shady areas.  But, there are a few.


Recommendation: Purchase an orange-colored container to add some color to this area and plant a Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sanseveria trifasciata) in the container.  

For an extra decorative touch, you can add black pebbles on the top of the planting soil.

This tropical plant will add height and texture and is very easy to grow.  *Protect from freezing temperatures by bringing them indoors.

Years ago, I worked for a golf course community that had large containers in full shade by the front doors of the clubhouse.  After trying many different kinds of plants – this was the one that did the best.


Around the base of the raised container, I recommended planting 5 Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia).

These do great in light shade and bloom off and on all year.  They grow well in zones 9 – 11.


The leaves are small and so are the flowers on this groundcover that grows approximately 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.

The purple flowers will provide great contrast to the new orange container.

Both the Mother-in-law’s Tongue and Mexican Heather are low-maintenance and will flourish in this shady spot.

So, what do you think of this solution? Do you have a shady area where you have a hard time growing anything?

I hope you enjoyed the latest edition of “AZ Plant Lady Virtual House Call”.  I will be posting more in the future in the hopes that I can help you with an issue you may be facing in your own garden.

Oftentimes when I am called to help a homeowner with their landscape, they pose a problem and/or a question about a certain area in their landscape.


I will share a few with, you now and then, in the hopes that I can help those of you who may have a similar situation.


Okay, let’s first look at this resident’s sunny area…



As you can see, there is a young citrus tree growing in this corner bed.  

The resident, who was from Europe, wanted to create a Southern European garden theme in her backyard.  However, in this area, she disliked the appearance of the bare wall around her citrus tree.  She wanted to have a retaining wall installed and raise the level of the bed and plant an assortment of herbs, which would cover part of the bare expanse of the wall.

The problem, is that you cannot raise the level of soil or you will suffocate the roots of the citrus tree.  Plants need the oxygen that is present in the soil.  Most of the oxygen is found in the upper levels of soil.  Adding more soil would decrease the amount of oxygen where the plant roots currently are located.

Taking out the citrus tree and replanting it into a raised bed was not an option in this case.

 So, what would you do in this area? 

Recommendation: Add three tall (3 feet or higher), colorful, glazed pots and place them up against the wall – one in the corner and the other two on either side.  Select pots in bright colors such as blue or orange, which will add a punch of color to the landscape AND plant an assortment of herbs in the pots.

Herbs are quite tough and can handle being in containers better then other flowering plants during the summer months and on through winter.

As the citrus tree grows and shades this spot more, the resident can switch out the sun-loving herbs for container plants that enjoy shady conditions.

 So, what do you think of this solution? Do you have an area like this where you want to add color up against a bare wall?

I hope you enjoyed my first “AZ Plant Lady House Call”.  I will be posting more in the future in the hopes that I can help you with an issue you may be facing in your own garden.

Do you ever wonder if you are doing things right in your landscape?
If a plant or tree doesn’t look too well, do you wonder if it is something you are doing wrong?
When I am called to do a landscape consultation, my client usually has a primary concern.  But, part of my job is to also look at the landscape as a whole and point out other problems – hopefully before they affect the plant negatively.
So, I decided to start posting photos of problems I have spotted during consults in hopes that I can help you too.
Below, are two pictures of a very common landscape mistake that I see constantly.  Usually the homeowner/client has no idea that they are doing anything wrong.
Can you tell what is wrong?
It isn’t always super obvious…
 I’d love to hear what you think is wrong – just send me a comment, below.
I’ll post about this ‘landscape no-no’ and what problems it causes and how to correct it in my next post 🙂