December Newsletter: Citrus, Trimming & Pests

Citrus

We recommend that you wait until spring now to plant any citrus. However, you can keep it in the container until spring to make it easier to protect. Even though Citrus are much cold hardier than a hibiscus, a hard freeze (when temperatures fall below 32 degrees for more than 6 hours) may cause freeze damage to the tree.

Newly planted trees that have not even begun to root in will suffer much more than a well rooted tree. The cost on citrus is also much more than basic shrubs and trees because a lot more work has gone into the growing process. At the start the plant is grafted onto a hardy citrus root stock. Florida citrus growers are required to follow strict, state guidelines during the growing and shipping process and are subject to many inspections throughout the year.

If you wish to prune citrus November to January is the best time to do this. It is not necessary however, some homeowners like to do so.

Trimming

Now that plants and trees (like crape myrtles) are going dormant, many people get the urge to run out and trim. Delay pruning until late January or February, when plants are completely dormant. Then you may begin to trim crape myrtles, shade trees, deciduous fruit trees and hardy shrubs.

You should wait to prune winter or spring blooming plants like azaleas, gardenias and camellias until after they bloom.

Palm trees should only be trimmed when the frond is 80% brown. Trimming green fronds will remove food source from the tree which can put them in distress. Palms like Sylvesters, Pindos, and Robellinis should all have a rounded look – with the fronds being parallel to the ground. Sabals and queens should never be trimmed to look like giant carrot tops!

Clean up- take some time to clean up dead leaves and debris from around summer plants. If you plant a few winter annuals around the perennials it won’t be so obvious when the perennials get hit by frost. The annuals will look beautiful until spring and then the perennials will be returning!!

Pests

While pests will become fewer with the approaching cooler weather, scale and particularly mites are active. Mites enjoy the dry weather so be vigilant for damage from them- especially on junipers or cypress.

Continue to “scout” your garden for problems and stop by the Garden Center for advice on any issues that may arise.

Palm Issues to Watch for

There are number of issues that can cause problems to Palm Trees and being vigilant is the first step in taking corrective measures.

  1. Fusarium Wilt: Fusarium Wilt is primarily observed on Queen Palms and Washingtonia Palms. This disease is caused by a wind-borne spore and can spread quickly. It is common to see one side of the frond to die off and a often a brown stipe on the stem of the frond.  The disease starts on the oldest living leaves and progresses upward until the palm is killed. This can happen within two to three months. Due to the fast decline the dead fronds do not droop or break, giving the palm a “freeze dried” appearance.  This is a serious problem and if you suspect this, please have it investigated immediately as it can transfer to other palms and there is no cure.  Not disinfecting tools prior to and post trimming are thought to be an issue for transfer of this disease.
  2. Lethal Bronzing is another disease that has been making an appearance in our area now. This disease has been seen in sabals, sylvesters, and queens. Like Fusarium Wilt, this disease also will start with the oldest fronds causing them to die with a ring of green fronds above it. The heart of the palm (or spear) at the top of the tree will die very quickly.  The first distinctive symptom though is fruit dropping prematurely.  This is also a very serious problem and again, if you suspect this to be the case, getting the tree diagnosed immediately is recommended.  This tree would have to be removed quickly as well to avoid transfer.  Not disinfecting tools likewise is known to be an issue for this disease.
  3. Ganoderma or Butt Rot is also a very serious problem that can attack any palm tree. The classic symptom of this disease is not only the decline of the palm but a noticeable fungus or shelf type mushroom growing at the base of the palm.  However, this is not always the case and the trunk will not be soft with Ganoderma or collapse.  This palm would have to be removed very carefully and all equipment sterilized after so as not to spread spores.

With all these problems, it is not recommended that palms be planted back in the same areas ever.   If you ever suspect you have any of these issues, come by with some pictures and information and if we are unable to determine what is happening, we will refer a certified arborist for you.