Talkin’ Dirt with Kathy – May Dirt

In my last issue, I mentioned that I would announce the spring 2012 Louisiana Super Plants.  The LSU AgCenter horticulturists recently unveiled their selections for this spring.  By this time, these super plants should be in the retail nurseries as the wholesale  nurseries are encouraged by LSU to grow the super plants. Homeowners and professionals alike can benefit from using Louisiana Super Plants to ensure successful landscaping efforts. Below are the 2012 Choices:

Begonia BabyWing Series- This is a warm season annual, requires part sun to part shade, blooms from late spring through frost and grows 12-15 inches tall by 10-12 inches wide.


Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’ – This is a warm season annual, requires full sun, flowers from late spring through frost and grows 24-28 inches tall by 20-24 inches wide.


Hydrangea ‘Penny Mac’ –This is a flowering deciduous shrub, requires part shade, produces large, rounded clusters of blue or pink flowers in May and grows 4-6 feet tall by 3-4 feet wide.

Checklist for May

  1. If you haven’t yet planted your warm-season bedding plants, NOW is the time.  It is also time to plant caladiums.  Once your bedding plants have completed their first flower cycle, pinch off old flowers on them to encourage more paid re-blooming.
  2. Fertilize your shrubs and grass.
  3. Spread slug bait around the base of any hosta you may have in your garden.
  4. Watch for insect problems.  Lace bugs on azaleas and aphids or whiteflies on gardenias are common.   Also examine camellias, sasanquas and hollies for scale insects on the lower foliage.  These can be controlled with acephate, imidracloprid or horticultural oil sprays.
  5. Mulch plants to reduce watering requirements, suppress weed growth and minimize soil temperature changes.  Excellent mulches are pine straw, chopped leaves and pine bark.  Mulch should be applied at least 2 inches think for effective weed suppression.
  6. Roses may develop insect problems.  Watch for aphids on tender new growth, thrips on flowers and cucumber beetles on foliage.  Beetles are especially a problem if a vegetable garden is nearby.  Treat with spinosad for beetles and thrips.
  7. If your crape myrtles have had problems with aphids and the unattractive, black sooty mold they cause, treat your trees now to prevent problems this summer.  Apply a drench of imidacloprid insecticide (Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control and other brands) to the base of the tree, and the tree will be protected from aphids all summer.


Native to our area are the Silverbell tree, the honeysuckle azalea and its relative, the Flame azalea.  I have a Silverbell tree and a Flame azalea in my backyard and they have brought me so much joy with so little work.  Natives are really care free and so easy to grow.  It is ashame that they aren’t more readily available in the trade.

 The SILVERBELL is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that blooms from March to April with drooping, white flowers that are four-lobed and covered with fine hairs.  Significant flowering doesn’t begin until the trees are 3 to 5 years old.  The tree performs well in full sunlight and partial shade.  In the fall, the tree has beautiful autumn color and also attracts hummingbirds during the flowering period.  What is great about this native tree is that it doesn’t mind wet feet unlike the dogwood tree and everyone knows that we have many wet spots in our Louisiana landscape!

Another one of my favorite plants for spring time bloom is the NATIVE OR

You will find them growing in Louisiana along sandy creeks and in mixed pine and hardwood forests as well as in other parts of the southeastern United States.  This azalea blooms right after the regular azaleas finish blooming and produce beautiful, heavenly smelling flowers that range from dark pink to white.  They generally grow about 6 feet tall but occasionally reach 15 feet with age and good growing conditions.  These shrubs perform well in a well drained area that gets partial shade.

A relative of the honeysuckle azalea called the FLAME AZALEA produces yellow and orange colored flowers.  Looking very much like the honeysuckle azalea except for the flower color, its culture is the same.

The OAKLEAF HYDRANGEA is another plant you will love.  It is one of the few hydrangeas native to the United States.  The Oakleaf hydrangea is a dramatic, white-blooming shrub that has leaves that turn an outstanding autumn color ranging from red to purple.  This plant grows 6-8 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide.  The oakleaf can tolerate a much sunnier location than the mophead and lacecap hydrangea.

 The RED BUCKEYE  is a small tree or large shrub that is native to our area and grows in shade or sun.     It reaches about 8-10 feet in height but I have seen some in St. Francisville that were 30 feet tall.  It produces tall showy panicles to ten inches above the foliage with red florets opening from bottom to top.  The hummingbirds and butterflies love the red buckeye tree.   The fruit of the buckeye which is produced in the summer is a thin-walled capsule, about 2-3 inches in diameter and contains 1-3 poisonous seeds that look like chestnuts.  In the fall, the capsule splits open exposing several brown, shiny chestnuts looking seeds.  It is reported that the Cherokees used to carry the buckeye nut around for good luck and to prevent rheumatism.  As a young girl growing up on weekends at my camp at Lake Darbonne, my sister and I used to wander in the woods looking for buckeyes.  It was thrilling to us as a child and really still is for me when my buckeye tree in my backyard produces the buckeye nuts in the fall.

NATIVE PLANTS- After I finished naming my favorite plants for April bloom, I realized that everything I named was a native plant which made me realize I needed to explain native plants!  A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention.   Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses and ferns to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.  If you are wondering if native plants are a better choice for your garden, the answer lies, in part, in your own judgement.  Native woodland wildflowers will never give your shady garden the riots of color that can be had with impatiens and caladiums, but if you like to garden with elegant and underused plants, they are great. If you want to creat a garden that emulates nature, they are essential.  As with any plant that you want to grow, however, the right plant must be matched with the right spot.  There are a myriad of native plants that thrive in every type of habitat imaginable.

If you are wondering where you can purchase native plants, they are typically a little harder to find but can be found from nurseries that specialize in native plants or can be grown from seed.  A few sources for native plants in our state are:

Coyote Creek Nursery- St. Francisville- 225-635-6736
Wild Things Plant Farm – Logansport – 318-697-7367
Maypop Hill – Norwood – 225-629-5379
Prairie Basse – Carencro – 337-896-9187
Willis Farm – Doyline – 318-458-0471

Also, Hilltop Arboretum in Baton Rouge has a plant sale at the end of April every year and always features many native plants.

Next month, I plan to write about roses!  Stay tuned and feel free to submit any questions you may have.


Kathy VanVeckhoven, Realtor
(318) 388-0941
Click here for last month’s Talkin’ Dirt with Kathy Article

One thought on “Talkin’ Dirt with Kathy – May Dirt

  1. Pingback: Talkin’ Dirt – Travel Alert! « John Rea Realty

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