Weekly Home Horticulture Column
Q. I have tried to grow a Japanese maple a couple of times, but I haven't had much success. Do you have any tips? They were much easier to grow in northern Georgia.
A. North Central Florida climate can be a little tricky for Japanese maples, and that's why variety selection and finding the right spot in the landscape is critical for success. These beautiful maples, known for their fall foliage, do best in USDA hardiness zones 5-8. Most of our gardens are in zones 8b and 9, so we are a tad bit warm for this ornamental tree. Find a spot in your landscape that has partial shade, or at least shade from the hot afternoon sun, to plant your maple tree. The soil should be moist but well-drained. If possible, you can improve the soil by top-dressing with an inch or two of compost, annually. Be sure you mulch around the root ball of the tree to keep the soil cool. Plan on watering the tree until it becomes established, and during long drought periods.
Japanese maples have a beautiful form and can get to a top height of 20 feet. Some cultivars are much shorter, but those have a hard time with our heat. There are two varieties that seem to hold up to our hot summers and sandy soils. "Bloodgood" has bright red new foliage that, later in the season, turns to a dark green. "Glowing Embers" has good heat tolerance and, in the fall, the leaves can be orange to yellow.
Even if your Japanese maple is planted in the perfect spot, you might notice some leaf scorch or browning by September. For more information about Japanese maples, visit the UF/IFAS Extension website at www.solutionsforyourlife.com.
Q. I'm considering planting about four Italian Cypress trees in our yard (full sun area). I did a bit of research, and it looks like the trees are highly susceptible to spider mites. We're using it as a property border. Anything we should be aware of in regard to planting/maintenance?
A. Italian Cypress trees, or Tuscan Cypress trees, are tall, columnar evergreens that can grow to 40 feet tall. They used to be widely planted across Florida, but you don't always see them for sale in the nurseries anymore. They are prone to spider mites and a fungus that can cause branches to brown out and defoliate. This fungus (needle blight), and the mite issue, are made worse where there is poor airflow around the trees. Planting them in full sun, where there is plenty of air flow and where the foliage of the tree can easily dry out from dew, rain or irrigation, will help keep the fungus at bay. Hot and dry conditions favor spider mites; scout for these insects during times of drought, and be prepared to use an insecticidal soap or organic oil spray to control them.
You may want to consider other evergreens that have a columnar form, like sky pencil holly or columnar Japanese yew. For more plant suggestions, contact the UF/IFAS Alachua County Master Gardeners at 352-955-2402.
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Japanese Maple Leaves