June 19, 2024


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Wait for spring to move crotons; azalea leaf drop is normal; and more garden advice from Dan Gill | Home/Garden

I have some crotons that have grown really well over the last two years, and I would like to relocate them from the front of my home to the backyard due to size. Is it OK to do so now, and if not now when? — Gary

Since crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) are susceptible to cold injury during winter, it is best not to move them now and stress them. Wait until cold weather lets up and move them in late March or April. Get as much of their roots as you can. That will determine whether they survive the move.

I hope you can help me. My azaleas have never looked like this even in the dead of winter. Lots of leaves are turning orange and dropping off. Thanks for your help. — Trisha Molony

This appears to be natural leaf drop. Although azaleas are evergreen, individual leaves do not live forever. Azaleas shed their oldest leaves sometime between November and April.

The old leaves of darker-flowering azaleas tend to turn orange before they drop. The old leaves of white- and paler-flowering azaleas tend to turn yellow before they drop. Plants may look a little thinner after leaf drop, but they will look fine again when the new, spring growth emerges.

I have heard that if you wet down your plants before a freeze it will help protect them from damage. I believe I have seen that citrus and strawberry growers do this. Will this work? — Chuck Bordelon

We have had a remarkably mild winter so far, but intense cold is still possible over the next four to six weeks. The short answer to your question is no. If the weather has been dry, it is important to thoroughly water your landscape plants before a freeze occurs. Plants that are drought-stressed often suffer more injury during freezes; however, watering does not actually provide any protection to tender plants.

To protect plants with a covering of ice, the spray of water must start just before freezing temperatures begin and continue constantly until they end. Liquid water must be continually applied for the protective benefits to occur. This technique is not generally practical in the average landscape and can lead to damage to the plant from the weight of the ice and damage to the roots from excessive water when it melts.

We had a large water oak in our New Orleans yard that was eaten out by termites. We had it cut down, but lots of chippings and dirt remain. My husband wants to use the chippings and dirt to fill in holes in our Amite yard. The tree also had seasonal caterpillars. We have many live oak trees on our Amite property. If we transport that dirt/wood chip mixture to Amite, will the termites and caterpillars that were in that tree for years and years hitch a ride in that material and infest the trees in our Amite yard? — Terry

The caterpillars will not be transported, so that is not a concern. It is extremely unlikely termites would be transmitted. Only a living queen can establish a nest, and they are highly unlikely to survive once a nest is destroyed and the workers dispersed. So, spreading termites to other oaks with the material is not really a concern. That said, I’m not a big fan of moving wood materials around parishes.

The main issue is that using a mixture of wood chips and soil to fill holes is not a good idea. The wood chips in the material will decay and disappear over time, the level will sink and the holes will eventually reappear. Something like pump sand would be a much better choice to permanently deal with holes and low areas. The wood chip/soil mixture could be stockpiled on-site and allowed to compost (decay), then used to build or enrich garden beds.

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Dan Gill is a retired consumer horticulture specialist with the LSU AgCenter. He hosts the “Garden Show” on WWL-AM Saturdays at 9 a.m. Email gardening questions to gnogardening@agcenter.lsu.edu.