From plants to animals in Las Vegas

Here are some questions I dealt with this week. I hope the answers are helpful to you.

Q: What is the name of low-growing ground cover with deep red flowers covering it I am now seeing around town?

A: I’m guessing it’s Dallas Red lantana and its deep red flowers are beautiful. You’ll find them at Star or Plant World nurseries.

Q: I want to plant a Desert Museum Palo Verde but people tell me it causes allergies?

A: You were told wrong. Plants with big, showy flowers like your mentioned tree, have large, heavy pollen grains so they can’t affect allergy sufferers. These showy plants rely on insects to transfer the pollen. It’s plants like mulberries and olives with small inconspicuous flowers that require wind to spread their pollen, and that’s what irritates sinuses.

Q: Why are my tree roots surfacing in my lawn?

A: You are watering to keep the lawn happy and forgetting about the tree roots. That is why they are surfacing, especially if you are following the lawn-watering guide. Normal lawn waterings only soak down about 4 inches. Trees want to survive just as much as you so they are adapting to their situation. There is no reason for the tree roots to grow deeper.

Q: Is it best to water the lawn in the evening or the early morning?

A: When asked this question, I kiddingly say what if I dumped a bucket of water in your bed at bedtime? The answer is obvious; water early in the morning. Watering in the evening creates a moist, warm environment encouraging molds and fungi. There are also less early morning winds for better water coverage.

Q: Can you provide me with a list of garden clubs or guilds in Las Vegas?

A: Yes said, Vicky Yuen, president of the Nevada Garden Clubs. “Go to our website,, where you’ll find all the clubs, where and when they meet and who to contact if you want more information.”

Q: Why are my mesquite tree branches dying back?

A: There are several factors that might cause the problem: water stress, overwatering, overpruning, herbicide damage, and construction around trees or planting too deep.

Planting too deep is frequently the cause. We call it crown rot. The added moisture against the trunk eventually rots the bark preventing nutrients from flowing within the tree.

The cure is to plant so the root crown, or zone where trunk tissue turns into root tissue, is even with the soil surface. If it’s too deep, pull the soil back a foot from the trunk down to where the roots begin the flare out from the trunk. Cover the now exposed area with decomposed granite or pea gravel so the trunk dries immediately after irrigations.

We often overlook construction or trenching around trees. You don’t see the damage until three or four years later.

Q: Why do the lower leaves on my corn look like someone took a torch to the edges?

A: It isn’t getting enough water, especially as it heats up. In the future, improve your soil. This improves its water-holding capacity, drainage and aeration and creates happier plants.

Q: Can you suggest a tall blooming shrub such as an oleander, but not poisonous and doesn’t cause allergies, to provide quick privacy?

A: You might consider clumping bamboo, not the spreading type. It grows tall, is very thick, takes our cold and heat but it doesn’t flower.

Q: Why are the leaves on my citrus trees dropping?

A: This is normal for this time of year for all evergreens. They are shedding last year’s leaves.

Q: Why are the bottoms of my tomato plants turning yellow and then brown from the base up?

A: It sounds like you have tomato russet mites. A miticide spray is the best control. Once mites get started they are very difficult to control, as it is so hard to get the miticide in where they feast.

Q: We live on the outskirts of town and gophers are burrowing toward our garden from the neighbors. How to we get rid of them?

A: For the best control use gopher traps. Place them in the gophers’ runways. In their dash to find the intruder into their runways, they run into the trap. Businesses catering to horse people sell the traps. Follow directions provided and keep your pets away. If they get caught in the traps, it can be gruesome.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 526-1495.