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Desert spoon does not like heat over 110 degrees

Q: Can you help us with our desert spoons? They seem too yellow. What should we be doing to make and keep them healthy? Also, what about the spike? A landscaper cut off the one on the other plant. What should we do?

A: Many plants get yellowish in the winter. It’s cold. But I don’t think that’s what you are asking about. Looking at the pictures you sent, the lower leaf tips are starting to brown. The pictures you sent look like it was warmer then.

Two points I need to make. Desert spoon (a xeric plant) comes from the cooler Chihuahuan Desert’s (also xeric) higher elevations. Desert spoon doesn’t like heat over 110 degrees very much. Plants such as desert spoon grow in that desert because it averages a higher elevation than the Sonoran Desert.

The natural response of desert plants that don’t like the heat is to develop leaf tip scorch. That’s what we see first.

Unfortunately, leaf tip scorch is also common with plants not getting enough water. When it gets above 110 degrees, then provide occasional irrigations: one deep irrigation every two to three weeks during the summer. That is occasional to xeric plants, and it might help reduce excessive brown leaf tips in this plant.

Have you heard of creating a “hydrozone” when an irrigation is designed? Mesic plants like to be watered more often than xeric plants. Otherwise, plants needing water drive the watering. Mesic plants like to be on their own valve. Xeric plants, as well, like to be on their own valve. I

n other words, your desert spoon may be watered too often. Mesic plants need water more often than a desert spoon, a xeric plant. All mesic plants need water more frequently than xeric plants.

If you are watering daily to keep something alive, don’t. That’s a big no-no, particularly for desert plants. Desert plants can easily develop root rot if the soil is always too wet.

Root rots can also create brown tips on leaves. It may have been planted in a very hot location, another reason.

Flower spikes can be removed anytime. If you don’t like them, remove them. You will not hurt the plant by removing them at any stage.

Q: My neighbor has a 5-foot-tall sago palm that she no longer wants. Can I transplant a large sago palm? What is involved in moving this palm?

A: Now is the right time to do it if you are going to do it. It depends on how long it’s been in the ground. The easiest plants to move have been less than three years in the ground.

Moving these plants is not as time-consuming as older plants. When trees are moved, one-third of their tops are cut back to compensate for the loss of roots. With sago palm, lower fronds are removed instead. If the plant has been in the ground longer than this, then most homeowners are nervous about whether it will make it or not.

Large sago palms (cycads) are hard to come by and expensive. If you want to try to save it, be careful when moving it. Perform this operation during the winter. At 5 feet tall, it will be a monster and heavy. Dig it, move it, and plant it, carefully, with two other people.

Tie the fronds up so the plant is accessible. Move it into a large container first and grow it in the shade the first year after it has been dug. When putting it into a container, fill the container with a planting mix and leave about 1 inch at the top to contain the water.

Container plants have a developed root system. Shade provides time for it to acclimate before plunging it into full sun. This way it will have a chance of sending out new roots and acclimating before it is plunged into the sun.

Another point to consider is its location after planting. East or north sides of a building are better for it than the hotter west and south sides.

Make sure the soil is amended when planting. Cycads, or sago palm, prefer growing in soil that has organics in it so make sure the planting soil contains about 2 percent when planting.

Move the plant into the container as quickly and carefully as possible. Plant it in the container wet. Water it twice when watering. Make sure water comes out the bottom and wets all the soil, not just the edges. Be sure the plant is at the same depth as it was growing in the landscape.

When planting, do it in late winter or early spring. Lower it into the planting hole carefully. It should face the same direction and be placed at the same depth as it was growing in the container. Stake the cycad for one season of growth. Cut the fronds loose at the end after it was planted, watered in, and staked.

Q: I received a plant as a gift. It had pretty pink flowers or reddish flowers when it was given to me. What can I do with it?

A: Most gift plants are meant to be thrown out after they are no longer wanted or look bad. Yours is a type of succulent called a kalanchoe. If you want to keep it, it is best grown as an inside plant with lots of indirect light. It will probably get damaged when temperatures approach 40 degrees and freeze when temperatures are 32 degrees. It is tropical.

If you decide to plant it outside then put it in the shade (or filtered light) on the north or east side of the home. It will like improved soil when planted and improving it once a year. When temperatures approach 40 degrees in late fall, bring it inside and put it near a bright window.

Q: We have a palm tree that has lost a branch stub here and there. I thought a picture would show the question.

A: To my knowledge, nearly all palms can be skinned. Removing stubs as you call them would be normal. As long as the trunk is healthy there is no problem.

Palm trees are really not trees. Palm trees grow like grass. They are considered a monocot. Woody trees like oaks, maples and mulberries, are dicots. The trunk of palm trees can get diseases that spread, but it is usually from planting them poorly or watering them too often.

Palm trees like their tootsies wet but the plant itself not growing in water. They are not water-loving but are considered oasis plants. Remove stubs when you like, but be careful not to damage the trunk.

I usually cut them close to the trunk with loppers, and let the stubs exist or rot off. However, skinning them may help contain bark scorpions.

Q: I am in tears. I had a gorgeous African sumac that had grown exactly as I wanted it to. I went on vacation and when I came back saw that my gardener cut all the lower limbs off my tree. Now, not only does it not spread out as far as it did, but it also lost all of its lower branches which blocked my neighbors from seeing into my windows. Will those lower branches grow back?

A: Short answer is yes. The rate at which they grow back depends on the tree’s vigor and size.

The vigor depends on its size or how long it’s been planted in the ground. If the tree has been in the ground for about 20 years, it usually is a bit taller than 20 feet and 20 feet wide.

Keep it healthy and well-watered. We don’t want it to grow too fast when it’s big, but you have special needs. An annual fertilizer application is all that is usually needed.

In this case, fertilize twice a year to stimulate new growth. Fertilizer applications twice a year will cause it to grow more rapidly and fill in places you are concerned about. Use an all-purpose landscape fertilizer such as 16-16-16.

Apply it the first time during the very earliest part of the spring and a second time just before it gets hot during the early part of summer. You should get denser by early summer.

In the case of your tree, the second application will be about 3 to 4 pounds of fertilizer. Find the drip emitters at different locations just under the rock or woodchips and apply about one latte-sized cup of this fertilizer under four to five emitters.

Make sure any fertilizer applied is no closer than 24 inches from the trunk of the tree. Water from the fertilizer will be dissolved and feed the tree for about one month.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert and professor emeritus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send questions to Extremehort@aol.com.

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