Plants can attract hummingbirds

Here are some of the questions that crossed my desk recently.

Q: Do you have a list of plants I can feed my hummingbirds?

A: Here are some: hollyhock, columbine, foxglove, salvia, geranium, California fuchsia, zinnia, trumpet creeper, honeysuckle, abelia, butterfly bush, bottle bush, western redbud, lantana, rosemary, yellow bells, silk tree and desert willow.

Q: How can we get rid of a mockingbird that sings all night? Not even earplugs soften noise.

A: “Find him a girlfriend and he will quiet down,” said Rita Schlageter of the Red Rock Audubon Society. Sometimes we forget the important things.

Q: Why is my yucca plant looking so sick?

A: I strongly suspect agave weevils are having a heyday inside your plants. At this stage, there is not too much you can do. But protect other agave and yucca plants around it by drenching the plant’s base with a systemic insecticide to get them as they attempt to enter. I was in a subdivision where this little critter had just about killed all of the weeping yuccas.

Adult agave weevils are dusty black weevils about one inch long, with long snouts and without wings so they must migrate from one yucca or agave to the next. The larvae are similar to white grubs. As adults chew into leaves, they introduce a bacterial rot necessary for larval development. Eventually, larvae burrow into the plant and it collapses into a rotting mess. Remove any infected plants and any larvae or adults as soon as you suspect damage.

Q: How high do I mow my fescue lawn during the summer?

A: Mow it up to three inches tall. The higher cuts encourage grass roots to go deeper. The added height also acts as mulch, reducing the need for water.

As we go into hot weather, fertilize to take your lawn through the summer. Nurseries have several options available. Of course, irrigate after feeding to move nutrients into the root zone.

Q: Do subsurface irrigation systems have maintenance issues like above-ground systems? It seems it would be difficult to do maintenance without having to dig up your grass.

A: I love my subsurface irrigated lawn. I had a few problems to begin with, but my grandchildren can play on it anytime; I never have to replace sprinkler heads; never have to shut it off during winds and never waste any irrigation water. Sub irrigation has come a long way since it inception.

Q: We are taking advantage of the rebate program with the Water Authority to remove our grass and put in a “Water-Smart” landscape. How do we remove the fescue?

A: You can do it one of three ways: Scalp it to bare ground, grub it out or rent a sod cutter. Scalping is the easiest.

Q: We are moving to the west side of valley and want to take our roses. Can this be done now?

A: It is perhaps the most difficult time to move roses. You’ll sever a major portion of roots from plants, and they’ve already expended lots of stored foods to produce new roots, stems, leaves and flowers. That will place a tremendous drain on food reserves to re-establish again. However, if you planted them within the past year, they may pop out of the ground and easily make the transfer. Or, if you know the name of your roses, consider purchasing new ones for your new home. Or make a deal with those who purchased your home to remove them this fall, and they will have this winter to re-establish before it gets hot.

Q: What is eating raisin-size holes in my green tomatoes?

A: If the holes are in fruit located up in the plant, it is most likely the tomato fruitworm. When this worm moves on, the tissue around the hole becomes callused. Do one of two things: Pick these insects off at night or early in the morning, or use an organic compound called Bt, sold at your nursery. Bt also takes care of the tomato hornworm and grape leaf skeletonizers.

Q: We picked a couple of ripe tomatoes and found they had brown sunken spots on the blossom ends. When opening up the fruit, they were not desirable to eat.

A: You described blossom end rot, and it is running rampant at this time of year. The reference books tell you it is a calcium deficiency and it is, but it’s brought on by irregular watering practices. Water dissolves calcium from soil for plant uptake.

When analyzing the situation, there is a lot happening within your tomatoes: They are growing roots, stems and leaves. When fruit sets on, there is an increase demand for calcium. If it is not available, blossom end rot develops. Mulch plants to slow evaporation from soil and maintain a steady moist soil during fruit production.

Q: What is causing the lower leaves on my tomatoes to turn a crispy brown?

A: You most likely have a spider mite infestation. They are running rampant this year. They cause dry, dusty conditions down in the plant. To get rid of them, wash plants down weekly with a strong jet of water or use insecticidal soap if they get out of hand.

Q: How do I prune my climbing roses?

A: As they finish blooming, cut canes back so they are four to five feet long. Train new growth to twist and turn around supports and it will double the number of flowers. Fertilize them with a balanced rose fertilizer, and if leaves yellow, add iron.

Q: I cut my roses back to the crown this spring and didn’t get many blooms. Do you know why?

A: That severe of a cut throws your rose into shock. Save at least a foot or so of cane next spring to restart your plant. As new roses fade, reach down in the bush, and when you find a leaf, cut out the spent rose and new roses will come from that cut.

Q: I want to trim my bottlebrush, but don’t know when or how to exactly do it right?

A: Remove spent flowers and seed capsules back to a lateral branch and remove any damaged or dead infesting wood. If some branches are extending too far out from plant, nip them back, too.


In honor of Father’s Day, join me for a plant giveaway at the Dr. Green Thumb booth at the Preserve’s beautiful botanical gardens from 10 a.m. to noon June 13 at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. The free plants are either native or desert adapted and are a perfect addition to any yard. In order for you to receive a plant, you must answer questions related to that plant. Don’t worry, we will assist you with the questions.


It’s the Springs Preserve birthday! The Preserve will be a year old on June 8. There will be an ice cream festival co-sponsored by Anderson Dairy, Wholesale Foods and AV Vegas from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 8 at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Festive events will take place, including behind-the-scenes tours of the certified environmentally friendly buildings and exhibits that have won numerous architecture awards. Experience a flash flood, see wild animals and reptiles in their habitat and come see the greatest part — I’m prejudiced — the gardens. See you there.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 822-7754.

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