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Happy Gerbera Daisies

PERHAPS THE LARGE 3- TO 4-INCH DAISY-LIKE FLOWERS that come in very bold colors are why gerbera daisies always receive a lot of attention in our garden center when they arrive each spring. A member of the sunflower family, their popularity in the United States began in the 1970s and they are still more popular as cut flowers than as garden plants.

THIS TENDER PERENNIAL IS VERY COLD TOLERANT in the garden, but is known to be temperamental, so it should be grown as an annual in our area. It can be grown either in ground beds or containers, but prefers rich moist soil with good drainage, and plants should not be allowed to wilt. There is a fine line between keeping them too wet or too dry.

FULL SUN WITH WARM DAYS AND COOL NIGHTS is preferred. In areas where summers are very hot, shade in the afternoon is needed. It is not uncommon for gerbera daisies to bloom their best in the spring with flower production slowing in the summer in response to longer days.

FLOWERS ARE THE REASON TO CHOOSE GERBERA DAISIES for your garden. From the basil rosette of foliage rise single flower stalks that can be 12 to 16 inches long. Each one holds an impressively large flower in single or semi-double blooms. Vibrant flower colors include red, yellow, and orange, while modern plant breeding has expanded the color palette to include white and a rainbow of other colors.

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR SPIDER MITES, particularly in the summer, and deadhead the fading flowers. Fertilize plants lightly twice a month with a balanced fertilizer to maintain overall beauty of the plant.

by Angie McManus

Q My azalea bushes are healthy but fall over as they grow. How do I prop them up correctly so they will grow upright?

A All azaleas belong to the Rhododendron genus. Although some are larger than others, azaleas do not typically fall over unless they are older and in need of pruning.

If your azalea is planted in too much shade, it may be reaching for more light; if your plant is younger and does not get at least three hours of sun, it may do better if transplanted where it will receive morning sun. Staking or tying up an azalea is not the best solution as this jeopardizes the aesthetics of the shrub.

If you have not pruned your azalea for several years, do so. The best time to prune azaleas is after they flower in the spring, but feel free to prune now to remove crossing, rubbing, or dead branches.

Make sure your pruners are clean and sharp and remove no more than one-third of the size of the plant. Pruning will encourage your plant to become more vigorous and full.

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