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Tropical Fans, Giant Alocasia

TROPICAL PLANTS CAN BRING AN IMPRESSIVE visual effect to the summer garden. They actually thrive in the heat and humidity in Kentucky. One tropical plant that grows well both in the ground and in a container is Alocasia odora, giant alocasia, commonly called giant elephant ear.

IN ITS NATIVE ENVIRONMENT OF SOUTHEAST ASIA, you can expect to see them growing 6 feet tall or more and have leaves that can be 4 feet wide. We are not so fortunate in Kentucky where the giant alocasia is not cold-hardy and must be overwintered indoors. When grown in a container approximately 12-14 inches in diameter, you can expect this plant to grow 4 feet or so and the leaves will become 10-20 inches wide. When planted in the ground for the summer, it can get larger but it must be dug in October and potted up, which can be stressful on the plant.

THE LARGE HEART-SHAPED LEAVES are smooth and waxy, and its upright habit with leaves facing toward the sky makes it look taller than it really is. A true bog plant, it can be planted at the edge of a pond or pool for the summer where the soil is always moist. It also performs well in a container with a drain hole or without. It prefers a soil rich in organic matter, and needs to be in moist soil at all times for best performance. Only light fertilization in the summer is necessary to keep the giant alocasia looking its best.

IT PREFERS PART SHADE but will grow in full sun with adequate moisture. The leaves are darker green in the shade and more yellow green when grown in the sun. I often use this plant in summer container displays because it is so low maintenance, and you get a lot of beauty for such little effort.

by Angie McManus

Q My father-in-law purchased 2,4-D for spot spraying on his lawn this year. I am thinking of buying a pull-behind sprayer next year and spraying my 2 acres with lots of clover and other weeds and grasses. How safe is this herbicide around trees and shrubs? I have oak, maple, evergreen trees, holly, lavender, and other shrubs. This product sounds good, but I don’t want to kill my mature trees.

A 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) is a post-emergent herbicide used to kill broadleaf weeds. It is effective on annual, biennial, and perennial broadleaf weeds, but is not effective on the grasses you mention, which is why it is so commonly used for weeds found in lawns. It does not have the same active ingredient as Roundup (glyphosate), which is a nonselective herbicide that will kill basically anything it comes into contact with. The 2,4-D can still potentially damage your trees if it reaches shallow roots and is absorbed through the root system. Spot spraying is the best method for a controlled treatment, but otherwise may put your trees at risk. This herbicide is available in both amine and ester formulations.

If you choose to use it, be sure to purchase a product that is labeled amine as it has lower vapor pressures; however, the amine formulation is typically less effective in terms of weed control.

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