Answers about daylily care, leaf miner

Question. We purchased daylilies that grew and flowered well this spring and early summer. Now that blooming time is over, what care do the plants need at the end of summer?

Answer. A few daylily blooms may linger on during the summer but most plants are only making new growth. A local grower once said he felt daylilies were almost aquatic plants. What he meant was they like consistently moist soil during the good growing weather. Keep a light mulch over the root system and make sure the ground remains moist. During hot dry weather, frequent watering may be needed. Also, keep the plants growing with a late summer fertilizer application when permitted. Use a slow-release product made for flowers that should feed the daylilies into fall.

Q. Tomato seeds started a few weeks ago have been growing outside in the sun. They have developed cream color lines and blotches in the leaves. What should I do?

A. One sure visitor to most tomato plants, young and old, is the leaf miner. These fly-type insects lay eggs that hatch into larvae that tunnel between the surfaces of the leaves. Some leaf miner damage can be tolerated, especially by older plants. But, when seedlings are affected, the damage can be devastating. It is best to obtain control of the leaf miner with a natural spray of a spinosad containing insecticide, usually found at independent garden centers in Bonide, Fertilome and Southern Ag products that control caterpillars. Follow label instructions to prevent further damage to the seedlings.

Leaf miner affects young tomato plants. (Courtesy Tom MacCubbin)
Leaf miner can affect young tomato plants. (Courtesy Tom MacCubbin)

Q. It has been dry in our area, and some portions of the lawn are struggling to survive. What can I do to make it healthy again?

A. Start the lawn revival by checking your irrigation system. Make sure the drought-stricken sections are receiving about an inch of water each time they are irrigated. Next, make sure the water is penetrating into the root zone and not running off the surface.  If needed, problem areas can be aerated with hand or power equipment to help water penetrate into the root zones. Also, the use of a wetting agent made for lawns might help. Hopefully, the summer rains can keep the turf moist, but when it’s dry, you have to do the watering. When October arrives, apply lawn fertilizer to the lawn, especially those that suffered summer drought, to help them make new growth and fill voids.

Q. I have several amaryllis in containers that bloomed this year and now have tall green and yellow leaves. Do I keep watering them, and when do I take them out of the soil to replant the bulbs?

A. Amaryllis grows year-round in Florida unless affected by the winter’s cold. Keep the soil moist and give them a light feeding every other month, March through October. Starting in November, allow the plants to remain on the dry side, only watering when the surface soil dries to the touch. This slows growth and sometimes helps promote spring flowering. Yellowing leaves and out-of-bounds growths can be removed as needed. You can keep the bulbs in the same containers or give them slightly larger ones if the bulbs have made lots of growth. Many amaryllis plants are also added to the landscape in sunny to lightly shaded locations after they have flowered in containers.

Q. I received a nun’s orchid growing in a large pot with a long stem of flowers. Do I cut the stem off now that the blooms are gone, and what care does the plant need?

A. Carefree and easy to grow is the best way to describe the nun’s orchid, named for the nun-like figure found inside each bloom.  Most gardeners do remove the old flower stems after the blooms fade. Some use these stems to grow more orchid plants by cutting them into 6-inch or so lengths and laying them lengthwise over a container of soil or vermiculite. When kept moist, they often grow small plants that can, in time, be removed to increase the collection. You can keep your plant in a large container for two to three years and then divide it to make more plants as it fills the pot. Keep the soil moist and feed monthly but lightly with a 20-20-20 or similar fertilizer during the warmer times of the year.  Also, keep the plant in filtered sun and protect it from the very cold winter weather. Some local gardeners also plant nun’s orchids in the ground in organic matter-enriched soil. Again, they want a filtered sun location plus a good mulch layer, which helps them survive the winters.

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Q. Our Boston fern is very full and appears healthy except for the leaves that have gradually turned lighter green. Does it need fertilizer, and what should I use?

A. Plants and animals are somewhat similar — they like to eat regularly. Your Boston fern does appear to be ready for good feeding with a house plant or similar fertilizer made for container plantings. You can use a regular and quickly available fertilizer solution monthly at half the normal rate during the warmer months. Or you can apply one of the slow-release granules that can feed the fern for months following the label instructions.

Q. Our hydrangeas are on the west side of the house and have a hard time with the heat. Can we move them to the east side, where they only receive the morning sun?

A. Morning sun and afternoon shade are a good combination for Florida hydrangeas. They can also be grown in spots with filtered sun throughout the day. Your note also said the plants are flowering, but they should be finished by now. Complete needed pruning and move the plants to their new location. Obtain a large ball of intact soil and make sure the plants are kept moist before and after the move.

Tom MacCubbin is an urban horticulturist emeritus with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Write him: Orlando Sentinel, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, FL. 32802. Email:

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