Thursday, June 20, 2024

Gardening with Dr. Joe White: Now is the time to plant hot weather plants

by BPT Staff
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It seems that the weather was so unpredictable this spring that most gardeners simply didn’t know what or when to plant their seasonal vegetables and flowers. Although there were several cool nights and days, some folks decided to plant warm season varieties anyway and take a chance that they would survive and produce…and I believe some did. However, warm season varieties of both vegetables and flowers get a faster start and begin to show more vigor sooner when planted in a warm soil accompanied by warm night temperatures and hotter days.

Dr. Joe W. White is a retired horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

Now that we are in the month of May, warm season plants should be able to perform at high levels as both soil and air temperatures are the conditions they need to flourish. Even now it may be a little late to put out tomato and bell pepper transplants because they may not fruit well if there’s too much heat before the plants are sufficiently mature to flower. Push the tomatoes by giving them a little ammonium nitrate when the first fruits reach the size of a ping- pong ball, but no sooner than that.

Vegetables that thrive in the heat of summer (if they receive a timely application of water) include eggplants, hot peppers, Southern peas, okra, sweet potatoes, watermelons, squash, cantaloupes and sweet corn. Consider planting sweet corn and Southern peas at two-to-three week intervals so that the harvest is spread out for a longer period. (After all, we can only eat so much at one time.) Unfortunately, late sweet corn is a primary target of the corn ear worm which must be controlled almost on a daily basis or they will leave you nothing to eat.

While there are several warm season annual flowers, not all ever make it to the Louisiana Super Plant list. Some to consider include angelonias, pentas, begonias, cleomes, alternantheras, lantanas, wishbone flowers, coleus and verbenas. One of the flowers that should have been on the foregoing list is the lisianthus. Since it’s not a popular flower, it may be hard to find. Also, it has extreme heat tolerance as well as other desirable qualities. It is actually a wild flower species that’s native to the western part of our country. Plant breeders have worked with this flower and although the native plant has light blue blossoms, the improved plants have flowers that are pink, purple, white, violet or yellow. Some cultivars even look like a rose while others resemble a poppy. The flower’s foliage varies from a gray to a gray-green. Stem height is usually about 18 inches to two feet. As a cut flower these plants and their blossoms have a very long shelf life in a water-filled vase.

The lisianthus seems to thrive in hot, dry weather and in July and August when many other flower species are just trying to stay alive, this flower is as happy as a lark.

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