Gardening In The Panhandle

Plant Cupheas for Summer Flowers, Hummingbirds, and More


Cuphea ignea
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox

Cupheas are perennials that produce bright orange, red, yellow or purple flowers all summer and fall.  Some species are called cigar plants due to their tubular, cigar shaped flowers tipped in red or yellow (like a lit cigar). Others are sometimes called firecracker plants because their cylindrical flowers are bright red or orange (looking like a firecracker). By any name, their nectar-filled, tubular flowers are widely known for attracting large numbers of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. In addition, young stems of some species are reddish, further adding color and contrast to the usually narrow, lance-shaped green foliage.


As a group, cupheas grow best in full to part sun (the brighter, the better) and well-drained, moderately fertile soil. Cupheas are drought tolerant once established, but grow faster and larger with regular moisture and occasional fertilization. Their origins in warm climates allow them to thrive in heat, but likewise make some species sensitive to cold winters. Those that are frost tender along the Gulf Coast are best placed in a sheltered location in the garden. Cupheas are pest and disease resistant and are not invasive in Florida. They are not truly deer resistant, yet reports suggest cupheas are not favored by deer.

Cupheas are great summer performers in bright, hot and dry locations. Flowering begins in summer and continues through fall until short days and cool weather reduce flowering or frosts cause dieback. Along the Gulf Coast, cool winter weather slows them down, so re-growth doesn’t occur until mid to late spring, and flowering usually doesn’t begin until days and nights are warm. Growth and appearance of many cupheas are improved if plants are pruned or cut to the ground in late winter.

Over 200 species of Cuphea are native to Mexico and the warm-temperate and tropical Americas. Of these and their hybrids, the cupheas listed below are great summer-flowering perennials for the northern Gulf Coast.


Cuphea micropetala
Photo courtesty: Gary Knox


Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea)

This fine-textured plant produces red to orange tubular flowers about an inch long. This cigar plant is hardy to about 20°F. It grows about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide along the Gulf Coast, though it would be a larger, evergreen shrub in warmer climates. This cuphea tends to have lanky growth, so occasional summer pruning will stimulate branching which results in more dense growth.


Cigar Plant or Candy Corn Plant (Cuphea micropetala)

Flowers are 1.5 inches long, emerge pale yellow and gradually turn orange from the base upwards, offering a colorful, two-tone effect. Foliage is hardy to 25-30°F and this cigar plant is root hardy to at least 15°F. Stems should be cut back to ground level in late winter to keep the plant tidy. Clumps spread slowly outward by rhizomes, and the plant will reach 3 feet tall and wide along the Gulf Coast.


Cuphea schumannii
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox


Orange Cigar Plant or Schumann’s Cuphea (Cuphea schumannii)

This sprawling, floriferous cigar plant prefers moist, well-drained soil to thrive. Barrel-shaped, 1- to 1½-inch blooms are orange and yellow and sometimes have small purple petals at the tips. Flowers cover the branch terminals in the heat of summer and into fall. This plant is hardy in Zones 8 to 9 (at least down to the mid 20s°F). Unlike many other cupheas, leaves of orange cigar plant are oval- to heart-shaped. Stems grow 2 to 3 feet tall and readily flop or fall over. Plan to give orange cigar plant lots of room to sprawl through the garden!


Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox


‘David Verity’ Large Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ignea × micropetala ‘David Verity’)

This floriferous hybrid produces flowers that are dark orange with a short yellow-orange flared tip and purple filamentts. Well-adapted to the Gulf Coast, this plant is foliage hardy down to 25-30°F and root hardy to at least 15°F. In Zone 9 this plant will grow as an evergreen shrub up to 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, but it will be smaller in areas where frost or freezes occur. This selection is believed to be a hybrid between Cuphea ignea and C. micropetala that was given in the mid 1970s to David Verity, then the manager of the UCLA Mildred Mathias Botanic Garden. It was subsequently named for him when later brought into commercial production.


‘Vermillionaire®’ Large Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire®’)

This new hybrid appears to be a superior cuphea because it grows as a naturally compact plant that produces more flowers than other selections. ‘Vermillionaire®’ grows about 24 inches or more tall and wide with a compact, mounding habit. Orange tubular flowers are produced continuously until late fall. This cuphea is too new to know the full extent of its hardiness, but it is expected to be a perennial in Zones 8 and higher.


Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia)

Unlike the previous cupheas, this plant has small purple flowers, and some selections sport white flowers. Another difference is Mexican heather’s finely textured, bright green leaves. Gulf Coast Zone 8 plants are usually killed to the ground in winter, often recovering by summer but resulting in a compact plant growing less than 24 inches tall and wide. In Zones 9 and higher, Mexican heather is a larger-growing semi-evergreen tropical shrub. Reported pests are leaf-chewing beetles (Altica and Colaspis spp.) and the twig-dwelling lesser snow scale (Pinnaspis strachani). Mexican heather works well for edging beds or sidewalks, helping to define and soften pathways. Cultivars include Allyson, Lavender Lace, Purple Nurple™ and the white-flowered Monga (Itsy Bitsy° White) and ‘White Whispers’.

Bat-Faced Cuphea
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox

Bat Face Cuphea (Cuphea llavea)

Each 1-inch flower consists of a purple tube lipped with two red, upright lobes. By viewing the flower with its tip facing you, it takes only a little imagination to see the two red lobes resemble large “ears” above the purple “face” of a bat, hence the name. Along the Gulf Coast, bat face cuphea grows mound-shaped 8 to 24 inches tall and wide, depending upon the selection. It is very heat and drought tolerant but requires better drainage than the other cupheas. Bat face cuphea is evergreen down to the upper 20s°F and root hardy into the lower 20s°F. Improved forms of bat face cuphea include the cultivars, Flamenco Samba, Georgia Scarlet, Mellow Yellow, Miss Priss, Tiny Mice®, Sriracha™ Pink, Sriracha™ Violet, Torpedo, Vienco° Lavender and Vienco° Red.


Author: Gary Knox –

Gary Knox is an Extension Specialist and Professor of Environmental Horticulture with the University of Florida at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. Dr. Knox’s research interests focus on evaluating species and cultivars of woody plants for their invasive potential as well as for ornamental characteristics. In addition to research plantings, Dr. Knox is working with a nonprofit volunteer group to develop “Gardens of the Big Bend,” a series of botanical, teaching and evaluation gardens at the Center.

Gary Knox

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Grass Worms

If you are one of the many that have taken advantage of the frequent rain in order to establish a new lawn, keep an eye open for “grass worms”. Though truly caterpillars, not worms, these destructive, chewing insects can wreak havoc on new sod.

Sod Webworm Photo by: Lyle Buss UF

Tropical sod webworm larvae are destructive pests of warm season turfgrasses in the southeastern U.S. especially on newly established sod. Larval feeding damage reduces turfgrass aesthetics, vigor, photosynthesis and density, which is very evident on finer-bladed grasses such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass.  Adults, a dull brown colored moth about ¾ inch long, rest in sheltered and shrubby areas during the day and are active at dusk.  Females deposit clusters of 10-35 eggs on the upper surface of grass blades.  The eggs hatch in 3-4 days and develop from a 1 mm long caterpillar to one over 11 mm long through six instars within 21 to 47 days, depending on temperature.  Larval feeding occurs at night, leaving the grass looking ragged, shortened and missing.

Control should be against damaging larvae, not the flying moths. However, insecticidal soap applications to moth harboring areas can reduce re-population frequency if such areas are located.  Soil-drenching soap flushes can be used to find the caterpillars, especially in dry and hot grass areas.  Bacterial-based insecticides will control sod webworm caterpillars without impacting beneficial species as long as they are applied with each flush of grass growth.

Excessive fertilizing will lead to caterpillar outbreaks in lawns. Newly installed sod is usually rich in nutrients and rapid growing, which makes it very attractive to sod webworms.  Grass installation over the summer months should be immediately followed by sod webworm treatment.

Fall Armyworm Photo by: Lyle Buss UF

Fall armyworms are also attracted to newly installed sod. They feed any time of the day or night, but are most active early in the morning or late in the evening.  The 1 ½ inch long gray and white moth lays about 1,000 eggs in multiple masses on any vegetation.  Two to 10 days later, the small caterpillar hatches and begins to grow to nearly 2 inches long over a two week period.  The fall armyworm is easily recognized by its dark head marked with a distinct pale-colored inverted Y and the long black stripe running along each side of its body.  These aggressive feeders “march” rapidly across grassed areas consuming every above-ground plant part.  While bacterial-based insecticides will reduce the numbers, control of armyworms usually requires synthetic insecticides.  Diligent inspection and early pesticide application is critical to establishment of new sod installed during the summer months.


Author: Sheila Dunning –

Sheila Dunning

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Ethnobotany: Where History and Medicine Meet the Forest

Ethnobotany: Where History and Medicine Meet the Forest

The passionflower vine is beautiful and attracts butterflies, but can also be used for food and sedation drugs. Photo credit: Dorothy Birch

Ethnobotany lies at the intersection of culture, medicine, and mythology. The “witch doctors” and voodoo practitioners, the followers of the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, and the wise elders of ancient Chinese civilizations are all ethnobotanists. So, too, are the modern day field biologists who discover and develop medicinal plants into an estimated half of our pharmaceutical drugs. Simply put, ethnobotany is the study of how people and cultures (ethno) interact with plants (botany).

For tens of thousands of years, humans have been learning about plants’ chemical, nutritious, and even poisonous properties. Plants evolve these properties to defend themselves against pathogens, fungi, animals and other plants. Other properties, like color, scent, or sugar content may attract beneficial species. Humans most likely started paying attention to plant characteristics to decide whether to eat them. From there, one can imagine people started using plants to build structures or use fiber for ropes, baskets, and clothing.

My first experience with the idea of ethnobotany was as a college student on a study tour of Belize. A professional ethnobotanist took us on a tour of the Maya Rainforest Medicine Trail, pointing out dozens of native trees, shrubs, and grasses used for medicinal and cultural purposes by local tribes. From birth control and pain relief to chewing gum and pesticides, the forest provided nearly everything Central American civilizations needed to survive for thousands of years and into the present. The tour captured my imagination as I considered the possibilities yet undiscovered in the deep rainforests worldwide.

Of course, there is no need to travel out of the country, or even the state, to learn about useful native plants. One of my favorite publications put out by UF IFAS Extension specialists is “50 Common Native Plants Important in Florida’s Ethnobotanical History.” Another fascinating source of information about historic, cultural, and even murderous uses of plants is Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. Plants with interesting historical uses make for great stories along a trail, and help create a connection between the casual observer and the natural world around them.

A handful of interesting native plants with significant medicinal properties include the cancer-fighting plants saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). Saw palmetto berries are used for prostate cancer treatment, while the $ 350+ million annual Florida mayapple harvest helps produce chemotherapy drugs for several types of cancer. The carnivorous bog plant, pink sundew (Drosera capaillaris) uses enzymes to break down insect protein, and Native American tribes used the plant for bacterial and fungal skin disorders.

Sundews, tiny carnivorous plants found in pitcher plant bogs, use an enzyme to dissolve insect proteins. Native Americans recognized this property and used the plant for skin maladies. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Many plants had (and still have) multiple uses. Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) leaves brewed as a highly caffeinated tea were used ceremonially and before warfare by many southeastern American Indian tribes, and then later by early American settlers when tea was difficult to import. Holly branches were used for arrows, and the bark for warding off nightmares. The purple passionflower, or maypop (Passiflora incarnata) vine attracts butterflies and produces a pulp used for syrups, jams, and drinks. Passionflower extract has also been developed into dozens of drugs and supplements for sedation.

Early civilizations living closer to the land knew many secrets that modern medicine has yet to unlock. Thanks to the ethnobotanists, the field and forest will continue to heal and provide for us for many generations yet to come.

CAUTION: Many of the plants listed or referenced can have hazardous or poisonous properties without appropriate preparation or dosage. Allergic reactions and prescribed drug interactions may occur, and many unproven rumors exist about medicinal uses of plants. Always consult a physician or health professional before trying supplements.


Author: Carrie Stevenson –

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

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Surefire Shrubs for Containers

Growing in containers can be one of the most versatile ways to add color, texture and mobility to the landscape.  However, gardeners generally reach for finicky annuals to fill their pots with pizzazz.  The problem with this strategy is that most annuals and perennials need to be watered constantly, fertilized regularly, and changed out with the seasons.  That sounds like a little bang for a whole lot of buck!  I and most of the real plant people I know fall squarely in the school of lazy gardening and believe there is an easier, less intensive, and ultimately less expensive way to get the same result.  This can be accomplished by thinking outside the box and using an alternative class of plants that can fit the same bill of providing color and texture in pots without the headaches and have been sitting on the shelves right in front of us the whole time, the shrubs.

It is beyond me why shrubs aren’t used as container plants more often.  Maybe the reason for the lack of use is pure perception; after all, no one with any sense would plant a giant, coarse green meatball or an enormous antebellum azalea in a decorative pot on their front walk.  Recent innovations by plant breeders have left this argument moot though as new introductions of old species have revived interest in the entire group.  Many of the best of these new cultivars sport traits perfect for container culture (dwarf growth habit, increased flowering, and interesting texture and form) while preserving the ironclad, undemanding nature of their parent plants.  The following are a few of my favorite new shrub introductions for container growing!

  • ‘Purple Pixie’ Loropetalum

    Purple Pixie loropetalum is a low-growing shrub that can spill beautifully out of a container. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)

If interesting architecture is what you require in a plant, ‘Purple Pixie’ must be on display in your yard.  This dwarf cultivar of the wildly overused purple shrub Loropetalum chinense has taken the horticultural world by storm.  The unique combination of true purplish foliage that only greens slightly in the hottest summer sun, ribbon-like pink spring flowers, and a graceful weeping habit make ‘Purple Pixie’ a winner.  Give this plant a medium sized container (at least 12” in diameter), water when the soil begins to dry, fertilize infrequently with a slow-release formulation, site in full sun to partial shade, and enjoy for many seasons to come.

  • ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum

This is definitely not your granddaddy’s Ligustrum.  Gone are the rampant growth, sickly sweet smelling flowers, and the aggressive nature of ‘Sunshine’s’ parent Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense).  ‘Sunshine’ is a sterile cultivar with dwarf characteristics (growing 4-5’ with infrequent light pruning), vivid yellow-chartreuse foliage, and most importantly, no flowers.  All ‘Sunshine’ asks of us is plenty of sun, occasional fertilizer and a light haircut once or twice a season!  Use this plant to frame a dark flowerbed or in a container as a companion to the previous plant, ‘Purple Pixie’ Loropetalum for an extremely striking combination!

‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum. Photo courtesy of JC Raulston Arboretum.

  • ‘Baby Gem’ Boxwood

A new take on a landscape standard, ‘Baby Gem’ is an exceptionally compact and slow growing cultivar of Buxus microphylla var japonica.  All the same features gardeners love about traditional “full-size” boxwoods remains (tight, formal growth habit, ability to prune into many different shapes and ironclad constitution) but with ‘Baby Gem’ are delivered in a perfect package for a pot.  This little “gem” of a plant is perfect for use in a smallish container to frame a formal landscape or to give a sense of order to an informal container garden or border!

So if you’re ready to stop replacing all of your potted plants each and every season, reach for one of these shrubs the next time you are at a garden center.  You’ll likely be rewarded with compliments on your creativity, four season interest from the plants themselves, and more time to enjoy being in your garden instead of laboring in it!  As always, if you have any questions about this or any other horticultural topics please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office!  Happy Gardening!


Author: Daniel J. Leonard –

Horticulture Agent, Walton County

Daniel J. Leonard

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Summer Irrigation Tips

July’s hot summer weather has given way to August’s 31 days of what will likely be temperatures and humidity equally elevated and intense. Wishes for November’s cooler thermometer reading are already creeping into daily conversations. The lawns and gardens in Wakulla County have rains as a mitigating factor to counteract the wilting potential of normal to excessive temperature readings. Unfortunately the arrival of water from above is not on a set or easily predictable schedule.

Traditionally, summer is the wettest season in Florida, with more than half of the annual rainfall occurring during the June to September “wet season”. Florida’s highest average annual rainfall occurs in the Panhandle with averages exceeding 60 inches per year. The Pensacola and Tallahassee weather stations are listed among the ten “wettest” stations in the nation. Still, this pattern of seasonal precipitation can vary greatly between locations, years and even days.  This variability often results in the need to water the lawn, landscape and garden. By following a few guidelines, you can produce the best results for plants under stress and conserve a vital and limited resource.

It is most efficient to apply water between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. for several reasons. Only water that is in contact with roots can be absorbed by the plant. If water is applied after 10:00 a.m., a substantial portion of it will evaporate before it reaches the roots; more will then need to be applied and this resource’s productivity will be reduced. Never water late in the afternoon as evaporation will still be a problem, and wet turf and plants will invite a variety of fungal diseases to flourish as night settles.

Photo Courtesy: Les Harrison, UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension

In the case of landscapes and gardens, water should be applied only when the moisture in the root zone system has been depleted to an unacceptable level, usually by 1/2 to 2/3 of the stored soil-water. There are several ways to determine when the soil-water reservoir has been depleted beyond an acceptable level.  The simplest method is a visual inspection of the turf or plants. Common symptoms of water stress include leaf color changes to a bluish-gray tint, footprints which linger long after being pressed into the grass and curled or folded leaf blades. Be sure the sprinklers are delivering water to the target area as water which misses the soil and is applied to hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks will be wasted. It also may pose an environmental problem in the form of runoff.  Surface runoff that flows past the landscape will usually reach streams, ponds, or the Gulf of Mexico. If it picks up pollutants along the way, they too will reach the surface water bodies. 

Over watering can be just as damaging as too little water. Excessive irrigation water can infiltrate the ground and reach groundwater aquifers. This issue is complicated when groundwater runs close to the surface. Excessive nutrients or pollutants can be discharged into surface bodies or move vertically into the deeper land layers.  The connected springs and sinkholes in Wakulla County make the movement of surface water a common concern.  Responsible and efficient irrigation will have positive effects far beyond the front yard.

To learn more about the effective use of water in Wakulla County’s landscapes, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or


Author: Daniel J. Leonard –

Horticulture Agent, Walton County

Daniel J. Leonard

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Pickleweed – A Novelty Plant

I encountered pickleweed (Salicornia sp.) on a recent trip to Utah. I first noticed the plant growing in the bank of a pond at a salt factory. A sample was pulled for further investigation and it was determined to be some type of pickleweed. Pickleweed also happens to be a common name for a plant that grows here in Florida. The scientific name of the pickleweed found in Florida is Batis maritima. This article will focus on the pickleweed found in Utah.

A salt factory in Utah.

A salt factory in Utah. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

A pickleweed pulled out of a pile of salt.

A pickleweed pulled out of a pile of salt. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

As you might have guessed, pickleweed is a salt loving (halophylic) plant. It is a member of the plant family Amaranthaceae (previously Chenopodiaceae), which also includes Russian thistle (Salsola iberica) a.k.a. tumbleweed. You won’t be happy to know that Russian thistle has found its way to our beautiful Florida beaches and is spreading. At first look, pickleweed seems to have no leaves, but its central stem is surrounded by succulent, salt storing leaf tissue. It is often spoken of as the “cactus” of the Great Salt Lake since it has no visible leaves and only a smooth green stem.

Pickleweed can be found growing in both coastal and interior portions of the United States. The variety growing around the Great Salt Lake is different from the coastal varieties due to its adaptation to this extremely salty environment. The Great Salt Lake has a salt content of about 30% whereas the Gulf of Mexico has a salt content of around 3%.

Pickleweed can also be found growing in the western landscape adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. These areas contain an interesting type of soil made up of ooids. Ooids are brine shrimp feces coated with layers of aragonite (a form of calcium carbonate CaCO3). Ooids can also be found on the east coast of Florida.

Pickleweed and other plant species growing in the Utah landscape near Timpie Springs.

Pickleweed and other plant species growing in the Utah landscape near Timpie Springs. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

Although you probably won’t find pickleweed (Salicornia sp.) growing in a typical Florida Panhandle landscape, you might want to give it a try in your container garden or kitchen window. As you can see in the pictures, this plant likes to be neglected. It is difficult to grow at home. It needs a good amount of nitrogen and water. And it may benefit from periodic additions of table salt (sodium chloride). It needs to be in an area that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Seed and cuttings will be hard to come by. You will most likely have to take a trip to Utah to find a source.

Interestingly enough, some cultures use this plant as a vegetable/herb. You will need to conduct some more research if you wish to cook with pickleweed and remember to lay off the salt!


Author: Matt Lollar –

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

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Gardening in Containers Workshop – August 19

The Jackson County Master Gardeners will host a “Gardening in Containers” Workshop on Saturday, August 19 from 9 AM to 2 PM at the Jackson County Extension Office, 2741 Penn Ave., Marianna, FL.  The workshop will give you simple tips on growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers in containers.  Bring your own unique container.  Plant material and soil will be provided.  The workshop is $ 25 and includes a home cooked lunch.  Please see the flyer below for more details and call 850-482-9620 to pre-register.


Author: Matt Lollar –

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

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Safety and Best Management Practices Essential for Pesticide Use

Many folks may not realize it at first, but everyone is using pesticides. Have you recently used a mold or mildew removal cleaner in your bathroom? Do you apply flea & tick powder to your pet? It is a misconception that only farmers, ranchers and lawn and garden enthusiasts are pesticide users. So, let’s all keep safety in mind, as any of these household and outdoor chemicals can be dangerous.

Example of Precautionary Statement and Personal Protective Equipment Instruction. Credit: UF/IFAS Extension

Pesticides include a wide range of products that either kill or repel pests. These pests can be insects, nuisance animals, weeds, plant pathogens, molds and other undesirables. Are pesticides necessary? Maybe not. Pesticides should be considered as a last resort. Using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach is an environmentally safe, and often, economical way to reduce pests. Usually, there are four steps involved in IPM, starting with the practice with the least environmental impact, until a solution to the pest problem has been found. For example, say that you are having issues with aphids in your garden. The IPM approach may begin with cultural measures (ex. avoiding high nitrogen fertilizer as it promotes lush growth that creates a favorable environment for aphids). This may be followed by mechanical measures (ex. use of insect netting) and if problem still exists, biological measures (ex. release of parasitic wasps). As stated earlier, the last resort would be chemical measures (ex. applying pesticide). There are varying IPM strategies for different pests. Please visit the UF/IFAS IPM website for more information:

When pesticide usage is necessary, it’s important to select the right chemical(s). Once the pest has been identified, check pesticide labels under the section “pests controlled”. Never assume a pesticide will control a pest not listed under this section. Often, there are numerous products that list a common pest. Always consider five factors when determining the right pesticide: environmental friendliness, effects on beneficial organisms, ease of use, available application equipment and cost.

Once a pesticide has been chosen, be sure to follow the directions. It is critical to mix a concentrated pesticide accurately, therefore follow the product label. Diluting concentrated pesticides by mixing with water is necessary to achieve the correct concentration. Increasing the concentration is dangerous and will have a negative response. The response can be environmental harm, damage to desirable plants and beneficial organisms and above all, it’s illegal to apply rates greater than the specified label.

Remember, pesticide exposure can be life threating under certain circumstances. Pesticides can enter the body in several ways. The most common entries are mouth, inhalation, eyes or skin. Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when mixing and applying pesticides. Precautionary statements for humans and domesticated animals will be supplied on the product label. Examples of safety information are: causes eye irritation, harmful if swallowed or avoid contact with eyes or clothing. Dress accordingly based on the safety information supplied by the product label. Some types of PPE are long rubber gloves, goggles, respirators, waterproof apparel and rubber boots.

All pesticides should be stored out of the reach of children. Pesticides stored in any container not deemed pesticide compatible (ex. canning jars and food or soft drink containers) is illegal. For more information on pesticide safety and best management practices, contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Homeowner’s Guide to Pesticide Safety” by Frederick M. Fishel:

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.


Author: Ray Bodrey –

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture & Natural Resource, Horticulture, Sea Grant

Ray Bodrey

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Recent Weather Fueling Fungi

Florida’s panhandle has received quite a bit of rain this summer. In the last three months, depending on the location, approximately 15 to 35 inches of rain have come down, with the western panhandle on the higher end of that range. In addition to the rain, we all know how hot it has been with heat index values in the triple digits. And who can forget the humidity?! Well, these weather conditions are just the right environmental factors for many types of fungi, some harmful to landscape plants, most not.

In the classification of living things, fungi are divided into their own Kingdom, separate from plants, animals, and bacteria. They are actually more closely related to animals than plants. They play an important role on the Earth by recycling nutrients through the breakdown of dead or dying organisms. Many are consumed as food by humans, others provide medicines, such as penicillin, while some (yeasts) provide what’s needed for bread and beer. However, there are fungi that also give gardeners and homeowners headaches. Plant diseases caused by various fungi go by the names rusts, smuts, or a variety of leaf, root, and stem rots. Fungal pathogens gardeners may be experiencing during this weather include:

  • Gray leaf spot – This fungus can often show up in St. Augustine grass lawns. Signs of this fungus include gray spots on the leaf (very descriptive name!). This disease can cause thin areas of lawn and slow growth of the grass.

Gray leaf spot on St. Augustine grass. Credit: Phil Harmon/UF/IFAS.


  • Take-all root rot – This fungus can attack all our warm-season turfgrasses, and may start as yellow leaf blades and develop into small to large areas of thin grass or bare patches. The roots and stolons of affected grasses will be short and black.


Signs of take all root rot. Credit: UF/IFAS.

Powdery mildew – This fungus can be found on many plants, from roses to cucumbers. It looks like white powder on the leaves and can lead to plant decline.

  • Armillaria root rot – This fungus can infect a variety of landscape plants, including oaks, hickories, viburnums, and azaleas. Symptoms can include yellowing of leaves and branch dieback, usually in adjacent plants. Old hardwood stumps can harbor this fungus and lead to the infection of nearby ornamentals.

Because fungi are naturally abundant in the environment, the use of fungicides can temporarily suppress, but not eliminate, most fungal diseases. Therefore, fungicides are best used during favorable conditions for the particular pathogen, as a preventative tool.

Proper management practices – mowing height, fertilization, irrigation, etc. – that reduce plant stress go a long way in preventing fungal diseases. Remember that even the use of broadleaf specific herbicides can stress a lawn and exacerbate disease problems if done incorrectly. Since rain has been abundant, irrigation schedules should be adjusted to reduce leaf and soil moisture. Minimizing injury to the leaves, stems, and roots prevents stress and potential entry points for fungi on the move.

If you think your landscape plants are suffering from a fungal disease, contact your local Extension Office and/or visit the University of Florida’s EDIS website at for more information.


Author: Mark Tancig –

Mark Tancig

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Small Cockroaches Flying Into Homes

Figure 1. Adult female Asian cockroach, Blattella asahinai Mizukubo, carrying an egg case (ootheca). Photograph by R.W. Baldwin, University of Florida.

The Asian cockroach was first identified as a newly introduced species in the U.S. in Lakeland, Florida in 1986. I started seeing this small cockroach in our area about 17 or 18 years ago. They’ve done well recently with the rains and their numbers are probably higher now as a result. They prefer warm, wet conditions. Populations of 30,000 to 250,000 per acre are reported in some literature.

They are mostly active at night, hiding in mulched landscape beds and lawns during the day. It’s not uncommon to disturb them as you walk through or hand water mulched plant beds during daytime hours. When doing so, the little roaches, which may be mistaken for small moths, quickly fly as they are disturbed.

Asian cockroaches occasionally fly into homes or automobiles at night, attracted to lights. Thankfully, they don’t live long indoors, though.

Control is difficult. Because they can fly 120 feet or more in a single flight, large areas around a home require treatment. And cockroaches in surrounding untreated areas (lawns, mulched plant beds and nearby woods) may result in re-infestation.

Traditional indoor treatments are ineffective because Asian roaches don’t typically live and breed indoors. The best control has been attained by using insecticide baits (labeled for roach control) in infested areas outdoors. Always follow the label directions and precautions when using any pesticide, including insecticides.

Sodium vapor lamps for outdoor lighting and yellow incandescent bulbs for porch lighting are less attractive to the flying adults.

Both the German and Asian cockroach adults are about 5/8 inch long and are brown to dark brown in color with two darker parallel bands running lengthwise just behind their head. But unlike the German cockroach, the Asian cockroach is a strong flier. Even though German cockroaches have wings, they do not fly. Also, unlike the German cockroach, which prefers to live indoors and is a major household pest as a result, the Asian cockroach prefers to live outside.

For more info on this roach species, visit the below UF/IFAS Extension EDIS website.


Author: Larry Williams –

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

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