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  by Scott Acton, ArtisTree Lawn & Ornamental Director


Q:  I used to love my Nora Grant ixoras, but ever since our gardener left, all 20 of them are developing these red spots and the problem is just getting worse. What’s happening?

 A:  The better question might be, “What’s not happening?” Most likely your gardener was applying slow-release, nitrogen-based fertilizer with a balance of phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) to correct the deficiencies. Are the treatments being continued? The reddish leaf-blotch disorder indicates your ixoras are growing in calcareous sandy soil, which is unable to retain nutrients to protect against leaching. You need to add the missing nutrients but avoid using soluble, nitrogen-based fertilizers with high nitrogen content. Doing so will cause more red spots to appear because new growth will be starved of the same missing nutrients.

I’m not sure if your ixoras were planted before or after you moved into your home, but a word to the wise: soil testing will help avoid this kind of situation. If soil is alkaline and mostly sandy, don’t plant this shrub! Ixora can be a litmus test for the health of an entire landscape -- a bellwether of sorts for macro-nutrient deficiency systems. Since you have 20 ixoras, your best bet is to continue adding both phosphorus and potassium (not just one) to prevent the wine-red coloration in your plants’ oldest leaves. Your only other option is to replace them.



 by Maria Muhlhahn, ArtisTree Purchasing Manager, FCHP, FCEJ, ISA Certified Arborist


Q:  Several of my palm’s fronds need pruned. I’ve seen some palms in my community with a severe cut (only a few baby fronds are left at the top). Is that recommended?

A:  No. Unless palm fronds are growing through your pool cage or up into your home’s eaves, most palm canopies should be pruned to about a 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position. You should only prune brown or mostly brown fronds from a palm. Each frond is a source of nutrients, so every time you remove one, you’re reducing the food and energy it needs to grow and remain in tip-top shape.

A “hurricane cut” (as you described in your question) is one that’s made at an 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock position, which  makes your palm susceptible to reduced winter hardiness, increased stress and premature death. Hurricane cuts also weaken the canopy and trunk, which of course increases the likelihood of the palm becoming destabilized. Translation: Your palm will blow over if summer storms get strong enough and possibly damage your residence and surrounding property.

ArtisTree recommends that you contact a professional tree-care company, preferably one that has an ISA Certified Arborist, BEFORE Florida’s stormy summer arrives. The prospect of dangerously swaying palms should sway you to make that phone call today.


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 by Tim White, ArtisTree Pest Control & Fertilization Manager


Q:  My St. Augustine sod is turning brown in patches next to my sidewalk and driveway. Could you tell me what this could be?


A:  It sounds as if you’ve been visited by the Southern chinch bug, blissus insularis.  These small insects are approximately 1/8 inch long with straw-like mouth parts that feed on the fluids in grass.  They are typically active March through November, and St. Augustine sod is their favorite food. 

Chinch bugs are very difficult to control, because all stages of the insect (egg, nymph and adult) are present at the same time, and most insecticides do not kill the egg. One female can lay 300 eggs.

Hot, dry conditions are a breeding ground for chinch bugs, so you’ll often find them in stressed lawns and near structures that emit a lot of heat -- like concrete or paver walkways, foundations and driveways.

Chinch bugs do have natural enemies, but unfortunately they’re not abundant enough to kill these hungry pests. The best thing you can do to reduce your lawn’s susceptibility to chinch bugs is to mow your St. Augustine at three- to-four inches to ensure a strong root system. Make sure your irrigation system is providing adequate coverage since chinch bugs thrive in drought conditions. And walk your lawn every now and then. Regular lawn scouting can be effective for early detection and treatment. 

Be aware that not all damage to lawns is caused by chinch bugs; other factors can create similar appearances.  So do your due diligence and contact a professional. The first step for treatment is always proper identification of the problem. Hire someone who uses the best product available and knows how and when to apply it.



 by Mike Casper, Maintenance Operations Manager, ArtisTree


Q:  I’m building a new home in Southwest Florida and want to emphasize the architectural elements and landscaping with some cool lighting like I see in the magazines.  What does ArtisTree suggest?

A:  What a smart question, especially in light of (pun intended) the recent changes in bulb usage laws.  Regardless of which system you choose, outdoor lighting is a highly efficient way to add curb appeal, safety and security to your home.  Low-voltage halogen lighting has long been the industry standard for landscape lighting; however, new strides in commercial LED landscape lighting have made halogen a less attractive option. Both the flexibility and power requirements of a LED system save time and a ton of money over the life of the materials.  Also, the voltage-drop issues that can plague a halogen system are virtually non-existent. 

Energy efficiency is important when choosing an outdoor lighting fixture. For residential lighting, LED steals the show for being more energy-efficient and longer lasting than halogen.  Sure, halogen’s initial price is lower, whereas the initial investment in LEDs can be rather expensive. But one study shows a savings of nearly $8,000 in operating costs of a LED system over halogen based on the same number of fixtures, lamp wattage and usage in an 18-year timeframe.

Regardless of what system you choose, it’s important to remember that all lighting systems require a little maintenance from time to time.  You’ll need to check the wiring, clean lenses, and re-direct light to accommodate growth and changes in landscape.

Hope this sheds some light on the subject for you and that your results are every bit as good as what you’ve seen in magazines.




 by Shawn Gulbrandsen, ArtisTree Landscape Designer & ISA Certified Arborist


Q:  I read somewhere about a tree that has pretty yellow flowers and smells like Chanel No. 5. Do you what it is? My wife would love to have one if it’s not too hard to care for.

A:  Sounds like you’re talking about ylang ylang, or Cananga odorata. Ylang ylang (pronounced EE-lang EE-lang) is native to the rainforests of tropical Asian countries. This fast-growing ornamental tree has long, drooping branches with fragrant, chartreuse blossoms that take on a dark yellow hue just before falling off.

Ylang ylang will start showing pale green blooms when they’re three or four years old. It’s best to plant in full to partial sun where other trees create a windbreak (it IS delicate). Add top soil or peat when you plant; water regularly; and fertilize in spring, summer and fall. You’ll want to keep it professionally pruned to a height of 25 feet or less. You can plant as close as eight feet to your house since it doesn’t have a wide canopy.

Because I’m perfume-challenged (my wife will vouch for this), I had to do some research on what exactly ylang ylang smells like. Some women's fragrances that feature ylang ylang in their composition include Chanel No. 5, Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanilla, Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang, Estee Lauder Amber Ylang Ylang, Givenchy Amarige Ylang Ylang, Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps and Parfumerie Generale Ilang Ivohibe. Click here for other helpful education.

Specifically, Chanel No. 5 consists of the aromas of a rose, jasmine and ylang ylang flowers.

You didn’t ask, but ylang ylang tree is probably cheaper than a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Just guessing.


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Landscape Design



 By Maria Muhlhahn, ArtisTree Purchasing Manager, ISA Certified Arborist

Q:  I have a small courtyard area and want a nice accent palm that looks different and exotic. It can’t be too big. What do you suggest? I live in Southwest Florida.
A:  ArtisTree has the perfect choice for you: an Arikury palm with a trunk pattern like no other. The leaf bases or “boots” are purposely left a bit long to form a spiral pattern -- a sort of punk, spiky look that’s sure to turn heads. Growing to a maximum of about 10 feet, it’s the perfect accent for small or tight spaces such as a pool-cage planter, architectural alcove or smaller garden. We especially like the look of multiple Arikury palms lining a walkway surrounded by lower-story plants. Its feathery, dark-green pinnate fronds resemble a feather duster, only they’re much prettier (and dust-free, we might add).

Plant your Arikury in sun or shade (partial shade works best) and keep it out of wet areas for years of enjoyment. I’m confident that this feisty, fashionable palm will make a striking addition to your courtyard!





 by Chad Keech, ArtisTree Account Executive


Q:  The last time we had a frost, I covered my plants with plastic and they froze anyway. Should I have used something else?

A:  Yes. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is covering their plants with plastic during a freeze. Plastic conducts cold, so unfortunately, your plants were damaged even more than not having been covered at all. Instead, purchase frost cloth at any major hardware store, or use old sheets to cover your plants. Both of these materials are lightweight and able to breathe, plus they’re a much better choice than heavy tarps that can crush your plants.

Also be sure to remove your frost cloths and sheets first thing in the morning after an overnight cold snap. If you don’t, condensation can build up and freeze again under the covering. Click here for more helpful tips.


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Frost Protection


    by Tim White, ArtisTree Fertilization & Pest Control Manager
Q: I’m no tree expert, but I just had two palms installed, and the twine around the fronds was removed right away. Shouldn’t it be left on until the palms are established?

A:  You may be confusing twine-wrapping for wood braces that are positioned against the trunks to stabilize palms. Wood braces typically stay on for several months until a palm is established.

The twine around the leaves of a palm should stay on while the tree’s being transported, then removed immediately after it’s properly installed. Some people think twine should stay on a transplanted palm until it naturally breaks, or for six weeks after planting, or even for the entire first year.

Your landscape company did the right thing, so you have nothing to worry about. You can start enjoying the full beauty of your palms now “no strings attached.”    


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Tree Care





  By Shawn Gulbrandsen, ArtisTree Landscape Designer & ISA Arborist


Q:  I’m searching for a small, evergreen shrub that can complement my more colorful plants. I hate to say the word “plain,” but I’m really wanting something that doesn’t flower and is just one shade of green. What do you suggest? I live in Southwest Florida.

A:  We recommend the classy Buxus microphylla, more commonly known as Japanese boxwood. It’s an ideal low-maintenance shrub that can be manicured or trimmed occasionally for a more natural look. What we really like about this specimen is that it can take varying degrees of light and is drought-tolerant once established. You can easily keep it two to three feet tall; it’s a slow-grower.

You didn’t say what kind of other plants you have, but we think the Japanese boxwood looks awfully nice paired with society garlic, oyster plants, African iris or dwarf chenille. Let us know how it all turns out!




 by Shawn Gulbrandsen, ArtisTree Landscape Designer & ISA Certified Arborist

Q:  I have a question that’s been driving me batty.  My large bat plant is lovely when it blooms, but that rarely happens. I have mine in a moss basket that sits in a tray of water, and I occasionally apply Miracle Grow. What am I doing wrong?

A:  Ah, the hauntingly beautiful bat plant, also known as Tacca chantrieri. It enjoys filtered sunlight and warm, humid temperatures but does not like to sit in standing water (its roots are very delicate and will rot if left in the water too long).

Instead, fill your tray with pebbles and water, but don’t let the pot touch the water. This way the water can evaporate and provide air moisture around the plant. Also replace your Miracle Grow with a fertilizer that’s formulated for orchids and fertilize twice a month (except in the winter when the bat plant goes dormant).

Many people think it’s a scream to buy bat plants around Halloween and display them at parties as fun conversation pieces. And of course, the bat plant never disappoints. But I’ve heard too many horror stories about people letting their bat plants die a frightfully slow death because they just got tired of caring for them. At least yours stands a ghost of a chance because you took the time to write in! Good luck and we hope you enjoy continuous blooms next year.


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Landscape Design | Plant selection