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Monday, June 27, 2011

Ironite May or May Not Turn Bottlebrush Green Again

Bottlebrush yellowing in rock mulch
Q. I have several miniature bottle brush plants, some of which are a very pale or faded green as compared to the others.  The red "brush" that is the flower seems pale as well.  Do you think "ironite" will take care of that? I used a liquid concentrate of iron and soil acidifier and that seems to have helped a lot.

A. Ironite may or may not take care of it. It may be a bit more of a deep-seated problem than just the iron alone and the Ironite may give the plant a temporary fix. Ironite relies on this product to increase soil acidity so that the iron in Ironite can be used by the plant. This will sometimes work depending on the situation but it is a “Band-Aid” approach to fixing the problem.

            Because Ironite works only “fairly often” I hesitate to recommend it for that reason. It usually works best on woody plants when applied in late winter or early to mid spring. Applications this time of the year of any product that adds iron to the soil may or may not work. At this time of the year you should focus on getting iron directly into the foliage. This requires spraying iron directly on the plant along with something that helps move the iron inside the foliage.

            You might try some multiple applications of iron sprays at this time of year combined with a liquid detergent or surfactant. The surfactant would be a liquid spreader/sticker combined with the iron spray.
Spreader Sticker Example

            You may be able to substitute a teaspoon of Ivory liquid per gallon of spray solution. This may require perhaps five or six applications about a week apart to get some re-greening. This varies from plant to plant. Some plants re-green easily while others are more difficult to re-green. Do this ONLY when air temperatures are cool and there is a chance of some leaf burning on some plants so don’t apply it hog wild.

            More of a long term fix is focused on improving the soil with amendments and the use of organic fertilizers. A better source of iron but more expensive would be iron 138 applied in late winter. I know that Plant World Nursery and Grow Well have carried it in the past. This is expensive but it goes a long way and requires only one small application of a few ounces per year in the early spring.

            You might consider fertilizer sources such as Miracle Gro, Peters or Osmocote applied a few weeks after growth resumes in the spring. These are good quality fertilizers which are not organic.

One of the iron 138 products

            Try your Ironite first but I think it may be a crap shoot at this time of year. The liquid foliar iron can be just about any liquid iron and does not have to be the expensive138 form. The 138 iron is really works best if applied to the soil more than a foliar spray.


  1. I shouldn't speak too soon but this year the zucchini bugs have not been as bad as normal in my garden. There are several differences this year in my crop selection and I wanted to know if any of them could have effected this. I usually alternate squash plants with tomatoes but this year changed out the tomato plants for cerrano(sp?) peppers. I also got some lettuce seeds in the mail, I don't know which variety, that I scattered in a small area. The lettuce grew like a weed and we had many a good salad from it. I finally had to pull the lettuce out but the peppers are still growing. Are either of these plants known to help ward off squash bugs?

  2. This was a very unusual year for us in the southwest. Weather was cooler than normal for a long time, even well into May. So many of our cool season vegetables like lettuce did very well for a long time. It also delayed the planting of many of our hot weather vegetables like squash and melons. The reason I mention this is that this is not a good year for comparison or to remember as normal. This has also affected the squash bugs. I do not know of any reason why any of the plants you mentioned should affect the squash or zucchini bugs as you call them. I would mark it up to a very weird spring, the time when these little critters start raising their families.