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Friday, June 19, 2015

Why Are My Hearts and Flowers Yellow?

Q. My Hearts and Flowers groundcover is yellow green, not deep green. Why?

Click here if you want to see aptenia

A. The primary reasons would be a lack of soil improvement at the time of planting, planting in extremely hot and bright locations and not applying adequate amounts of fertilizer. Plants growing in amended soils and fertilized quarterly will have fewer problems than plants growing in soils with little or no improvement.

What you are calling Hearts and Flowers is probably Aptenia, a waxy leafed succulent with small red or purplish red flowers that have flower petals that are spiky. The most common is a variety called ‘Red Apple’ with bright red flowers.

It originates from South Africa in regions with summer rains and sandy soils. This type of climate and soil is less extreme than our Mojave Desert. This is the reason our soils must be amended with a good quality compost at the time of planting if this plant is going to look good.

Good soil drainage is a must. This plant is native to the hot climate of South Africa provided there are summer rains and sandy soils. This means this plant must be planted in soils with good drainage if it will survive. Again, soil improvement is a must.

There is an iceplant also called Hearts and Flowers but Aptenia is more commonly planted here. In our climate, Aptenia takes full sun with amended soils but may look better if planted in full sun with shade or filtered light in the late afternoon under some circumstances.

Improving the soil at planting time is a must. Yes, it is a succulent and it will do well in rock gardens but remember Las Vegas soils are an anomaly. Soil improvement is critical compared to other parts of the desert Southwest and even other parts of the Mojave Desert.

Yellowing can be caused from a lack of nitrogen so make sure fertilizers are applied at least quarterly. Use a light application of Miracle Gro or similar product and apply an iron fertilizer at the time of planting just in case the yellowing is due from a lack of iron.

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