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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Can We Plant in December and January?

Q. We are re-doing our whole front yard and just finishing up the drip lines. Is it too late in the season to put in new plants now?  We are planning on lantana, society garlic, red yucca, Mexican bird of paradise, and some deer grass.

A. We have entered the coldest part of the winter now in Las Vegas. We can expect temperatures to reach anywhere from mid teens to mid-20's late in the night depending on where you live. All of the plants you mention, except red yucca, could be damaged if you plant now. Larger, cold hardy trees and shrubs would still be okay to plant. Wait until after the coldest period of winter has passed to plant, about the first to the second week of February.

After you plant you should consider applying mulch to the soil surface surrounding them just to give them a little bit more protection. Whenever you are planting trees and shrubs into residential soils you want to mix good quality compost in the backfill surrounding plant roots. Use an equal amount mixed with the backfill surrounding plant roots.

Which Is the Best Pomegranate Variety?

Q. Which varieties of pomegranate are good to grow in the Las Vegas area?

Wonderful pomegranate grown in  Las Vegas
A. Southern Nevada is a good pomegranate climate, similar to the climates where pomegranates originated in south central Asia, Persia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.In areas: or than this pomegranates can freeze back. In warm but humid climates pomegranates have disease problems that we never see.

In the United States we have a wide selection of pomegranates available to us that have been collected from throughout the world. Some of the newer selections may be cold sensitive in parts of our Valley. I would stay away from unknown varieties unless you want to experiment.
Beautiful yellow pomegranate with red arils grown in Tajikistan

For the most part, all of the pomegranates available commercially do well. Of course the flagship pomegranate variety is ‘Wonderful’ with its beautiful outer and inner ruby red color. In actuality pomegranates come in a wide range of colors from dark purple to nearly black all the way to lemon yellow and off-white.
Pomegranates come in a wide range of colors on the outside but the inside of the fruit can vary from dark red to pink to white and from seeded to nearly seedless (soft seeds)

You will not go wrong with varieties such as ‘Sweet’ or ‘Eversweet’. A local favorite, sometimes referred to as seedless is ‘Utah Sweet’, a selection from ‘Sweet’. A variety from the former Soviet Union receiving rave reviews is ‘Parfianka’.

Other varieties I have liked include ‘Sharps Velvet’, ‘Red Silk’, ‘Pink Satin’ and ‘Grenada’. One variety I have been less than thrilled about is ‘Ambrosia’, and early producer but no flavor. I have seen no winter damage on any of the varieties I mentioned above.

What Causes Leaf Browning in Lilac?

Q. Since late September my five foot lilac planted on the West side of the house has been showing signs of stress. The lilac made it through the summer fine and all green but has recently shown browning of the leaves despite continuing to bud.  I read that fertilizers are not recommended or necessary but I am tempted to try.

A. Both common and Persian lilac grow in our climate. They will not do well in a rock landscape. They prefer soils higher in organic matter. If they are surrounded by rock, they will begin to decline in about 3 to 5 years, leaves will begin to scorch, you may see some branch die back, leaf drop and a reduction or no flowering at all.

Some varieties of lilac perform better here than others such as the early bloomers. An old reliable common lilac is Lavender Lady hybrid one of the first low chill lilacs produced. This particular variety requires less chilling and blooms well here. Another variety to consider might be Excel which also have a lower chilling requirement and is a very early bloomer. I would proceed with caution on low chill, late bloomers such as Angel White, California Rose and Esther Staley unless someone has had a proven record of good blooms and color.

This could be a location problem. A Western exposure is too hot for it. It likes sunlight but not combined with intense heat. It is best to have it in a location protected from late afternoon sun.

But I totally disagree that lilac doesn't require fertilizer. It not only requires fertilizer once a year applied after blooming but, under desert conditions, benefits from compost or organic amendments added to the soil. Lilac will perform well with some unamended arid soils but our desert soils in Las Vegas are just too low in organic matter. Lilac likes a richer soil than unamended desert soils can provide. It likes compost, wood chips as a surface mulch and fertilizer.