May Care


May - Last Chance to Get Those Spring Chores Done by Lee Vanderpool 

May is the only time you have left to do all those things you meant to do when “the weather gets nice enough” but the weather did and you didn’t. You still have time to repot some of the azaleas (especially satsukis) but be sure they have finished blooming or remove all blossom buds. 

This is less than the ideal time to repot deciduous but they can be repotted in an emergency after the leaves have hardened, that is, as soon as the leaves have lost the soft newness of first flush. It might help in this case to either partially or completely defoliate the tree to reduce stress on the root system. If possible, don’t trim the roots but just set the tree into a slightly larger pot which can accommodate it until you can repot it properly in the fall. If you haven’t sprayed for those creepy crawly bugs for the first time, shame on you! Now is the time to try to get rid of insects, especially aphids which feed on the juices of new foliage. They can cause ugly disfiguration of new leaves and die back of new twigs if the infestation is bad enough. One of the easiest ways of disposing of aphids is to spray the tree with a strong jet of water. Once aphids are knocked off the plant, they do not return to it. Another pest which first shows itself around this time of year is white fly (actually a moth). This one is very, very difficult and can only be killed with a commercial insecticide. The problem is not really the little white moths but their larvae which look like scale on the underside of leaves. These larvae can only be killed by using dormant oil spray, sometimes known as miscible oil or summer oil. 

Many of the chemical companies make it and it is available at most large stores or nurseries. Follow the label directions and spray at regular intervals to keep the white fly population down. A side effect of white fly infestation is sooty mold, a black, soot-like coating of the leaves. Sooty mold lives on honeydew secreted by the white fly larvae and it attracts bees, fly and ants. This will disappear if you can get rid of the moths. 

Gardenias, persimmons, citrus, camellias and other thick leafed plants seem to attract white fly. Don’t forget to begin your yearly regimen of fertilizing, applying fungicide, stepped up watering and shading from the hot midday sun. Plant seeds of new plants you may want to try as bonsai in a few years. You can still stick cuttings of new wood. Any cuttings must be kept extra moist now that the heat is beginning to build and the sunshine is getting stronger. Enjoy the summer. 

© Fort Walton Beach Bonsai Society (FWBBS) ELF 2020