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How to Revive a Struggling Plant

Plant SOS

Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, walks you through his best tips for saving a struggling plant.

For whatever reason, sometimes plants just have issues. There are many reasons why your plant may be struggling - not enough light, too much light and overwatering are just a few of the reasons why your plant may not be thriving. Luckily, there are some things you can do to nurse your plant back to health:

Remove Brown, Yellow or Spotted Leaves:
It’s important to remove any unhealthy leaves from your plant in order to conserve energy. Plants use a lot of energy when trying to keep unhealthy leaves alive. Once bad leaves are removed, the plant can focus on keeping healthy leaves growing and formation of new leaves.

Check the Condition of the Soil & Repot if Necessary:
Soil that is black and shows signs of mold needs to be replaced. A good potting soil helps the plant to retain moisture, provide enough air for growing roots to be able to breath and not rot, and supports your plant by providing anchorage for the roots. McDonald Potting Soil is an all-purpose soil specifically formulated for Hampton Roads and is available in both traditional and organic formulas.

To refresh soil, remove the plant from its container and loosen-up and remove soil around the plant. Place a thin layer of fresh potting soil in the bottom of the container and place the plant back into the pot. Next, fill in around the plant with potting soil.

TIP: lightly packing the soil around the plant will help to prevent air pockets and will also help to establish a good root to soil connection.

Fertilization is key, as plants need a lot of nutrients in order to sustain large growth and blooms. Every time you water, the nutrients that the plant has not already used are leeched out of the soil. By consistently feeding, you are ensuring that your plants maintain all the nutrition necessary to grow and bloom big. We use McDonald Greenleaf Fertilizer (available in organic or traditional formulas), which was developed specifically for plants in Hampton Roads and is a great general all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer. Simply sprinkle two tablespoons of Greenleaf around the basket or container.

Add a Vitamin Supplement:
Once the plant has been repotted and refreshed with new soil, add a vitamin supplement to help revive and reduce the amount of stress the plant may have been experiencing. We recommend Superthrive. Simply add a capful to a gallon of water.

Water your plant as usual and in two to three weeks, it should be healthy and thriving once again.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias Tuberosa)

What to Sow and Grow in May

Starting plants from seed is one of the most exciting and rewarding gardening activities, and careful plant selection allows gardeners to continue growing throughout the year. Growing seed is not complicated, it just requires a little thought and care. For best results, it is important to use fresh seed and follow the instructions on each seed packet, which include specific planting tips, light requirements and watering specifications. Here are our recommendations for what seeds to plant in the month of May:

Where would summer be without zinnias? These easy-to-grow, annual flowers bloom in a variety of colors and sizes that provide striking garden views. Commonly grown in containers and window boxes, zinnias can also enhance the appearance of the landscape when planted in large masses. Prefers full sun locations.

Whether you are planting your first vegetable garden or have years of experience, growing snap beans should be at the top of your garden to-do list. They adapt quite well to a variety of soil types, provided the location is in an area with good drainage. When harvesting green beans, pick them once they have reached adequate size, but do not allow them to over ripen. Plant in full sun.

Sometimes called Chinese parsley, this annual herb has a distinctive aroma and flavor that is often used in Mexican and Asian cuisine. Cilantro looks like flat leaf Italian parsley, but the leaves are thinner. It grows in a rosette of stemmy leaves that are ready to harvest shortly after planting. Young leaves have the best flavor, so be sure to harvest often. Prefers full sun to part shade.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias Tuberosa)
An easy-to-grow perennial that produces clusters of bright orange, yellow or red blooms all summer long. Butterfly weed is appropriately named as the nectar and pollen-rich flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects throughout the blooming season. Butterfly weed also makes a nice cut flower. Plant in a warm, sunny spot.

With lots of varieties to choose from, this annual herb offers something for every palette. While the taste of sweet basil is bright and pungent, other varieties also offer unique tastes that are true to their name like: lemon basil, anise basil and cinnamon basil. Many gardeners mix various types of basil in their flower beds, where it is ready for a quick harvest anytime. Keep your plant from producing flowers by pinching off the flower spikes when they appear. By pinching off flowers, you'll help your plant produce more delicious, edible leaves and not waste energy on flower production. Prefers a warm and sunny spot.

Another easy-to-grow option featuring compact flowers ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange and rust. Marigolds are a great addition to pots, baskets and borders or simply scattered throughout the garden. And, did you know that marigold plants produce unique compounds that give off strong odors that deter many insects and pests? By planting marigolds alongside your vegetables, not only are you providing lovely flowers, but you're also helping keep your veggies safe from pests - naturally! Marigolds are also beneficial for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Looks great in dried floral arrangements too. Prefers full sun locations.

To learn more about sowing seeds click here Sow, Now's the Time.


Million Bells
Sweet Potato Vine
New Guinea Impatiens

Summer Annual Cheat Sheet

Post provided by Kate Karem of Monrovia

The original post by Kate has been edited to reflect the best summertime annuals that thrive in Hampton Roads

Annuals are the eye candy of the summer garden, and if you’re not already shopping for them, we’re betting you will be soon. Who can resist all of those racks and tables maxed out with instant color. Fanciful visions of cascading window boxes, edge-spilling containers and hanging baskets, and blank spots instantly filled in, dance in you head. It’s magic time! And every year, you get to create an whole new “plant painting” without breaking the bank.
Before you head to the garden center, here’s a quick cheat sheet of a few annuals you’ll likely see there, and ideas about how to use them. Which ones spark your creativity? Are there others that you love? Share in comments!

What are “annuals”?
They’re plants that complete their life cycle in a single growing season. If you live in a zone that experiences a fall killing frost, when they’re done, they’re done. In the warmest zones, some annuals can winter over.

Many of the annuals we love to use for summer color originated in warmer climates like the southern United States, Mexico, and South America. That’s why (with a bit of care) they sail through the heat of summer, even in full sun. Here are just six of the amazing variety of full sun annuals you’ll find in stores this summer. We chose these for their chameleon-like ability to work in just about any design scheme.

Angelonia - angelonia is a heat-lover that’s perfect for upright, spiky interest. Mix the rainbow of colors–white, pink, purple, rose, red–or mass in a single hue. Deer and rabbit resistant! Up 14″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Hummingbird gardens, cottage planters, rose gardens.

Million Bells - calibrachoa’s petunia-like blooms are a billowy mass of color that thrive all summer, even in heat and humidity. Great in pots, but also a excellent, unexpected bedding plant. Up to 15″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Suspend hanging baskets in groups of three at different heights.

Dahlia - happy and carefree, bedding and bush dahlias are shorter and more compact, serving up ultra-bright, all-season color to borders and beds, but also as cut flowers. Up to 18″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Adds height to window boxes. Harvest when blooms are almost fully open.

Verbena - when it comes to quickly softening hard surfaces or covering bare spots, few annuals do it better than verbena. Pillow-y and spill-y, it’s a spreading low grower. Butterflies go nuts for it. Up to 8″ tall and 3′ wide.
Ideas: Hanging baskets, of course, but also gentle slopes and berms.

Geranium - Calliope or Caliente are what works best in Hampton Roads. Sun and heat lovers, they also tolerate partial shade. And the colors!! Up to 16″ tall and 24″ wide.
Use: Juxtapose it’s formality by planting in a blowsy cottage garden.

Lantana - continuous summer color from large flower clusters on a compact, waterwise, sun-loving plant that tolerates heat and humidity. Perennial in mild winter region, annual elsewhere. Up to 16″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Use in wildlife gardens to attract bees and butterflies.

While few bloom enthusiastically in very deep shade, there are many annuals that actually appreciate a respite from summer’s direct, overhead rays, especially hot afternoon sun. When choosing plants for areas that are not full sun, it’s a good idea to observe before buying. Note the light conditions at 8 am, 11 am, 2 pm, and 4 pm–this will give you the best info on how much sun your spaces gets, and at what time of the day. These six annuals are a great place to start.

Caladium - only difficult thing about Caladiums is deciding which to choose. Splotched, striped–choose one that makes you smile. Perennial in temperate, frost-free regions, annual elsewhere. Up to 18″ tall, 12″ wide.
Ideas: Use in low, trough planters where they can flutter in even a light breeze.

New Guinea Impatiens - unlike classic impatiens, which are shade lovers, New Guinea impatiens flowers can tolerate up to half a day of sun in most parts of the country. Flowers are bigger, too. Up to 18″ tall, 9″ wide.
Ideas: Use where you need a carpet of near endless color. And, in butterfly gardens!

Coleus - such a valuable little color wonder for areas that always seem to be on the damp side (but that drains well, too). Many colors and leaf shapes–you could become a collector. Pinch often! Up to 18″ tall and wide.
Ideas: Lovely massed, but also use them to contrast taller, grassy foliage plants.

Sweet Potato Vine - a distant relative of the ‘Morning Glory’ vine, sweet potato vine–black, green, or brown– grows big and fast. Works in sleek modern settings, vegetable gardens, cottages. Trailing, 16″ tall and 24″ wide.
Ideas: Tie the long stem up onto a trellis for a quick, green screen.


  • Choose carefully both in terms of light needs and watering requirements. Look for well branched, bushy plants, and then get them into the ground ASAP!
  • Feed regularly (every 3 – 6 weeks) to keep them healthy and to ensure a near constant supply of blooms. Always make sure to water well before applying fertilizer (liquid or dry) to avoid shock.
  • Annuals do not have very deep root systems and can dry out quickly on a hot day. Grab your coffee, grab a hose and give them a good, dep soaking in the morning. In the evening, grab a drink and do the same! Water whenever the soil feels dry about 1 inch below the surface.
  • Pinch (use your thumb and forefinger) to remove spent flowers as needed. Many newer varieties are “self cleaning” so the flowers sort of disappear, but the stems will get leggy. Around midsummer, prune back by several inches. You’ll be rewarded with a fresh flush of new growth and flowers.

Click here to see the original post by Kate Karem of Monrovia Summer Annual Cheat Sheet by Monrovia.

How to Treat & Prevent Crepe Myrtle Bark Scale

Crepe Myrtle bark scale has become a real issue in Hampton Roads, affecting our beloved Crepe Myrtle tree. Virginia has now joined the ranks of 12 other states in which this insect is unfortunately found.

Large infestations are easy to identify, as this is the only bark scale in the U.S that impacts crapemyrtles. Not to be confused with a heavy aphid infestation, crepe myrtle bark scale will also result in the occurrence of black sooty mold on the surface of the tree’s bark. Other identifying factors include small, Q-tip like white/light gray spots on trunks and small twigs, which are actually part of the female insect, under which the pupae grow. To treat, we recommend Fertilome Systemic Insect Drench.

Check out the video with Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, to learn more about how to prevent and treat crepe myrtle bark scale.

Endless Summer® Summer Crush®
Endless Summer® Summer Crush®

A McDonald Garden Center Plant Premiere Featuring Endless Summer® Summer Crush™ Hydrangea

New for 2019, Endless Summer® Summer Crush® Hydrangeas is a drop-dead, gorgeous variety the produces an abundance of rich raspberry-red mophead blooms in late spring and reblooms through fall. Foliage is spade-shaped and glossy green with a compact habit – no pruning necessary! It stays nice, tidy and small making it ideal for smaller spaces in the garden and is the perfect size for patio containers. Proven to be Zone 4 cold hardy, this is the most wilt resistant Endless Summer® yet.

Check out the video with Garden Guru, Mike Westphal, to learn more about the Endless Summer® Summer Crush® Hydrangea:

Lobularia, Frosty Knight®
Lobularia, Frosty Knight® in the Landscape
Lobularia, Frosty Knight® in Containers
Lobularia, Frosty Knight® in Hanging Baskets

Sweet Alysum, The Go-To Plant for Every Garden

An old-time favorite, sweet alyssum (also known as lobularia, pronounced lob-u-larry-uh), features an incredibly long blooming season from late spring to frost. This fabulous little plant is low maintenance, drought tolerant and produces a profusion of wonderfully scented flowers that will quickly cover beds and borders with a blanket of flowers that mix easily with other annuals and perennials. White is the most planted color, but it is available in pink, purple and apricot. The bright white pairs well with lots of other springtime favorites like bush daisy, candytuft and petunias and is gorgeous spilling out of window boxes, hanging baskets, or combination plantings. This annual grows best in full sun and cooler weather, however, it will tolerate partial shade and can survive light frosts.

Be sure to check out Lobularia, Frosty Knight®, from Proven Winners, a new hybrid that is much improved over the old seed varieties. Frosty Knight® features white flowers with variegated green and yellow foliage that provides color interest even when the flowers are not in bloom. Fragrant, just like the traditional alyssum, this one tolerates a wider range of temperatures - taking the heat and holding up much better in summer unlike traditional lobularia that just like it cool. It’s a good-sized, vigorous grower - getting up to 24-36" wide, making it a great filler in hanging baskets and patio pots. And, it does not require dead heading! Prefers full sun to partial shade.


High-Voltage Color, Pericallis

Pericallis produces a plethora of large daisy-like blooms in a unique, high-voltage color spectrum of blues and violets. These dynamite plants love cool, wet weather making them a perfect choice for early spring. The leaves are heart-shaped and range from medium to dark green. The center of the foliage is home to a rounded cluster of daisy blossoms that are a deep, blue-purple to magenta with petal bases being white around the central eye of the flower. Try planting them in the garden or in large patio containers to add vivid color in spring. Plant in full to part-sun locations.

And, be sure to check out Pericallis Primavera™Blueberry. Bred in Israel, this variety brings good heat tolerance compared to the competition. As with other pericallis, its tolerance of cool temperatures makes it an excellent choice for early, cool-season color. Its compact habit and continuous flowering is well suited in large containers and gardens.

Dianthus, Pink Pompom
Dianthus, Double Bubble
Dianthus, Early Bird Chili

Dianthus, A Small Investment with Big Returns

With winter behind us, we welcome a new season with one of our favorite spring-blooming perennials, Dianthus! These re-blooming flowers give us that color we've been waiting for. Not only are they beautiful, they are also very easy to grow. The most difficult part of growing dianthus is choosing which types you want to plant. Depending on the variety, blooms begin in early spring and continue all the way until frost. Dianthus blooms may be single or double (think little carnations), and tend to be white, pink, red, rose, or lavender - available in nearly all shades except true blue. Dianthus plants range from tiny creeping groundcovers to 30-inch-tall cut flowers, which are a favorite with florists.

Dianthus are drought-tolerant plants ideal for sunny spots at the edge of a flower bed or a path. Plant them early in the season, so they can become well established before hot weather sets in. These petite flowers sparkle in borders, beds, window boxes and containers. They flourish in the cool temperatures in spring and fall and prefer a full-sun location and well-drained soil, preferably with neutral to alkaline soil ph. Dianthus is also deer resistant. If you’re looking to add a blooming spring addition to your garden, look no further than dianthus. Before you know it, you will find your garden filled with the vibrant colors and distinctive fragrance. Here are a few of our favorites:

Dianthus, Pink Pompom - delightful rose-pink double flowers provide a bright burst of color in early spring, appearing continuously until autumn. The tidy mounding habit is practically maintenance-free. Pompom is perfect in landscape borders, rock gardens, containers and as a long-lasting cut flower. May remain evergreen in warmer winter regions. Prefers partial to full sun.

Dianthus, Double Bubble – features fully double flowers and simple, pure pink color. A profuse bloomer, 'Double Bubble' will be completely covered in blooms in early summer and then again in early fall. Foliage tends to be steely blue-green and finely textured and takes center stage when the plant is not in bloom. Plant in mass or in borders and containers. Double Bubble is deer resistant, low maintenance, drought tolerant and fragrant. This dianthus truly has it all!

Dianthus, Early Bird Chili - begins its show just as the weather starts to warm and keeps on blooming through autumn. Blooms stand tall above grassy, blue-green foliage with sturdy stems. Bold, coral double-blossoms sparkle in borders, beds, patio pots and window boxes. Its fragrant blooms are also perfect for cut flower arrangements. Early Bird prefers full sun and well-drained soil.

Photos provided by Centerton Nursery, Monrovia and Plant Haven International, Inc.

What's the Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable?

Tomato, tomahto. Potato, potahto. If you’re here to settle a produce aisle bet on matters of semantics where edible plant varieties are concerned - "What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?” - you will be perhaps chagrined to learn that for many of those food pyramid superstars, the answer isn’t very simple. There’s a lot of either/either, neither/neither involved with what makes a fruit a fruit and a vegetable a vegetable and a fair amount of crossover between the two categories. Read the full article by Chowhound here
What's the Difference Between a Fruit and Vegetable?

Tips for Growing Camellias by Monrovia

Quite possibly one of the most eye-catching evergreen shrub, camellias feature stunning rose-like flowers in shades of pink, red, and white in fall, late winter, or spring, depending on the type. They shine throughout the rest of the year with their glossy, deep green leaves and superb symmetry. They can be grown as large shrubs for use as a hedge, screen or corner plant, espalier, or "limbed up" to form an attractive small tree. And, planting more than one species will give your garden multi-season color. To learn more about growing camellias check out this blog Tips on Growing Camellias by Monrovia.