Pansies that aren't blooming might need space

I planted some pansies awhile back and most of them are not blooming. The plants look healthy. Can you tell me what is wrong? - Steve.

A: There are several potential problems. It might be that the variety you have blooms later in the season, so you may have to be patient.

Insufficient sunlight may cause blooming woes. Pansies need a lot of sun, so if yours are in a shadier spot, they could have few or no blooms.

Sometimes overcrowding pansies will cause them to not bloom as well. In an attempt to make the beds look really full, they may be planted too close together.

Your pansies also may need deadheading. Pansies will develop seed pods when the blooms fade. Any time a plant goes to seed and is in the reproductive stage, that is a signal to stop or slow the blooming process.

Pansies also need nitrogen in the nitrate form (check your fertilizer's label) when the ground cools in late fall and winter. This is absorbed better in cooler soils. You will most commonly find this in liquid fertilizers. Use a liquid feed every 10 to 14 days.

The best fertilizer ratio for pansies or any blooming plant is about a 1-1-1. Too high nitrogen levels can make any plant put all of its energy into growing foliage and not into bloom production. The organic fertilizer Kricket Krap is great for pansies.

Q: I brought my tropical hibiscus inside for the winter. I have noticed small insects on the flower buds. What are they, and what should I do about them? - Rosa

A: Most hibiscus moved indoors develop a problem with either whiteflies or aphids. It sounds like your problem is aphids. I had a similar problem one year and they got all over the dining room, where I had my plant in the window.

One nonchemical way to treat hibiscus is to give it a shower. Cover the top of the pot with aluminum foil or heavy plastic (to keep the soil from washing out and making a mess; also to prevent water logging the roots) and seal off the pot around the stem. Then just stick the plant, pot and all, in the shower, and turn a low to moderate spray directly on the leaves. Use lukewarm water.

If you have a removable shower head or attachment, so much the better. Be sure to get the undersides of the leaves . You can even turn the pot on its side if you seal the top of the pot . Do this for about five to 10 minutes.

This may sound extreme, but it gives your tired, dusty, buggy plant new life. Even if you do this only once or twice during the winter, you will notice a difference.

You can also just take it outside and do the same thing with a hose, which is less messy than in the shower. The only problem is you will not have warm water, so do this on a warmer day.

This washing will not eliminate the pests but will certainly help control them.

Another alternative would be to take the plant outside and spray it with a labeled pesticide.

Organically, you can use an insecticidal soap. Again, this will probably not eliminate the bugs, but will do a fairly good job.

Another organic pesticide is a horticultural oil. When using an oil or the soap, get thorough coverage to kill them out.

The most effective control would be a systemic insecticide such as acephate (Ortho's Systemic Insect Spray). You don't have to be as diligent with the thorough coverage since the plant absorbs the pesticide and should protect it for about six weeks. Again, take the plant outside when applying pesticide and make sure it is dry before you bring it back in.

Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office in Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or



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