Succulents can outlast a dry spell

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Summer heat and water restrictions can take a toll on flowers. Many gardeners wish they'd planted more heat- and drought-tolerant plants. And if those plants are winter-hardy too, so much the better.

You can find such garden winners among the succulent plants. Varieties include sedum (stonecrop), sempervivum (houseleek, hens and chickens), Delosperma (ice plant) and agave (century plant).

As their name implies, succulents store water in their leaves and stems, so irrigation is seldom necessary after you get them established. These plants are naturally adaptable to extended periods of drought.

Succulents aren't heavy feeders. One to two applications of fertilizer in the spring and early summer are enough to keep them growing and healthy.

As a bonus, these plants take on a range of subtle color variations at times, such as during active growth and winter dormancy.

Sedums and sempervivums have many ornamental uses in the garden. They're wonderful in a rock garden or alpine planting, or for bare slopes with poor soil. Besides the appeal of their foliage, many sedum cultivars boast white, yellow, pink or red flowers.

Succulents can be used as container plants or as edging for walkways and front border accents in perennial beds, where they weave their foliage with adjacent plants to add an amazing textural richness.

Many stonecrop and hens and chicken species look very different. Leaf colors range from lime green to burgundy to purple. And size varies from less than quarter of an inch to a foot across. Foliage can be thin and spiky or thick and rounded with a pointed tip.

There are some notable hardy Sedum selections. One is Sedum Akebono, a low-growing plant with spring flushes of cream-colored new foliage that changes back to green as the season progresses, and then flushes again in the fall.

Sempervivum Oddity is another low-growing succulent with green tubular leaves tipped in burgundy.

And finally, Delosperma nubigenum (yellow ice plant) is an excellent ground cover. It features brilliant yellow flowers and bright green, jellybean foliage spreading to form solid mats.

WHITEFLIES: The second generation of white flies has been on plants such as gardenias for about two weeks now. Take action to control them so the leaves don't turn black from sooty mold.

Labeled contact insecticides include 1 percent horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, and other insecticides containing the active ingredients pyrethrins, pyrethrums, resmethrins, cyfluthrin, and bifenthrin. Cyfluthrin provides residual control for two weeks. Good coverage of the spray underneath the leaves is critical.

Other options are systemic insecticides, which the plant takes into its system to protect it for a longer period of time. Systemic insecticides are acephate, imidacloprid, and disulfoton. Acephate is commonly sold as Ortho Systemic Insect Spray. Disulfoton comes in granular form and is sprinkled on the ground. Common brand names for this are Di-Syston and Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower Care. The Bayer product also contains fertilizer. Imidacloprid is a liquid you mix with water. It is sold as Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control, which are taken up to the plant through the root system.

Acephate and disulfoton should last for six weeks while imidacloprid should provide protection for up to 12 months.

Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service Office in Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.

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