IN THE GARDEN: Curling leaves on succulent could be due to overwatering or extreme temperature changes

Q: My cousin in New York believes I am the font of all gardening wisdom. It was really my mom, but I try to carry on the torch. She is asking me if there is something wrong with this succulent she has had for many years [the reader sent a photo]. She has noticed that the leaves appear to be "turning back" in an exaggerated fashion. I can't see a big problem but I really know very little about succulents. Since you are the actual expert, do you see anything wrong? I promise to give you full credit for your answer.

A: The succulent in the picture is a Flapjack or paddle Kalanchoe. It does look healthy, with good color on the leaves and no spots. I do see some leaf curling. It can be caused by overwatering or temperature extremes. I see the plant is in a bowl, but I don't see a drainage saucer under it. I hope it has a drainage hole. When you have a pot with nowhere for excess water to go, the soil might seem dry at the surface but hold too much moisture beneath. The plant is also close to a window, and depending on the quality of the window, temperatures can drop low close to a window when it is really cold outside.

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Q: I have several rose bushes that are really overgrown. Can I prune them back now, and if so, how much?

A: You can stabilize a rose bush now if it is really large and you are worried about limbs breaking with winter weather, but the main pruning of roses is done in late February, after most winter weather should be past us. Pruning will vary based on the type of rose bush you are growing. Shrub roses, like Knock-Outs, are simply pruned back by a third to half their size, selectively thinning branches. Hybrid tea rose bushes are cut back within 8 to 18 inches from the ground.

Is it too late to treat nutsedge in my shrub beds? I let it get away from me during the summer. [The reader sent a photo.]

A: I can't believe your nutsedge is still so healthy looking. Are you sure it is nutsedge? If it is growing by itself (no desirable plants around it) you can try spraying it with either Roundup or Sedgehammer. I don't think you will kill all of it since it is partly dormant now, but it won't hurt to try.

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Q: The Japanese maples in Little Rock have been spectacular this year. Was there some combination of weather and moisture that would account for the display?

A: Everyone has been commenting about the late fall color display this year. I am as stunned as anyone. I thought the early cold snap would reduce the color, but it must have been just cold enough, coupled with ample moisture, warm days and cool nights in October to work such magic. Not only has it turned into one of the prettiest falls, the foliage is lasting much longer as well. And while I agree with you; the Japanese maples have been gorgeous (and many still are), but so are red maples, Bradford pears (ugh) and many oaks, sweetgums and more.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email

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