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IN THE GARDEN: Perennial white crown-beard (or "iceplant") can spread rapidly in good soil

by Janet B. Carson October 8, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.
Frost weed (Verbesina virginica) spreads rapidly by rhizomes and seeds. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)


Q: I need your expertise on this plant that's taking over my side yard. [The reader sent a photo.]

A: The plant in question is a native perennial called Verbesina virginica, commonly called white crown-beard, frost weed or iceplant. It blooms in the fall; and in good soil, it can spread rapidly by rhizomes and seed. It gets the common name iceplant because in the winter when we have a hard freeze "frost flowers" form when water from the stems is forced out and forms interesting ice sculptures in the landscape. Be aware that the low growing green plant in front of it is also invasive — it is perilla and in the mint family, and can spread like crazy too.

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Q: I have purple fountain grass in a large pot. It has done well but I would like to plant it in the ground for next year. When should I move it and cut it back? It could overwinter in the garage if needed. Thanks for your advice. Enjoy your column a lot.

A: Purple fountain grass is an annual grass, so it won't come back in the ground or in a container. It does well in both locations, giving you a lot of color, but you will have to replant it every season.


Q: My gardens have been invaded by an armadillo — at least one, that I know of. It looks like the soil between the plants has been tilled. Also, there is a very deep tunnel dug next to the foundation, which I guess may be his daytime hidey-hole. How do I get rid of this pest?

A: Armadillos are hard to eradicate and can cause a lot of damage in a very short time. Unfortunately, they often pick the best landscapes to attack — healthier soils and more earthworms and beetles to feed on. They are nocturnal, and can be trapped if you have patience. Here is a fact sheet from the UA Extension that has lots of good information: arkansasonline.com/108dillo. Good Luck!

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Q: I'm writing you because of a problem with many trees in one area of Two Rivers Park. Someone, maybe an arborist, needs to investigate. In the part of the park closest to the community gardens is a big meadow area with many large gumdrop-shaped trees. We think they are cedars. We ride the trail around the meadow several times a week. We've noticed that many of these majestic cedars have the beginnings of kudzu vines and some are already heavy with vines. This will quickly overtake all the trees in this area like it has in many Southern states. Eradication is needed. I thought with all your contacts you could forward this to someone who understands this invasive plant.

A: Kudzu is an awful, invasive vine that can take over natural areas and smother out native vegetation. I am not sure who maintains the trees in the park, but sooner, rather than later, efforts will be needed to stop the spread. Hopefully, someone in the know will read this and take action. And I will make some inquiries.

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Q: I need to divide and transplant peonies. How do I go about that?

A: If your peonies are too crowded, or in too much shade to bloom, now is the time to dig and divide, as they are dying back. I will forewarn you that peonies can be a bit finicky and pay you back by not blooming for a year or two after transplant, but if there is a real need to move them, now is the correct time. Make sure you don't over-divide and that you replant them shallowly. There are eyes on the root system that should not be planted any deeper than one inch underground. Move them, water and mulch.

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 arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email jcarson@arkansasonline.com



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