Florida Gardening: Beach Sunflower, Growing Grapes & Pears

Beach Sunflower is a spreading perennial producing attractive, small sunflower-like flower heads, a terrific plant for attracting a variety of birds and butterflies. GARDENING TIPS

Beach Sunflower, Florida: Drought and Salt Tolerant
Beach Sunflower for Florida Gardens: Drought and Salt Tolerant
EDITOR’S NOTE: A University of Florida faculty member and Nassau County Extension Horticultural Agent, Rebecca Jordi addresses some of the questions she receives about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida, in GARDEN TALK. The Extension also offers helpful clinics throughout the year, providing assistance to local gardeners on Amelia Island and in the surrounding areas of Nassau County, Florida.

GARDEN TALK Q &A __________

QUESTION: Is Beach Sunflower a perennial or an annual? SL
JORDI:  Beach Sunflower, Helianthus debilis, is a spreading perennial producing attractive, small sunflower-like flower heads which bloom throughout the year. This is a terrific plant for attracting a variety of birds and butterflies.  It reaches up to 18 inches tall but spreads up to four feet wide. It should be grown in full sun and has good salt tolerance.  Beach Sunflower has been used in dune areas to reduce wind erosion but also works well in the homeowner landscape.  It is not picky about soil type which works well for new subdivisions where fill dirt may have been used.  It is a good choice for those small strips of land between the sidewalk and road which are difficult to irrigate and fertilize properly.  Beach Sunflower is very drought tolerant and will succumb to root rot if watered too heavily.  Err on the side of too little water rather than too much.  There are many color variations on the flower which range from purple to pink to yellow.  Beach Sunflower has no major insect or disease issues.  It will die back during cold winters but reseeds and will return when temperatures rise in the spring. http://hort.ufl.edu/shrubs/HELDEBA.PDF


Have a sickly plant? Need some guidance? Nassau County, Florida residents are invited to bring plant samples to Becky Jordi, Nassau County Horticulture Extension agent, from 10 am until 2pm on May 17th at the Yulee Extension office (A1A and Pages Dairy Rd.). This is a FREE service to identify problems and offer solutions. For further info call 904-548-1116.

QUESTION:  I bought one Concord grape and one muscadine grape vine.  How do I care for them? DD

JORDI:  The biggest obstacle to growing the concord grape is the high potential for disease in our hot, humid environment. You can try them but realize if you are not successful it really is because the plant is not suited for this area. Muscadine grapes will do quite well here and you should be very pleased with the results. The article attached discusses the difference between bunch grapes and muscadine. There is an actual genetic difference between the two types of grapes.  Bunch grapes have 38 chromosomes and produce fruit in the clusters (30 – 100).  This form is the type of which we are most familiar.  Bunch grapes are harvested in clusters. Muscadine grapes have 40 chromosomes which produce 2-10 berries but the grapes are picked individually. Some good muscadine grape varieties to use for wine, jams and jellies are Alachua, Carlos, Noble, and Welder. Muscadine grapes preferred for eating are Black Beauty, Fry, Black Fry, Granny Val, Farrer, Pam, Pineapple, Pollyanna, Southern Home, Summit, Supreme, Sweet Jenny and Tara.  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS10000.pdf; http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/AG/AG20800.pdf

QUESTION:  My Hood pear blooms and looks beautiful but it never produces any fruit.  What is wrong?  JG

JORDI:  Hood pears are a good choice for Northeast Florida but this pear will need a pollinator.  I recommend you use Baldwin as it pollinates any of those pears requiring pollination.  Other varieties which can be planted in our area are Flordahome, Hood, and Pineapple which are all early fruit producers.  Baldwin, Cames, Kieffer, Orient, and Tenn, which are late fruit producers, are also suitable for North Florida.  Apply one pound of fertilizer annually for each year of age of the tree until it reaches ten years of age.  Divide the annual fertilizer in half and apply once in January and again in June.  Use 8-8-8 or 6-6-6 and broadcast it completely under the canopy of the tree. Be sure to water it in slightly to the roots will have access to it.  Keep lawn grass as far away from the trees as possible. Planting pears from seed is risky as they will not necessarily have the same characteristics of the parent plant.  It is better to purchase a pear grafted onto a reliable rootstock. Pears will ripen as they age but pick them just before ripening and store at room temperature.  http://dixie.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/gardening/pear.pdf

Rebecca Jordi

Rebecca L. Jordi
University of Florida/IFAS
Nassau County Extension
Environmental Horticulture Agent III
543350 U. S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011
904-548-1116 or 904-879-1019