Cuban Buttercup, Propagating Dracaena, Shade Tolerant Grass

University of Florida faculty member & Nassau County Extension Horticultural Agent, Rebecca Jordi answers gardening questions in “Garden Talk”…

Cuban Buttercup
Cuban Buttercup (Turnera Ulmifolia)

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.

_____GARDEN TALK Q & A____

QUESTION:  Can you identify this plant from my yard?  A friend gave it to me several years ago and I do not remember the name.  The yellow flowers are so pretty, people often stop and ask me what it is.  PE

JORDI: This is always a tough question especially when you consider the numerous possible plant varieties. The photos were not that clear but I was able to determine the petal and leaf shape which was beneficial.  Fortunately for me, one of the Nassau County Master Gardener volunteers happened to be in the office providing Extension with phone coverage and she had the same plant at home. Once she called me with the name – the rest was easy.

Your plant is a perennial called a Cuban buttercup, Turnera ulmifolia. It is really on the edge of our cold-hardiness zone as it grows best in zones 9-11.  On the west part of the Nassau County, which is divided by I-95, the zone is 8b whereas the east part of the county is considered 9a.  However, if you have had continued success with this plant for several years, I would say it is established and happy here and most likely in the appropriate environment. Cuban buttercup reaches heights up to 2 feet, produces yellow blooms from spring through the fall and can tolerate full sun to partial shade.  The attached publication is from the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research Center in Plant City, Florida.

QUESTION:  My dracaena is getting so large.  How would I propagate it? JK

JORDI: Rooting of tip cuttings, air layering, and cane cuttings are the primary methods of Dracaena propagation. Air layering or cane cuttings are mainly used for large specimens and tip cuttings are used for producing the smaller Dracaena species. Be sure your pruning instruments are clean and sterile before starting the project.  Use a 70% solution of isopropyl (alcohol) to wipe pruners before and in between cuts.  Make the cuttings about six inches long then remove all but 2 or three of the leaves. Cuttings may be dipped in root hormone before being placed in moistened sand, vermiculite and/or perlite media. Consider covering the plants with clear plastic to reduce the amount of moisture lost as the roots are being formed.  Place the cuttings in a brightly lit area but away from direct sun light.  It may take about 6-9 weeks for roots to form.  Once the roots have developed you may put the new plants in pots.

QUESTION:  I need some other choices of St. Augustine grass for a more shaded site.  FB

JORDI: Shade tolerant lawn grass needs about four hours of sunlight to perform properly.  If you do not feel your site has sufficient sunlight consider some alternative ground covers such as Asiatic jasmine, mondo grass, liriope or Aztec grass.  If you wish to try one of the more shade tolerant St. Augustine grass varieties, then consider using ‘Delmar’ or ‘Seville’.  ‘Delmar’ is considered a dwarf variety and should be mowed at a height of 1.5 to 2.5 inches. ‘Seville’ is also a dwarf variety which has finer leaf blades, grows a little taller than ‘Delmar’ and therefore it should be mowed at 2 to 2.5 inches in height.  ‘Seville’ is not as cold tolerant and with the results of our last few winters it might not be the best choice here except along the coastal areas. Both have the same disease and insect issues as other St. Augustine grasses, especially if over-watered and/or over-fertilized with high nitrogen.  Link below is a complete publication from the University of Florida regarding care, maintenance and selection of St. Augustine grass.

NOTE: 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.

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