The Garden Girl – Citrus, Spirea & Azaleas

January 26, 2014 14:00 pm · 11 comments


The spirea, citrus and azaleas all received some TLC in the garden this week. Rain or not, the plants need tending to. The stronger they are the better they’ll be able to weather the pending stresses of heat and drought.

Spirea is a woody, deciduous shrub that has both interesting foliage and an attractive flower. During the first warm days of spring, delicate leaves emerge from a mass of woody stems. Depending on the variety of spirea, its foliage can be anything from medium green to chartreuse yellow, or gold tipped with copper. About a month after the leaves emerge, clusters of pink or white flowers top the tips of the stems.

Spirea enjoys full morning sun, and bright afternoon shade. It is a hardy shrub that is tolerant of poor soil conditions. Once planted Spirea becomes drought tolerant. This week we spent time preparing this deciduous shrub for spring’s growth surge. First we pruned each shrub back removing 2/3 of last year’s growth. After pruning, each Spirea was given a dose of Perc-u-late Plus mixed with water. Perc-u-late Plus is a soil penetrate type product. It helps the water that is used get down to the roots rather than running off the soil before it’s taken in. No fertilizer is given at this time.

Many of the deciduous shrubs out there are drought tolerant. If the summer is too stressful, and adequate water isn’t provided, deciduous shrubs have the ability to go dormant, and wait for a safer time to regrow.

Citrus needed some attention earlier than usual. Every tree and shrub was given a combination of Citrus Food, and an additional dose of iron. Most citrus fertilizers already contain iron, but the percentage doesn’t satisfy the needs, so additional doses are necessary, especially after fruit. If your citrus still has young fruit trying to ripen, give your citrus a dose of 0-10-10 and a dose of iron. The first number in the sequence of a fertilizer represents nitrogen. It’s the nitrogen that stimulates leaf and stem growth. You don’t want to feed a plant right before bloom with a product that contains too much nitrogen. The nitrogen can make the plants drop their buds, and also encourage the new growth to cover up the blooms you have waited so long for.

Aphid and scale activity has already begun with these warm days. If needed, you may have to spray with Neem Oil to help control the problem.

Azalea leaves turned shades of bronze and yellow after the freezing temperatures in December. They too need a helping hand. Each plant was thoroughly watered then given a feeding with 0-10-10 fertilizer and a small dose of iron.

We have to give our landscapes and gardens the tools they need to remain strong during times of stress.

Happy Gardening!

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.

1 VikingPrincess January 26, 2014 at 8:06 PM

Great article this week. Will be using the perculate. Neem is getting quite popular these days in soaps and such. Looking for buying the tree. A few places sell them.

2 anonmtz January 26, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Thanks for the garden tips….much work to do to perk up some sad freeze/drought hillside victims…..

3 . January 26, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Looked out window today to see blossoms on an almond tree and predicted low for next Sunday is 30 degrees F.

4 Jess January 26, 2014 at 9:36 PM

Love your column, Garden Girl. Is it time to prune back my freeze damaged lantana or should I wait until spring?

I’ve never heard of Perc-u-late Plus. Should I put it around all my shrubs? Roses, too?

How often do I need to water my shrubs during his dry winter? In normal years I don’t water at all during the winter, but this year is so bizarre.

5 Antler January 26, 2014 at 11:19 PM

We have already had an early harvest of lavender, and today I enjoyed watching a LOT of honey bees gathering pollen from the second blooming. What a relief to see so many of them! Please remember that any bee with a tiny ruby earring in its left ear is MINE, ;-)

KAD, if you are here in town right now, keep an eye out for the large flocks of cedar waxwings….what a lovely bird! (Hey, guess what!!! My computer “knows” you now……typed KaD and it corrected it for me.)

Nicole, thank you for teaching us what we need to be doing. I only today noticed that red spider mite has infested a large azalea. So yes, definitely I need a lot of prompting about spraying, and I am grateful for the pictures and your wonderful articles, too.

6 Thank you for the diligently written information! January 27, 2014 at 3:16 AM

While I rarely have any comments to make, I always appreciate all the work you do to put this column together each week. It is always very informative and helpful, and I look forward to seeing it week-to-week.

7 Garden Girl January 27, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Thank you All for reading!

Hello Jess,
It is early according to the calendar for the pruning of frost damaged plants. Last year we did not prune our lantana until late February. Pruning now is temping, and risky… Try to wait, I would.

The Perc-u-late Plus can be used on all your landscape and container grown ornamentals, and your lawn. Follow all directions, and make sure you water after application. Perc-u-late Plus is a great gardening tool!


8 Silva January 27, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Seems like a neem tree would take up some space VikingPrincess! I’ve always disliked imensely the ¡NINE! Japanese privit trees that volunteered on our property that my mom wouldn’t let me cut. She was a bit traumatized by the lack of trees when we came. They are hugely messy and other than that, boring! That is untill HOARDS of robins & cedar waxwings come through for the berries.

9 Silva January 27, 2014 at 9:56 AM

Nicole, that Perc-O-Late sounds Awesome! I’m going to have to try that.

10 VikingPrincess January 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM


They can get big but we have a spot for it once it can grow out of a large planter. Many oaks and pines were cut prior to our arrival.
Someone planted a few tea tree oil trees on our property and we now have a nice veil along the fence of hardy tee trees that flower and are low and no maintenance.
From what I read about the Neem tree its not too needy, unless new info comes to light.
Still have my Bay Leaf tree in a pot – going on 4 years… slow but sure ;)

11 VikingPrincess January 27, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Thanks garden girl for your post frost pruning advice. Hard not to prune…looks yucky.

I’m waiting a bit longer to start my indoor planting of veggies, herbs and roots this year too.

Discovered some California poppies that are white cream and white with pink that might be good low maintenance flowering ground cover too… ;)

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