Garden Detective: How and when to trim a lantana

Published: Saturday, Jun. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 8CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2012 - 9:15 am

I would like to know when a lantana plant should be trimmed and if there are any tips you could give me. My lantana was planted last year, did very well and grew a lot. It seems, though, that all the growth is on the outside branches.

It would be nice if it would thicken up in the center, but maybe that's just the way they grow.

I haven't trimmed it at all, but it looks like those outside branches could use some trimming.

Jackie Conley, Sacramento

Lantanas are pruned in the spring after all danger of frost is past, according to the UC master gardeners. If you haven't pruned it yet, now would be OK.

Lantanas will take almost any amount of pruning and make a vigorous comeback, sprouting from old as well as young wood.

By shortening the branches on your plant, you will encourage shoots that will fill in the center of the plant. After new growth begins, the tips of the new growth can be pinched out to encourage more branching if you want an even fuller plant.

Don't be afraid to cut. Try to improve the shape of the plant with the initial cuts and pinch, if necessary, to get the final shape you want.

Do you know if papayas can grow and produce fruit in the Sacramento area? If so, any idea where we can purchase plants?

– Sam Rahman, Lincoln

Papaya – a member of the genus Carica – are tropical plants that can be grown in California under special conditions, according to the UC master gardeners.

They appear to be trees, but they actually are perennials with hollow stems that can be grown in containers.

Papayas need to have warmth all year, so a spot on the south side of a building is ideal. They need frost protection in winter; if container-grown, they can be brought indoors or sheltered during cold winter nights.

Having a plant shipped from a tropical specialty nursery is likely your best source. You can find dealers listed on the Internet.

But papayas are easily grown from seed – and every fruit has dozens. Save the seeds from the next papaya you purchase. Dry them for a couple of weeks and plant them in a container of damp potting soil. Use a planting mix appropriate for houseplants or African violets. Cover the top of the container with plastic wrap and set it in a window where it will be warmed by the sun.

Don't let the soil dry out.

After your seedlings have two leaves, move them to small individual containers filled with potting soil. As they grow, move them up to gradually larger containers.

Papayas produce fruit when the plants are still young – only 3 years old. It takes six to 10 months for the fruit to ripen on the plant.

GARDEN QUESTIONS?

Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.

Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h&g@sacbee.com. Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact your UC Extension directly, call:

Sacramento: (916) 875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. weekdays

Amador: (209) 223-6838; 10 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday; email ceamador.ucdavis.edu

Butte: (530) 538-7201; 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays

El Dorado: (530) 621-5512; 9 a.m.-noon weekdays

Placer: (530) 889-7388; 9 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

Nevada: (530) 273-0919; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays through Thursday, or leave a message

Shasta, Tehama, Trinity: (530) 225-4605

Solano: (707) 784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned

Sutter, Yuba: (530) 822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Mondays and Tuesdays and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays

Yolo: (530) 666-8737; 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

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