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Some woody plants such as this George Lindley Taber azalea will occasionally exhibit a
flower that is different from the rest. These mutations can lead to new varieties.
PHOTOS BY ARTY SCHRONCE

Consumer Qs, April 11, 2017

By Arty Schronce, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Georgia Department of Agriculture

www.agr.georgia.gov

Editor’s note: “Consumer Qs” by Arty Schronce is written for gardeners throughout Georgia and may include plants not permitted in Big Canoe. For Big Canoe Property Owners who may want to check whether a plant is allowed, please refer to the POA’s Approved Plant List http://www.bigcanoepoa.org/getmedia/b668254f-a001-418c-ad94-3873707c5444/Approved-Plant-List.aspx

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George Lindley Taber azalea (closeup)

Question (Q): My George Lindley Taber azalea has sprouted purple blooms. One bloom is half purple and half the normal orchid color. Is this the result of weather? What is going on?

Answer (A): Nothing is wrong. Occasionally some plants will exhibit a mutation or “sport” that is different from the original. This genetic instability is harmless. Horticulturists will sometimes propagate these sports to create a new variety. For example, the George Lindley Taber azalea itself is the result of a sport from the rosy purple Omurasaki azalea. The white Mrs. G.G. Gerbing azalea is a sport that was propagated from George Lindley Taber.

These mutations are not particularly rare but can be disconcerting if you don’t know the reason. They occur with various cultivated plants, including roses and camellias as well as azaleas. They may be irritating if they disrupt your color scheme or landscape design. A renegade purple azalea may stand out like a sore thumb among a line of white ones, for example.

These mutations can also be a little exciting. If you see a branch of any shrub exhibiting something truly different, you can propagate it and possibly have your own new variety.

Q: Why do earthworms come out of the ground when it rains? Will they drown if they don’t?

A: When it rains, earthworms may leave the ground because the wet surface makes it much easier for them to move from place to place without drying out in the hot sun. An earthworm’s skin needs to remain moist for the worm to survive. It is also easier for them to find mates on the open ground as compared to underground isolated in their burrows. It is a misconception that earthworms come out of the ground because they will drown if they do not.

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Sun star is becoming more readily available in grocery stores, garden centers and florists
as a potted flowering plant.

Q: I purchased a potted orange flower labeled “sun star” next to the Easter lilies in the grocery store. Can you tell me more about it? Is it hardy in Georgia?

A: Sun star (Ornithogalum dubium) is also known as orange star flower. It is a bulbous plant native to South Africa and hardy to about 15 to 25 degrees F. It is a colorful houseplant but would not be considered winter hardy in our state. If you live in coastal or southern Georgia and want to try it outdoors, plant it in a protected spot and give it a layer of mulch.

Sun star can be purchased from bulb companies in the fall for forcing as a winter houseplant. Indoors, it likes cool temperatures and a bright location. If you want to get your plant to bloom again next year, place it in a sunny area this summer and keep it watered. In the fall, put the pot inside in a dry, frost-free place and repot it in the spring.

If you have questions about agriculture, horticulture, food safety or services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.

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