Plant Q & A Texas A&M

Strawberries okay in cold temps

Q. I planted strawberries this fall. They look pretty good. Do I have to protect them from the cold? Do they need to be fertilized? What about insects?

A. Most winters, strawberries do fine without cold protection. Snails, slugs and pill bugs will eat the fruit in the spring and may attack foliage this winter. Every few weeks apply some slug and snail bait. Fertilize the strawberries with “winterizer” or slow-release lawn fertilizer. One half cup of fertilizer for every 8 feet of row as a side dressing every month works well.

Q. We like redbuds and want to plant one now with hope it will bloom next spring. The nursery has two varieties — the Eastern redbud, which they said blooms best, and a Texas redbud, which they said is more drought tolerant. Which should we choose?

A. Select the Texas redbud, also called Mexican or Oklahoma rosebud. It will survive our soils and climate. The Eastern redbud grows well in the East and North but struggles here.

Q. In the past my Bermuda lawn recovered quickly when we received rain. Now, even though we received 3 inches of rainfall, the lawn still has brown areas. Could it be insects or disease? What should we do? Will fertilizer help?

A. The brown areas could be from insects or disease, but it is probably just the cool weather. Reduce irrigation on the lawn in case it is a fungus. It is not too late to fertilize a green lawn for the winter, but the nutrients probably won’t help green up a dormant Bermuda lawn. You may just have to be patient until warm weather returns in the spring.

Q. Our zinnias, vincas and pentas are finally declining in the cool weather. What are the options to replace them for the winter?

A. In the sun, plant snapdragons, dianthus, calendula, stocks, ornamental kale and pansies. In the shade, consider cyclamen and primula.

Q. Is there an organic control for cabbage loopers?

A. The best control for cabbage loopers is Bt. It is an organic control. Look for Bioworm Control, Dipel and Thuricide. All have Bt as their active ingredient. Spinosad also works. Follow labelled instructions on all pesticides for safe and effective use.

CALVIN R. Finch, Ph.D. is a Horticulturist and Director of Texas A&M Water Conservation and Technology Center. Do you have a question for him? Write to him at

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