Ga Dept of Agriculture


Consumer Qs April 2016

Question: Does the butterfly rose attract butterflies?
Answer: A few may flutter by and take a sip, but the butterfly rose (Rosa ‘Mutabilis’) gets its name from the resemblance of its single-flowered blooms to a flock of multi-colored butterflies resting on its branches.
     The petals of the butterfly rose darken with age instead of fading. However, they don’t truly just darken, but could be said to actually change colors. (Mutabilis means changeable, mutable or inconstant.) The buds are apricot and cerise but open to a peachy primrose yellow before changing to pink and then darkening to a deep rose. The colors seem in constant flux and can be difficult to describe. However, all the colors look good together, and planting a butterfly rose can be like having several roses instead of just one.
     Butterfly rose is also an easy rose to grow. It is sometimes listed as Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis.’

Q: How long can you keep hot dogs? How long can they be kept out of the refrigerator?
A: Packaged hot dogs can be stored in the refrigerator two weeks before opening. After opening a package of hot dogs you can keep them for a week in the refrigerator (40 degrees F. or less). These meats can also be frozen for one to two months for best quality.
     The same general food safety guidelines apply to hot dogs as to all perishable products: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. When you leave the grocery store with hot dogs, head straight home and refrigerate or freeze them immediately. Never leave hot dogs at room temperature for more than two hours (and no more than one hour if it’s 90 degrees F. or hotter).
     Although hot dogs are fully cooked, those at increased risk of foodborne illness should reheat hot dogs and luncheon meat until steaming hot before eating, due to the threat of listeriosis.

Q: Are Lenten roses perennials? Someone said they were not because they are evergreen.
A: Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus) are perennials. Some perennials lose all their leaves in winter (herbaceous perennials) and some keep their leaves in winter (evergreen perennials). Lenten rose is an evergreen perennial. A few other evergreen perennials are heuchera, rohdea, cast iron plant, candytuft, Algerian iris and Adam’s needle yucca. A few herbaceous perennials are baptisia, hosta, canna, bletilla orchid and amsonia. The line between herbaceous and evergreen is not always a clear one. For example, some daylily varieties are evergreen while others are herbaceous.

Q: I have chickweed in my flower bed. I was told not to worry about pulling it out as it will die soon with the arrival of hot weather. Is that true?
A: Common chickweed (Stellaria media) is a winter annual. That means its seeds sprout in the fall and the plants grow during the cool months of fall, winter and spring. Common chickweed sets seed and dies with the arrival of hot weather. However, it is best not to wait for hot weather to kill it. Remove as much of it is you can. By pulling it out, you are reducing the number of seeds that can sprout in the fall. Also, a tangle of chickweed will compete with perennials and hinder desirable annual flowers from sprouting and growing.

Q: I have heard Peace rose is resistant to black spot. Is this true?
A: With its yellow petals blushed with pink, Peace has been a popular variety since its introduction after World War II. If you like it, give it a try, but don’t buy it just for its disease resistance. Peace is listed as being resistant (not immune) to rose diseases including black spot (a fungal disease that causes black blotches on the leaves and their subsequent dropping.) However, some rosarians disagree and at least one reported to me that it is one of the worst in his garden for black spot. I have had one in my garden for 20 years and it always gets black spot but I never spray it. It is amid perennials and is not a focal point, however, so some spotted leaves and bare stems are not a major concern or eyesore.
     To help prevent fungal diseases on any rose, plant it where it gets good air circulation and receives as much sun as possible, especially lots of morning sun to dry the dew off its leaves. Also, don’t keep your roses pumped up with fertilizers. Too much lush growth is more prone to disease and attacks from insects.

Q: When can I move my houseplants outdoors?
A: Generally, you should wait until nighttime temperatures are in the 50s on a consistent basis. If you put them out too early, you run the risk of having to bring them in from a late frost, and truly tropical houseplants do not like temperatures in the 40s.
     When you move your plants outdoors, do not put them in direct afternoon sunlight at first. Conditions in the sunniest window or even a greenhouse do not compare to the amount of sunlight that beams down on a long afternoon. Your plants need to be acclimated to the stronger light or they can become sunburned. A shady location under a tree is a good place to put them first.
     Your plants will probably need more water when they are outside. There is much more air movement outdoors which can cause the leaves to transpire more and wick water away from terra cotta pots and soil surfaces.
     Gently hose down your houseplants when you get them outside to remove accumulated dust and to wash away spider mites. Spider mites can be a problem in the dry atmosphere indoors but are less of a problem when houseplants are outdoors. The move outdoors is also a good time to repot or top-dress the houseplants – an easier task outdoors than in.
     Two final tips: Cut back on watering before the move to make your load lighter and less messy. When dealing with larger plants, lift with your legs, not your back. That plant in a large pot is heavier and more awkward than you think, and you may have gotten out of shape over the winter. Trust me.

Q: When are Georgia strawberries in season?

A: Strawberry season in Georgia generally runs from March to late May. Look for them now at grocery stores and farmers markets.
     This strawberry season you may want to think beyond strawberry shortcake or toppings for cereal and ice cream and consider other ways to use this healthy and delicious fruit. Here are a few ideas: puree and slice some to add to iced tea, lemonade or sparkling water; put some into a blender with milk; use them in green salads or to make a vinaigrette; combine them with chunky homemade chicken salad; stuff some with ricotta or a flavored cream cheese; serve them with a cheese platter at a party; or make a refreshing salsa or springtime bruschetta.

Q: I remember seeing azaleas for sale years ago that were “tree azaleas” with a single straight trunk with branches at the top. Was this a special variety? Are they still available? I would like to plant one.
A: Tree azaleas or, more precisely, topiary azaleas, are not a single or special variety but are regular azaleas that have been grown and pruned to have this growth habit. They were once marketed as a novelty or for use as a focal point in the garden or at the end of a walkway. They could provide a trompe l'oeil effect of a mass of blossoms of one color rising like a cloud above azaleas of another color. We have not seen these for sale as landscape plants for many years although they may still be available.
     We continue to see topiary azaleas as a florist item. Some have braided trunks. The varieties forced for flowering indoors may not be the best varieties for growing outdoors, but if you want one, give it a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Q: I see almond milk at the grocery store. Has anyone has used pecans to make a similar product?
A: We found recipes online for making your own pecan milk. We also found a company, Treehouse Milk ( in Atlanta that makes pecan milk (chocolate and regular) from Georgia pecans. Currently it is available at farmers markets and stores in the Atlanta metro area. The company also makes cashew, macadamia and almond milks.
     Nut milks have become more popular in recent years. The trend may be driven by consumers seeking non-dairy or vegan options and consumers who want to try something new or different and like the flavor and/or nutrition profile these nut milks provide.

Q: What can you tell me about a low-growing flower called rose moss?
A: Rose moss another name for portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora), a low-growing annual with succulent leaves and flowers in a wide array of bright colors. It is easy to grow and is good for sunny, well-drained areas or planters and strawberry jars. It is one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed but is also available as plants from nurseries and garden centers.
    Rose moss is sometimes listed as moss rose. However, there is also an actual rose called moss rose due to the moss-like growth on its sepals.

Q: What can I plant to attract our state butterfly, the Eastern tiger swallowtail?

A: Plant the things the butterfly needs to lay her eggs on and on which the caterpillars feed. These are called “larval host plants.” Adult butterflies will actively seek these plants because they need them to produce a new generation. These include wild cherry, sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), basswood/linden, tuliptree (also known as yellow poplar and tulip poplar), birch, ash (Fraxinus spp.), cottonwood and willow. Some of these are too large for small landscapes or unsuitable for some locations. For example, it is not a good idea to plant a wild cherry near where you park your car, and cottonwoods are large trees that can be messy and weak-wooded but can be grown and preserved along flood plains where they naturally thrive.
     Also plant lots of “nectar plants.” These are plants with flowers that adult butterflies feed on. The best nectar plants have a large flower head or cluster of flowers that the butterfly can land on and hold to as it goes from individual flower to flower. A gust of wind could blow them off course and it would take a lot of time and energy to get back to feeding, so they like to stay put and feed. Some favorite nectar plants of tiger swallowtails include joe-pye weed, ironweed, garden phlox, thrift (Phlox subulata), butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), azalea, buttonbush, purple coneflower, liatris, abelia, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and single-flowered zinnias. Buddleia or butterfly bush can be a nectar source, but it has become invasive in some areas of the country and people fear it will do so here in Georgia. Just because it is called "butterfly bush" does not mean it is the best or only choice for a butterfly garden. There are many other plants that are just as good or better and that you don't have to worry about becoming an invasive weed.  
     If you are going to have a butterfly garden, remember that every caterpillar is not your enemy. Learn to tolerate a few chewed leaves. Refrain from using insecticides. They won’t just kill insect pests; they kill the pretty butterflies you want to attract, too.
    Encourage your neighbors to include tiger swallowtail favorites in their landscapes as well. You will be more successful if everyone works together to attract and protect this beautiful symbol of our state.  

Q: When is blueberry season in Georgia?
A: Georgia’s blueberry season usually runs from mid-May to mid-August. Look for Georgia blueberries in grocery stores and farmers markets. Some farms may sell on-site or as pick-your-own operations. You can freeze them while they are in season for use later.

Q: When should I stake my tomatoes? What about beans?
A: Stake tomatoes as soon as possible after planting. Also put up trellises for runner beans right after sowing the seeds.

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce ( or visit the department’s website at