Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at [email protected].

We purchased Savannah hollies and have planted them on either side of the front entrance steps. Both are planted 2 feet from the steps. Now we are worried that this may be too close to the house. We were told that they can get 20 feet tall. — Jamie

I’m going to have to scold you a little bit about planting trees near your home without first finding out what their mature size will be — width as well as height. Before planting, always look up the plant online, check out reference books appropriate for our region or check with local horticulturists (or do all three) to find out how large a tree will be at maturity.

This is important when planting trees anywhere in your yard, but is especially critical when locating them near structures. But, at least you started worrying now when things are easy to correct rather than years from now.

(This advice also applies to shrub selections. You would be amazed how many people plant shrubs and then must cut them back continually because they are too large for where they were planted. This is easily avoided by knowing how large shrubs grow to be before you purchase them.) 

Your spacing is, as you suspect, way too close. The mature height of Savanah hollies (Ilex x attenuata ‘Savannah’) is about 25 to 30 feet (or more) with a spread of about 10 feet. So, that means you need to plant these someplace where that height is desirable. And you need to plant them where they have at least a five foot clearance out from the trunk in all directions.

So, you may still decide these are nice trees you want to use to flank the entrance of your home. But you need to locate them at least 5 feet away from the steps (more would not be bad — you don’t want them crowding the entrance).

Also, plant at least eight feet away from the house/porch. That is the recommended minimum distance from the house when planting small trees. Now through February is the time to move the trees.

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It can take new camellia bushes several years to bloom.

We have two beautiful pink camellia bushes about two years in the ground. This year, they have gotten many buds but they never turn into flowers. My husband did feed them with Miracle Gro, but I thought you might have a suggestion about why no flowers. — Tricia Haley

A couple of things. First, you are new to growing camellias (Camellia japonica). Soon you will realize that they do not come into bloom until late November or, most often, December (even as late as January). Flowers continue until as long as April.

So, first off, you are expecting them to be in bloom too early. Second, don’t be surprised if a lot of the buds fail to open. Young camellias in the first few years after planting are often reluctant to open flower buds. This is thought to be related to stress due to the plants not being well-established.

Time and good care will take care of this. There is nothing you can do to force the camellias to open their flower buds.

Can you tell me the lawn disease control product I need to use to control brown patch in my lawn? I have a couple of areas that have recently turned brown, and I would like to treat before more damage is done. — Jeffery Mason

Stop by a nursery or garden center and ask the staff to help you select a lawn fungicide and use it according to label directions. Products such as Immunox (spray) or Bayer Advanced Lawn Fungus Control for Lawns (granules) would work well. There are many other brands, and if the nursery you stop by doesn’t have these, they are sure to have other suitable products.

Get it growing 2023

Garden tips

CALENDAR: The LSU AgCenter’s 2022 Get It Growing Lawn and Garden calendar is now available online at and at some local nurseries. Featuring monthly gardening tips by LSU AgCenter horticulturist Heather Kirk-Ballard, beautiful photographs by Louisiana gardeners, and lots of useful gardening information, it’s a wonderful gift for you or your gardening friends. The calendar costs $11.95 and proceeds support horticulture scholarships and research.

DEADLINE FOR BULBS: Finish planting spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, Dutch irises, narcissus, lilies, etc. by early December. This is your last chance to buy tulips and hyacinths, which must be refrigerated for at least six weeks before planting. Bulbs purchased and refrigerated now should be planted in the second week of January.

FALL COLOR: Late November through early December is usually peak season for the leaves of our deciduous trees and shrubs to show their best color. Some of the trees that are most reliable about producing fall color here include green ash, sweet gum, crape myrtle, ginkgo, Southern sugar maple, Shumard oak, red maple, Japanese maple, flowering pear and Chinese pistachio. Shrubs such as sumac, Virginia willow and deciduous viburnums also have good fall color.

USE RAKED LEAVES: Do not rake up and throw away leaves that fall from your deciduous trees over the next few weeks. Use fallen leaves as mulch around shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Pile up the fallen leaves and allow them to decay into valuable compost. Adding compost or other forms of organic matter is a key part of bed preparation. Why throw away perfectly good organic matter generated by your landscape and then go and spend money buying mulch or organic matter?

Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at [email protected].

The colors and fragrances of flowers are the delight of gardeners. There is more to flowers, however, than meets the eye or the nose. Your tas…

The cool season from October through March is the ideal time for planting hardy trees, shrubs, ground covers and vines in our landscapes, with…

Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at [email protected].