Can you tell me what that plant is?

  • Posted: Friday, September 20, 2013 12:26 a.m.
Mexican petunia is not a petunia at all, but it produces colorful flowers.
Mexican petunia is not a petunia at all, but it produces colorful flowers.

SALISBURY — While helping set up earlier this week at the Rowan County Fair, I had a number of people approach me with gardening and other plant-related inquiries. Below are a few questions posed from local county fair patrons earlier this week.

Question: I stopped by the Agricultural Center on Old Concord Road to look at the pocket gardens and there was a beautiful purple flower in the garden. What is this flower?

Ruellia brittoniana). Originating from Mexico, the perennial is not a real petunia, but has a strong resemblance. The plant blooms in late summer and early fall, reaching 3 to 4 feet tall with attractive, purplish stems and narrow, lance-shaped leaves. The showy flower attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Question: I was driving along Long Ferry Road last week and saw this really unusual crop resembling corn, but with a large seed head. Can you tell me what this is?

Answer: The crop is grain sorghum. It is a very versatile crop that grows well under many conditions. Grain sorghum is mostly grown for animal feed in the United States. It’s a dietary staple in many countries. The grain is often used in making unleavened bread, cakes, wallboard and ethanol.

Question: My lawn care company told me I had brown patch in my lawn. My lawn is getting dry and I don’t want the disease to spread. Is it safe for me to irrigate my lawn now?

Answer: Brown patch is a problem when temperatures are in the 80s with high humidity. When temperatures begin to decline, so does the incidence of the foliar disease. Lawns need water now to help seed germinate and grow during the fall. There are fungicides that will prevent the spread of the disease, but early summer is best time for application of fungicides.

Question: I want to reseed my lawn. I have it tilled and ready to plant. Is there a waiting period to adding my fescue seed after the lime and fertilize has been applied?

Answer: Seeding and fertilization, including lime, can be done all at one time. The seed is not sensitive to the fertilizer or the lime.

Question: There is an unusual plant the keeps coming up in my flower garden each year. Mulch does not seem to deter the plant. Can you tell me what this is and how I can rid it from my flower bed?

Answer: The weed in your flowerbed is sicklepod. It’s a common weed in soybeans and other field crops, but can be a problem in landscapes. The best way to eliminate the weed is to physically remove it before the seed pods mature. Go to for more detailed information.

Darrell Blackwelder is county Extension director, Rowan County Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension. 704-216-8970

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