Rocky Mountains

December, 2003
Regional Report

Be Picky About Your Poinsettia

Tis the season to buy the flowers of the holiday --- poinsettias. Make sure you have your poinsettias wrapped in a floral sleeve before transporting them outdoors to your car. Cold, windy days will make an unprotected plant drop its leaves and flowering bracts. Be picky when selecting a plant. Choose a plant with dark green foliage that starts at the bottom of the plant. The true flowers should be plump, just-opening green buttons (in the center of the colorful bracts).

Check Summer Bulbs in Storage

If you put summer-flowering bulbs into storage in the basement, now is a good time to check them. Remove any that show signs of rotting and mold growth. If needed, you can dust with flowers of sulfur to inhibit additional rot. If the storage medium has started to dry out, lightly moisten it with a spray bottle filled with warm water. Gently mist dry sphagnum peat moss, sawdust, vermiculite, and compost.

Mulch Roses

Rose bushes and perennial flowers that are located in exposed locations will benefit from winter mulching now that the soil has gotten cold enough. Frost heave is a common problem with some plants in our region, especially during winter temperature fluctuations that are common in the Rocky Mountain region. Use a few inches of coarse homemade compost, shredded leaves, clean straw, shredded cedar chips, or humus-rich garden soil. Spread a layer of mulching material around susceptible perennials, rose bushes, and tender shrubs.

Use Evergreen Boughs to Decorate Outdoors

Use prunings from the cut Christmas tree to decorate outdoor planters, and gather a few to make an evergreen holiday bouquet in a vase of water for inside. Evergreen fragrance will help set the mood for this festive season. Add water to the vase daily to keep the cuttings from drying.

Evergreen Scraps Provide Plant Protection

Evergreen boughs from the Christmas tree also are very useful for protecting sensitive, semi-hardy shrubs in Colorado and the Rockies. Recycle the tree trimmings by placing them around the bottoms of azaleas and rhododendrons. This will help to buffer the extreme fluctuations and winter sun damage so common in our area. If the ground is not frozen, you can even stick the cut ends of boughs into the soil around the plants. Evergreen cuttings help to collect snow and keep it around the plants for additional protection.

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