Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2004
Regional Report

Sterilize Your Pruners

An excellent, inexpensive, and easily used disinfectant for pruning tools is rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Mix 1 part alcohol with 9 parts water. Wipe shears with the alcohol after pruning every several cuts to avoid spreading any diseases. Clean the blades well before moving to another tree or bush.

Force Roses into Dormancy

Prune established roses even if they have not lost all their leaves. Remove crowded or crossed branches, and open the center of the plant for good light exposure and airflow. Prune branches at a 45-degree angle just above a bud that faces outward or toward a side that needs filling in. Remove any leaves that have dead or diseased portions, and destroy (don't compost) them. Old-fashioned roses with a single bloom cycle in the spring -- as with climbers -- should be pruned following that bloom.

Protecting Wounds

Pruning cuts that are under 1-1/2 inches across don\'t need protective covering. Paint larger cuts with an off-white or sand-colored interior latex paint that has a matte finish, not a glossy one. Black asphalt substances or dark-colored paint, especially on south-facing surfaces, will concentrate the sun\'s heat, baking and killing the tissue that the tree is trying to heal.

Reblooming an Amaryllis

Caring for a gift amaryllis so it will bloom again is easy. After it has finished blooming, cut off the bloom stalk about 1 inch above where it emerges from the bulb. Place the plant in a warm, sunny place to grow. Water it generously and fertilize regularly until Labor Day. Watering with a quarter-strength houseplant fertilizer solution each time will provide constant feeding for gradual growth. Don't let the soil get dry at any time, as this will disrupt the cycle. During the summer, a spot in filtered sun outdoors is fine. Flower buds set better in fall when night temperatures are cooler, from 50 to 55 degrees.

Don't Prune Following Frost

If plants are damaged by frost, don't remove any of the dead foliage or branches. Plants may look messy, but these damaged portions will protect sensitive growth further inside the plants from later frosts. Wait to start trimming until growth begins in spring; you may find that branches that appeared dead are alive and well after all.

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