Upper South

December, 2004
Regional Report

Control Houseplant Pests

Once houseplants are brought indoors after summering outside, pests may suddenly appear, including whiteflies, spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, or scale. Healthy plants that have not been overfertilized and that are watered regularly and provided with adequate humidity are less likely to be bothered. Most important is to maintain a close watch in order to catch the pests early before the infestation becomes serious. Among the safer choices for controlling indoors pests are insecticidal soap, Neem, and hot pepper sprays.

Protect Young Tree Trunks

Shade or fruit trees planted in the last year or so are particularly susceptible to having their trunks nibbled by rabbits or mice in winter. To prevent this, use some type of trunk protection, such as circles of hardware cloth or commercially available protectors. It's also important to keep mulch several inches away from the trunks. To prevent sunscald (caused by the freezing and thawing effects from sunny days and frigid nights) wrap the trunks with commercially available paper wrap.

Dealing with Snow and Ice

Heavy snowfalls can break the branches of trees and shrubs. To save plants, very gently shake off the snow. For special shrubs, it's a good idea to do this several times while it's still snowing. Ice storms are another matter; attempting to remove the ice may cause even more damage. Excessive use of rock salt on paths and driveways can lead to serious injury of nearby plants. Instead, use clean cat litter, sand, wood ashes, or granular fertilizer to melt ice.

Caring for Cyclamen

Tender types of cyclamen are readily available in full bloom during the winter to brighten homes with their unique "wind-blown" flowers in shades of pink and red. Plant breeding has developed both dwarf and full size types. Keep the buds and flowers coming by growing them in a cool (60 to 65 degree F.) room with bright indirect light. Maintain humidity by placing the pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water. Keep the soil evenly moist, but avoid getting water on the leaves.

Check Winter Mulch

High-flying winter winds can displace the loose winter mulch so carefully placed around perennials. Check at least once a week or after a storm, and replace it when necessary. Pine boughs placed over a leaf mulch will help to keep the mulch in place -- a great use for discarded Christmas trees. Be grateful if it snows, as mounds of that white stuff are among the best of winter mulches.

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