Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2005
Regional Report

Prune Hydrangeas

Now is the time to groom and prune hydrangeas. Remove all but the previous season\'s growth, which can be identified by its shiny, fawn-colored bark. Flowers form in year-old wood. Prune plants low to the ground, to about 24 to 35 inches. Leave five to seven healthy branches arranged in a vase shape. Rake up and remove fallen leaves and debris from under the plants, and fertilize around the base of the plants with aluminum sulfate for blue flowers or superphosphate for red.

Walk Lightly

Avoid walking on wet soil to prevent compaction. Roots push easily through loose soil but struggle if the soil is compacted. If you must walk on your planting beds, place temporary walkways made of plywood or stepping stones in the areas where your feet fall.

Watch for Frost

Clear days with no wind usually indicate cold nighttime temperatures. Protect citrus and succulents if frost is predicted. A covering of newspaper is sufficient. Larger plants, such as bougainvillea, should be protected with burlap, bedspreads, or sheets. For additional protection, place holiday lights in the branches for a source of heat. Mulch around the roots to protect them from cold weather.

Empty Plant Saucers

Use a blower or broom to remove standing water from saucers under outdoor container plants, or better yet, remove the saucers from under the plants altogether until spring. Plants left standing in water are susceptible to fungus diseases.

Protect Cymbidiums

Cymbidium orchids are just about ready to burst into bloom and need protection from hard frosts now. Usually hardy in all but the coldest weather, it\'s wise to move them under overhangs or against south-facing walls. Slugs and snails will eat the buds before you get a chance to enjoy them, so surround the pots with strips of copper tape or use a repellant around the base of the plants.

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