New England

December, 2005
Regional Report

Caring for Holiday Plants

Decrease water and fertilizer on Christmas cactus if the buds are developing. To prolong the colorful bracts on poinsettias, keep them where temperatures don't exceed 70 degrees F. during the day or drop below 65 degrees at night. Keep potted amaryllis in a cool (60 degrees) shaded location until buds open. Then move it wherever you like. Cyclamen prefer cool temperatures, so keep them back from south-facing windows that heat up during the day.

Propagate African Violets

African violets make great houseplants and will flower in winter if given supplemental light. To propagate new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, such as Rootone, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants.

Cut Back Geraniums

If you brought in your geranium plants this fall and are growing them indoors this winter, chances are they've become very leggy by now. The cloudy, short days of November and December don't provide enough light for these plants to thrive. Cut back the plants to about 1 foot tall. They will resprout and grow bushier in the longer days of late winter.

Place Seeds in Storage

Gather leftover seeds from last summer and package them in cellophane envelopes or empty film canisters or sealable plastic bags. They will remain viable longer if they are stored in a cool, dry place. I keep mine in their original packets in a Jiffy padded envelope, either in the refrigerator or in the garage.

Watch Closely for Spider Mites

The warm, dry indoor air is prime breeding ground for spider mites on your houseplants. Look very closely at the undersides of leaves, at the base of stems, and on new buds for fine webbing. Set any suspicious-looking plants in the shower to wash off the mites, and repeat frequently. Or, if it's a small plant, you can swish it around upside-down in a sinkful of soapy water. Insecticidal soap also works, but it's smelly to use indoors.

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