Pacific Northwest

January, 2006
Regional Report

Use Salt Deicers With Caution

If you use deicing salts to remove ice from sidewalks, pathways, and driveways, remember that many of these chemical treatments are toxic to shrubs, flowers, and turf grasses. Products that contain rock salt or sodium chloride can accumulate in the soil and burn plant roots. Sand is a good alternative to deicing salts, but if you decide to use chemical de-icers, look for products containing materials such as potassium chloride or calcium chloride. While these are less toxic, it%'s still important to read and follow label directions and avoid over-using near landscape plants.

Add More Houseplants

Keep your thumb green by growing more houseplants. Both foliage and flowering indoor plants offer many colorful possibilities to brighten your home. When selecting new houseplants, consider if they are able to withstand or adapt to our low humidity. Additionally, winter air tends to be even drier due to forced air heating systems and the cold, dry outside air. For spots in your home that need color, check out the many types of bromeliads. They can thrive in dry atmospheres and are almost fool-proof. Keep the vase-shaped leaf cluster filled with clean water. Bromeliads seem to do best in bright, but indirect light.

Keeping Cyclamen

If you received a Christmas cyclamen for the holidays, keep the plant in a cool, but bright location. This indoor flowering plant does best in a northern exposure or east window. It will tolerate temperatures as low as 45 degrees F. Cyclamen like moist but not soggy conditions. Fertilize lightly once a month with a low analysis 5-10-5 plant food. The plant may become dormant in summer for a rest period and should be stored in a cool basement. As growth resumes, bring it back to a bright, cool spot.

Prevent Swarms of Fungus Gnats

To prevent the annual invasion of those tiny black fungus gnats around your houseplants, clean up the bases of the plants. Also, you may want to cut back on watering because these gnats tend to build up in wet potting soils and in plant debris. Follow good sanitation practices with your indoor plants to help to reduce gnat populations.

Check Stored Bulbs

Check the summer bulbs you stored away this fall. If any are showing signs of rot, cut out the affected parts or toss the worst of the lot. If the storage medium is getting too dry, lightly mist with warm water to prevent fleshy tuberous roots from shriveling up and dying.

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