Upper South

December, 2006
Regional Report

Protect Broad-Leaved Evergreens

Bone-chilling temperatures and ferocious winds can take a toll on broad-leaved evergreens, such as boxwood, azaleas, rhododendrons, and mountain laurel. Hopefully, the plants went into this kind of weather well watered. It's also important to have an organic mulch around the plants. An antidesiccant spray is especially helpful in keeping leaves from drying out from the wind. If you've lost plants in the past but are determined to keep trying, consider providing burlap windbreaks.

Spread Winter Mulch

As soon as the ground freezes solidly, it's time to apply winter mulch around plants, especially trees and shrubs planted this year as well as roses, perennial beds, and bulb plantings. Evergreen branches and leaves that don't pack down tightly are inexpensive and quite effective. Mulch should be several inches from the base of trees and shrubs to prevent rodent damage. Add wire mesh trunk guards for extra protection.

Decorate Windowboxes

Windowboxes filled with evergreens add an extra dollop of beauty to your outdoor holiday decorations. Remove the dead annuals from the container but keep the soil. Insert evergreen branches, such as pine, southern magnolia, cedar, or holly into the soil. If the soil is frozen, soften it with some warm water. Add colorful berries, ornaments, or a bow. Take the bow off after the holidays, but leave the greenery throughout the winter.

Caring for Holiday Cactus

Christmas cactus, which is actually more a succulent than a cactus, is popular this time of year as a gift plant. To keep it in bloom as long as possible, provide daytime temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees F and 55 to 60 degrees at night. Keep plants in bright light but away from heat sources and drafts. Water when the top inch of soil is dry, and never allow plants to stand in water for more than an hour.

Use Safe Deicers

Deicing salt may make a sidewalk safe, but it is highly detrimental to plants. Instead, use kitty litter, sand, granular plant fertilizer, or sawdust. Stock up on these now, so that they'll be available on short notice when storms suddenly appear. Walking on frosted or frozen lawn is also detrimental to grass plants. If you find yourself wanting to walk on certain lawn areas, plan on installing stepping stones or some other form of path next year.

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