Middle South

November, 2007
Regional Report

Choosing Poinsettias

Get your poinsettias off to a good start so they last through the holiday season. First, choose a plant whose flowers haven't yet shed their pollen. Examine the small yellow structures at the center of the bracts -- the true flowers. If they've shed their pollen, you'll see telltale yellow "dust" on the leaves. Protect your plant from drafts on the way home and don't leave the plant in the car on a cold day. Make your poinsettia your last purchase of the day, and rush this tender tropical right home.

Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs

There's still plenty of time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. And when it comes to bulbs, more is definitely better. You don't need anything fancy; in early spring, even the "plainest" daffodils and crocuses are spectacular. Plant a range of early, mid, and late-flowering bulbs for the longest display. Planting snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, tulips, Dutch iris, and alliums will provide color from February through June.

Check Labels Before Storing Pesticides

Some pesticide products can be kept over the winter in an outdoor storage shed, but others need to be protected from freezing to remain effective. Check labels for storage instructions. No matter where you store them, be sure pesticides are safely stowed out of reach of children and pets. Even organic pesticides can be highly toxic if ingested or handled improperly.

Force Paper Whites

Choose a container with no drainage holes, fill it with gravel, and set the bulbs so the top third pokes above the gravel. Add water until it's just below the base of the bulbs; the bulbs will send down roots into the water. Or plant the bulbs in a shallow container filled with potting soil. Place the container in a cool (50 to 60 degrees F), bright room. Plants should bloom four to six weeks from the planting date.

Wait to Mulch

Although it may seem counterintuitive, it's best to wait until the soil cools and plants are fully dormant before applying a protective winter mulch. If you apply it too soon, the mulch will hold in the heat and the plant may continue growing instead of progressing into dormancy. Once plants are dormant, a layer of insulating mulch will prevent freeze/thaw cycles that can heave them out of the ground.

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