Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

December, 2008
Regional Report

Care for Poinsettias

The beautiful poinsettia plant that we bring into our homes to celebrate the holiday season is native to the tropics. It will not tolerate dry conditions so humidity is a must if you want your poinsettia to last until the New Year. Add gravel to the saucer under the plant to catch run off water. The gravel will allow the plant to sit above standing water (preventing root rot). Eventually the water will evaporate back up through the foliage providing much-needed humidity. Poinsettias are also very heavy feeders and have been on a stout diet of balanced fertilizer at the nursery. Keep them happy be using a 1/2 strength solution of bloom-enhancing fertilizer every time you water. Water only when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

Plant Narcissus

After the holidays the world feels drab. Spice up your post holiday mood by planting narcissus bulbs now. Select large, firm bulbs with no sign of rot or mold. Plant 6 to 12 bulbs side-by-side in a container with the top 1/3 of the bulb standing above the surface of the soil. Water thoroughly and place the prepared pot in the refrigerator for 4 weeks to help develop root growth. After the prescribed amount of time, move the pot to a cool room with ample light. Once the buds have set, bring the potted bulbs into the main living area of the home and enjoy the fragrance. After the bloom has faded, remove the spent flowers and plant outdoors in a sunny location.

Holiday Treats for the Birds

String peanuts, popcorn and cranberries on short lengths of yarn. Cut apples and oranges in rings and use paper clips as hanging hooks. Roll pine cones in peanut butter, then in bird seed and thread paddle wire around the cone as a hanger. Tie colorful ribbon around short pieces of millet. Place the "ornaments" on a shrub or low tree outside a window so you can watch the birds enjoy their own holiday festivities.

Protect Citrus Bark from Sunburn

The bark on many types of citrus trees will become sunburned if exposed to direct sunlight. Whitewash exposed trunks or wrap with paper trunk wrap (available at nurseries).

Check Drainage on Container Plants

If you notice standing water in any of your container plants, it might be wise to check the drainage hole. Plugged drain holes will result in plant death. Use a screwdriver or other blunt object to ream the hole free of roots or soil. If roots are the culprit, it may be time to repot. When repotting, use a piece of plastic window screen to cover the drain hole instead of pottery shards.

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