New England

December, 2009
Regional Report

Choose Healthy Poinsettias

Here's what to look for when selecting poinsettia plants for purchase: Choose plants with dark green leaves and brilliant-colored bracts. Select a plant that hasn't shed its pollen yet (check the bracts for yellow pollen stains). Plants that drop their pollen will decline faster. Choose plants displayed in areas that provide bright light, temperatures in the 60s and high humidity.

Plant an Indoor Herb Garden

The outdoor gardening season may be over, but indoors you can grow many herbs. Sow seeds of parsley, oregano, sage, chives, and basil in flats. Once they germinate, transplant seedlings into individual clay pots, place them under grow lights, and water and fertilize (with a half strength solution) only when very dry. You'll be rewarded with fresh herbs for your holiday cooking.

Start Paper White Narcissus

One of the few bulbs that can be forced indoors without prechilling is paper white narcissus. Select an 8- to 10-inch-diameter pot and place bulbs close together in moist soilless potting mix. Place the pot in a warm, sunny window. As the flowers grow, support the stalks with chopstick-sized stakes to keep the plants upright.

Shower with Your Houseplants

Large-leaved houseplants, such as dracena, rubber tree, and philodendrons, appreciate a monthly shower in winter. Place the plants in the tub and shower them with warm water. The shower removes dust from the leaves (which can inhibit growth) and washes away some insects, such as aphids and whiteflies. Let the plants dry in the shower and then move them back to their original location.

Prevent Brown Tips on Houseplants

If your foliage houseplant leaves are showing brown leaf tips, it could be that you're overwatering them or they need a more humid environment. Most houseplants need little water in winter since they are growing so slowly due to the low light levels. Water only when the soil is dry an inch down for small pots, 3 to 4 inches down for large containers. Also, the air indoors in winter is extremely dry, so place plants on pebbles in a basin of water so that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. This will create a more humid environment.

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