New England

December, 2009
Regional Report

Cut Back Geraniums

If you brought in your Pelargonium geranium plants this fall and are growing them indoors this winter, chances are they've gotten very leggy by now. The cloudy, short days of November and December don't provide enough light for these plants to thrive. Cut back the plants to about 1 foot tall. They will resprout and grow bushier in the longer days of late winter.

Caring for Holiday Plants

Decrease water and fertilizer on Christmas cactus if the buds are developing. To prolong the colorful bracts on poinsettias, keep them here temperatures don't exceed 70 degrees F. during the day or drop below 65 degrees at night. Keep potted amaryllis in a cool (60 degrees) shaded location until buds open. Then move it wherever you like.

Feed the Birds

Keep birdfeeders and suet feeders stocked. If a feeder remains empty for any length of time, the birds will look elsewhere for their meals and you may not be able to lure them back. You can provide fresh water throughout the winter by using a plug-in birdbath heater. It plugs into an outdoor outlet.

Propagate African Violets

African violets make great houseplants and will flower in winter if given supplemental light. To propagate new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, such as Rootone, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants.

Spray Antitranspirants

During any warm (above 40 degrees F) days in December or January, spray broadleaf evergreen shrubs, such as rhododendrons and mountain laurel, with an antitranspirant to protect them from the winter cold and drying winds. It's especially helpful for tender varieties. Antitranspirants create a coating over the leaves that helps the plant conserve moisture. Spray now and again in March.

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