Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

December, 2010
Regional Report

Poinsettia Care

Pronounced "Poin-set-i-uh," not "Poin-setta."
Poinsettias are the traditional holiday plants. Unfortunately, they are fussy and will drop leaves if allowed to dry out between watering. They will also drop leaves if over watered. These plants have been pampered in a greenhouse with continuous fertilizing and maximum light until they are stuffed into a bag, transported in cold trucks and delivered to a retailer where they may, or may not, have received proper care. The plants will be in a deep state of shock by the time you get them home. Remove the decorative plastic wrapper then water your new poinsettia by soaking the pot in a sink filled with tepid water immediately. Next, set the plant in a warm room with ample light. You should be able to see a distinct shadow. Mist the poinsettia daily and set the pot in a saucer filled with gravel to act as a humidity tray. Fertilize every time you water with 1/2 strength 15-30-15. Poinsettia is not one of my favorite plants, good luck!

Dig and Store Dahlia Tubers

Put your precious dahlias to bed for the winter by digging the plants carefully from the ground. Discard any tubers that have been nicked by the shovel. Shake off excess soil and allow the tubers to dry in a single layer until the foliage has turned brown. At that point, remove and compost the foliage, store clean tubers in sawdust or shredded newspaper in a cool, dry area until the soil has warmed in the spring.

Put Carnivores to Bed

Most carnivorous plants need a resting period in the winter. Sundews and Venus fly traps should be placed outside in a protected area. Make sure to keep the reservoir filled with distilled or spring water during the rest period. Don't worry if frosts are predicted. Most carnivores are hardy to 22 degrees.

Frost Watch

Clear days with no wind usually indicate cold night time temperatures. Protect citrus and succulents if a hard frost is predicted. A covering of newspaper is sufficient. Larger plants such as bougainvillea should be protected with burlap, bedspreads or sheets. For additional protection, place holiday lights in the branches for a source of heat. Mulch around the roots to protect from cold weather.

Plant Asparagus

Now is the ideal time to plant asparagus from bare root stock. To plant, dig a trench 1 foot wide and 8-10 inches deep. Loose, sandy soil is best. The roots should be spaced 1 foot apart, setting them in the soil so that the tops, or crowns, of the roots are 6-8 inches below the top of the trench. Spread the roots out on the bottom of the trench and cover the roots with only 2 inches of good, rich garden soil. As the plants begin to grow, fill in the trench gradually with soil, but never cover the growing tips. You won't harvest any spears the first three years to allow the bed to become established.

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