Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Bring Summering Houseplants Back Inside
Bring in houseplants from their summer breather outdoors after grooming them and thoroughly examining them for pests. This is a good time to repot them in fresh potting mix. Toss the "old" mix out into the garden or onto the compost pile. Keep plants in a bright area indoors for three weeks to let them gradually get used to the darker, warmer, and drier indoor conditions. Then move them to their winter homes, but keep them away from drafts and heaters.
Deadhead Faded Blooms
Prolong blooming on tuberous begonias, dahlias, and fuchsias by pinching off faded flowers. Water them frequently while the weather is still hot, and then feed them with a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus fertilizer before they begin to go dormant.
Cut Back Summer Growth
Cut back alyssum, coreopsis, marguerite and Shasta daisies, delphiniums, dianthus, felicias, gaillardias, geraniums, ivies, lantanas, lobelias, petunias, and santolinas to one-third or one-half of their present size. However, don't cut them further back beyond the green foliage to the older woody growth, as this may kill the plant.
Buy Bulbs Now
Bulbs to plant for spring bloom can be purchased now for first-choice quality. These include alliums, amaryllis, anemones, brodiaeas, crocuses, daffodils, freesias (so fragrant!), fritillarias, galanthus, baby glads, glory-of-the-snows, grape and Dutch and wood hyacinths, Dutch irises, ixias, leucojums, lycoris, montbretias, narcissus, paperwhites, peonies, ranunculus, scilla, snowdrops, sparaxis, tigridia, tritonia, triteleia, tulips, dogtooth violets, watsonias, and winter aconites. Choose big, plump bulbs, as these have the most stored food and will produce the largest and most numerous blooms over the longest period of time. They cost a bit more, but they'll provide a great deal more pleasure when they bloom. Refrigerate hyacinths and tulips for six to eight weeks before planting them in November.
Enrich Bulb Planting Soil
Enrich the soil where the bulbs are to be planted with compost, bone meal, and granite dust or wood ashes (but not from charcoal briquets used in the barbecue, which contain harmful chemicals). Also, add some nitrogen, as it is easily washed from the soil by winter rains, and bulbs need a small but continuous supply all winter long for strong growth of the foliage and the bloom stalk.