Happy winter solstice and a new season! Today is the shortest day of the year – which means this weekend is a great time to plant garlic and onions for harvest next summer.
• Just because it rained recently doesn’t mean every plant in your garden got watered. Remember to give a drink to plants that rain doesn’t reach, such as under eaves or evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants. If nighttime temperatures are expected to plummet, make sure your tender plants are saturated before the sun goes down.
• Poinsettias and cyclamens – traditional holiday gift plants – will last longer if placed in a warm sunny location away from heating vents or drafts. Poke holes in the foil wrapper for drainage and place the potted plant on a plate or saucer.
Here are more tips on poinsettia care from Auburn’s Eisley Nursery, a source of many local gift plants:• Place potted poinsettias indoors in indirect light. Six hours or more of light (natural or fluorescent) is best.
• Keep them happy. A tropical shrub native to Mexico and Central America, poinsettias don’t like it too cold or too hot; their comfort zone is between 65 and 75 degrees, day or night. Lower temperatures will make them drop leaves almost immediately and shut down. Higher temperatures also shorten their life cycle, blasting out the true flowers – those tiny yellow knobs at the center of the red bracts.
• Limit their exposure to lower temperatures. If using potted poinsettias for a porch display, place them outside just before your guests arrive. Don’t leave them outside overnight.
• The red bracts are actually modified leaves (not flower petals), but they’ll retain their color long after the true flowers brown and wither. When choosing a plant, look for tight flowers that haven’t opened. The plant will keep its color longer.
• Check the soil daily. Water the plant when soil feels dry to the touch, but don’t let it get soggy. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water. Wilted plants tend to drop bracts sooner.
• Look to your garden for more decorating ideas. Bring in branches of pyracantha, holly, toyon, nandina or other berry-bearing foliage to brighten your home. Also good are boughs of cedar, pine, redwood, fir, juniper, spruce, cypress or other evergreens; they smell as festive as they look.
• Plant bulbs such as daffodils, callas and Dutch iris.
– Debbie Arrington