When the flowers on Christmas cactus fade, pinch off the blooms and begin a five-week dormant cycle.
Do not touch the plant for five full weeks — meaning no water and no fertilizer.
In the second week of February, begin bi-weekly feedings of Jack’s Classic 20-20-20, and expect a second round of flowers to come after March 15.
Some other items to add to your January gardening to-do agenda include:
• Mulch perennial beds or plants with three to four inches of mulch to keep plants frozen in place and to prevent them from being heaved out of the soil. Dusty Miller must also be mulched if it is to re-grow in the spring.
• Spray all snow shovels and discharge chute and impellers of snow blowers with silicone spray. This will allow the snow to slide off and not become impacted.
• Use calcium chloride or granular urea (46-0-0) instead of salt crystals when attempting to melt snow or ice. Both these products will work faster and more efficiently than salt, without harming your lawn or plants.
• Try not to walk on frozen grass over the winter as you will destroy the living cells in the blades of grass wherever you step. Two or more inches of snow and you can walk on the grass, three or more inches and sledding is OK.
• Always remove heavy snow from evergreens and shrubs, always brushing upward with a kitchen broom. It the plants are coated with ice, do not touch and allow it to melt as attempting to brush it may break the stems or the plant.
• Spray houseplants liberally with insecticidal soap if spider mites or mealybugs are present. Soap controls by contact, so it must come in contact with the bodies of the bugs to kill them.
• As a preventative to indoor houseplant pest mix up this recipe, 50-50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water or you can use insecticidal soap. Spray the plant every five days until you have made six treatments. It may take four to five weeks to rid the plant of the insect pests, so be patient, the insects lay eggs that hatch in seven to 10 days, which make it necessary to keep spraying.
• Indoor insect pests occur because indoor conditions are too dry for most tropical plants. Humidifying your home (30 percent or more) will help prevent these pests from returning. Another method would be to get trays of pebbles and adding water and setting the plants on the pebbles to create a natural humidity.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)