Keep poinsettias in an average room temperature of 65 degrees to 70 degrees during the daytime and 60 degrees to 65 degrees at nighttime.
Avoid drafts from registers, radiators, baseboard heat and open doors. Locate plants in bright indirect light (never full sun). It is important to feed each time you water.
Tests have shown that it’s the lack of nitrogen in the leaf tissue that causes the bracts (colorful leaves) to drop.
Always check the soil in the morning by touching the soil to see if it is wet or dry.
Only water when dry! It is also recommended to mix up the fertilizer mixture in a milk jug.
This will allow the plant to receive only room temperature watering, which is better for the plant.
Never display poinsettia plants in the kitchen if you have bananas on the counter.
Ripe bananas release ethylene gas which causes poinsettias to drop their bracts.
Here is what should be on your overall radar for this month:
• Most of your gardening activity will, of course, be indoors this month and includes regular checking of houseplants for water and pests. A common complaint in growing rubber plants indoors is yellowing leaves with dead spots on the edges. This is usually caused by over-watering. Containers with bottom drainage are very important and helps remove surplus water. Remember the rule, “if in doubt, don’t water.” It is better to error on the side of “too dry” rather than “too wet.”
• Keep leaves raked-up on your lawn and landscape areas. Allowing them to remain creates an environment for over-wintering insects and diseases. Whenever possible compost the leaves for use next spring.
• To prolong the colorful bracts on poinsettias, keep them where 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. Cyclamen prefer cool temperatures, so keep them back from south-facing windows that heat up during the day.
• Before you purchase a cut tree, try to break off a small branch with your fingers. If it snaps, off consider it dead. If it does not snap off, cut off a small piece and see if it is green or white, which means the tree is still alive and a good Christmas tree.
• Consider spraying your cut or balled tree, fresh evergreen wreaths and greens with Wilt-Pruf. This will help it to retain moisture in the needles throughout the holidays and prevent premature needle drop. It can also be used outdoors to keep not only cut greens fresh but will protect evergreen plants as well. Winter winds tend to dehydrate evergreen leaves on hollies, camellias, azaleas, rhododendron, mahonia and other broadleaf evergreens. One application of Wilt-Pruf will protect these plants all winter long.
• Fireproof your tree by using the following homemade recipe: in a four-gallon bucket add two gallons of hot water, one pint Karo white corn syrup, four ounces of liquid chlorine bleach, two teaspoons of 20 mule team borax, two ounces of vinegar and two ounces of Wilt-Pruf. Cut one to two inches off the bottom of the tree and place the tree stump into the mixture, leaving it in the mixture for five days. Remember to prevent the solution from freezing. The tree will remain flame-retardant and will stay that way if you keep the tree in the same mixture.
• If Mother Nature hasn’t blessed you with snow cover on your lawn, don’t walk on the frozen grass because you’ll break grass blades and may cause dieback that will show up next spring. Do your best to stay off frozen grass so you can have a nice green yard in the spring.
• As a reminder, store all of your chemicals, tools and unused seed for the winter. Avoid storing pesticides where they will freeze, such as in a garage or shed. Some materials cannot withstand cold temperatures and will become ineffective. If odor is an issue, store in tightly sealed containers. All garden hand tools should be cleaned and sanitized with alcohol, and all unused seeds should be stored in air-tight containers in the refrigerator.
• Never display a fresh green wreath in between the storm and front doors. The intensity of the sun will bake the wreath and turn it brown.
• Cyclamen thrive in cool temperatures (50-60 degrees F). Place them in a spot where temps tumble overnight. Display them in a warmer spot during daylight hours — somewhere you can enjoy the pretty blooms. Keep soil consistently moist.
• The outdoor gardening season may be over, but indoors you can grow many herbs. Sow seeds of parsley, oregano, sage, chives and dwarf basil in clay pots. Once they germinate, place them under grow lights and water and fertilize (with a half-strength solution) only when very dry. You’ll be rewarded with fresh herbs for your winter cooking.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)