Usually purchased "in bloom" in December, colorful poinsettias and cascading Christmas cactus can be coaxed into "blooming" again in subsequent winters.


What to do in December

Don’t forget to remove bulbs from the refrigerator. If the bulbs have received 60 hours of chilling or more, they can be planted during December. Unseasonably warm weather may cause early bulb sprouting in the garden.

Use cuttings from your yard to decorate for the holidays. Always remember to use good pruning techniques when you remove cuttings from plants. Small branches from pine trees provide greenery and berries from holly or nandina make beautiful accents in the home.

Be on the lookout
Take advantage of the holiday season and bad weather days to study seed nursery catalogs. It won’t be long before fruit trees and pecan trees will be available. Plan a new garden or expand an existing one.

When selecting poinsettias (photo at left), look for tight yellow flower buds. The red portion is actually called a bract, not a flower. Poinsettias cannot tolerate cold or rapidly changing temperatures. Keep the plant where temperatures remain above 60 degrees – between 65 and 70 degrees is ideal.

Plants make wonderful gifts for the holidays. Try a living Christmas tree this year. Afghan and pinyon pines do very well in our area and make wonderful windbreaks or landscape trees. Norfolk Island pines are good small Christmas trees, but they must be used as houseplants, as they cannot be planted outdoors.

Miscellaneous chores
This is a great time to begin to add to your compost pile. Compost leaves that have fallen. To help accelerate the process, add nitrogen (any form will do) and a small bag of potting soil or compost from the local nursery or garden center. This “black gold” will be ready for use in the spring.

Do you want to make cuttings from your Christmas cactus (photo at left)? Wait for it to finish blooming. Select a four- to five-joint section, cut or break it off, and insert the base end into moist potting soil. Place in a bright area and wait three to four weeks for rooting to occur.

Don’t forget to water your lawn! Dry weather can cause winter damage to occur.

    (c) 2007 - 2008 Howard County Master Gardeners