Christmas cacti are a very popular houseplant—and for good reason! When they bloom, they produce colorful, tubular flowers in pink or lilac colors. Their beautiful flowers, long bloom time, and easy care requirements make them a wonderful plant. We’ll bet someone in your family has a Christmas cactus!
Unlike many other cacti, Christmas cacti and their relatives don’t live in arid environments. Their natural habit is one of an epiphyte living in tree branches in the rain forests of Brazil! In other words, they prefer a humid climate, not a dry one, so it’s important to water these cacti more regularly than most succulents.
As winter approaches we turn our attention to preparing the garden for slumber. Beds are mulched, perennials are cut back, tender bulbs are lifted and stored, and we prepare to protect our roses from winter’s chill. The timing of your winter rose care will be determined by your area, however, a helpful reminder is to use Thanksgiving as a deadline for zone 5, earlier for zone 4, and later for zones 6 and up.
Step 1. When cutting back your roses bear in mind that roses die from the top down. When pruning your roses in late fall or early winter, plan on cutting back to about 2 1/2 to 3 feet. This will give you some latitude when it comes to winter kill. This is a general rule that can be applied to hybrid teas and most floribunda roses. Climbers and ramblers should not be cut back to this extreme, but rather tied back to trellis or fencing in order to keep the canes from snapping in the wind.
Step 2. When pruning, take care by using gloves. Using sharpened, clean by-pass pruners make a cut at an angle. General removal of deadwood or crossed branches can be accomplished at this time. Strip and remove all remaining foliage.
Step 3. Many will recommend removing all but the strongest four to five canes. This is a good technique for hybrid teas, especially those used for cut flowers. This is a judgment call. Your pruning will depend on the type of bush you are looking to create. When pruning we will often recommend filling your cuts with either a clear nail polish or even white glue. This serves to seal the cut and prevent pests such as cane borer bees from nesting in your roses. These insects are dormant in the winter and the cuts will generally seal themselves over time.
Step 4. Winter damage to rose bushes most often occurs when severe winds, or snow loads, rock the plant or shift it so it is loosened from the soil. This can expose roots which then dehydrate and produce severe damage to the plant. For this reason we encourage you to stake your pruned rose. This will help stabilize your plant and prevent damage from freezing and thawing. Place the stake while you can still drive it into the soil. After the ground freezes it will help anchor the plant.
Step 5. After the ground does freeze (in cold weather climates) apply some method of providing a retainer for mulch, soil, or shredded leaves. This can be a rose cone, peach basket, or in this case a rose collar. Protect the bud-union by applying 10-12 inches of organic material. Most areas can winter protect with soil from the garden. Take care when using rose cones or baskets. A plastic pail will often “cook” a rose bush, especially one situated in a southern exposure. In colder climates this original mounding up can be supplemented with pine boughs or chips. Take care to mulch in plants after the ground has frozen, for done too early can only provide a safe winter habitat for field mice or rodents who will then feast on the roots over the winter.
Step 6. Spring removal. Generally your roses can be uncovered around the first week of April. If you are in a warmer climate, clean them up earlier. An adage was to uncover your roses just before you prune your forsythia (which is just after the bloom fades). At this time you can remove most of the soil by hand and then using full water pressure, remove soil from the crown by spraying it with a strong spray. When the buds break in the warm weather apply a fungicide and begin feeding in May.
Norfolk Island Pine Plant Features
An easy-care houseplant, Norfolk Island pine is a festive holiday plant you can enjoy all year long! During the holidays, its needled branches look right at home decorated as a Christmas tree. After the holidays pass, remove the decorations and enjoy its classic look (and air-purifying powers) anywhere in your home.
Though it’s called Norfolk Island pine, it’s not a pine at all. Rather, this stately tree is a tropical plant native to the South Pacific. Indoors, it’s relatively slow-growing, but over the course of several years, this adorable little plant can grow to 6 feet tall or more.
Small, young Norfolk Island pines are perfect for decorating mantles, tabletops, and desks. As this long-lived houseplant grows, it’s becomes better situated as a floor plant and can be used to fill bright corners, flank furniture (such as entertainment centers), or stand alone as a stunning focal point.
If you want to encourage faster growth from your Norfolk Island pine, move it outdoors to a shaded or partly shaded spot during the summer. Because it’s a tropical tree, wait until all danger of frost has passed before moving it out, and bring it back in before the first frost in fall.
Norfolk Island Pine Growing Instructions
Grow Norfolk Island pine in a medium to bright spot in your home. The less light it gets, the slower it will grow. But avoid very low-light situations. If it doesn’t get enough light (natural or artificial), your Norfolk Island pine will be weak, spindly, and unattractive.
Water it enough to keep the soil moist, but not wet. The roots will rot if they stand in water. If the plant stays too dry, the tips of its branches will turn brown and crispy. Fertilize Norfolk Island pine once or twice during spring and summer to keep it growing well. You can fertilize more often if you want your plant to grow faster!
Note: After the holidays, take your Norfolk Island pine’s pot out of the festive foil pot cover (if it has one). Pot covers trap excess moisture around the roots and can cause your plant to suffer rot if it stays too moist.
If you wish to prune your Norfolk Island pine, you can do so at any time of the year.
Like most houseplants, Norfolk Island pine benefits from being repotted every couple of years.
Fa la la la! It’s the most wonderful time of the year–and our favorite part of the season! It’s time to head out with your family and wander amongst all the beautiful types of trees, looking for just the right one. As you’re searching, do the fresh test! Run your fingers along the needles, grab the branches and bounce the tree a little. If many needles fall off, the tree was cut long ago and has not gotten enough water, so find another! Also, the hunt for the perfect tree will go much smoother if you already know the type of tree you want.
Picking out a perfect tree isn’t all about looks—the tree’s scent, strength of branches, and needle retention all matter, too. So before you head to the tree farm or lot to select yours, lets compare the two most popular Christmas trees.
Balsam Fir – 3/4″ to 1 and 1/2″ short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrant. These needles are 3/4 – 1 and 1/2 in. in length and last a very long time. This is the traditional Christmas tree that most Americans grew up with. This tree has a dark-green appearance and retains its pleasing fragrance throughout the Christmas season.
Fraser Fir – The Fraser fir may be the perfect holiday tree. Its attractive 1-inch needles are silvery-green and soft to the touch. Because there is space between the branches, the Fraser is easier to decorate than some trees. The firm branches hold heavier ornaments. The trees grow to almost perfect shapes, and as long as the cut tree is kept properly watered, the Frasier fir has excellent needle retention.
Everyone has their favorite. We hope you have fun selecting this year’s perfect tree!
Many folks are surprised to learn that autumn runs a close second to spring as an ideal planting time, but it’s true: cool temperatures, reliable rainfall, and short, bright days help plants make a quick and easy transition to your landscape. Despite the cold weather lurking around the corner, the entire first half of autumn (and then some) provides ample opportunity for plants to grow roots and get off to a good start in their new home. Before you run off to the garden center, though, there are a few things you should know to ensure success with fall planting:
– You can plant up to 6 weeks before your ground freezes. Once the ground is frozen, root growth will cease almost entirely until spring, and that six week window gives the plant time to get established enough to withstand cold and snow. The date that your ground actually freezes varies from year to year, of course, and some areas won’t have frozen ground at all. If you’re unsure, mid-November is a safe planting deadline for nearly everyone.
– Get everything in the ground before the ground freezes. If you still have plants in their nursery pots, get them in the ground before winter, no matter how late it has gotten. The plants will be much happier and better protected in the ground than in their thin plastic pots, so even if it’s getting quite late in the season, just plant them where you can. You can always move them come spring if you change your mind.
– Provide supplemental water when needed. Autumn weather can be quite cool and rainy, but that doesn’t mean that new plantings should be ignored, particularly if weather has been dry and/or windy. Water all plants thoroughly after planting, and continue to water them as needed until the ground freezes.
– Mulch. Just as you pile on blankets and quilts when the temperatures dip, mulch acts as insulation for plants. Mulch also creates the ideal environment for vigorous root growth, which helps new plantings get off to a good start. While even established plants benefit from a nice layer of mulch, newly planted specimens especially appreciate the protection it offers from the challenges of winter.
– Know what to expect. You won’t see much top growth emerge on fall-planted shrubs, but this is actually a good thing: any new growth that the plant produces now will be too soft to survive the impending cold anyway. Autumn planting is all about giving the plant a chance to put on root growth, which continues until temperatures average about 48°F/9°C. Plantings will be raring to go come spring thanks to the roots they create in fall.
There are also a few things to avoid:
– Avoid planting evergreens in mid-late fall. Because they keep their foliage all winter, they are more susceptible to drying out when the soil is frozen and the winds are blowing. Having several months (rather than several weeks) to develop a sizeable root system better prepares them to face these challenges. This is especially important for broadleaf evergreens like holly, rhododendron, and boxwood, as their large leaves are far more likely to get windburned and drought-stressed than conifers with needle or scale-like foliage.
– Avoid planting varieties that typically get winter damage in your climate. Certain plants get a bit of winter damage every year, no matter what – butterfly bush, caryopteris, and big-leaf hydrangea are some common examples. If you’ve got a shrub in your yard that you prune each spring to remove dead, winter-damaged stems, similar varieties would be better planted in spring than fall.
– Avoid planting anything that’s pushing it in terms of hardiness. Hardiness zones are a guideline, not an absolute, and lots of gardeners happily experiment with them. If you’d like to try something that’s perhaps not entirely hardy in your area, it’s far better to plant it in spring so it gets the whole season to grow roots instead of just a few weeks. The more roots it has, the better-equipped it is to survive winter.
Bonus tip: All of these guidelines apply to transplanting as well as new plantings, so if you’ve been considering moving something that’s already a part of your landscape, fall is a great time to do it.
One last thing before you grab that shovel – take a look at our planting tutorial to ensure you’re planting like the pros. Enjoy the season!
It’s officially Autumn!
Fall is a glorious time of year. The countryside is virtually exploding with oranges, reds, golds and yellows. This is a great time of the year to enjoy the out-of-doors. It is also a great time for fall gardens as autumn mums and perennials finish the season with a flourish.
Most spring planted annuals get a bit ragged about now, having survived through the heat, dry conditions and pests of the summer. This is a good time to freshen up your gardens by introducing some proven winners to your fall landscape. Coincidentally, you’ll probably be around to enjoy your fall garden more than you mid-summer plantings. The weather is more temperate, vacations are over with and kids are back in school.
With that it mind here are a few suggestions that are sure to please. Most of these plants will have strong seasonal interest well into December-and ornamental grasses are great all throughout the winter!
Fall Favorites: Ornamental Grasses-Grasses are a terrific way to add drama to your landscape. Their texture is a perfect foil to Rudbeckias, Sedum or hardy Chrysanthemums. They are extremely easy to grow, durable and can be used in a variety of landscape situations. They are also very attractive when used in containers. Ornamental grasses can range in height from under one foot (Festuca cinerea ‘Elijah Blue’) to well over six feet (Miscanthus sinesis ‘Silver Grass’). Many varieties of the Pennisetum family are gaining in popularity, including alopecuroides, with its enormous tassels through fall and winter and a dwarf fountain grass called ‘Hamelin’. Most varieties send out dramatic spikes of feathery plumes during late summer and early fall. These seed heads add interest to an otherwise stark winter landscape.
Ornamental Kale-Flowering kale and cabbages are fast becoming one of the more popular additions to the fall border. And for good reason…ornamental kale offers dramatic colors and shapes not commonly available in the fall. Brilliant pinks, purples and creamy whites add intrigue whether planted in the landscape or used in containers to accent mums and grasses.
Their fabulous colors are not flowers, but rather rosettes of central leaves. Flowering Kales have fringed or serrated leaves that actually gain in color intensity as the weather turns colder. They literally bloom into the winter months! Their vibrant displays will last until the winter temps reach the teens.
Fall Pansies (Violas)-This is a great way to extend your color into November and beyond. While most mums have gone by, these guys, with proper maintenance, will flower their heads off. Plant them in drifts, in pots or even tuck a few in to spruce up a tired hanging basket. These cheery faces do especially well with the warm ground temps and cool nights of autumn. They usually will flower through the first couple of hard frosts. Hardier varieties even winter over and provide unexpected delights the following spring. Imagine their deep purples set off against the brilliant pinks of ornamental kales. The nice thing about it is it will look great whether planted in the landscape or potted up for the front door!
Well, those are but a few of many great ways to liven up your fall landscapes. Sedum, hardy perennial Hibiscus and Asters are other opportunities. Stop by with any questions. We are always here to help. Fall is a beautiful time, and after all, Fall is for Planting!
Dracaena marginata is a very popular houseplant that typically grows to 6’ tall or more over time unless pruned shorter. It features perhaps the narrowest leaves of the various species of dracaena sold in commerce. Slender gray upright stems are topped by tufts of arching, glossy, sword-shaped leaves (to 2’ long and 1/2” wide). Leaves are deep green with narrow reddish edges. Lower leaves fall off with age leaving distinctive diamond-shaped leaf scars on the stems. In its native habitat of Madagascar, this species grows as a shrub or small tree to 20’ tall. This plant is also sometimes called Spanish dagger or red-stemmed dracaena or Madagascar dragon tree. ‘Tricolor’ is a popular cultivar which adds a thin yellow stripe to each leaf.
Tolerates a wide range of indoor temperatures. For best results, place in bright indirect light locations protected from direct sun and drafts. Tolerates low light, but foliage loses best color in too much shade. Pot may be placed on a bed of wet pebbles to increase humidity. Use a loamy, peaty, well-drained potting soil. Keep soils uniformly moist during the growing season, but reduce watering from fall to late winter. Plants of different heights may be placed in the same container. Tall plants may be trimmed by removing the crown and rooting it.
Common Name: dragontree
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Zone: 10 to 12
Sun: Part shade
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen