Dear Problem Lady – January 2017

Presented by The Capitol Hill Garden Club


What is the best after-care for a beautiful Poinsettia?
–– After its blooms have fallen, instead of trying to provide the water, light, and temperature control available in a greenhouse, throw out your Poinsettia and buy another next year.

What long-blooming houseplant can cheer me up in these cold dark January days?
–– Try buying a cyclamen in full bloom now. In reds, pinks, or white, cyclamen will bloom for months indoors. Water very moderately, and every two weeks add a high-phosphorus fertilizer to the water.

Last year my cyclamen plant had beautiful glossy dark green leaves and a flowering habit that produced literally dozens of brilliant red flowers from November until April. In May of this year I put the plant in a shed and withheld all water and other care, allowing it to go completely dormant. In early September I put it out in my backyard and began watering. It quickly produced new growth. In October I returned it to a cool, south-facing bedroom where it did so well the year before. As of this date [Jan. 6] the plant has put out 15 or so very healthy-looking leaves but gives no hint yet of any flowers. How can I jump start the flowering process?
–– What a magnificent plants woman you are! Now you must fertilize. The trick is to add a water-soluble, high-phosphorus plant food, something in the nature of 0-30-10. The first number is nitrogen – of which you need little or none. If one wishes to go to the trouble, cyclamen do benefit from being placed outdoors during spring and summer, just as you have done, and then brought back indoors by mid-October before any threat of frost.

I seem to remember the immortal Henry Mitchell writing that true gardeners are always busy, even in January. What gardening can I possibly be doing in January?
–– Now is the time to plan! Peruse seed and gardening catalogues, as you sit cozily by the fire dreaming of spring. Consider starting veggie or other seeds early, under grow lights. Or plan later to scatter the mixed seeds of annuals – say zinnias and asters – on some sunny underused corner. Don’t forget other annuals, such as the biggest ever, the begonia called Whopper. It produces three-inch red blooms and can tolerate torrid heat. Remember to think also about pots, and what new things might work in pots – crocosmia, Asiatic lilies, and other flowering bulbs, corms, and tubers.

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