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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Longer life for poinsettias

Question: How long do poinsettias last? The plant I brought home early in December still looks nice, and I hate to throw it out. Will it keep growing?

poinsettiaThe length of a poinsettia’s life generally depends on how much care you’re willing to give it. Some people bring it home to display for a few days, and without any attention at all it dries out and begins to drop its leaves within a couple of weeks.

If yours is still doing well, you’ve given it at least the minimum amount of TLC: indirect light in a room that’s not too warm, enough water to keep the soil moist but not soggy. If you continue to care for it, the plant should last well beyond the holidays. Continue reading

Moving calla lilies

Question: We live near Crossville, Tenn. and will be moving soon. What is the earliest I can dig up my callas? They have survived well the past three winters without being dug up but they probably need to be separated anyway.

calla-lilyAssuming that your callas are the type that die to the ground each winter and reappear the following spring, the rhizomes can be dug up anytime in the fall and stored for winter.

Callas are native to South Africa, so there is always the chance that the tubers may not survive extremely cold winter in the ground. But most gardeners I talk to in Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a, home of The Garden Bench) say they never dig up the rhizomes, and they come back each year. In Zone 6b (The USDA Hardiness Zone for Crossville), their survival seems a little less certain, but if yours have continued to grow and spread, then they must be in a friendly environment.

Here’s the recommendation for winter storage from the Gardening Know How website: To dig the rhizomes for storage, lift the clump out of the soil and allow them dry for two or three days, brush off the remaining soil and store them in peat moss in a paper bag in a cool, dry location.

Replant them in their new home next spring, after the danger of frost. Callas appreciate slightly acid soil that drains well, and should be watered regularly while they are growing and in bloom. They grow in full sun or partial shade.

The graceful flower bracts of calla lilies, which open about mid-spring or early summer, are lovely and delicate, but don’t be fooled by this. Callas are sturdy plants, and I have seen them escape their bed and push up through the packed gravel of nearby garden paths.

Poinsettia season

I bought a large, beautiful poinsettia for the holiday that I’d like to keep as long as possible. How long will it last? I’d like to keep it growing until spring and plant it outdoors when the weather is warmer.
Poinsettia

To keep a poinsettia looking its best through the holidays, here are the basics: Place it in a spot in the house that gets indirect light in a room that’s not too warm – 68 to 70 degrees is best. Make sure it’s not near heating vents or in a place where there’s a cold draft. Keep the soil moist, but don’t let the pot sit in water. In fact, if there is a foil wrapper around the plastic pot, remove the wrapper when you water to let it drain. When a poinsettia wilts, that may be an indication that it’s staying too wet.
If you take care of it, the poinsettia should last through the holidays and well beyond.

Poinsettia is a tropical plant, native to Mexico, so don’t be in a rush to get it outside. As spring approaches, cut it back to about eight inches tall and fertilize with an all-purpose plant food. After there is no longer any danger of frost, re-pot the poinsettia and set it outdoors, or plant it in the ground where it will grow into a nice, interesting green plant that will last until the first frost.

What we think of as poinsettia flowers are technically bracts, or modified leaves. The yellow flowers are in the center of the bracts. Some gardeners are able to “re-bloom” a poinsettia plant, but it takes patience and impeccable timing to provide the right conditions of light and dark needed to produce the colorful bracts.
Want to know more? The University of Illinois Extension offers a wealth of interesting information about this tradition of the season at its Poinsettia Pages.