UACES Facebook Overwintering


(October 2012)

QuestionI have a four foot tall poinsettia “tree” that is left over from last Christmas. I have just moved it back inside. Tell me what to do to make it turn red for the holidays.


AnswerThis is a common question, and while some people have had success in getting their poinsettia to turn colors, unless you have a greenhouse or a sunroom, the results are usually not as good as buying a new plant each year, but you can give it a try. The poinsettia needs full sun during the day, and total darkness at night—not a room light hitting it. After a couple of months of this short bright days and long dark nights, the leaves at the tip of the branches should begin to turn. The true flower of a poinsettia is small, non-descript yellow blossoms in the center of a group of colorful modified leaves called bracts. I think it is an awful lot of work, when you can buy such nice high quality plants every year. My suggestion is to grow it as a houseplant in a spare bedroom and if you get good color, enjoy it.

(January 2012)

QuestionI always repot my plants in the fall to bring around 4 in my house. I repot because my brother brought 11 baby copperheads in the house one fall. Anyway, I always get gnats, several hundreds of them come out of my plants so therefore I have to move them to the garage and cannot enjoy my plants in winter. Do you know what I can do to avoid the gnats? I always buy good soil.


AnswerWow! And I thought the snake story was an urban legend! If you have gnats every year, I would say you are overwatering. Fungus gnats multiply more rapidly in moist soils. Especially during the cooler, winter months, houseplants would benefit from being on the dry side—usually no more than once every two weeks for most plants. Timing of course will vary by plant, plant and container size and how hot you keep your house. Top-dressing the soil with sand, using a mild insecticidal soap drench when you move them inside can also help.


QuestionI have a very old (20 years) croton plant that has deep sentimental meaning to me. This summer I put it outside and it was very happy and turned beautiful colors. However, since I brought it inside, it has been dropping leaves. At first, I thought it was just adjusting to the climate change, but today I noticed fine web-like stuff in the crotches of the branches. as leaves continue to drop. I sprayed it with Neem oil and washed off the webs with Murphy's oil soap. I also moved it into my greenhouse so it can get more light and humidity. What else should I do to save it? Is there danger of whatever is on it infecting my other plants in my greenhouse?


AnswerThere is definitely a chance that the insects will move from one plant to another, particularly in a closed environment of a greenhouse. It sounds like spider mites to me. The Neem oil and the Murphy's Oil soap should definitely help, but keep it isolated from your other plants and monitor it. Keep the soil on the dry side, but try spraying the foliage with water periodically, as spider mites thrive when dry. Don't expect miraculous new growth until the day length increases, but I would suspect it will rebound. The more light they get, the more colorful their foliage. Good luck!

(February 2011)

QuestionWe live in Fayetteville. We have a Hibiscus that we have been keeping in the garage for the winter and during days when the temperature does not get below 45 digress we have been putting the plant outside. It has been doing real well until we had the snow and freezing weather about 2 weeks ago. I had left the garage door open while I was scooping snow after that evening I notice the leaves started to curl up and die. Just this last weekend I pulled all the leaves off the limbs and cut about 25% off all the limbs. Have I killed this hibiscus? Can I do something else to help this plant? Will it come back?


AnswerFirst of all, don’t move your plants in and out during the winter. Leave them in the garage until you move them out permanently. The goal is to keep them alive, but not thriving and growing. If they were exposed to below freezing temperatures for any extended time it could be bad. If they are close to the house and not the open door, it could be just a burn. Cut them back by half when you move them back outside. Repot them into a new container and water and wait and see what happens. Don’t move them outside until mid April to early May. Good luck.

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