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Showing posts from 2017

Poinsettias: Reblooming Is Fun, But Challenging

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Southwest Yard and Garden
Question: I want to keep my poinsettias alive for next year. What do I need to do with them after the holidays? -Juanita R., Alamogordo, NM Answer: Poinsettias are named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the botanist who introduced them into the United States via stem cuttings from southern Mexico in 1828. In their native habitat, poinsettias are a perennial shrub that can grow as tall as 15 ft.  The different colors of poinsettia plants available commercially today represent different varieties of the same species, Euphorbia pulcherrima. Pulcherrima is Latin for beautiful. They are in the Euphorbiaceae or spurge plant family and are related to the noxious weed, leafy spurge; the common houseplant, crown of thorns; and one of my favorite perennial landscape ornamentals for New Mexico, the donkey-tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites). One reason poinsettias are so popular is that the red color (or whatever color you select) lasts a very long time. That’s because the red pa…

Christmas Cactus Care

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Question: How should I care for my new Christmas cactus to ensure long-term health and rebloom next year? -Wendy H., Las Cruces, NM Answer: Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), a hybrid plant and member of the cactus family, is known for blooming during the holiday season here in the northern hemisphere. The showy flowers are induced by long periods of uninterrupted dark. If your plant routinely blooms early, you may have a different species, Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), which has different requirements for the number of dark hours and therefore blooms at a slightly different time. Thanksgiving cactus has stem segments with more pronounced indentations and is also called “crab cactus.”Easter cactus is a different genus altogether. There are a few key things you can do to encourage a longer blooming period and return bloom next year. I mined archived columns for the best tips: Let the soil dry slightly between waterings. Surplus water should drain away, leaving the so…

Same Depth, Less Frequent: Irrigating in Winter

Question:
Now that winter is here in Las Cruces, I'm wondering what the frequency of watering should be and the best time of day or night to have the water come on? -Rob M., Las Cruces, New Mexico

Answer:
It seems #itscomplicated is a hashtag I could use every week. Knowing how much water to apply in your landscape is hard enough in the summertime when demands are high, but it can be even more difficult to know the right amount of water needed when many plants are bare and it can be easy to forget. Most plants need less water in colder months. This is partly because dormant plants are not actively growing. Lower temperatures also reduce transpiration of water through plant tissues. When deciduous plants drop their leaves, photosynthetic rates also drop, as do water requirements. That does not mean, however, that no water is needed at all. In our high desert climate, warm winter days, along with cold, drying winds, trigger some transpiration, which further dries the soil. Plus, many pla…

Growing Figs in New Mexico: How to Get Fig Fever

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Question:
Two years ago, I planted a ‘Kadota’ fig thinking that it would be a tree. Both growing seasons it died back to the ground completely and sprouted new shoots each spring. The first year it only produced a few figs, but this year I harvested more than six dozen. What now? Should I prune out the old shoots that died the first year, if so, when? -Sharon C., Albuquerque, NM Answer: The common fig (Ficus carica) is in the mulberry family and is native to temperate zones of Asia and the Mediterranean. Other Ficus species include several popular tropical houseplants that do not produce edible fruit, like the ficus tree (F. benjamina), fiddle-leaf fig (F. lyrata), and rubber plant (F. elastica). All of these species, including the common fig, generate a milky latex fluid that oozes out when the plant tissue tears, like when picking fruit. Some people find the latex to be caustic, so you may need to wear gloves when picking or pruning Ficus plants. Like many fruit trees, it is best to prun…

Part II: Winterizing Your Houseplants & Patio Plants

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Question: What steps do you recommend as we transition our houseplants back inside and prepare patio plants for the winter? -Dan G., Bosque Farms, Valencia County, NM Answer, Continued: This week we’ll go into more detail about checking houseplants for bugs before they get too comfortable and their populations get out of control. For more tidbits on how to care for your patio plants and houseplants when you bring them inside for the winter, check out last week’s column at https://nmsudesertblooms.blogspot.com/2017/11/winterizing-your-houseplants-patio.html I asked County Extension Agents from all over New Mexico to share the most common houseplant questions they receive. Responses were overwhelmingly pest-related. Dr. Carol Sutherland, NMSU Extension Entomology Specialist and NMDA State Entomologist, provided the skinny on a few pests you are likely to encounter and what to do about them: Spider mites are nearly microscopic, 8-legged, wingless creatures that thrive on a tremendous variety o…

Winterizing Your Houseplants & Patio Plants

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Question: What steps do you recommend as we transition our houseplants back inside and prepare patio plants for the winter? -Dan G., Bosque Farms, Valencia County, NM


Answer:
Three weeks ago, I brought in my container patio plants that can’t tolerate the cold. These included the huge spider plant that began as a cutting from my grandmother’s huge spider plant, various succulents, and my prized pineapple plant that I started from a pineapple top a few years ago. Other plants, like the octopus agave, geraniums, and purple heart, are hardier so they can stay outside longer, but I brought them in last week rather than risk it. I like to bring cuttings of various favorites inside for the winter and keep them in water. That way, if we get a severe cold snap, I have some plant tissue to rely on in the spring for replanting. This week I’ll winterize the hardy patio plants so that they can stay safely outside all winter. The two rose of Sharon shrubs—named, “Althea” and “Althea-later”—are currentl…

Cover Crop Considerations: Meeting Your Gardening Needs

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Southwest Yard and Garden |  by Marisa Y. Thompson

Question: We want to prep our garden area for the winter. What cover crop species do you recommend? -Jeff G., Belen, Valencia County, NM Answer: All of the NMSU Extension researchers I invited to give advice emphasized that the first step when considering a cover crop is to identify your management priorities. Are you planting this to reduce soil erosion, improve soil structure, build organic matter, or suppress insect pests, weeds, and diseases? There are many benefits to cover crops, and your selection(s) will depend on your end goal.  For single cover crop species, Dr. John Idowu, NMSU Extension Agronomy Specialist, offered, “We have had success with wheat, rye, and barley cover crops. Oats are also a good option, but they may winterkill in northern parts of NM, depending on the severity of winter. In our research, we have seen effective ground cover and weed suppression with the winter cereals. They also produce considerable biomass, wh…