Showing posts from December, 2017

Poinsettias: Reblooming Is Fun, But Challenging

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

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

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

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

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…