dear master gardener: I like the look of cyclamen and thought I would give my friend a red cyclamen for Christmas. is that a good choice? Is it easy to hold and easy to grow as a foliage plant?
answer: It’s the season to give presents to loved ones, and I personally think that giving plants is a good idea! If you like plants, you will surely like it! Cyclamen are great houseplants as they bloom for many months each year. You don’t have to limit yourself to red. Also available in pink, white and purple. Cyclamen at this time of year are easy to find in florists, nurseries, grocery flower counters and large stores. Choosing plants that have only a few open flowers but many buds forming at the base of the plant will allow it to bloom longer.
Cyclamen grow best in cool, well-lit areas. Avoid exposure to cold or hot winds as this may cause the flowers to fall off. With proper watering in bright shade, it will continue to bloom until spring. Cyclamen grow from round tubers and should be watered from the bottom or sides of the pot, not the central crown. Lightly fertilize monthly while the cyclamen is flowering. It stops when it enters dormancy and resumes when new growth appears. Water sparingly when the cyclamen is dormant. When dormant, the leaves turn yellow, so some people accidentally throw them away. However, if left dormant and dry throughout the summer, the plant should resume growth in the fall and begin the flowering cycle again.
dear master gardener: Small pine trees with red ribbons are now in the shop. Do these pine trees do well as houseplants?
answer: You’re probably referring to the Norfolk Island pines that are often sold in stores during the holiday season as living Christmas trees. Native to the Norfolk Islands and Australia, these conifers are tropical plants meant to be grown indoors in northern climates, unlike the conifers found in local garden stores that are only intended for outdoor planting.
When buying Norfolk Island pines, single-stemmed ones are best, but you’ll usually see multiple saplings in pots. If you purchase a pot with multiple seedlings, you can plant the seedlings individually to grow single-trunk trees with symmetrical, stepped branches from the main trunk that are characteristic of these plants. . Also, if you don’t thin out or repot the plants, they will become overcrowded, resulting in poorly sized, vigorous, and poorly shaped seedlings. Norfolk Island pines should not be exposed to sub-zero temperatures, so keep that in mind when purchasing plants. Norfolk Island pines prefer cool temperatures with high humidity and evenly moist soil. For all houseplants, it’s best to use room temperature water. If you have tap water, let the water you use for the plants sit for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate. Turn often to maintain a beautiful symmetrical shape.
If you decide to decorate your Norfolk Island pines for the holidays, keep in mind that the branches are not very strong. Therefore, use lightweight ornaments or small bows to avoid damaging the tree.
dear master gardener: Not all the plants were mulched for the winter and now they are all buried under deep snow. can they survive?
answer: do not worry. Snow is actually a very good insulator. All the voids between the snowflakes make the snow an R-6 of 6 inches of snow. Flower buds planted on shrubs such as azaleas in the fall benefit from additional protection. If you’re taking your chances here in Zone 3 with Zone 4 or 5 vegetation, good snow cover can increase your odds of success.
Snow-covered plants are also protected from sunburn and dry winter winds. Also, the spring thaw waters the plants.
dear master gardener: The soil in the pot has turned white and the surface has become dry. Some of my clay pots have white around the rim. What is this?
answer: Soluble salts seem to accumulate in the soil of the pot. These salts accumulate on the soil and form a white crust. You may also see a ring of salt deposits on the top of the pot and on the outside of the clay pot. If possible, do not use soft water to water your plants. Chemical salts are added to the soil and can damage plant roots in the same way fertilizer does. You can wash away most of the salt by placing the pot over the sink and watering the plant liberally, allowing the water to run out the drainage holes. Discard any remaining water in the saucer to prevent the freshly leached salt from reabsorbing into the soil through the pot’s drainage holes and walls. If there is a layer of salt on top of the soil, remove it before starting leaching. If soluble salt levels are very high, it is recommended to repot the plant. When repotting the plant, choose a container with drainage holes so that water can drain freely from the soil. Placing pebbles in the bottom of a sturdy container will not help the soil drain.
Call the new Master Gardener Helpline at 218-824-1068 and leave a message to get answers to your gardening questions. A master gardener will return your call. Or send an email to email@example.com. If space permits, I will answer in a column.
University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers at the University of Minnesota Extension. The information in this column is based on university research.