Spring: Crocus vernus

Spring is only a week away and crocuses are popping up in the garden.190311053710

Plant Name:  Crocus vernus
Common name:  Spring Crocus, Giant Crocus
Plant Type:  Crom
Height:   3 inches- 6 inches
Spread:   3 inches- 6 inches
Bloom Time:  March- April
Flower Color:  Purple, White, Yellow, Mixed with stripes
Exposure:   Full sun to Part shade
Soil Requirements:   Well-drained
Water Needs:   Medium
Attributes:   Showy flowers, Early spring flowers
Note:   Dutch Crocuses are bred to produce larger flowers.  
Protect from squirrels when freshly planted
Tolerant:   Deer, black walnut, and clay soils,
Uses:    Cottage Garden, Rock Garden, Coastal Garden, Prairie & Meadow Gardens, Naturalize, Early spring color
Native to:    the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Balkans
USDA Hardiness Zone:    3 – 8

Re-potting a Christmas Cactus

After your Christmas cactus has bloomed, re-pot it into a pot slightly larger than its current container. Christmas cactus roots can easily rot if the soil is too wet, so the pot must have a drain hole and be planted in a lightweight, well-drained potting mix.   You can use potting mixes for cactus & succulents, which are readily available at garden centers, or you can make your own.

Commercially made potting soils can be used for Christmas cactus soil, if they are amended. Choose a balanced pH soil mix without added fertilizers. The soil’s pH should be neutral, between 6.0 and 7.0, not too acid nor too alkaline.

Below are four suggested Christmas cactus soil recipes:

  • 1/2 potting soil, 1/4 horticultural perlite, 1/4 orchid bark.
  • 1/3 Coconut Coir, 1/3 horticultural perlite, 1/3 fine fir bark.
  • 1/3 soil-less potting soil, 1/3 horticultural perlite, 1/3 pine bark nuggets.
  • 2/3 potting balanced PH soil with perlite, 1/3 sand

Submitted by; Carlotta Lucas

Peat Moss vs Coir (Coconut Fiber)

Both products are used as soil amendments to improve soil structure by lightening the soil and holding moisture; neither adds nutrients to the soil.

COIR

Coir

Peat moss is harvested from peat bogs which are areas of decomposed sphagnum moss in swamps and marshes. Wetland ecologists consider peat moss a non-sustainable material because its harvesting rate is greater than its replenishing rate. Plus, it is harvested from delicate endangered habitats.

Coconut fiber (Coir) is a byproduct of coconut processing; therefore it is always available and sustainable. Coir is made from fibrous coconut husks which are water processed, ground up or decomposed, then made into Coir bricks. Most COIR comes from India, or Sri Lanka.

Differences: pH and water absorption

Product pH – Peat moss is acidic with a pH of 3.3 to 4.0. Therefore, it is used in potting soils for acid loving plants, or it’s used to acidify garden soils with high alkalinity.  A neutral pH is more desirable in most planting situations, so lime is added to peat moss to bring its pH closer to neutral.  Most commercially made peat-moss based potting mixes have added lime. In contrast, Coir has a pH range of 5.2 to 6.6, which makes it more suitable for a wider range of plants.

Water absorption –While proponents of Coir state its water retention is equal to peat moss; peat moss typically retains much more water than Coir.  Peat moss holds 10 to 20 times its dry weight in water, while Coir holds 8 to 9 times its dry weight in water.  Coir does saturate faster than peat moss, thereby using less water to “activate”.  To be fair, Coir comes in various textures and coarseness, which may increase its overall water-holding abilities, but they are not equal.

When given a choice, consider Coir for its closer to neutral pH and its environmental sustainability.

Lenten Rose

Plant Name: Helleborus orientalis ( Lenten rose)
Plant type: Perennial 20181205_090016
Height:   12” – 15”
Bloom Time: February to April  (can start blooming December)
Flower Color: Varies – Purple, Whitish Yellow, Whitish Green, Pink, Burgundy
Exposure: Full Sun in Winter, Partial Shade Rest of the Year
Soil Requirements: Well Drained Soil
Water Needs: Medium
Attributes: Early Bloomer, Deer Resistant , Waterwise plant, Long Bloom Season
Note: Mulch to maintain summer moisture
Uses: Borders, Containers, Mass Plantings, Woodland Garden
USDA Zone: 2-10

Christmas Cactus

 Scientific Name: Schlumbergera

A Christmas Cactus in full bloom makes an extraordinary gift for gardeners, and non-gardeners, alike.  With proper care a Christmas Cactus is very long lived. The one shown here is over forty years old and still provides an amazing display of flowers every Christmas season.

Christmas Cactus Care:

Light/Temperature:  Prefers a warm location with bright indirect sunlight. Shade it from intense sun and keep the plant away from heater vents, fireplaces and cold drafts.

Soil:  Plant in well draining potting mix made for succulent plants. Its ideal soil is composed of equal parts of garden loam, leaf mold or peat, and clean course sand.

Water:  A Christmas Cactus is a tropical succulent, it is NOT a true cactus, therefore it requires more water than a true cactus. Its watering needs vary with air temperature and humidity, but in general keep the soil just barely moist throughout the year. But, do not over water or the stems will get flabby and droop,  and don’t under water either or the stems will be shriveled and limp. Note: if your plant tends to dry out and/or wilt frequently, then it’s time to re-pot it into a slightly larger container.

Fertilizing: Supply plant with a weak solution of houseplant fertilizer every two weeks.

Flowering:  The secret to good bud production is cool temperatures and extended darkness.

Cool temps: The best temperature for bud development is 55F-61F degrees for a period of 6 weeks.  Start providing cool temps in November for Christmas blooming.

Extended Darkness: The plant also needs 12 hours of darkness every night for 6 weeks.  You can accomplish darkness by covering the plant with a cloth each night or move it into a dark area overnight.  For cactus to bloom at Christmas time, darkness treatment should start in early October. Then, when buds start to appear increase its light exposure.  Do not move the plant when it starts blooming, because it is sensitive to location during this time.

Color:  Flower colors ranges from pink, white, yellow, salmon, fuchsia, red and any combination of these.

Rest time:  In February, after it has bloomed, the plant should have a rest period, so during this month water it sparingly and stop fertilizing.

Re-potting:  A Christmas Cactus blooms better if slightly pot-bound, so re-pot only when needed every 3-4 years.  Re-pot the plant into a slightly bigger pot in the spring when it is not in bloom.

Propagation:  Propagating Christmas cactus is easy. Cut a y-shaped segment off the tip of the plant, this cutting should have 2-3 joined segments.  Allow the cutting to dry for a few hours and then plant it in moist peat & sand soil mix, insert about a quarter of its length below the soil surface. Place it in a well-lit area, avoid direct sunlight and water it sparingly to prevent rotting.  In two or three weeks the cutting should show signs of growth at the tips of its leaves, these are usually reddish in color. Once it has rooted transplant it into a pot.

submitted by Carlotta Lucas