Sunday, December 23, 2018 1 comments By: Ask A Master Gardener

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettia Care
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, December 23, 2018
Q: I love my beautiful Christmas poinsettia. How can I best care for this lovely plant? MP
A: Poinsettias are a native plant in Mexico but were introduced to the United States by the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico: Joel Poinsett (thus the name). In states without harsh winters, such as Florida or California, they can be grown in the landscape. But in Oklahoma, keeping your poinsettia until next year comes with some challenges.
An interesting fact many people do not know about poinsettias is that those colorful leaves are not part of the poinsettia flower. They are specialized leaves called bracts. The flower is the yellow part, which is surrounded by the colorful bracts. Poinsettias with red bracts are typically the most popular, but plants are available with yellow, orange, pink, white and variegated bracts.
Your poinsettia will be the happiest indoors with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Try to avoid cold drafts or excessive heat from your heating system. And keep the plant away from windows, as the cold glass could damage your plant.
Light is important, so place your plant in a place where it will receive at least six to eight hours of light a day.
Moisture for your plant is also critical, and you can assess moisture by feeling the growing medium or using a water moisture meter. Water the top when it starts to feel dry. Slight wilting is not problematic, but do not allow the plant to dry out, as this will accelerate bract drop.
Do not water when the growing medium is already wet as this will encourage root rot and tend to suffocate the plant. Yellow and dropping leaves may lead you to believe the plant is dry and needs water but check the growing medium as symptoms of overwatering can sometime appear to be caused by lack of water.
Oftentimes, people will ask us if they can somehow save their poinsettias to keep them until the following year. The answer is yes, but it is much easier to just discard your poinsettia and purchase another one next year.
If you do decide to give it a shot, in September you will need to begin a fairly stringent regimen of forcing the plants to bloom. This schedule includes leaving the plants in a sunny window during the day but putting them in complete darkness each evening. This daily procedure will likely need to be repeated each day from September through Thanksgiving to give you good bract color. If you would like to try, we have a detailed fact sheet from Oklahoma State University in the Hot Topics section of our website. (
Whether you want to attempt to re-flower your existing poinsettia or just purchase a new one next year, poinsettias are a colorful part of the American Christmas tradition.
Garden tips
  • Don’t forget to keep the compost pile watered. The decay process to produce garden-friendly compost continues in winter if the pile is large enough and kept watered and turned.
  • Cover strawberry plants with a mulch about 3-4 inches thick if plants are prone to winter injury.
  • Wait to prune fruit trees until late February or March.

Sunday, December 9, 2018 1 comments By: Ask A Master Gardener

Christmas Tree Selection and Care

Selecting and Caring for Christmas Trees
Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Q: I am a little late getting a Christmas tree this year, any suggestions on picking a tree and how to care for it? LB
A: I think a lot of us are in the same boat, so here’s some information on selecting trees and caring for them while they are in your home.
This seems like a no-brainer, but give some thought to where your tree will be displayed. Consider height, width and color. Will you only see your tree from one side or will it be visible?  
Next, decide if you want to purchase a pre-cut tree from one of the sources around town or if you want to get yours from an area Christmas tree farm. If you decide on harvesting your own tree, a quick search on the web will provide you with several areas.
Oklahoma has several native-grown trees appropriate for Christmas trees, such as Virginia pine, Leyland cypress, white pine and Arizona cypress. You will find good options in pre-cut varieties, such as Fraser fir, Noble fir and Nordmann fir, all of which have wonderful fragrances and good needle retention. Each of these will also hold ornaments well.
When selecting your tree, pay attention to the freshness of the tree. To determine freshness, you can bend the needles. Fresh needles on firs and spruces will snap kind of like a carrot and are not brittle. Pine needles will bend but break only if they are dry. Of course, the freshest of trees are those you cut yourself and take home.
Once you get your tree home, you should saw about an inch off the bottom and place it in a container of water. If you purchased your tree but won’t be bringing it in to decorate for several days, you should store the tree in a cool shaded area.
Once you bring your tree in, keep its base in water the entire period it is in use. No water additives are needed but keeping the base in water is a must.
Be sure the tree stand is strong enough to support your decorated tree without falling over, as decorations can add more weight to your tree than you might think.
Also, make sure your tree is away from heat sources, as these tend to dry out the trees and increase the risk of fire.
Don’t leave the lights lit on the tree unless a responsible person is at home.
Finally, remove the tree before it becomes overly dry. The longer the tree is indoors, the greater the risk of it drying out.
If you follow these tips, you will be well on the way to having a Christmas tree you will remember for years to come.
Garden tips
  • Proper care will extend the life of Poinsettias through the holiday season and beyond. They need to have the brightest light possible and kept away from cold windows and heating vents. They prefer a room temperature of 65-75 degrees. They will die or perform poorly with too much or too little water. Feel the soil and when the top inch or so is dry, water with lukewarm water until water emerges from the bottom of the pot. Discard this water. There is no need for fertilizer.
  • If your roses have not been mulched, do so now. This is a good place to use those fall leaves, which have been shredded with a mulching mower. Mulch not only will prevent cold damage to those plants, which are susceptible, but also will prevent warming of soil on warm winter days that may promote premature cold-sensitive new growth.