Plant poinsettias outside after holidays

Q. Poinsettias have been beautiful this year and we would like to keep ours for another Christmas. Can we plant them outside after the holidays?

A. Obtain a repeat performance from your holiday poinsettias by planting them in a sunny- to filtered-sun location when the warmer weather returns. Until that time, protect them from the cold and continue to enjoy the colorful bracts in the home or on the patio. Do keep the soil moist and a apply a slow-release fertilizer.

Around mid-March, add the plants to the landscape in a perennial bed or among shrub plantings. It's probably best to improve sandy soils with organic matter, manure or garden soil. Plant the poinsettias as you would any garden addition, add a mulch and keep the soil moist. Also, cut the plants back to within 12 to 18 inches of the ground. Continue to apply the slow-release fertilizer as instructed on the label to have colorful plants by next December.

Q. I have a Christmas cactus that has good green leaves but never flowers, even though I have given it a bigger pot and plant food. What should I do to get flowers?

A. Christmas cactus, also known as Thanksgiving and holiday cactus are very predictable plants. They bloom right on schedule for the holidays if given just one thing — no nighttime light during the fall. Most likely your plant has been affected by nighttime light in the home, from a porch or in the landscape. Holiday cactus do not need a lot of care, but they are particular about the hours of light received during the fall months.

Q. Just when I thought we could skip the yard work for a few weeks, we have a sudden outbreak of a fast-spreading lawn fungus. We applied a fungicide but it is still spreading. Anything else to do?

A. That yellowing look to many lawns is likely caused by the brown-patch fungus. It's encouraged by the cool, dampish weather and seems to affect mainly St. Augustine, zoysia and bermuda turf types. Usually the symptoms start out a very light-yellow color and over a few days turn orange to tan in circular to oblong patterns. By the time you see this fungal activity, the disease is well-established and done most of its damage.

Applying a fungicide can help prevent the spread of the disease, also called large patch, to other turf areas of the landscape. It is not going to help with areas already in decline. Garden centers have a number of good fungicides labeled to help control this disease. When lawns are affected yearly by brown patch, an early November fungicide application is often recommended. The good news is this disease normally does not kill a lawn but does make it look bad until spring.

Q. My citrus trees are doing something strange this year — the fruits are dropping prematurely and the leaves have a blotched green look. What is happening to the trees?

A. Your quest for an answer to citrus-tree decline is one of many letters and emails being received. Some have been accompanied by photos of trees showing yellowing leaves, declining limbs and small, dropping fruits. Regretfully, all symptoms point to the ravaging Citrus Greening disease now prevalent in every citrus-producing county of Florida.

There is no good new or quick remedy for this bacteria caused disease that is spread by an insect called the Asian psyllid. It appears all home citrus are going to be affected and eventually decline before a good cure can be found. Growers are fighting the disease with nutritional supplements, growth enhancers and a bactericide. They are also removing and replacing trees as needed. It is a costly and precise process that goes beyond what most gardeners want to undertake. To obtain more information on this disease and what you might do, contact your local University of Florida Extension Office.

Q. How do we care for our bahiagrass lawn over the winter months? It has some broadleaf weed issues. Should they be sprayed?

A. Most weeds are not going away for the winter and are only going to get worse unless you take control. Sometimes they can be mowed out or, if you have time, even pulled out. But most gardeners are going to resort to herbicides. A number of products for broadleaf weed control in bahia lawns are available at your local garden center. At this time of the year, it's best to use a liquid product following label instructions.

Q. My son has a fall garden of tomatoes. They are big and full but not turning red. Any suggestions?

A. Don't give up, as those plump tomato fruits are going to turn red if you can wait a little longer. Cool winter weather always delays the maturity of the fruits, but they do ripen eventually and often all at once. Keep the soil moist and don't forget a light monthly feeding to maintain healthy plants.

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