Kalanchoe plants need bright light and pruning to thrive – Orlando Sentinel


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Question: We have two kalanchoe plants of different colors. Will they keep blooming year-round and what care is needed? Answer: Expect your kalanchoe plants to continue flowering through mid-spring. The plants flower when given short days much like poinsettias and Christmas cactus. As flowering declines, prune off the old flower shoots and allow the plants to make green growth. Keep moist and apply a slow-release fertilizer for container plants. Grow your plants indoors or outside in bright light but out of full sun. After months of growth, your kalanchoe may need a size larger container. Plants can become lanky during the summer so some pruning may be needed to keep them compact. If desired, the shoots removed can be rooted. Reduce watering in the fall and keep plants out of nighttime light starting in mid-October to have them in bloom for Christmas. Kalanchoe (JOANI MACCUBBIN/SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL) Q: When removing our tomato plants we noted the roots were swollen which we were told is a sign of nematodes. What can we do before our spring planting to control this pest? A: Start your nematode control program by locating seeds or transplants of tomatoes that have some nematode resistance. Regretfully there are several variants of root knot nematodes so varieties labeled as resistant may only be protected from some of these. Try to find a new location for your plants or grow them in large containers filled with fresh potting soil. If the plants must be grown in the same spot as the previous planting, mix in lots of organic matter or remove some of the soil creating a large diameter hole about eight inches deep and fill with potting soil. Soil solarization can be used as a control to bake out the nematodes but only during the hot summer months. Q: Our poinsettia is losing its lower leaves. How long will the plant keep the red portions? How can we get it to flower next Christmas? A: Modern poinsettias keep their red bracts and a large portion of their leaves through early spring but you have to do your part. Remove or pull foil wraps down below the lower leaves. Then keep the poinsettias in a high light location. A bright window is fine but turn the plants frequently so all sides received adequate light. If possible, move the plants outdoor onto a bright to filtered sun location. Keep the soil most and apply a container or house plant fertilizer. When the red bracts start to deteriorate or drop, prune the plants back to eighteen inches above the soil. Keep them in filtered sun and repot in a size larger container when new growth begins. Moisten when the surface soil begins to dry and repeat fertilizer applications as needed. Prune the plants as needed to keep them compact through the end of August. Make sure they receive no nighttime light starting in mid-October to have your plant in bloom for Christmas. Q: We have a young peach tree that is starting to flower. When do we prune the tree and how much should be removed? A: Now is the time to do needed pruning on peach and nectarine trees. If a very young tree, make sure the central leader has been removed at about three to four feet from the ground. Then allow side branches to form a tree with a soup bowl like branching habit. Each year remove up to one-third of the new growth along with any branches growing in the very center. When pruning, try to cut the limbs back to an outward pointing bud. This keeps the limbs heading outward but upward at the same time. Give your tree a fertilizer application in March, May and August to help support the new growths. Q: We received an amaryllis for Christmas that has finished blooming. What should we do with the plant? A: Be sure your holiday gift is finished flowering as many amaryllis bulbs send up an additional shoot to enjoy. When flowering is over, remove the old stalk back to among the foliage. One option is to keep the plant in its container and set it in a bright location but out of the direct sun. A filtered sun location outdoors is ideal. Keep moist and apply a fertilizer made for container plantings in March, May, August and September. A second option is to add your plant to any garden site with filtered sun and give normal perennial plant care. Plants tolerate some cold but protect from freezing. The foliage may decline during winter but this is normal. Expect new buds to appear during late winter or spring. Q: Our ligustrum and viburnum plantings have grown tall and wide. When is the earliest they can be pruned? A: Even though these shrubs are considered hardy, it is best to delay the pruning a bit longer. If pruned now, and they begin growth, the plants become more susceptible to severe cold that may lie ahead. Around mid-February is a good time to do the trimming of all normally hardy plants so they can begin growth as Florida’s springlike weather arrives. Q: Our azaleas are thinning out. A close look revealed round green and somewhat fuzzy-looking spots on the branches. What should I do? A: While the fuzzy green spots don’t do much to improve a planting’s appearance they are probably not causing any harm either. These are lichens that live off water and nutrients from the air. They do tell us the plants are not making adequate growth and you have a little detective work to do. Start by having the soil acidity checked by the University of Florida Extension soil testing laboratory. Some local Extension offices also offer this service. Soil acidity should be in the 4.5 to 5.5 pH range for good azalea growth. If the soil acidity requires adjustment, an Extension agent can make needed recommendations. Next, make sure the plants receive adequate water. Azaleas need moist soil to grow best. Keep a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch on the ground and when the surface soil begins to dry to the touch it’s time to water. Fertilize azaleas in March, May, August (where permitted) and early October. Lastly, check for leaf problems that may cause the thinning. Both lace bug feeding and fungal leaf spots can cause foliage loss. If you are not familiar with these pests, have plant portions checked at the Extension office and obtain control information if needed. Tom MacCubbin is an urban horticulturist emeritus with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Write him: Orlando Sentinel, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando FL 32802. Email: [email protected] Blog with Tom at OrlandoSentinel.com/tomdigs.
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