Issue: November 25, 1996


Plant flowering plants after blooming in winter

Question:

I recently received some beautiful chrysanthemums as potted plants in flower. I'm afraid that it will be too cold to plant them outside when they finish blooming, but I'm not good at growing houseplants. What can I do to keep these alive until it is safe to plant them outside?

Answer:

Once the flowers fade, you can move the plants to a cool but well-lighted location until spring. Remove any foil or other decorative covering from the pot at this time so that it will not interfere with proper drainage when you water your plant.

You should be sure to keep your plants watered, but don't overwater them. When the potting soil dries to a depth of two to three inches, water them well so that water runs out the hole in the bottom of the pot. Don't let the plants absorb this water that comes from the bottom of the pot as it contains salts washed from the soil in the pot. To allow it to absorb into the soil increases salt problems. If the soil has dried around the edges and pulled away from the edge of the pot, you may need to water the plant by soaking the pot in a dishpan filled with fresh water within about one to two inches of the top of the flower pot. In this case, it is OK to allow the water to be absorbed from the bottom because after it has soaked up the water, you should then take the pot from the dishpan and allow excess water to drain into the sink, again washing out excess salts and preventing salt problems. By keeping the plant in a cool, brightly lighted location, you can keep the plants alive until the worst of the winter is past and you can plant it outdoors. If there is no new growth, it can be planted while the freezing temperatures are expected at night. If new growth is present, wait until frost is past to plant outside.

With all of the above stated, you can probably plant your chrysanthemum outside as soon as it finishes blooming. Again, be sure that it has not begun growing and gradually acclimate it to the outside conditions. To do this, keep it in your coolest room, putting it outside in a shady place on days when the temperature is above freezing. After a week or two, if it is in a protected place, it can be allowed to remain outside even if the night temperatures drop a little below freezing. Then if the ground isn't frozen, you can plant it in the garden where you will grow it outdoors. Be sure to keep it watered during the acclimation period and after planting it in the garden. You may find it useful to cover it with some juniper or pine branches to serve as a light mulch. This will protect it from the intense direct sunlight and reduce the variation between day and night temperatures. This will also prevent desiccation by winter winds. A well-established plant may not need such protection, but a newly planted chrysanthemum will benefit from a little extra protection.


Weeping benjamin problems

Question:

My weeping benjamin fig tree keeps dropping leaves. It develops new growth, but then the leaves soon fall. I do not have the scale insects you described in an earlier article. What can I do?

Answer:

If you have moved your plant to a location with too little light or where it receives fewer hours of light, leaves will fall as new leaves form. Indoor light levels change with the changes in season, so we often see this problem in the fall and spring. If the tree is too close to a heat register, the drying caused by this heated air can cause leaf drop. If the plant has been in the same pot too long and salt has accumulated, the plant will drop leaves.

If the problems is too little light, give it a location with more light. If it is in a draft from the heat register, move it to a place where it is farther from the register or use a deflector to direct the air from the register away from the plant. Grow other plants in the area so that they may collectively increase the humidity in the area.

If soil salt build-up or a root-bound condition exists because the plant has been grown a long time in the same pot, re- pot in new potting soil. A slightly larger pot may also help. If you need to keep it in the same pot, cut the circling roots at the edge of the root ball, and trim the branches back somewhat to reduce the size of the tree and allow it to continue to grow in the same size pot.