Issue: Novem1er 17, 2001

Daffodils coming up early

Question:

We already have daffodils coming up! This has happened in previous years, and they just keep getting more and more spindly and don't bloom. What should I do? -Pamela A., Las Cruces

Answer:

I think there may be several factors involved. Many plants will respond to a period of drought as though it were winter. Following a dry summer, some fruit trees will flower in the autumn. (Of course, no fruit will ripen.) If the bulbs became too dry in the summer, they may respond to fall irrigation and cooler temperatures by growing too early, so make sure that the bulbs have a little moisture during the summer.

A second factor, relating to the fact the plants are getting more and more spindly and not flowering, may relate to light intensity. If the daffodils are in a location shaded by trees, especially evergreens, they may not be getting enough light in the spring while they still have their leaves. For a month or two following flowering, the leaves are producing carbohydrate foods to store in the bulb to provide the necessary energy for growth and flowering the next spring. Shade from evergreens, buildings, or even the early leaves of deciduous trees can reduce the amount of food stored in the bulbs. This will result in spindly growth and no flowering. Many times this happens as the trees in the landscape mature. In the early years of a landscape, the trees are smaller and cast less shade. Bulbs (and other plants) that once prospered may decline as the landscape matures and more shade is produced.

It may help to move the bulbs to a location that receives more light. This will also give you an opportunity to thin clumps of daffodils that have become too dense and to renew the fertility of the planting bed. A final consideration is irrigation in the spring. Remember that the plants will need moisture while they are producing food for the bulbs.

Odd growth on Christmas cactus

Question:

We grow Christmas Cactus of various flower colors, and one day we lightly rubbed two flowers from different color plants together to see what would happen. A large oval bulb developed at the end of the stem and has been there for over two years! We tried it again, with the same results on another set of plants. If this is another method of propagation, what is necessary to make the bulbs develop into plants? We tried snipping one off and planting it, to no avail.

Answer:

Based on what you have told me, I suspect that your Christmas cactus is trying to produce seeds. The "bulb" you described is probably a fruit containing seeds. I don't know how long it takes for the seeds to mature inside the fruit, but once the fruit matures, the seed may be removed from the fruit and planted to produce new plants. After two years I would expect the seeds to be mature.

Since the Christmas cactus is from tropical rain forests the seeds may not tolerate drying before planting, so plant the seeds immediately. The seed may need a scarification treatment (scratching the seed coat with sandpaper or a file) to overcome seed coat dormancy. These seeds probably pass through a digestive tract of birds or other rain forest animals, so mechanical scarification may be necessary to simulate the natural scarification accomplished by stomach acids.

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Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith NMSU Cooperative Extension Service 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112 Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on: KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)