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Question: I see blooming Christmas cactuses for sale at all the garden centers, but mine isn't blooming yet. What am I doing wrong?
Answer: Christmas cactus blooms best with a combination of long nights and cool temperatures. To trigger bloom, keep your plant on the dry side. Give it at least 12 hours of darkness daily beginning about Oct. 1, and keep the temperature below 55F. A cool windowsill or unheated bedroom is often a good location provided the plant gets bright light during the day. If your plant has formed flower buds, but they are dropping off, the humidity may be too low. And if your plant has large, healthy buds, but they haven't begun to open, you may just need patience.
Question: Can I cut back my spirea bush this fall?
Answer: The dormant season, after your shrubs have dropped their leaves, is generally a good time to prune.
However, by pruning during the dormant season, you remove the flower buds of early spring bloomers. This includes most white-flowered spireas, such as:
> Bridalwreath (Spiraea prunifolia)
> Snowmound spirea (S. nipponica 'Snowmound')
> Vanhoutte spirea (S. Xvanhouttei)
Instead, prune them right after they finish blooming in the spring.
Japanese spirea (S. japonica), which has pink flowers and blooms later, is safe to prune now. This includes varieties such as 'Anthony Waterer', 'Goldflame', and 'Little Princess'.
Question: How do I get my amaryllis bulb to bloom in time for the holidays?
Answer: If the foliage on your amaryllis has died back and is dormant, now is the time to move the potted bulb to a warm (70F) location and to begin watering it. New leaves and a flower stalk usually appear within 5 or 6 weeks -- just in time for the holidays.
If your amaryllis is still actively growing, it might send up a flower stalk even without a rest period, but it will do so on its own timetable.
You could also make your amaryllis go dormant by withholding water and placing it in a cool (50F), dark closet or basement for a month or more. After this brief rest period, it will be ready to begin a new growth cycle when it is watered and moved to a warm, sunny window.
Question: Is it too late to plant tulips and daffodils?
Answer: You can plant spring flowering bulbs as long as the soil in your yard is not frozen too hard to dig. But don't delay planting if you don't have to. In order to bloom on time next spring, bulbs must develop their roots this fall. If you are unable to plant your bulbs right away, place several inches of fallen leaves or other mulch over the planting area to prevent it from freezing before you find the time to plant.
Continued on page 3: October Questions