GV Gardeners: Seasonal Southern Arizona gardening questions

Although it may seem like a lot of work to get a Poinsettia to re-bloom in subsequent years, the pictured holiday beauty may help develop enthusiasm.

Although it may seem like a lot of work to get a Poinsettia to re-bloom in subsequent years, the pictured holiday beauty may help develop enthusiasm.

Autumn of 2019 slipped into the desert six days ago. This season brings a fresh crispness to early mornings, softness to the air, cooler yet sunny days, and crystal-clear night skies. A new growing season starts and gardeners gain new enthusiasm keeping busy outdoors.

A new set of queries arise as seasons change. Following are a few recently asked questions.

Q: Is it about time to start the process to get my healthy Poinsettia blooming by the holidays?

A: Starting now, first lightly prune your plant to encourage new stems from which blooms will appear. Water well and feed lightly after trimming. Next, place the plant where it is cool and dark for a full 12 to 14 hours each night. You may wish to set a cardboard box over it to provide the needed total darkness. Continue this routine for 3 to 4 weeks, watering well only when soil is dry to the touch. Give it full sunlight during daylight hours, then back into the darkness. By December get ready to enjoy the added color provided by your Poinsettia flowers.

The above routine also works for Christmas Cactus, except they will form flower buds in 4 to 6 weeks. Once buds are set, gradually move the plant into more light.

Both Poinsettia and Christmas Cactus grow best in bright, indirect light that is cool (65 degrees is ideal) and away from drafts. Sudden changes in light or temperature will cause flower buds to fall off.

Q: My Desert Rose plant is starting to show a number of yellow leaves. Any ideas what may be happening?

A: It is time for this warm-season succulent (Adenium obesum) to begin its winter dormancy cycle. Reduce watering, stop fertilizing, and allow it to become dormant over the next month or two.

Q: Should our new Mexican Honeysuckle Bush, be pruned back before or immediately after planting?

A: It is generally recommended to wait to prune a newly planted bush until it has been in the ground for one year. Also do not fertilize for at least six months after planting.

Q: Not to get ahead of conditions, but as a new resident I’m unsure how to protect plants during winter’s cold. Why use frost cloth instead of blankets, sheets, or newspaper to cover plants?

A: Frost cloth is a commercial product that keeps temperatures approximately 5 degrees warmer than the outdoors, often all of the protection needed. It allows plants access to air, about 85 percent of available light, and can be left on plants for weeks during extended cold spells. The other coverings are usually adequate; however, should be removed when temperatures reach above freezing.

Autumn is the perfect time for planting additions to the landscape. Right on cue, coming up are a number of area nonprofit organizations’ plant sales. Start checking favorite websites and the newspaper for dates and times. After all, what inspired gardener doesn’t love a plant sale?

Mary Kidnocker is a University of Arizona Master Gardener who lives in the Green Valley area. Her articles are featured weekly.