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Garden Help Desk: Purchasing poinsettias and protecting from aphids

By USU Extension - | Nov 27, 2021

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Poinsettias with wilting, rolling, drooping, or yellowing leaves may not recover, even with the best of care. Leave plants like this at the nursery.

Poinsettias have been showing up in shops and nurseries for several days now. Maybe you’re an old hand at choosing a poinsettia, but if this is the year you’ll be selecting and taking home your first poinsettia, here are some tips for you.

  • Shop early in the season for the best poinsettia. Nurseries and garden centers have the best selection during the first week or two after Thanksgiving and the flower buds will be younger, meaning your poinsettias will last longer.
  • Plan your errands so that you buy your poinsettia last. Poinsettias don’t do well with temperatures below 50 degrees, so you don’t want your plant sitting in your car getting chilled on a frigid day.
  • The green leaves on a poinsettia should be dark green and the colored bracts (leaves) should be fully colored. All or most of the flower buds should be closed. Leave behind any plants that have yellowing, wilted or drooping leaves.
  • If your poinsettia was protected in a plastic sleeve carefully remove the sleeve as soon as you get it home.

Check back next week for tips on keeping your poinsettia healthy and beautiful throughout the holiday season.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Look for poinsettias with fully colored bracts and dark green leaves from top to bottom.

I live in Provo and I’ve inherited a huge garden of roses. All the rose bushes are taken with aphids and I need to know what do now that we are coming to the cold season. Early spring it was also bad with aphids and I used water and dish soap, but now I already shut down the sprinkler water so I want to know how low I could cut in order to get the aphids. Thanks in advance for help. I am a lost gardener.

The fact that you recognized the problem and tried to control it shows you’re not a lost gardener!

Aphids should be gone by now, but even if they aren’t I wouldn’t worry too much about them at this point. They can really make a mess of your flowers, but no matter what time of year, aphids don’t really affect the health of the rose bushes unless they’re carrying a virus.

You don’t need to do any pruning at this time unless the canes are long enough that they might bend and break under a snow load (if we get snow). If they are more than about 5-six feet tall you can cut them back to about 3.5-4 feet tall and then do a final pruning next year in the spring when the buds begin to swell.

Pruning isn’t a good way to get rid of aphids on your roses. Next year, at the first sign on aphids on the buds, start hosing off the aphids every morning, or every other morning, with strong sprays of water from a hose. It’s a no-cost, effective control method. If you’ve done a thorough job of hosing off your roses but aphids seem to be getting out of control, you can try spraying the aphids with insecticidal soap weekly, or as often as the label on your product recommends. Insecticidal soap, formulated specifically for use on plants, is a better choice for your roses than water mixed with dish soap.

We recently did an addition and a fair amount of construction on our home, which has left us with a torn-up yard and sprinkler system. But it has left sparse lawn and a lot of muddy spots. We’ll redo the sprinkler system and put in a nice Localscape in the spring, but we need to get through these next few months of mud, especially because we have two dogs who like to run in the yard.

Is there a good material we can lay down on the yard to minimize the amount of mud? What about mulch or straw or something else?

You’ll have less work if you can just till everything under in the spring before you start working on your yard, so bark-nugget mulch won’t be a good option. Something like straw could be fine, but it might not break down enough over the winter to till in easily.

A soil conditioner made of bark fines would work well for mud control, but it can have super-fine slivers in it because it is just ground wood. It’s easy to till under because it is fine textured, and it packs down tightly with a little moisture and foot traffic, but I don’t know if your dogs would have a problem with it getting between their toes and pads.

Another option you could try is using a thick layer of inexpensive compost. It would till in easily in the spring and improve aeration and drainage in the soil as well. You’d have to experiment to see whether it would stand up to wear and tear from the dogs.

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