Question: I have a hard time keeping poinsettias alive throughout the holiday season. I’d love to know how to keep them as pretty as when I first get them.

Answer: First, look for poinsettias with even growth all the way around the plant.

  • The stems should be sturdy-looking.
  • The yellow flowers shouldn't be closed.
  • If you don’t have many to choose from, look for plants with the fewest open flowers.
  • If possible, purchase plants that haven’t been kept on the shelves in their plastic sleeves.
  • If your only option is plants that still have their plastic sleeves pulled up, remove the sleeve carefully as soon as you get it home.

Poinsettias are not cold tolerant. They can be damaged by just a few minutes of freezing temperatures. If you’re purchasing your plant on a very cold day, park your car as close to the entrance as you can and ask to have your poinsettia double or even triple bagged.

Take your poinsettia straight home after you buy it. Don’t leave it in the car while you run errands or do other shopping, as the plant could either chill on a very cold day or overheat on a bright sunny day.

Place your plant in a location with bright, indirect light.

  • Avoid locations with drafts from doors or heat registers.
  • Also avoid putting your poinsettia too close to a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Proper watering is important because poinsettias don’t do well with overwatering or with drought stress.
  • Water poinsettias thoroughly whenever the upper soil feels dry or the pot feels lightweight.
  • Don’t let the plant wilt but don’t water again until the soil feels dry again.
  • Remove the pot from its decorative pot cover when watering or pour off any drained water that collects in the pot cover.

Poinsettias are not poisonous. Extensive research has proven that poinsettias are a safe decorative plant for any indoor space this Holiday season.

Question: I live in Utah County. Can we cover strawberries for winter with black plastic, or does it need to be straw? Thanks for your advice!

Strawberries benefit from some protection during the winter, especially June-bearing varieties that begin setting flower buds in late summer for the follow year’s crop. If those buds are killed by extreme winter temperatures or late spring frost, they won’t produce berries during the summer. Everbearing varieties set flower buds in spring through summer, so a frost won’t eliminate an entire harvest. However, crowns and roots can also be damaged by extreme cold, and repeated freezing and thawing can heave plants out of the soil. Mulch also helps the plants to stay dormant for a little longer in the spring, avoiding late frost damage.

Any strawberry variety will do better with some protection.

The covering doesn't have to be straw, but it should be something that is breathable so that condensation and moisture don’t build up under the covering. The moisture that collects under plastic coverings could promote decay or fungal growth and probably wouldn’t provide enough frost protection anyway. A 3-5-inch layer of straw or fall leaves, a couple of layers of heavy canvas, a few layers of heavy floating row cover or porous weed barrier, or something similar is a better choice than black plastic.

Generally, once overnight temperatures are dropping below freezing, but before the temperatures start dropping below 20 degrees, it’s time to get the protection on. Putting on the mulch before the plants are hardened off by a few light frosts will actually make your plants more prone to injury.

We’ve had some freezing overnight temperatures now and with the weather we’ve been having in Utah County these last several days, it’s time to get the mulch on your berry plantings.

USU is offering a Pesticide Training Workshop for Certified Applicators on December 3, 2019 at the Health & Justice Building, 151 So. University Ave., Rm. 2500. The cost is $20. Call 801-851-8463 for more details.

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