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Easy Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias and Rick Easy Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias are durable easy- to- grow houseplants that take little but bright light and water to be beautiful for several months. Here’s a few easy tips.

  • Light-Poinsettias can be used to brighten up a dark corner of the room as long as they occasionally get to sunbathe in a warm sunny window.
  • Water- Just pick up the pot! If the plant feels light, water. If your plant is in a cool dark spot, it’s going to dry out slowly. If it’s in a bright sunny window, check at least once a week.
  • Temperature- Avoid extremes. Like most house plants, poinsettias prefer normal indoor temperatures. Avoid drafty entrances or heating vents.
  • When “the party’s over”, the holidays have come and gone, treat the poinsettias like any other houseplant. Bright light occasional water and a little misting if possible. The plant can go outside, mid-April when nights are 60 degrees.

Call me at 618-234-4600 with any questions or e-mail us at effinger@effingergarden.com.
Happy Holidays, Trudy Effinger

Christmas Tree Care 101

Christmas treeLive Christmas Tree

A cut Christmas tree can add warmth, fragrance and nostalgia to your home. Here are a few easy tips to keep yours fresh during the holidays.

  • Let us, here at the nursery, cut a small section of the trunk off the base of your tree to facilitate water uptake.
  • As soon as you get home put the freshly cut tree in a large bucket of water. Even if it’s outside and preferably in the shade, make sure it has plenty of water.
  • Once it’s inside, place in the coolest place part of your home away from the fireplace and heating vents.
  • Keep the tree stand full of plain cold water, no soda or aspirin, etc…Save those items for your own holiday overindulgence.
  • If possible, and this is my personal secret weapon to having a great looking tree, run a cold water humidifier somewhere near the tree.

Color in your Kitchen This Winter

Bulbs indoors daffodils
Ever been enticed by the pots of daffodils and fragrant hyacinth blooming in the grocery store in early February? Follow these easy, simple steps to save money and bring spring into your own home this winter…There are two ways to have bulbs blooming in your home this winter, easy and easier. Both are explained because some people have extra garage space but no extra ice box space and vice versa.

Pot up a few of your favorite flower bulbs in clean, well-drained potting soil and place the pots in a cool, unheated garage or cellar. Soak them in well after planting and then check now and then for water. Mark 12-15 weeks on your calender. 12 weeks in the minimum time needed for most  bulbs, tulips do best with 15 weeks. When the time’s up, bring the pots into a cooler area of your home. Once you see the bulbs emerging, pots can be moved anywhere you need some spring!

Just toss a few bulbs in a paper sack and store for 12-15 weeks in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. The paper sack prevents the bulbs from rotting, while the veggie bin provides a bit of moisture. After 12- 15 weeks, just pot up your bulbs in potting soil and place in a well lit room. Try to increase light and temperature gradually, just like it occurs in nature.

4 Tips for Beautiful Spring Bulbs

bulbs and pansies

Nothing is so cheerful after a long dreary winter as the sight of colorful spring flower bulbs. Think tulips, daffodils, crocus and fragrant hyacinth.  Bulbs are inexpensive and easy to care for.  With a little soil preparation and planning, you can have a lovely spring garden that returns every year.

  • Plant bulbs deep enough. Tulip and daffodils should be at least 6 to 8 inches deep. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulb is wide.
  • Quality bulbs and good drainage are two important ingredients for beautiful spring blooms. If necessary, improve clay soil with cotton burr compost or other good quality organic matter.
  • Most flower bulbs prefer sunny sites. However, many spring bulbs bloom before trees leaf out so full sun is not essential. Crocus and daffodils, however, will bloom just fine in shady sites.
  • Mix bone meal or bulb food in the hole at the time of planting for larger stronger blooms.

Rose Gardening

Rose Bush

Rose gardening can be easy with some weekly maintenance. It is especially rewarding when you bring a bouquet of fragrant blooms into your home. A few tips will get you off to a successful start.

Soil Preparation and Site
Thorough soil prepartion is essential to getting your roses off to a good start. Roses prefer rich, well -drained organic soil. Use about 50% off your existing soil and 50% good quality compost. We like cotton burr compost which is chuck full of nutrients and soil conditioning agents. Roses also benefit from plenty of sunshine, at least 5-6 hours and good air circulation around the plants. A raised bed or higher ground is an ideal location. Fences and walls that restrict air movement increase the chance of foliar disease.

Prune roses in late winter or early spring when the first signs of new growth appear. Cut out any damaged or dead stems. Then cut out all but about 4 or 5 healthy main stems. Finally cut these stems down to one third to one half, depending on how tall you want your roses to be. Prune to open up the center, for better air circulation and sunlight.


From the University of Illinois Extension Service

Water and Fertilize
Water roses frequently but not heavily. Water early in the day so that foliage is dry by evening. Water at the base of the plant and avoid overhead watering. If there is no significant rainfall, water your roses at least twice a week and perhaps three time if the temperatures are above 90 degrees. Use an all purpose rose food. We like Espoma’s Rose-tone with beneficial soil microbes. Rose-tone is an organic, slow relase fertilizer that can be used safely throughout the hot summer months without the risk of fertilizer burn. Stop feeding and pruning rosesd by the end of August

Mulch and Disease Control
Mulch 2-3 inches of clean organic mulch like wood chips, pine needles or grass clippings. Mulch reduces weeds and leaf diseases and cuts down on watering requirements.

Winter Care
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden (Mobot), roses in southern Illinois can best be protected with 15 inches of good clean mulch, compost or shredded hardwood bark. Perhaps the most important point to remember is not to mulch too soon. Mobot recommends mulching around Thanksgiving. Mulch keeps the ground frozen thereby protecting the plants from alternate freezing and thawing. You are not trying to keep the plants warm.

For more individual and in depth advice on roses visit  Susan Fox at Gaga’s Gardens. Susan is an avid gardener, speaker and consulting rosarian.

Pruning Summer Flowering Shrubs

Weigela Spilled Wine  Potentilla Happy Face

By mid to late August most summer blooming shrubs like hydrangeas are finished blooming. Now is a great time to cut back the spent blooms. Any other flowering shrubs that have slowed down, like spirea, weigela, butterfly bush, and crepe myrtle can also be trimmed back about one third of their size.

Trimming to a third of the original plant size encourages healthy new growth. If you’re wanting to control height, you can prune as much as one half the size of your plant. You can also do any major pruning in mid to late winter when the plants are dormant, without leaves and it’s easier to work on them.

Early spring bloomers like forsythia and lilac should be pruned after they bloom. So do not trim these back now as you might remove their spring flowers.

Knock-Out roses can be pruned almost any time of the year. Sometimes it’s easier to tackle these thorny big boys during the winter months when their foliage is gone. Cooler weather also makes this big job more pleasant.

Stop feeding any summer flowering shrubs by late August. Plant growth needs to slow down preparing the shrubs for winter dormancy. Be sure to keep your plants watered through the fall, especially if they are newer plantings.

Growing and Caring For Clematis

Clematis Rebecca

Clematis are one of the most popular, easy to grow flowering vines. With a little preparation and care, your clematis vine will provide cheerful abundant seasonal  blooms.

  • Soil- Clematis prefer rich, organic soil (no heavy clay) that is slightly alkaline. Additional limestone is not necessary unless a soil test reveals a pH less than 6. If you don’t know your soil pH, just concentrate on good soil preparation.
  • Site- full sun to part shade is just fine for most clematis. A few varieties, see listed below, will actually tolerate quite a bit of shade.
  • Mulch- “head in the sun, feet in the shade” is the old clematis advice. In any case, a 2-4 inch layer of mulch is advised once the soil warms up during the hot summer months. To prevent stem rot, be sure to keep the mulch well away from the base of your clematis vine.
  • Disease- Clematis wilt is easy to spot.  A portion of the vine wilts overnight. This is caused by a fungus that enters the stem just above the soil line. cut out the diseased portion right away and dispose of in the trash, away from the remaining healthy vine. Also keep mulch away from the base of the plant allowing good air circulation and sunlight to reach the bottom of the vine.
  • Feed- Fertilize your plant once a year in the spring, right after pruning or tidying up

Pruning Clematis

Actually clematis will survive and bloom with no pruning whatsoever. But for the most beautiful vigorous flowering vines, regular pruning is a good idea. Do no pruning at all for one full year. Just let the plant get established. Never prune in the fall. Late season pruning encourages new growth which easily freezes during the winter months.

Observe your plant the first year-pay attention to when it blooms. And also note whether it blooms on old woody stems from last year (old wood) or on new green growth (new wood) from the current year.

Spring Blooming Clematis

If your plant does not appear to die back over winter and blooms early in the spring (on old wood) cut back, tidy up after the initial spring bloom. This encourages reblooming. Some double flowering clematis and other varieties have a second flush of smaller sized flowers that bloom on new wood. These should be trimmed lightly like the spring flowering plants, immediately after the first bloom period.

Summer Blooming Clematis

This is a large group of popular varieties like Jackmanni and the Sweet Autumn clematis. If you notice that your plant dies completely down over winter or if the flowers are small and all at the top (on new growth) with lots of dead foliage at the base- then you must be ruthless in your pruning. Prune these plants down early in the spring to about one foot from the ground. This promotes new vigorous growth that will flower well.

Shade Loving Clematis

  • Nelly Moser
  • Vitivella Venosa Violacea
  • Paniculata
  • Corrine- new in 2015
  • Sapphire Indigo- new for 2015
  • Sweet Summer Love

Water Gardening

Water Gardening

Water gardening gets really fun once the weather warms up, and up, like it does in our hot, humid climate. A water garden can be as simple as a large patio container filled with a few plants, some fish and perhaps a tiny pump to circulate the water. Or, it can be as elaborate as a cascading water-fall plunging into a fish pond. Most homeowners’ water gardens fall somewhere in-between. Water gardens, like regular gardens, can be as high or low maintenance as you want. Read more [+]

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