Getting poinsettia to bloom can be tricky

Q: I have had a large poinsettia since last Christmas. Is there a way to encourage blooms this year? It seems I read somewhere to put it into a dark place without water for a period of time. Anything you can tell me will help.

A: Yes, but you should have started in September. Getting a poinsettia to bloom precisely during the Christmas season is a little tricky. They require the exact amount of darkness, every day, with no interruptions from light while they are plunged into their darkness.

Not even a little peek at them or a door opening to a closet while it is dark. One little peek when it is supposed to be dark can prevent your poinsettia from changing color. Just buy a new one each year. It can be a real headache trying to make this happen.

A poinsettia will change its color when it receives more than 12 hours of total and absolute darkness for three months. For instance, keep the plant in complete darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. daily from the end of September until the leaves begin turning color (early to mid-December). Then it is safe to turn the light back on.

The temperature should remain between 60 and 70 degrees F. Night temperatures above 70 to 75 F may delay or prevent flowering. Growing poinsettia in low light may cause leaf drop. Growing them without enough water or too much water can cause leaf drop. Growing them in cold temperatures can cause leaf drop.

Growing 100 of them in a greenhouse is relatively easy. But growing one plant in isolation can be a headache.

Q: How long can I leave ripe lemons on the tree? Will they rot or drop? It’s a Meyer about five years old.

A: It’s best to harvest them as they are ripening over a four-week period. Snip them from the tree with sharp pruners or scissors, leaving a very tiny attachment from the stem remaining on the fruit.

Removing this tiny attachment causes an open wound on the fruit. It might seem unimportant, but this wound is an opportunity for rotting organisms to enter the fruit and cause early loss.

Lemons don’t improve after they’ve been picked, much like figs, grapes and cherries. Once you’ve picked the fruit, that is the best it can be. I wash the fruit and put them in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag to keep the humidity high and temperature low.

Pick them as they start ripening during the winter, usually December in our climate. You can pick them for three to four months.

Leave them on the tree no longer than the first part of January. Leaving them on much longer than this might interfere with flowering and fruit production in the next production cycle.

Q: I just read an article you wrote about overseeding a fescue lawn, and I had a couple questions. Is it possible to overseed a lawn in December? I have a fescue lawn that has Bermuda grass, and I just can’t seem to get rid of it. Will overseeding help with this as well? I mainly want to keep my fescue green all year, which is why I want to overseed.

A: Overseeding a lawn will not help control Bermuda grass or help it stay green through the winter. Mowing at the proper height, along with some added maintenance care and applying a high-nitrogen fertilizer just before cold weather sets in, are the best preventive measures.

Soil temperatures should be at least 60 F for fescue seed to germinate in a timely fashion. Seed germinates faster with warmer temperatures. Unless the lawn is in a very warm location — a warm microclimate, let’s say — it is too late to overseed after temperatures become cold.

Bermuda grass needs sunlight to invade a lawn. Mowing a tall fescue lawn less than 2 inches, and edging it with a line trimmer so that the grass is short or damaged, will increase the chance of Bermuda grass invasion.

Applying a high-nitrogen fertilizer in late fall (around Thanksgiving in our climate) keeps existing fescue green through cold temperatures in winter. Even applying just 21-0-0 now, in early December, will help if you missed the Thanksgiving application.

Q: I am planning on an herb garden in the spring, but there are rabbits in the neighborhood. Which herbs would be most rabbit resistant?

A: When growing vegetables and herbs next to the open desert, I have had to contend with jackrabbits and desert cottontail rabbits. The most effective way of controlling these varmints is to erect 2-foot-tall, 1-inch hexagon chicken wire fencing around the beds. In other words, exclude them from the growing area.

Bury the bottom edge of the fencing about an inch into the dirt, so they can’t get their noses under it. Keep the fencing tight. I have seen baby cottontails exit fenced gardens through 1-inch hexagonal holes of chicken wire at a dead run when they were very young. Sometimes, when young bunnies get in and hide in these beds, they get fat and can’t get out.

Personally, I would not rely on a list of so-called rabbit resistant plants unless there are lots of other plants for these varmints to choose from — like your neighbors. I have found that when bunnies get hungry, they will eat plants that are supposed to be resistant to rabbits.

Q: A few weeks ago my purple sage plants started turning yellow. I’ve cut back on the drip system to three days a week, 15 minutes at a time. A local nursery told me to add iron and acid liquid, which I did. It’s not looking much better. From the picture I sent, can you identify the problem?

A: Some people might know this plant as Texas ranger. Because the plant is not growing during cold weather, any improvements to the plant’s health won’t be realized until next growing season. But I can see several things going on in the picture.

Texas ranger is a desert-adapted plant native to the Chihuahuan Desert of northern Mexico and stretching into Texas. It can handle low amounts of water, high temperatures, low temperatures, low humidity and relatively poor soils. Let’s keep those points in mind as we work through these problems together.

You have several of them planted together as a hedge. I can see they have been pruned repeatedly with hedge shears. Texas ranger can handle hedging, but repeated pruning from hedge shears is taking its toll.

Repeated pruning at the same location with hedge shears causes the plant to become very dense on its outer surface but increasingly woody inside the hedge. Plants can handle hedging for a few years, but the “woody” stems inside start to show through.

The soil surrounding these plants is all minerals with no organics left in the soil that would improve plant health. Any kind of plant health problems causes leaf drop and exposes woody stems on the inside. Unhealthy plants cannot handle cold and hot temperature extremes as well as healthy plants.

I think you are seeing the result of repeated hedge shearing, diminishing nutrients in the soil (because there is nothing organic added) and cold weather leaf drop. Adding fertilizers without amending the soil with organics will not improve the plant much.

What to do? Your options are to make some corrective changes to the plants or replace them. Making corrective changes will make the plant look bad for a while but eventually will improve it.

Shear the hedge 1 or 2 inches to the inside of its canopy, back to the woody interior. This will cause new growth to appear next spring just beneath the woody, sheared surface. This will provide a new, young surface to shear for a few years.

Apply compost to the soil surface surrounding these plants and cover it with woodchip mulch, rather than bare soil or rock. It’s a desert-adapted plant, but even these plants grow better with a smaller amount of organics in the soil.

The other option is to replace these plants with a different plant that handles hedge shearing better.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert and professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Visit his blog at Send questions to

The Mob Museum
Saddle bronc rider Joey Sonnier earns spot at NFR after overcoming years of drug addiction
Joey Sonnier started saddle bronc riding at 18, but at 20 he began using methamphetamine to cope with the work of the rodeos and became addicted. At 39, after years of addiction and a low point that pushed him to rehab, he's qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Core Arena opens at the Plaza downtown in time for NFR
Core Arena, downtown's first permanent outdoor equestrian center, opens to the public at the Plaza. The arena will be used for events throughout the year, including the 10-day 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas
MountainView Hospital celebrates the opening of the new Sunrise Health GME Simulation Center.
MountainView Hospital celebrates the opening of the new Sunrise Health GME Simulation Center. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
NFR Preps Livestock for the Limelight
NFR’s Jed Pugsley discusses the care that goes into preparing the rodeo’s livestock for Las Vegas’ big event.
Grand Menorah lighting begins Hanukkah
Rabbi Shea Harlig led the ceremonial lighting of the menorah to begin Hanukkah at the Fremont Street Experience. There were also performances by the Desert Torah Academy's choir and the Dancing Dreidels. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Perla Gumm has spent the past few years collecting toys for kids for the LV Rescue Mission
Perla Gumm has spent the past few years collecting toys for kids for the LV Rescue Mission. It's something she started even before the rescue mission was her beneficiary; she just felt a need to collect toys and teamed up with them later. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Marvin Menzies on Cincinnati
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about Cincinnati and his own program. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Joey Logano talks about Champions Week in Las Vegas
NASCAR champion Joey Logano talks about the future of Champion's Week in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 28, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rain hits Las Vegas Valley
Widespread rain hit the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Valley Hit with Rain, Clouds
Rain and clouds hit the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday afternoon.
Ducks have Lorenzi Park to themselves
Thursday’s rain kept people inside, leaving Lorenzi Park to the ducks.
Kyle Busch Reflects On Disappointing End To Nascar Season
Kyle Busch reflects on disappointing end to his 2018 season during NASCAR Champion's Week in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 28, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Animal Foundation's Lost & Found offers community options for lost pets
The Lost & Found at The Animal Foundation allows members of the community to turn in lost pets or retrieve them. They recently started using the Finding Rover app that uses facial recognition to find and report lost pets.
The National Atomic Testing Museum is a Blast
Brookman Elementary School sets world record
All 776 students at Brookman Elementary School helped set a world record by connecting a chain of pipe cleaners that measured more than 11 miles. Student got 10 pipe cleaners for every book they read. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV’s football players painted the Fremont Cannon red in celebration to their victory against Reno.
UNLV’s football players painted the Fremont Cannon red outside of the Student Union in celebration to their victory against in-state rival the University of Reno. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Barn Buddies Rescue
Barn Buddies Rescue is a non-profit dedicated to the rescue of abused, neglected or abandoned farm animals.
R-J's Mark Anderson on UNLV's victory
Review-Journal sports reporter Mark Anderson recaps UNLV's victory over Southern Utah. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Marvin Menzies on beating Southern Utah
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about the victory over Southern Utah. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Michigan State talks Las Vegas Invitational win
The Spartans defeated Texas 78-68 at Orleans Arena on Friday.
Three Square’s Maurice Johnson Talks About Food Waste
Three Square’s director of operations Maurice Johnson talks about food waste. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Armani Rogers on his return to playing
UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers talks about being back on the field. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Black Friday at Fry's
Shoppers line up for deals early on Black Friday at Fry's Electronics on Las Vegas Boulevard South. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Menzies on state of UNLV's team
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about where his team stands after four games. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Tony Sanchez on possibly changing the UNR date
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez talks about the idea of changing the UNR date to Nevada Day. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Women’s shelter gets $1.5 million dollar renovation
The Shade Tree, which offers food, shelter, facilities and services to women, gets a $1.5 million dollar renovation.
UNLV's Drew Tejchman on playing safety
UNLV wide receiver Drew Tejchman talks about also playing safety. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Hailey Dawson Day
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interfaith Amigos speak in Las Vegas
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like