Coastal and Tropical South
Renew Overgrown Houseplants with Cuttings
Plants like dieffenbachias, draceanas, and others can age over time into sad canes with only a few leaves at the top. Instead of tossing them or pushing them to the back of a display, take their state as a cue to propagate. Cut the cane 6 inches above the top of the pot, which will soon see new sprouts. Root 3 inch long sections of the cane by laying each one sideways in a bed of wet sand. Keep it moist and look for sprouts in about two months.
If, like me, you have a young cat that likes to chew on plant leaves, it is time to change that behavior. Two approaches have worked for me to keep plants from being chewed and prevent stomach disorders in curious cats. Keep a water pistol handy and surprise kitty with a squirt while he is in the act of nibbling. If you are not always present, mix up red pepper and water in a sprayer and mist his preferred leaves daily before you leave. The first taste will be quite a surprise and then you can turn his attention to a pot of alfalfa, catnip or other appropriate cat grass you've provided.
Sounds like garden violence, to force flowers into bloom, but we do it every year. Poinsettias, Christmas cacti, amaryllises and paperwhite narcissus bulbs do not naturally bloom in time for the holidays. So we force them. If your poinsettias have been in the dark for 12 hours each day since September, check them for reddening in the center of the bracts, indicating they are forced and will be grow redder each day. Leave your Christmas cactus outside as temperatures cool at night. When little buds show up, bring it indoors for more water and pleasure as it blooms. Amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs started in pots by early November will be ready to show off in 5 weeks and will bloom soon after that. Start them in cool darkness to shorten stems and move into sun when the stems are 5 to 6 inches tall.
Plant and Replant Bulbs
The bulbs in the outdoor garden need attention now. If clumps of daffodils, snowdrops, spider lilies, and other perennial bulbs get crowded or sink too deep into the soil, they stop blooming. When the summer annuals planted in the same bed begin to fizzle out, it is time to clean them out and replant for winter and to dig up the bulbs and reset them. Plant new bulbs now, too, always no deeper than twice their length. Remember to take photos of the bulbs in bloom so you know where they are planted and can keep up with their bloom performance over the years.
Decorate for Halloween
Reports are that pumpkins may be a bit pricey this year, due to heavy rain in some places and drought in others. If you want a big display, go for gourds, fall squash like Turk's turban, and my favorite, cushaw. Its green striped, cream skin is an autumn signature in the South and it is a fine surface for drawing creepy creatures with marking pens. Plan to plant your own autumn decorations next year and if space allows, grow more to sell at your farmers' market. As food prices continue to rise and local produce gains favor, it is wise to plant more than you can eat or specialize in a popular perishable like those we use for decorations and pies every fall.