This winter seems like it will never end. So in the meantime here is a fun activity you can do indoors to have some pretty blooms before spring fully arrives.
Stems of a number of woody plants can be forced into bloom for indoor display. Of course, some are easier to force than others. Three of the easiest are forsythia, pussy willow, and flowering quince. These plants have now gone through enough cold weather to satisfy their chilling requirement and should bloom if given the right conditions.
Choose a day that is above freezing for collecting branches for blooming. Keep the stem length to 3 feet or less. As you cut, place the stems in a bucket of water. Once you have the number of branches you want, bring them into the house and soak them in warm water for several hours — a bathtub works well for this. This ensures that the stems and buds are fully hydrated. Next, place them in a container that has a warm, preservative solution and place them in an environment with high humidity and plenty of light.
Make your preservative solution by dissolving packets of floral preservative in water. These packets can often be obtained from your local florist. You can also make your own preservative by adding a tablespoon of Listerine per gallon of water, but commercial preservatives are preferred. Floral preservatives accomplish two functions; they prevent bacterial growth in your water and provide nutrients and energy for the life processes of the plants.
Many times our houses have a very low relative humidity during the winter. These low humidities can lead to dehydration of flower buds and blossoms. To raise the humidity around your plants, mist the plants or drape a dry cleaner’s bag over your stems. If a cleaner’s bag is too small, use a painter’s clear plastic drop cloth. Humidifiers can also help raise humidity levels.
Normally, forsythia will take about nine days to flower, quince will require between 12 to 20, and pussy willow needs from five to 15 days. The time required will vary depending on indoor conditions and how late in the winter the branches were collected. Most woody plants should be in flower within three weeks of collection and will remain in flower for about a week before blooms start to fade.
Christmas plants such as poinsettias, holiday cactus, and amaryllis bulbs are a fun way to bring some color to the winter months. They like a bright, sunny location in your home and regular watering. Watch this video for tips on how to purchase the best poinsettia.
Pumpkins, corn stalks, and mums will likely be decorating our porches. Some people purchase mums every year and some have their mums come back every season. People often wonder if chrysanthemums are an annual or a perennial plant. Watch this video to learn more:
Late September through October is an excellent time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as crocus, tulips, and daffodils. These plants need to develop roots in the fall and must meet a chilling requirement over the winter in order to bloom in the spring.
If your irises aren’t looking healthy this year, they may have a condition called bacterial soft rot. The bacteria will cause a smelly and slimy rot of the leaves and rhizomes. Leaves often separate easily from the rhizome. If your plants are heavily infested they may die.
Though most often associated with iris borer, environmental damage can also provide an entry point for this disease.
Rhizomes that show extensive signs of damage should be discarded. If there is a plant that has special value, you may wish to try to save it. The American Iris Society suggests using a spoon to remove all infected tissue. Then, allow the rhizome to dry in the sun. Finally, use a chlorine based cleanser to powder the wound. Dousing in place with Dial antibacterial soap (with triclosan) can be substituted for the chlorine based cleanser.
When dividing rhizomes from beds that have shown evidence of soft rot, disinfect the knife between cuts of even apparently healthy rhizomes with a 10% bleach solution or rubbing alcohol.
As mentioned previously, iris borer damage can provide a place of entry for this disease. To control iris borers, remove and discard dead leaves in the fall to eliminate a number of the iris borer eggs. Larvae can also be killed by hand in June by squeezing infested leaves in the vicinity of the injury. During division, borers in lightly infested rhizomes can be killed by poking them with a piece of wire. Borer control can also be achieved through the use of imidacloprid (Merit, Bayer All-In-One Rose & Flower Care, Bonide Systemic Granules, Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Granules) or through the use of the parasitic nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae or Heterorhabditis bacteriophora.
If you have been disappointed by your annual flower beds or containers in past seasons, try our tested varieties. K-State has tested annual and perennial flowers for many years to find the best of the best. These colorful blooms are sure to stand up in our summer heat, and hot winds. Use the Prairie Star website as a shopping list when picking out your flowers this spring.
Prairie Star Annuals and Prairie Bloom Perennials Website:
Christmas plants such as poinsettias, holiday cactus, and amaryllis bulbs are a fun way to bring some color to the winter months. They like a bright, sunny location in your home and regular watering. With proper care these plants can be kept from year to year for lasting value.