November need-to-know

Linn County Master Gardener, Susan Long, prepared the following Q & A’s that are frequently asked of Hortline volunteers in November.

                Q:  Can I plant potted mums in my garden now for blooms next year?

                A:  Even though potted garden mums may be deemed “hardy”, they don’t over-winter well in Iowa.  The repeated freezing and thawing may heave the plants out of the ground causing damage or death.  The best protection is to not cut back any of the plant and mulch heavily with clean straw, pine needles, or evergreen branches after several hard freezes (mid to late November).  Leaves tend to mat down and don’t serve as adequate protection.  Spring is a better time to plant mums as they have the summer to establish themselves.

 

                Q:  Is it OK to prune oak trees now?

                A:  Winter (December through February) is the best time to prune oak trees in Iowa.  Pruning oak trees in winter greatly reduces the risk of an oak wilt infection.  Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many Oaks.  It can be spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles.  Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer.  Pruning oak trees in winter greatly reduces the risk of an oak wilt infection as the beetles and fungal mats are not present at that time of the year.

 

                Q:  How do I get my Christmas cactus to bloom at Christmas?

                A:  Day length and temperature control the flowering of a Christmas cactus. Temperatures shouldn’t be above 70’ in the daytime with nighttime temperatures of 60-65’.   Provide your plants with bright day light, not artificial light, until mid-October.  Move the plant to an unused location after mid-October, giving your plant 14 to 16 hours of continuous darkness each day for at least 3 weeks.  Keep the soil conditions dry, watering every 7-10 days.  They don’t like to be moved, however, once buds set the plant can be moved to another location.  Your plant should start to bloom at Christmas.

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