, Salem, MA


July 4, 2014

North Shore Gardener: Christmas ... in July?

Time to take those poinsettia cuttings

We’re thinking about Christmas. Sing along with me:

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.

Twenty-four weeks to grow poinsettias before its Christmas Day!”

Q: What do I do to my very large, very leafy, very green poinsettia plant from last Christmas? It’s in a sunny spot in the garden, pot and all. I want to keep it, although if it blooms, it’s going to look mighty funny next to the tomatoes.

A: The end of July marks the deadline for taking cuttings of those old poinsettias you’ve been nurturing all summer.

Cuttings taken before the end of July should bloom this year. Cut and root 4- to 5-inch cuttings. Keep them warm, watered and well-fed. Starting about eight weeks before Christmas, keep them in darkness for 12 to 14 hours a day. Cover the entire plant with a sheet, an inverted cardboard box, or keep them in a dark closet — no peeking — and you should have flowers for Christmas.

Q: I have two trees that have ivy growing up them, about 20 feet up the trunks. This year, it looks like the ivy is choking the trees and limbs are dying. Will it help if I cut the base of the ivy by the trees to try to kill the ivy? I am afraid they will die if I don’t do something soon.

A: Ivy may not exactly be choking the trees, but you don’t want it growing up the trunks. (In some Northwestern states, it’s now illegal to grow ivy.) An ivy-covered tree looks lovely and romantic, but the ivy is weighing down the branches, causing debris to collect, fostering rot, attracting pests, damaging the bark and causing disease.

The answer to your question is yes, and you can do it without chemicals. Cut ivy at the base of the tree. In a few weeks, everything above the cut will die back, and you can pull it off. When it’s dead and brown, you’ll be able to see it clearly, and most removal will be easy. Pull the long vines down in short jerks, not in one continuous pull — it will come loose more easily. Removing the attached vines on a wet day is easier.

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