December Care

WATERING – The need for water will continue to diminish this month since the weather will be cooler. Therefore, water only as needed in order to prevent root rot.

FEEDING – Because of shorter days and cooler temperatures, plants will be doing little to no growing. You will probably not even have to fertilize your plants at this time of the year. If you feel you still need to fertilize, remember to use a fertilizer with no nitrogen in it.

WIRING – Keep a close eye on the wire because the branches will continue to thicken. Leaving the wire on the plant for too long will disfigure the branches; therefore, remove the wire if the branch remains in the desired position or if the wire is cutting into the cambium.

PESTS AND DISEASES – With the cooler temperatures, the activity of harmful insects will slow down. If it gets chilly enough, the cold weather will actually kill insects, however continue to check for pests and diseases and treat accordingly with soaps and oils if needed. Always remember to spray a small branch first in order to make sure there will be no phytotoxic* reaction to the plant from the soap and oil spray. An example of a plant that will drop all of its leaves if sprayed with soaps and oils is Fukien Tea. *Phytotoxicity is an adverse response in plants due to chemicals applied to the leaves or soil.

TRIMMING – Continue to trim the plant when necessary to maintain the desired shape, but this should become almost non-existent because of the lower levels of nitrogen, shorter days, and cooler temperatures.

PRUNING – Avoid heavy pruning if possible. Pruning will cause excessive, tender new growth, which will get damaged in cold weather. Even the new growth on cold hardy plants such as hollies and boxwoods would be damaged. It would be a waste of energy for the plant to lose all the new growth.

LIGHT –Plants that have been protected from the harsh summer sun such as maples and azalea plants can now be exposed to more sunlight. Rotating the trees on a weekly basis will prevent the trees from becoming one sided.

TEMPERATURES– The temperature will probably begin to fluctuate from mild to cold so be prepared to protect you tropical plants. Place all of your tropical plants on one bench so you will not forget any. Also, if you have to move your plants back and forth from a protected location back outside, you may want to leave them on a cart or a tray so it is an easier chore. Some examples of tropical plants are ficus, buttonwood, bougainvillea, and Fukien Tea. Please refer to the chart in November’s newsletter as to when to take in your tropical plants.

REPOTTING– Major repotting should be avoided to allow the plant’s roots to adjust to the colder weather ahead. Some very hardy plants such as junipers can still have some minor root pruning done to them.

COLLECTING MATERIAL– Keep your eyes open for any landscape plants that may be good bonsai material. About a month or two before actually digging it out of the ground, cut a circle around the plant by using a shovel to encourage more fibrous roots closer to the trunk. Wait until the end of January or February before actually digging it out of the ground in order to make sure the material is dormant.

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