The Magic Garden

Can Canna recover from the cold?


My Poinsettia is still outdoors. When should I bring it in? Janice, Taylorville, IL

Repot your plant in clay and bring it indoors as soon as possible. In southern California and Mexico they are almost like trees outdoors because they are perennial. In zone 5 in your area they will freeze and die. Place the plant in a sunny location but in the night it must have uninterrupted darkness for at least 12 hours, Those upper bracts are photosensitive and need the duration for eight weeks to produce the colored leaves.

Can I leave out my Canna lilies through the winter? I have left them in prior years and it has gone down to the teens. George, Boaz, AL

It is not advisable to leave these tropicals out in northern Alabama. You could eventually lose them to frosts. In zone 7b, where you are, recovery can be quick but I would not take the chance. Dig them out after the first frost and cut off the tops. Dry the roots in the sun and store them in a cool dry place for the winter. There are some absolutely beautiful new hybrids with various colored leaves.

My Crown of Thorns has grown four feet tall and is straight up. It is in a four inch pot and easily toppled. How can I transplant it? Roy, Norwich, CT

You will need to treat it with kid gloves. It prefers a clay pan pot. I would put it in a ten inch pot and allow it to grow laterally, which is its natural inclination. Your new soil should be half sterile potting soil and half coarse sand. Tip the entire pot upside down and tap it on a hard surface. It should come out in one piece. If it rebels and sticks to the pot at the bottom, you can cut some of the roots or sacrifice the pot by breaking the pot. Place the roots in the middle on the new pot within an inch of the top and fill with the new soil. Water the plant thoroughly after planting to remove air pockets. Remember that this plant is a cactus. It will require very little water after the first baptism.

Should we cut the lawn now so that we can rake the leaves? Cele, East Greenwich, RI

You can shred the leaves with a mulch mower. I do not like to leave leaves unless they are shredded. The Audubon Society recommends leaving a thin layer. This could house fungi and insects. Birds love insects but insects carry pathogens for the lawn and garden. If you not expect many leaves the wind will rake the lawn for you. I prefer to rake the leaves and compost them for a winter. This will sterilize the pile. Compost can be used in next years plantings. The grass will do fine at three to four inches for the winter. Be sure that the leaves do not have Black Tar fungus. If they do, they should be hauled off to the local dump.

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