Gardening with Evelyn: Superstar cyclamen plus fall favorites; Do’s and don’ts for keeping your poinsettia happy


Everyone wants a plant that blooms for months, is easy to grow and is beautiful too.

Cyclamen fits all those requirements and more.

Evelyn Weidner

Grown outside in a shady spot your cyclamen will bloom from fall through winter and still be blooming beautifully until summer. Here are your hints for cyclamen success.

Grow cyclamen cool. They hate the heat. They are happy on your patio table or in your garden. Can you grow you cyclamen indoors? Yes, you can but because your home is cozy and warm your cyclamen will not last as long as it would outdoors. Think a month or two instead of months and months.

Give your cyclamen some shade. Morning sun is OK. Afternoon hot sun not so good.

Water and feed. Feeding is really important. A good liquid fertilizer twice a month will keep your plants happy. Depending on the weather give your cyclamen a good drink at least twice a week. Heat wave? Add an extra drink. If you forget and your cyclamen is all hanging down and wilted do this. Place your plant in a shallow pan of water and let it soak for about an hour. Watch it perk back up. In the ground, water as needed

Don’t let your plants go to seed. Pull out seeded stems straight up. Hint: The seeds look like little hard green nuts. New flower buds are soft with just a hint of the color to come.

Never plant your Cyclamen too deep. Cyclamen have a small round tuber that is hidden at the base of the leaves. If you cover up that tuber with soil you might as well have the “New Plant Blessing” and the “Memorial Service” at the same time.

Cyclamen are native to the hills of Turkey. In their native areas there are lots of species. The varieties you buy are called Florist cyclamen. They are hybridized to have lots of big flowers and a long blooming period.

Finally, cyclamen normally take a rest in the hot summer time. The leaves droop and the plant looks pretty bad. When that happens, it is not dead! Just taking a summer siesta. (Technically called a period of dormancy). Let it snooze in a corner with just a hint of moisture and watch it spring back to life in the fall.

What else belongs in your garden now?

Chrysanthemums, aka mums, are a fall favorite. These are usually garden mums with lots of smaller blooms. You can make your mum rebloom again by snipping off the flowers as they fade. Your mum is actually a perennial but most of us enjoy it at its best and then toss it away. No guilt.

One of my other favorites is the pretty Winter cactus. You may know it as a Christmas cactus. Hint. Winter cactus need to be outside in the summer in order to bloom in the winter. Spring cactus are almost the same. Both can live for years.

Jan. 1, 2021 issue:

Do’s and don’ts for keeping your poinsettia happy

You just bought a beautiful poinsettia. Maybe it was red, white or maybe the new special pink Princettia. It could be one of the new special colors. Now you want your poinsettia to stay a as lovely as it was when you bought it.

Most important is watering. Don’t let your poinsettia dry out to the point where the leaves are really wilting. If you do, they will soon fall off leaving bare ugly stems.

The new pink Princettia
The new pink Princettia

Don’t let your poinsettia sit in water. The roots will slowly rot. This will shorten the life of your pretty poinsettia. If your plant is in one of those pretty pot covers be sure to remove it when you water your plant.

So how do you know when to water your plant? The smaller the pot size the more often you will need to water. The warmer the temperature where your poinsettia is the faster it will dry out.

In an average home you might water a 4-inch or 6-inch potted poinsettia twice a week. Feel the soil. Warm and dry time to water. Cool and damp wait awhile. A large 8-inch multi-plant combination will take longer between waterings. When you water take it out of the pretty pot cover. Put it in the sink and water well, let it drain and then put it back where you had it. What about ice cubes for watering? Yes, you can, but you need to know how much water those ice cubes really produce. Put 10 in a measuring cup and when they have melted you can see how much water they equal.

What about fertilizer? You do not need to feed your poinsettia while it is in bloom. Once it begins to change color it no longer is growing.

Sometime after the holidays you should be tired of your poinsettias. You can throw them away without any guilt. It is just a plant, not your beloved Aunt Martha. If you live in warm coastal San Diego you can plant your poinsettia in the garden sometime in late spring.

If you want to try to make your poinsettia bloom well before Christmas next year you must cut off the blooms. Sometime in March is the best time. This lets it start to grow again. Now you can give it a little fertilizer once a month. Around the Fourth of July cut it back a little bit more if needed. Then around Labor Day you put it in a dark closet every evening and take it out again in the morning. This fools the poinsettia into thinking it is time to start to bloom. When the leaves begin to change color, you can take it out and let it finish blooming in any warm, bright place.

Can you put your poinsettia outdoors? Yes, you can but watch out for Jack Frost or the dry hot Santa Ana winds. Remember poinsettias are for your enjoyment. Follow the Do’s and Don’ts and Happy New Year.

April 23 issue:

Good tomatoes to eat. Easy year-round color for your garden.

Now that you’re inspired to grow tomatoes the question is what kind and how many? It all depends on how much room you have and how much you love that fresh-from-the-garden tomato. Get at least one to slice and some of those tiny grape-style tomatoes that are so good to just munch on. All of the tiny tomatoes grow well here. Some of the slicing tomatoes are especially good for our San Diego climate. Ask at your local nursery what varieties they carry and what they recommend for San Diego then choose one old favorite and at least one new variety just for the adventure of it.

I talked about tomato mildew and viruses in my last column. What about those ugly black bottoms. The best advice I could get is choose a fertilizer high in calcium, water deep and regular, and add in some good luck! I use a trowel just outside the basin to be sure the top inch or two are dry (tilt the trowel to see the soil) and if they are I fill the basin with water and fiddle in the garden for half an hour or so while it drains. Check again to be sure the water has reached about 8 inches. Repeat until it does. Now you know when and how much to water.

Now about that big ugly tomato horn worm. It can eat your tomato in just one day. This worm comes from a huge night-flying moth that lays her eggs which later hatch into that ugly worm. A spray with BT is your best option or if you don’t mind the yuck factor, pick them off and squash them. Keep reading for some happy news for your garden.

Year-round, easy, instant color that will make your yard pop

What catches your eye in front yards when you walk down the street? A pop of color catches mine. When I stop to see what caught my eye it’s often ivy geraniums. Like a good friendship they’re easy to grow and bloom year round. In the ground tuck in three or more plants together for better pop. You can also use them in hanging baskets, window boxes, or cascading over a wall. For even more pop put them next to something that has variegated strap-like leaves. I walk around the nursery with an ivy geranium in my hand trying different combinations.

Full sun is best but you might squeak by with 4-6 hours. They aren’t heavy feeders and don’t like getting completely dry or overly wet. If they get a bit leggy, in the fall or spring cut them back by about half, just above a set of leaves. Or all year give them a light trim. After cutting back you can pinch the tips to make it bushier and if you’re really ambitious cut off spent flowers to get more blooms. Enjoy the wonderful ivy geranium and have color all year around.