Our Calendar of Events

Did you know that the blog has a calendar function? From our homepage, click on Calendar of Events (see red arrow in the screenshot below) to find out where our volunteers will be available to answer your questions and when you can enjoy an excellent gardening presentation.

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The calendar (below) is a familiar Google Calendar page integrated into the blog.

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You can click on individual events for location, hours, and more information.

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The calendar is frequently updated with lectures, talks and other public events, as well as dates and locations for our Ask a Master Gardener booth.

-Ann Barnes

Refresher For Reflowering Poinsettias and Long Term Care

By Wendy Diaz, EMGV

If you are like me you probably bought a big beautiful poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in December for easy and festive home decorating over the holidays.  My poinsettia is doing quite well in my west facing picture window and because it is a relatively easy houseplant to care for I will probably keep it until spring and take it outside until the frost kills it in the fall and buy a new one in November. Nevertheless, a friend asked me how she would go about getting her lovely poinsettia to reflower next Christmas and keep it thriving until then. I decided, for my friend, to do some research and refresh my memory on the reflowering steps, because four years have past since my master garden training on this topic, and write a primer on the care of poinsettias.

Several poinsettia plants in one pot placed by west-facing window.
Photo by Wendy Diaz, January 9, 2019

The following list of tasks will keep your poinsettia thriving until you want to prepare it to reflower.

Indoor Care of Poinsettia Plant

  1. Place plant in a bright window preferably south, east or west facing and temperatures between 70oF to 75 oF.
  2. Make sure temperature of room does not drop below 55oF.
  3. and avoid cool drafts. (Cover when purchasing them in the winter especially.) Conversely, temperatures about 75 oF cause bract fading and leaf drop.
  4. Water plant when needed, about once per week or when surface of potting soil feels dry (do not let plants dry out or lower leaves will fall). Do not over water because poinsettias do not like “wet feet”. Let them drain well before putting them back in their foil covering if the pot is covered with decorative foil.
  5. Remove the bracts (brightly-colored red modified leaves) when they discolor and wither.
  6. Apply half-strength fertilizer solution monthly.

Poinsettias are tropical plants originally from southern Mexico and Central America and temperatures below 55oF can damage the plants so when the danger of frost has passed, move it outdoors to a location that receives high indirect light (morning sun/afternoon shade). Then, if you have the dedication to get it to reflower you must complete the process of artificially lengthening its daily exposure to darkness for about a couple of months in the fall. The poinsettia is sensitive to the duration of light (day length) and it is a “short-day” plant whereby the shorter length of time the plant is exposed to light within a 24-hour period triggers physiological response of flowering. The sensitivity to day length is called photoperiodism. Figure 18-23 from the Master Gardener handbook shows the affect of only green foliage on poinsettias that are exposed to too much daily sunlight (less than 8 hours of darkness) during the fall period.

Figure 18–23 from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook Photoperiod demonstration on Poinsettia ‘Prestige Red’. Short Day exposure (right): More than 12 hours of darkness in a 24-hour period. Long Day exposure (left): Less than 8 hours of darkness in a 24-hour period2. Photo credit Diane Mays  CC BY – 2.0






Steps for Poinsettia Reflowering

  1. Place plant outdoors in high indirect light after danger of frost.
  2. Cut back the stems to 3 to 4 inches to promote new growth and encourage branching.
  3. Water and fertilize as in indoor care.
  4. Bring plant indoors when night temperatures fall below 60oF (near the end of September for Durham).
  5. On October 1, 2019, put the plant in 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day until bract color is well developed about mid- to late November. Put it in a closet of place a cardboard box over it. Any light during this time will delay flowering. See Figure below for affects.
  6. Night temperatures should be 60 to 70oF.
  7. Place poinsettia in maximum sunlight each day for 10 hours.
  8. Water the plants as needed for medium soil moisture.
  9. Fertilize every other week with a complete-analysis (20-10-20), water soluble fertilizer
  10. Plants should bloom (red bracts) after 9 to 11 weeks of short day/long night treatment.

I wish my friend and other intrepid houseplant gardeners success in reflowering their 2018 Holiday Poinsettia but as an outdoor person and due to lack of closet space, I will continue my tradition of keeping them outside between last frost in April and first frost in October, followed by a trip to a local grower to purchase new poinsettias in late November.  I am looking forward to new and interesting colors each new year brings.


  1. https://poinsettias.ces.ncsu.edu/homeowners/home-growing-poinsettias/
  2. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/consumer-care-of-poinsettias
  3. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/18-plants-grown-in-containers#section_heading_8773
  4. https://lee.ces.ncsu.edu/2015/12/poinsettias-16/

Further reading:

  1. https://durhammastergardeners.com/2018/02/14/my-poinsettias-survived-the-season-now-what/

Learn With Us, week of January 13

JAN. 16, 7-8:30 PM, Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Presenter: Craig Mauney, Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center, NC Cooperative Extension
Greet the new year with information about new and emerging crops for the home garden. Perhaps expand your garden to include wasabi or upland rice! Craig will also review some exciting new varieties of both fruits and vegetables.

Please note the date has been changed to Wednesday, 1/16 due to a scheduling conflict.

No pre-registration necessary. Lecture fee: free for forum members with $25 annual membership; $10 per meeting for non-members, payable to Durham Garden Forum.

For membership information, email durhamgardenforum@gmail.com

Leyland Cypress: And then there were (almost) none

by Andrea Laine, EMGV

The growth of three cypress at the far end of this photo seem stunted and just one large one, not pictured, remains. photo credit: Andrea Laine

Once upon a time, there were 10 Leyland cypress trees (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) along this fence (see photo). They were planted about 15 years ago and most had matured to 15-feet tall and a few feet wide. Sadly, three fell in a winter ice storm in 2013. And three more were blown over a few weeks ago in a 12 mph south wind following a very soggy December in Durham county. This loss is disheartening – especially as there are cypress hedges in landscapes throughout the area that seem to be doing just fine as my husband curiously noted.

Because Leyland cypress is a fast-growing, dense evergreen, they are attractive to homeowners and often used in landscaping as privacy screens. Indeed, the ones in my yard served that purpose; they were a natural buffer, so the view from my deck was of year-round greenery instead of my neighbor’s driveway and dog pen.

But what often goes unsaid is that fast-growing trees and shrubs tend to be weak and short lived (5).  As a master gardener, I’ve learned that the Leyland cypress, while popular, is not a well-regarded ornamental shrub. Though mine seemed to be healthy, the species is plagued by a variety of diseases and pest problems (6). Truth be told, I rarely observed them up close; they could have been suffering and I was unaware.

Hedging Options
Here are some shrubs we are considering to replace the fallen cypress, the general criteria being shrubs that are evergreen, grow tall and wide, are dense, grow well in sun to part shade, and enjoy well-drained soil. All the better if they offer some additional feature like fragrance or flowers. And, of course, they must grow in hardiness zone 7.

(1)  Chindo viburnum (Viburnum awabuki ‘chindo’)

(2)  Sweet osmanthus/Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans)

(3)  Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica)

(4)  Nellie Stevens Holly (Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens)

Not all plants will do well in all places. If you also desire an evergreen hedge, follow the links to NC Extension’s  Plant Database provided in the Resources section below to learn what these plants need and then consider if your yard can deliver the right combination of sun, soil and space conditions.

There are also non-shrub options for solving landscape challenges like this one. You can train an evergreen vine to climb the fence, install a solid fence, or screen the deck instead of the property line.

Resources and Further Reading:

(1) https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/viburnum-awabuki-chindo/

(2) https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/osmanthus-fragrans/

(3) https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/cryptomeria-japonica/

(4) https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/ilex-x-nellie-r-stevens/

(5) https://chatham.ces.ncsu.edu/2016/10/what-is-the-best-evergreen-for-screening/

(6) https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/leyland-cypress-diseases-insects-related-pests/




To Do in January

Happy New Year, y’all!!  Let’s garden! Well, let’s plan to garden. From the looks of the recent weather forecasts (past, present and future), it would appear to be a great year to plant cattails, rice and water lilies. Claude Monet would be pleased. Maybe this is the year to seriously consider a rain garden. There are usually two or three local hands-on workshops on this very topic. In the meantime, here’s what to do until we can get back to playing in the dirt.

Lawn Care
Continue trying to keep the leaves from accumulating on the turf.

Think about how you could change your landscape to eliminate some (or all) of your grass. It is after all the most expensive planting in the yard and the most ecologically unsustainable. Just sayin’.

Not much here either unless you need a place to dump wood ashes. You can spread them on the veggie garden, bulb beds, or non-acid loving shrub beds if the pH is low, <6.0.

See introductory paragraph. Should the soil dry out enough to actually be workable, asparagus crowns can be planted now.

Sharpen those hand pruners and loppers and go to work! Here’s your get-out-of-the-house excuse.  Studies have shown that January pruning cuts heal more rapidly than those made in other months. So, take down those branches overhanging the house and the ones that shade that corner of the garden.  Cut back those misshapen or overgrown shrubs.

Please prune the branches individually to shape the plant. Unless you are trying to recreate Buckingham or Versailles Palaces, leave the power hedge clippers where they are. Shearing is not the best thing you can do for a plant. However, if you must shear, be sure the finished product is wider at the base than at the top. This allows sunlight to reach the lower leaves and will keep the plant looking full from top to bottom.

When pruning entire branches of anything make the cut at the outside of the branch collar (flared area at the branch origin).

Spray only if the plants you brought indoors for the winter brought unwanted guests with them. Light horticultural oils or insecticidal soap should be safe and effective treatments. If you can run them outside on a warmish dryish day so much the better. READ THE LABEL!

How to stay warm and dry ‘til March without incurring cabin fever induced insanity.
The warm part usually isn’t too difficult. Wear warm clothes while you prune and plan. Or when it is just too gross to go outside delve into those seed catalogs (some more), break out the Kindle (or a real book) and I recommend a hot beverage of your choosing.

The dry part might present a major challenge this winter. Many of us are no longer spry enough to actually dodge the raindrops. For those of us who are fashion-challenged anyway, a full rain suit (preferably in bright yellow) and tall rubber boots will offer shelter from even the worst deluge. For another option see last sentence previous paragraph.

Cheer up! The days are already getting longer and March is just two months away!

— Gary Crispell