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posted: 12/15/2013 5:30 AM

Be careful when applying ice treatments

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  • Amaryllis bulbs can be potted in shallow containers with a soilless growing medium.

    Amaryllis bulbs can be potted in shallow containers with a soilless growing medium.
    Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden

When using ice melting chemicals on slippery areas, follow directions carefully. Many people apply too much ice melt, which can cause damage to walks and adjacent plants.

Consider using sand on slippery areas. Mixing a small amount of ice melt with sand can also be effective and minimize the amount of ice melting chemical that must be used. Calcium- or potassium-based products will be less damaging to plants than sodium chloride products.

Always shovel snow from the path or driveway before spreading any de-icing material.

Water evergreen shrubs that are planted in containers during warm and dry periods over the winter. Evergreens continue to lose water through their leaves or needles, so providing supplemental water during winter will help prevent winter burn.

Cyclamen plants prefer quite cool indoor conditions. Water them only when the soil dries out and avoid splashing water on foliage. Remove faded flowers and their stems as soon as possible to keep the plants blooming and looking good.

Pot up new amaryllis bulbs in wide, squat containers using a soilless growing medium. Do not bury the bulb completely. Allow the "shoulders" at the stem end to remain above the growing medium. Water the bulb well once and then allow the medium to dry out before watering again. Keep the pot away from direct sun, drafts, and heating vents. As the stalk grows, rotate the pot for even growth. Most amaryllis bulbs will send up the stalk and flowers before the leaves.

After flowering, allow the stalk to yellow and wither before removing it from the bulb. If you want to try to save the plant, continue to water it when leaves emerge. After May 15, take the plant outside to receive morning sun and fertilize it regularly with a water soluble balanced fertilizer that has a 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 ratio of major nutrients. Bring the bulb indoors before October 15 for its resting period. Put it in a cool place between 40 and 55 degrees. Allow the leaves to dry up and keep the growing medium nearly dry. When you see a green tip emerging from the bulb after eight to 10 weeks, begin watering the bulb again.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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