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updated: 2/9/2018 6:47 AM

Kalanchoes bring colorful cheer to colder months

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  • Kalanchoes are flowering plants that come in a range of colors and their blooms coincide with the colder months.

    Kalanchoes are flowering plants that come in a range of colors and their blooms coincide with the colder months.
    Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

 
By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden

Kalanchoes are small, bright colored flowering plants that are commercially propagated so their bloom coincides with the colder months. They have a wide range of flower colors, including yellow, orange, pink, red and white. They are succulents, like cactuses, and as such should never be overwatered.

Kalanchoes will bloom for a long time, especially if the plant you purchase has lots of buds and fewer open flowers. They prefer bright light, sparse watering and no fertilizer while in bloom. Because they are succulents, there is no need to provide extra humidity.

If you want to try to get your kalanchoe to flower again, cut off the flower stalks when all the flowers have dried, move the plant to a shadier window and reduce watering to force it into a dormant period. When new buds appear in one to two months, move it back into bright light, resume watering and fertilize twice a month with a dilute balanced fertilizer.

You can move the plant outside to a part-sun location in early summer and bring it back inside as night temperatures begin to drop below 40 degrees. Use a cactus blend mix if the plant needs to be repotted.

• If tree or shrub branches become covered with ice, let the ice melt naturally rather than trying to break it off. It is easy to tear off evergreen foliage as you remove frozen snow.

If large evergreen branches are anchored to the ground with snow, gently sweep off any loose snow with a soft broom and then elevate the tree branch from underneath unless there is a lot of weight on the branch. Using tools like a shovel risks damaging the tree bark. Evergreens that are bent over may be able to be straightened when temperatures warm and the snow and ice melt.

• Continue monitoring your garden for any animal damage. Look more closely during periods without snow as you will not have tracks in the snow to alert you to the presence of animals. Extensive damage can occur in the middle of winter if left unchecked. For instance, higher snow levels mean rabbits can reach higher into shrubs.

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

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