Preparing Backyard Flocks for Winter

Many that have a backyard flock enjoy fresh eggs from spring into the early fall. However, there are times when the days get shorter and temperatures get cooler we see a reduction in egg production.

Photo: Kat Lawrence Mississippi State University Extension
Photo: Kat Lawrence
Mississippi State University Extension

There are a few things to consider going into this fall and winter that might change how comfortable the flock is. Even though it is very early to pull out our coats and gloves and get ready for winter, now is a great time to start preparing our chickens for winter.

The coop should be the first thing that comes to mind when preparing for cooler temperatures. Are the walls and ceilings insulated? Is there a way to better insulate the walls or ceiling? If you do plan to insulate the coop be sure to cover the insulation with wood or like material to keep birds from pecking around and rodents from building a nest. Check for drafts in the coop while you at it. You can do this by placing a light source in the middle of the coop and walking around the perimeter of the coop looking for light to shine through. When you find places that you see light you should mark that location and place 4-6 mil plastic on the outside of the coop. Even though all of this helps with maintaining the current temperature additional might be needed. Supplemental heating could help with egg production and protect against chances of frostbite. Frostbite can occur on the combs, waddles, and toes. The waddles are at a higher risk if they get wet while dipping them in the drinking water.

Discoloration of the comb due to frostbite Photo: Brigid McCrea Delaware State University
Discoloration of the comb due to frostbite
Photo: Brigid McCrea
Delaware State University

Discoloration of the combs from yellow to black color indicate frostbite and can be very painful for the chicken. As a preventative measure, you should choose breeds with smaller combs, use small amounts of Vaseline or other protectants, and make perches wider so the toes are not wrapped and are more flat. When choosing a heating source most prefer infrared heaters because they heat the bird not the air. Make sure that the perch is a comfortable temperature because that is where the birds will spend most of the time in the coldest temperatures. Be sure not to place anything in the coop that could be a fire hazard.

The litter is very important in the winter time when the bird could be “cooped” up for long periods of time due to inclement weather. You should have shavings or bedding material 4 to 6 inches deep that are clean and dry. If you have a water spill or have an issue with water running into the coop from rainfall it should be corrected as soon as possible as this could lead to frostbite. While you are looking at things on the ground be sure that you will be able to provide thawed water to the flock. Remember to control the litter for ammonia even if the weather is not conducive for work. If your eyes start watering when you walk in the coop think about what your chickens feel like a few feet below you. There are products (i.e. Chick Flic) that can be applied to the litter that will mask some of the effects of the ammonia. Acceptable levels are 20 to 25 ppm but when they increase you are putting your flock at risk for health problems. A vent placed in the coop to allow air transfer will not only help control the ammonia levels but also help reduce the humidity that can lead to frostbite issues.

If you have hens stop laying in the winter time ask yourself these questions:

Photo: Keri Collins Lewis Mississippi State University Extension
Photo: Keri Collins Lewis
Mississippi State University Extension
  • What are the age of the birds? (Most start laying 16-20 weeks depending on breed)
  • Is there enough light? (14-16 hours of continuous light)
  • Is there adequate food and/or thawed water? (Try a water heater)
  • Did the temperature drop below 55F? (Add supplemental heat)
  • Do you see sick or stressed birds?

If you take a little time in preparing your flock for the cooler temperatures you will be quite impressed with the productivity of your chickens. The more effort you put towards making your coop comfortable the more you will enjoy fresh eggs during the holidays.

Harvest Season Safety

Combine traveling highway
Combine traveling the highway

With harvest underway drivers need to pay extra attention to the roads. During the next couple of months our rural roads and highways will be covered with farm machinery and trailer trucks as the farmers move from field to field harvesting their crops. According to U.S. Department of Transportation a large portion of motor vehicle fatalities occur on rural roads in Mississippi. Rural traffic is often overlooked because of the drivers sense of ‘familiarity’ with the location. However, with many of the population using some type of electronic device including cell phones or GPS it only multiplies the risk.

Combine displaying warning lights and SMV sign

Keep in mind that most farm machinery is moving at a much slower rate than many motorist when it comes to highway travels. For instance, if you are traveling at the posted speed of 65 mph and a combine is 1/2 ahead of you traveling at 15 mph in the same direction it would only take 36 seconds for the two to meet. Now say that there is only 1/4 in between, the time has been halved to 18 seconds. Department of Transportation says the average person sending or receiving a text takes the drivers eyes away from the road for about 5 seconds. It wouldn’t take long for someone to lose concentration and find themselves dangerously close to having a collision. Always pay attention and look for warning lights as well as slow-moving-vehicle (SMV) placards. These placards alert to slow down and keep a safe distance between you and the slower moving traffic until it is safe to pass.

Slow Moving Vehicle sign (SMV)

The following are some tips for both farmers and drivers to keep in mind to help keep this harvest season safe.


  • Ensure all safety lighting works and the proper placards are in place
  • Try to avoid areas with heavy traffic during the peak times
  • Before moving equipment make sure that all personnel and vehicles can be seen
  • If equipment must be park along the road make sure it has been marked down the road


  • Be patient when traveling behind slower moving farm equipment
  • When meeting farm equipment pull to the right hand side of the road ensuring a safe passage
  • If passing machinery or trucks park alongside the road slow down and give room in case there is someone getting in or out
  • Practice safe responsible driving, do not take for granted that the operator can see you passing them

Tassel Shot

Tasseling Corn Photo: Preston Aust, MSU Extension
Tasseling Corn with adequate nitrogen
Photo: Preston Aust, MSU Extension                                                                          

As most of our early (March) planted corn acres begin to tassel, the question always comes up about the optimum timing for the “Tassel Shot” of nitrogen.  According to Mississippi State University crop specialists, if your corn crop is healthy with adequate nitrogen, then the timing of nitrogen application at tassel is not very critical.  However, if you are nitrogen deficient prior to tassel, then it is very critical that you correct this before your crop reaches tassel where nitrogen  needs are quite high.

For a more detailed explanation on timing your “Tassel Shot” follow the link below.


Lawn Burweed

Now that most of the kids are out of school and outside playing in the yard many of you have noticed a pesky problem.

Lawn burweed Photo: Joseph M DiTomaso, University of California- Davis,
Lawn burweed
Photo: Joseph M DiTomaso, University of California- Davis,

For some it could be primarily a cosmetic problem but for the ones who have baseball games held in the front yard it could be a painful problem for bare feet. Lawn Burweed is a winter annual that often goes unnoticed until the plant is fully mature. This weed germinates in the fall and has a pale green leaf that resembles parsley.The problem with this weed is that as the temperatures rise in the spring it moves into its reproductive cycle where it forms a spine tipped burr at the tips. These are the defense for the seed and also an inconvenience to pets and bare feet.

Control of this weed is much easier with a healthy turf going into the fall. Making sure that you lawn receives the proper amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients are the best defense against this weed as well as others. Chemical control is also used in the fall as a pre-emergence and late winter as post-emergence. For pre-emergence control, products that have Isoxaben, Prodiamine, or Pendamethalin can be applied in late fall. For post-emergence control products that contain Atrazine is safe on Centipede and St. Augustine and on dormant Bermudagrass. Products that contain 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop can be used on Bermudagrass and Zoysia but can injure St. Augustine and Centipede. Anytime you use chemical control always read and follow label directions.

Lawn burweed poses a unique problem as it almost always escapes our eye as we do not travel our yard often in the winter months but almost always find it in the spring and summer months when it is too late. For those that have this problem now remember that a full, lush turf is a great defense.

Turf matted with lawn burweed Photo: John D Byrd, Mississippi State University,
Turf matted with lawn burweed
Photo: John D Byrd, Mississippi State University,

Try to grow in these areas between now and when temperatures start to decline. Also, be prepared to spray in late fall to inhibit this weed from germinating and again in late winter to catch all of those that escaped. Once you have this pest under control the neighborhood pets and kids will love spending time outside. For more information call your local extension office and take a look at Publication 1322 “Establish and Manage Your Home Lawn“.




Gardeners face many of the same challenges as farmers — only on a smaller scale.They have to contend with whatever Mother Nature throws at them, from drought to flood, scathing heat or frigid cold, but to top it off, there are insects, diseases and animals to contend with. Now that the garden season is at its peak, the problems are also rising. Gardeners should walk their gardens if not daily, then at least once a week. Finding a problem before it becomes a big problem, can go a long way in controlling issues. Properly identifying a problem is also important.

There are insects and diseases that can have similar symptoms. If problems are occurring over a vast group of different types of plants, chances are it is not an insect or a disease, since most insects and diseases tend to have more specific host plants, or at least start on one, and then move on to others. Deer, and other animals may not be as particular, or an improper application of a chemical will also damage across plant species. Insects are the most diverse group of organisms on Earth. There are over a million described species of insects. There is not a place on earth that doesn’t have some type of insect that lives there. Not all insects are bad. Where would be without the pollinators who provide us with crops, or butterflies which beautify the environment. Ladybugs in both their adult and larval stage eat aphids, and praying mantis eats both good and bad bugs. But there are bad bugs out there, and if not controlled, they can kill or ruin your plants. Insects can multiply rapidly in warm climates. Some years some insects are worse than others. Many yards have been plagued by the variable oak leaf caterpillar this year —in larger numbers than we can ever remember. Some years we have more tent caterpillars in the spring or fall webworms in the fall. With insects that feed on large shade trees, normally the damage is not life threatening. Repeated defoliation on young trees can be a different story, but since they are smaller they could be sprayed if warranted. Some insects feed on weakened or stressed plants, while others like tender new growth more. If you see problems on your plants, you need to start to investigate what the culprit is and then take action.  Insects feed in various ways, so identification should start with the physical damage. Some have chewing mouthparts—like caterpillars and grasshoppers which eat holes in the leaves or large sections of the foliage. Others have sucking mouthparts like aphids and lacebug insects. Think of it as inserting a straw into the leaf and then sucking out the plant juices. Instead of holes in the leaves, the foliage is marred with little specks. When enough feeding has been going on, the entire leaf surface is silvery or whitish where the chlorophyll has been taken out of the leaves. Rasping mouthparts are when an insect scrapes off the top surface of the leaf and then sucks out the sap. Mites and thrips are the culprits here. They are small insects, so the damage is silvery in appearance, but there are no holes in the leaves. Then there are tiny larvae of insects that actually feed between the surfaces of the leaves, leaving a trail of tunnels or squiggly lines in the foliage. These insects are called leaf miners, because they are basically mining out the sap in between the two surfaces of the leaves. Thankfully, they usually look worse than they are, and you can cut off the damaged leaves and be done with it.

And lastly there are boring insects —those that can bore holes in trees or in the stems of your squash plants. For wood boring insects, they usually go after weakened trees, but not always. Once inside, they are difficult to kill, since they construct a series of tunnels inside so contact sprays are not effective.

Squash Vine Borer
Squash Vine Borer

Squash vine borer adults are a clear winged moth that resembles a wasp. The adult female lays eggs near the base of the squash plant. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the stem of the squash plant and tunnel through,killing the plants fairly quickly.If you have holes or missing chunks of foliage in your leaves, try to find what is feeding. Sometimes you can easily spot the culprit, and sometimes you have to investigate. Many insects use camouflage to mask themselves or help them blend in. There are some common insects that we see annually on certain plants. If you are growing hardy hibiscus, the mallow sawfly may turn the leaves into lace. Cabbage worms can do the same to members of the cabbage family, and the tomato hornworm can feed on a tomato plant and destroy it quickly. Corn left unprotected is usually attacked by the corn earworm. Flea beetles are common on eggplants, and slugs love hostas.  So start by looking for the most common complaint. When grasshoppers hit, it seems like the plague of locusts—they feed on many different plants and the Japanese beetle is the bane of many a gardener in the northern tier of the state. Bagworms attack junipers and cedars first, and construct their protective sack out of the plant they are feeding on. If you can’t find what is out there, try using traps or baits to spot them, so you know how to control them. Know which are good caterpillars and which are bad. Many gardeners grow parsley and fennel to attract caterpillars and butterflies, so don’t kill them. Learn to recognize the larvae of the good and the bad bugs. Aphids are the rabbits of the insect world. These small insects give birth to living young, and when conditions are right, those newborns begin propagating as well. They can be green, yellow or black in color and often congregate along the stems or tips of tender new growth. They suck sap out and give off a sticky substance called honeydew. Where honeydew lands — car windows, patio furniture or plants, a black sooty mold can form on the leaves. Aphids attach flowers, vegetables, shrubs and even trees. Think about parking your car under a large shade tree. That sticky residue is probably the droppings of aphids feeding on the tree foliage.


Other sucking insects that give off honeydew include white flies and scale. Whiteflies commonly attack gardenias. It looks like specks of white dandruff flying off the plant. Then the foliage can be covered in the black sooty mold.  Whiteflies are also an issue on some flowering tropical’s and can get on vegetables and other ornamentals. Scale insects and mealy bugs are also common on a wide variety of plants. Camellias commonly get tea scale, while mealy bugs are soft bodied scales that attack on the underside of the foliage and in the joints where leaves are attached to the stems. Golden euonymus is frequently attacked by the euonymus scale. Scale insects are not going to kill a plant overnight, but left unchecked, they will multiply and gradually weaken a plant. Scale insects come in all sizes and shapes from tiny white and black tea and euonymus scale to the hard armored scales and the white oyster scales. The hard outer coating protects the insect inside, so typically some type of systemic approach is needed.

Whether your garden has insect or disease problems, practice good integrated pest management practices. Give your plants what they need to grow — proper plant selection for your site,then the right cultural practices including water, fertilizer and pruning. Monitor your garden regularly.  Decide how much damage you are willing to live with. When those thresholds are met, take action. Look at what is available to control the pest — physical barriers, sprays of water, pruning out damaged plants, or organic or non-organic sprays. Spraying is usually the last resort. But if you do spray, make sure that what you are using is labeled to control your pest and that you are applying it at the recommended rate. Many home gardeners think that if a little bit is good, a lot will do better, and that isn’t the case. Gardening can be challenging, but the end results outweigh the challenges. If you have problems in your garden and you don’t know the cause, take a good sample to your local county extension agent. Good photos are also beneficial. Once you can identify the problem, you are on the road to solving it.

There’s a Buzz in the Air

For most of us, spring and early summer bring about images of gobbling turkeys, crappie fishing, baseball games, colorful landscapes, barbecues, and emerging crops.  But, very bee-swarm[1]few of us relate this time of year to honeybee swarm season.  I would even bet that most of us have never witnessed a honeybee swarm in flight or clumped up dangling from a branch.  For this very reason, it is a fascinating and mysterious phenomenon.

The sight of swarming bees can certainly cause nightmares for some people.  However, it is a very natural behavior that honeybees exhibit during late spring and early summer.  Swarming is nature’s way of propagating the species.  With the recent decline in commercial colonies, scientist and beekeepers alike, suggest allowing a beekeeper to capture swarms that you encounter.

A honey bee colony declines in numbers throughout the winter as its food stores are depleted.  Now, there are far fewer bees in the colony than there were in the summer.  The colony will likely have a queen, 15-20 thousand worker bees, and no drones (they get the boot in the fall to conserve food resources).  At this point in late winter the bees will be huddled around remaining food stores to keep warm.

As the days get longer and the temperatures warm, the colony expands.  The queen is busy laying eggs to produce more workers and eventually drones.  The colony is extremely efficient and may have 50-80 thousand workers foraging, building comb, regulating hive temperature, guarding the colony, tending to brood or feeding the queen.  This entire process is communicated through pheromones and this is very important to remember when understanding the swarming process.

The queen honey bee produces a pheromone that attracts the workers to her.  This pheromone also directs the workers to build comb, forage, and tend the brood.  The queen communicates to the colony by dancing too.  The colony is very aware that it needs a viable queen for its continued survival and that her role in the colony is important.

So, the colony is working hard and the queen is busy laying to produce more workers.  Now there are thousands upon thousands of workers and the colony is becoming crowed.  So crowded in fact, that many of the workers cannot sense the presence of the queen.  This triggers the swarming tendency and the workers begin raising a new queen.

Like in most households, there is no room for more than one queen!  So, prior to the new queens emergence, the old queen swarms – taking with her between one-third and one-half of the colony.  Before leaving to establish a new hive, the bees gorge themselves on nectar.  You might witness this as a whirling swarm of bees flying across the landscape or as a swarm settled on a bush or branch.  I personally have seen them settle on swing sets, fence posts, propane tanks, patio furniture, and corn stalks.

The clumping occurs from the workers gathering around the queen (remember they are attracted to her pheromone).  For one, they are protecting her because she is vital to their survival.  And two, they are feeding her with the nectar they gorged on before swarming.  Because the queen is not the strongest of flyers, they must stop at some point and rest.  While they are resting, scout bees are sent out to look for a suitable location for the colony to live.  Swarms will not usually rest in a location for very long.  I have seen them rest in a clump for just a few minutes up to a couple of days.  They generally move on once they have located a new dwelling to occupy.

Swarms are not dangerous.  While swarming, bees are focused on finding a new home and surviving, not attacking.  They are vulnerable and do not have a home or brood to protect.  But keep in mind, it is important to keep your distance from swarming bees, because if they feel threatened it is possible they will sting.

So, if you happen to come across a bee swarm:

  • Keep your distance and please do not attempt to move or destroy them.
  • Leave them alone and allow them to move on.
  • Contact your local county Extension Agent. (He can help you find someone to come and remove them)
  • Contact your local beekeeper’s association
  • Go to:  Mississippi Beekeepers – Bees-On-The-Net  or use the link to find local beekeepers near you.

The Art of Pruning


Now that we are coming out of a fairly mild winter many homeowners have begun digging in flower beds and debating on what to do with shrubs and shade trees in the landscape. When pruning the plants you have to use proper timing and a touch of art. So you might be asking yourself why I would prune this gorgeous plant. Here are some reasons that would tempt you to do so:

  • Limit the size and shape of the plant so that it does not out grow your intentions
  • Maintain the balance or shape to a hedge or topiary
  • Remove diseased, infected or broken portions of the plant
  • Stimulate new growth or flowering
  • Protect utilities or structures such as your home

If you have any of these thoughts then you will have a good reason to prune. As I mentioned above that pruning can be an art. When you began your landscape you had a vision as to how you wanted it to look. So with the right plant material you can begin to paint your picture. Before you go out with your electric trimmers or handheld shears be cautious to what plant material you are trimming. Broadleaf evergreens such as Red Tip Photinia or Camellia preform very well with tip pruning. Narrowleaf evergreens such as junipers or cedars will respond poorly to removing more than 1/3 of the foliage. Deciduous plants such as oaks and maples will require tip pruning to encourage a thicker growth. Pruning methods such as tip pruning, thinning, and rejuvenation are some of the ways to reach your goal.

Timing is the most critical component for not only aesthetic value but overall plant health. Remember for plants that but out flowers or fruit you want to prune after the show is over or before the bud is set. A general practice is to prune between February and April giving the plant a growing season to heal. Therefore if you have spring flowering plants such as azaleas you will prune following the end of their flowering in late spring.

3 Step pruning technique
3 Step pruning technique

When going after larger diameter branches in shade trees remember to use a 3 step cut to minimize risk to damage to the tree. The first cut in this method will be located 12 inches away from the tree and on the underside of the branch only passing halfway or a little more. The second cut will be placed 2 or more inches outside of the first cut and pass all the way from the top to the bottom allowing that portion to drop leaving a one foot stub. The last and final cut will be made along the branch collar, a raised portion of bark surrounding the stem. This will give to tree the best chance to completely seal off that cut.

Proper pruning cut (Photo: N. Kleczewski, OSU)
Proper pruning cut
(Photo: N. Kleczewski, OSU)

Remember you can remove dead, diseased, or broken portions at any point of the stem.

Always attempt to make clean cuts by keeping your pruning equipment in top shape. Think about what reason you are attempting to prune and what plant material you are pruning.

Take in consideration the time of the year it is as well as every time you make a cut you are placing that plant at risk for fungi, bacteria, and insect damage until it has been able to compartmentalized and covered the injury site.

Improper pruning site (Photo: G. Bachman, MSU)
Improper pruning site
(Photo: G. Bachman, MSU)

Lastly, in most cases pruning can be solved with proper plant selection. For more information contact your local extension office and view IS 204 on

Soil Testing in Preparation for the Growing Season

There are many factors that affect crop growth and yield production. Some of these factors cannot be controlled, such as, climate. However, factors such as soil fertility can be controlled and managed to maximize productivity. An effective way to help control soil fertility is through soil testing. Crops require large amounts of plant nutrients that must be supplied in proper balance from the soil. Managing nutrients helps to optimize productivity and profitability of crops while maximizing efficiency of nutrient use, all while keeping environmental impact at a minimum. Soil tests measure plant available nutrients and provide and index of nutrient availability in the soil. This serves as an excellent guide to profitable use of commercial liming and fertilizer. Justus von Liebig’s Law of the Minimum states that yield is proportional to the amount of the most limiting nutrient:

Every field contains a maximum of one or more and a minimum of one or more nutrients. With this minimum, be it lime, potash, phosphoric acid, magnesia, or any other nutrient, the yields stand in direct relation. It is the factor that governs and controls…yields…

In other words, crops will only produce as much as its most limiting factor allows. Routine soil testing is an outstanding tool to help identify controllable limiting factors when it comes to nutrient availability.

As humans, we are dependent upon agriculture for food, fiber, and shelter. All of which are necessary to our survival. The responsibility of producing these essentials falls on the shoulders of our farmers. However, as we depend on them for our basic needs, farmers depend on the soil for their production. Soil fertility and nutrient management are essential to the continued production of food, fiber and shelter for an ever growing world population. Proper soil fertility and nutrient management starts will soil testing.  Agricultural fields should be tested every 3 years or once per crop rotation. For spring planting, soil samples should be collected between mid-October to January. For more information, such as, good sampling technique and interpreting soil test reports visit your local county Extension Office.

Poinsettias: The Holiday Plant

New crop of red poinsettias

Poisettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are a very popular decorative piece to homes during the holidays. They are most widely known for their lush red colored bracts or ‘leaf like’ structures to many. However, breeders now offer these plants in a variety of colors including white, pink, marbled, yellow and many more. If you can’t find the dazzle you are looking for next to the tree they offer painted and glittered plants. The flowers of these plants are often overlooked due to being small and not as flashy as the colorful bracts.

The poinsettia was introduced by Joel Poinsett, a U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, in 1825. These plants are originally small trees that are native to tropical regions such as Central America and Mexico. Poinsettias contain a white latex sap that resembles milk. Even though they are not deemed poisonous some individuals may develop rashes and some skin/eye irritation if they com in contact with the latex substance.

Purchasing your poinsettias

When purchasing poinsettias for the home always look to start healthy. Look for plants that have lush coloration to leaves and bracts. Since age of the plant can be determined by the color ‘washing’. Choose a plant that doesn’t have leaves torn or milky latex showing. Also look for the small yellow flowers that are found in the center of the bracts which show that the plant is still fresh and not on the downhill slope. Lastly, check to make sure that all the stems are sturdy and their is no evidence of leaves prematurely dropping.

Pink poinsettia

Keeping your poinsettias healthy

Be careful when transporting your plants to your home and pay extra attention to them while removing their cover or slip. Anyone who has ever handles a poinsettia knows that it is very easy to destroy a perfectly healthy plant trying to tote it inside and unbag it.


Poinsettias require at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight a day and placing them in direct sunlight could cause the colorful bracts to fade. Placing plants where it can reach light from a south, east or west window is a better option than north. If the light is too intense you can you a shade to filter some of the light it receives. If there is not a good option for lighting a well lit room will help lengthen the plants health.


Water is key to any plants health but in the case of the poinsettia it is normally a detriment. Overwatering and underwatering cause the same damage and often look the same on the plant. The key is always looking at the soil prior to watering. Check the soil routinely to make sure it is dry to the touch. Also water plants outside of their decorative covers so that water can drain out of the pot freely. Be sure to dump excess water out of collection pans or saucers after watering. Never allow a poinsettia to sit in water causing over saturated soil causing root rot or other problems. Keep in mind that temperature and light will have an effect on water requirements as well.


Poinsettias can continue to flourish in color if maintained in an environment where the temperature stays between 60 to 70 degrees F. Keep this in mind when choosing a location for the plant. Watch for leaves and bracts touching window panes in the homes and vehicles. Keep plants from being exposed to hot and cool drafts within the home such as a hallway, furnace, or chimney.

Try again

For those that have the green thumb attitude you can try to maintain your poinsettia for the next holiday season. Even though it is a daunting task it can be done. In the early spring you will prune your plants back to around 8 inches in height and maintain the temperature, light and water requirements indoors until temperatures outside rise above 50 degrees F at night. At this time you can move the plant outdoors and unlike during bloom you will fertilize the plant every two to three weeks with a slow release complete fertilizer such as an Osmocote 10-10-10. Late May or early June you will need to transplant the plant into a slightly larger pot with adequate growing media such as a peat moss material. Pinch back shoot tips and branches. When temperatures fall below 60 degrees F bring the plant back inside. Remember that poinsettias are short-day length (long nights) plants to stimulate flowering and provide you with the well known colorful bracts. Around October or 10 weeks prior when you want the plant to flower, provide 14 hours of continuous hours of complete darkness while remembering it also needs 8 hours of sunlight.


Signs of Botrytis sp.

There are numerous diseases and pests that attack poinsettias. One very common foliage disease is Botrytis sp.  This plant disease can be readily identified when it develops watermarked lesions on bracts and gray, fuzzy sporulations when the temperature rises past 60 degrees F and the humidity is high. Often times this disease can be controlled with a copper sulfate fungicide. Always read and follow labeled instructions. Other ways to control this disease is to reduce leaf wetness, humidity and remove all infected portions of the plant. Having a fan stir air will also help disrupt this diseases ability to start.

Whiteflies are another problem with poinsettias. The adults eggs are placed on the underside of the leaves where the larva can hatch and feed. Other problems notable problems are spider mites, scales, and root rotting fungi,

Poisettias are a staple in homes during the holidays. With minimal care they bring enjoyment to the holidays season all the way through the New Year. These days poinsettias can be found in every shape, height and color imaginable. Just remember to thoughtful about choosing plants. Start with one that is healthy and provide the proper light, temperature, and water requirements when it gets home. Put them on display and enjoy the fellowship of the holidays with friends and family.