Our virtual workshop kit classes went so well over the holidays that we’re keeping on with this new way of doing them, in addition to having a few people able to attend workshops in person, following all social distancing protocols. What’s even more exciting for this spring though, is that we’re recording the live stream from each virtual spring workshop event and posting them. So if a class is scheduled during a time you can’t tune in, you can still pick up your kit and watch it back when it’s convenient for you.
This also means that we’ll be able to put together more kits from past classes, and have those available as well. We haven’t worked out all the details yet for how we’re going to manage kits for past classes, but we’ll keep you posted when we nail it down. If you have any questions, you can send us a message on Facebook, or stop by one of our pop-up days in February! We’ll be open 9-5 on two Saturdays during the month, February 6 and 13.
In the meantime, here are the exciting virtual workshops we’ve got scheduled for this spring. You can order your workshop kit online and opt for either curbside pickup, or just stop in for a visit. Then you’ll be able to tune in to Facebook Live the day of the workshop, or watch it back later when you have time.
Succulent Trough Kit (Basic or Deluxe)
This rustic succulent trough arrangement is going to be the perfect centerpiece for your patio table this summer. The trough is classic antique-looking metal. It’s long, narrow, and low. Perfect for adding interest, but not obstructing views to friends across the table.
The Succulent Trough Kit has everything you need to create this arrangement right at home. It contains a metal trough that measures 18” x 5″ across, 5 succulents, soil, and decorative gravel, for $60.
The Deluxe Kit includes the same items as the Basic Kit, but the trough is 24” x 4” and has 10 succulents, for $90.
Grapevine Wreath Succulent Kit (Spanish or Sheet moss)
Keep your front door well dressed through spring and summer with a beautiful seasonally appropriate wreath. The wreath suits any decor style with its classic rich brown color and natural style. Accented with moss and succulents, it creates a beautiful, welcoming wreath!
The Spanish Moss Kit includes a 12” wreath form, 5 succulents, floral adhesive, and preserved Spanish moss. Spanish moss is a silvery-greenish-gray color and has many individual strands. It’s often seen hanging from trees.
The Green Moss kit includes a 12” wreath form, 5 succulents, floral adhesive, and preserved green sheet moss. The sheet moss is a vibrant natural green, and it has a finer texture than the Spanish moss.
Order your virtual workshop kits online soon, as there is limited availability for these kits. And don’t forget to stop by our pop-up shops, on February 6 and 13, from 9 AM to 5 PM, and check out all the beautiful houseplants that have been delivered recently.
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Have you decided what gift you want to get for your partner, best friend, or yourself? Why not pick out a gorgeous houseplant this year for a long-lasting gift that will remind them, or yourself, of your love for years to come?
Here are a few of the most romantic houseplants you can give for Valentine’s Day this year.
If your sweetie loves flowers, they’ll love these romantic plants with lasting blooms!
African Violets stay quite compact, have cute fuzzy succulent leaves, and have pretty flowers for several months each year. These relatively easy to care for plants like to be root bound, need their soil to dry out between watering, and like monthly fertilizer.
Anthurium features striking, unusual flowers in vibrant colors and lush deep green leaves. These low maintenance plants make a gorgeous statement!
Bromeliads are unique tropical beauties that come in a wide range of colors, with large spiky flowers lasting for several months. These easy-care plants like to hold their water in the cup of their leaves.
Calla Lily is a beautifully elegant flower. They come in almost every color, and these gorgeous minimalist plants are an excellent potted plant that can go out onto the patio for the summer.
Cyclamen’s cute little butterfly-like flowers float above large, heart-shaped leaves with beautiful patterning. They bloom for many months and come in shades of pink, white, and purple.
Hoya Kerri(Sweetheart Hoya), this gorgeous plant, has large heart-shaped leaves. It grows relatively slow, but over time it may grow a vine, although some don’t. Mature plants produce clumps of pretty white flowers with red centers in the summer.
Hyacinth features large cones of pink, purple, or white flowers that almost look like ice cream cones. These pretty harbingers of spring are beautiful and easy to care for.
Jasmine has elegant green leaves and blooms with delicate white flowers with an intoxicating scent several times a year. These gorgeous and calming plants grow well as houseplants with lots of light and good drainage.
Miniature Roses might be even better than normal roses for Valentine’s Day because they have lots of gorgeous blooms in many different colors, and the flowers will keep blooming for months.
Moth Orchids, also known as phalaenopsis orchids, are one of the most elegant and long-lasting flowers you can buy for your sweetie. Orchid flowers will hang on for months looking beautiful, and they’re plants that don’t need to be watered very often.
Pitcher Plants have a unique look, often with beautiful coloring. The colors often include pink, white, red, and purple, and the variegated patterns are striking. These carnivorous plants are the perfect eccentric Valentine’s gift.
With its pink spotted leaves, Polka Dot Plant is a super cute choice for Valentine’s Day. These pretty plants stay relatively small when mature, so they’re perfect for terrariums.
String of Heartsis one of the most beautiful and romantic plants you’ll find for Valentine’s. The succulent leaves are heart-shaped and variegated white and green, and they hang down on long delicate stems. When they’re happy, they produce tiny light purple tubular flowers that are so pretty.
Tulips are a spring classic. You can’t go wrong with a pot of tulips for Valentine’s. With so many different colors and styles available, they’ll keep everyone smiling as long as they keep blooming.
Add something a little extra to your Valentines gifts this year with houseplants. You can even gift them together with traditional cut flowers if you can’t quite decide with is the best option for your Valentine. Stop by the garden center on Saturday, February 6, or Saturday, February 13, from 9-5, to pick up a unique gift for your Valentine.
There are quite a few houseplants that have come to be associated with the holidays. Most of these are plants that, in their natural habitat, would bloom towards the end of the year. While most of them are tropical, they happily grow as houseplants and help brighten our homes during winter.
Christmas & Thanksgiving Cactus
Holiday cacti are from south-eastern Brazil, where they grow in cool and shady locations with high humidity. They were popular in the early 1800s, prized for their fall and winter blooms, but then fell out of fashion. They regained popularity again in the 1950s.
Want a fun home-grown Christmas gift for friends and family next year? Take cuttings of your Christmas cactus next spring, and give them as presents next Christmas!
Holiday cactus want bright light but no direct sun. Water your Christmas or Thanksgiving, or Easter cactus when the soil feels dry about an inch deep. Keep them away from drafts and heating vents. They need 12-14 hours of full darkness starting in October to help them bloom for the holidays.
While most of these plants are tropical, they can happily grow as houseplants and help brighten our homes during winter!
Cyclamen originate from the Mediterranean basin in Europe. They’re a member of the primrose family, and they grow from tubers. While we often associate them with Christmas, since they may bloom in winter in temperate climates, they can bloom any month of the year.
They are happy to grow as houseplants and are easy to care for. Indoors they want lots of bright, filtered light. Outdoors they’ll be best if protected from the sun for the afternoon in the summer months.
These classic flowers of Christmas are native to Central America and southern Mexico, they can grow into large trees, turning bright red in the winter! They were brought to the US by Joel Roberts Poinsett, which is why we call them Poinsettia. Originally they were mostly sold in the US as cut flowers. A family in Southern California was quite likely the first grower to sell them as whole plants in the early 1900s, and the same family is still one of the largest producers of them today.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the colorful red or pink parts of the poinsettia are its flowers, but they’re actually bracts, which just means modified leaves. The flower is a tiny yellow bloom, usually found right in the middle of the colorful bracts.
Poinsettias often get a bad rap for being a poisonous plant for humans and animals. While thewhite sap in the plant can cause skin or digestive irritation, it would have to be consumed in massive quantities for it to be deadly.
Poinsettias need 12-14 hours of darkness starting in October to develop their colorful bracts by Christmas. If you’re buying a new one, make sure to wrap it up very well when bringing it home, because they’re very susceptible to cold temperatures.
Norfolk pine is a unique evergreen tree that grows happily as a houseplant and has gained popularity as a living Christmas tree. Despite their name, they’re not a pine tree at all.
Norfolk Pine is native to Norfolk Island, near New Zealand. In its native habitat, the trees can get as big as 200 feet tall, with trunks up to 10 feet in diameter! The wood is excellent for woodturning and is extensively used by Hawaiian artisans.
They’re also not cold hardy since they are a tropical plant. They’re one houseplant that loves lots of light, so if you’ve got a big south-facing window, it’ll be happy where it can get a few hours of sunshine. Norfolk Pines enjoy lots of humidity, so use a pebble tray or a humidifier. Water them when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch, and fertilize with general houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer.
Kalanchoe is a popular blooming plant around Christmas, and they’re actually a succulent. They’re a tropical plant and are native to countries in Africa, Asia, and Madagascar.
Kalanchoe was imported to France in 1927, and later breeders in Denmark and the Netherlands helped it become popular in the 1980s. These plants were taken to the Soviet space station in 1971!
They’re relatively easy to propagate, and are available with flowers in a wide range of colors. Kalanchoe may bloom for up to 6 months!
Kalanchoe is pretty easy to grow and doesn’t require much maintenance. They like bright light, but too much direct sun can burn their leaves. They want a deep watering and then allowing the soil to dry out completely before watering again. They need 12-14 hours of darkness, from October, to bloom again.
What we commonly call Amaryllis are actually hippeastrum, a cousin of amaryllis. But, since the name has widely become associated with hippeastrum, it’s been accepted as normal.
What is sold as Amaryllis originates from eastern brazil, though they also grow in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina in the wild. There are 90 different species of over 600 amaryllis hybrids and cultivars. They’ve been popular for a long time and have been bred and cultivated since the early 19th century.
Amaryllis are quite easy to grow, but they need lots of bright light. Plant them in a pot that’s not much bigger than the bulb that has good drainage. Then place them close to a south-facing window, and make sure to turn them about 1/4 turn every week, so they grow straight instead of leaning over towards the window.
If you start them in early to mid-October, they should bloom in time for Christmas.
Orchids are a popular holiday plant because they’re relatively easy to care for, and their blooms last forever. They come in an endless array of colors.
There are more than 25,000 different types of orchids, and there are orchids that occur naturally worldwide. Initially, they’re believed to have been native to Asia, Australia, the Himalayas, and the Philippines.
Orchids are epiphytic, meaning they attach themselves to another plant, like a tree, and absorb their nutrients and water from humid air.
Orchids do best in a chunky bark mixture, so if you get one in moss, it’s a good idea to repot it into something that drains better. They love humidity, so a pebble tray or humidifier is excellent. Orchids often suffer from being overwatered, and it can be challenging to figure out how much they like. Generally speaking, you can soak an orchid well until water runs out of the bottom of its pot, then let it drain, and don’t water again until its growing medium is dry. If you’ve kept yours in moss, don’t water it until the moss starts to feel crunchy.
If you love the look of Christmas or holiday planters with evergreens, pine cones, ribbons, bows, and all the accessories, why not try making one yourself? There are a few different ways you can do them, from small live planters for the holiday dinner table to large outdoor porch planters full of evergreen boughs.
Here are the supplies you’ll need to DIY your holiday pots and a few ideas to get you started! Live Plant Arrangements for Indoors
Having a live plant arrangement on the table for the holidays is not just pretty; it’s a beautiful reminder of living plants and trees while the world outside is frozen. There are many different plants you can use together in a live planter, including evergreens.
What you’ll need:
A cute planter
A mini evergreen tree
2-3 live plants
Assorted mini Christmas decorations
Mini twinkle lights
Decorative moss or stones (optional)
How to do it:
Depending on the plants you choose, you may be able to plant them together, or they may be best kept in separate pots. Lavender and Rosemary have different moisture needs than, say, an Alberta spruce or a lemon cypress tree.
Even if they have different water needs, you can still give the illusion of being planted together. Keep the plants in their plastic nursery pots. Put a layer of soil in the bottom of your planter, then arrange the plants, still in their plastic pots, inside your container. Once you like how they’re arranged, fill up the gaps with soil and firm it in. Add a thin extra layer just over the tops of the plastic pots so you can’t see them. Now it looks like your plants are in the same planter, but they’re not. So you can safely give one plant all the water it needs while limiting how much other plants get.
Once your plants are in, add your moss or stones to cover the soil, and then get to decorating your tree. Add a string of twinkle lights, and decorate your mini Christmas tree.
Here are some live plants that you can use in indoor holiday planters:
For outdoor pots, you’ll need a few supplies, plus some evergreens and whatever other decor accessories you like. If the soil in your porch pots is already frozen, you’ll also likely need some chicken wire. If you’re getting new planters, you can fill them up with fresh potting soil and make your arrangement before it freezes.
Accessories like pinecones, red twigs, and birch poles
Decor accessories like ornaments or seasonal floral picks
Chicken wire (optional)
Wire cutters (optional)
Metal tent stakes (optional)
If you already have porch pots and the soil is frozen solid in them, you can still use them. If you’re using fresh soil, skip to the next paragraph.
Create a small ball of chicken wire, about half as wide as your pot; just crunch it up together into a rough ball. Then center it in your porch pot, and hammer a couple of tent stakes in to keep it secure. Then make a larger dome of chicken wire over the first ball. Work it into the top of your pot, so all the wire edges are inside the pot edge, and then secure it with a couple of tent stakes as well.
If you’re using fresh soil, fill your pots up with soil within a few inches below the rim. Firm it down well. If the soil is really light and fluffy, water it well so it settles. The water will help it freeze better and secure your greenery.
Adding the Greenery & Accessories
Start with your bigger items, like birch poles if you’re using them. Secure them into the soil (or chicken wire) a few inches deep. Then start to add in your assorted greenery as you like it, sticking the stems into the soil several inches deep or through both layers of chicken wire. If you’re using chicken wire, make sure to arrange your greenery to obscure the wire itself. Use your pruners to trim any errant greenery for a pleasing overall shape.
Once you have all your foliage how you like it, start adding in your other accessories, like glittery decor, pinecones, red berries, or ornaments. Finish off your porch pots with a strand of white twinkle lights so you can enjoy it after dark too.
Get Your Holiday Greenery At Ted Lare
If you’re ready to get your DIY on, you can swing by Ted Lare to pick up all the supplies you need. We’ve got a variety of evergreen boughs that you can buy piece by piece or in bundles. Our evergreen bundles have an assortment of greens and include enough boughs to do a 14” porch pot or several smaller projects. We’ve also got various fun ornamental picks and decor on handy sticks to include in your arrangements.
P.S. If it doesn’t work out, we’ve also got an excellent selection of pre-made holiday pots, or you can sign up for a class!
You might be thinking, with relief, that landscaping season is over. But it’s not really. It’s just changed a bit. Instead of digging, mowing, and raking, now it’s hanging lights, putting up holiday decor, and dealing with the snow and ice.
Don’t get depressed, though; it’s not as bad as it sounds! We’ve got some tips and advice to help you get through holiday landscaping tasks efficiently and safely.
Putting Up Christmas Lights
To get your lights up as efficiently as possible, it’s best to start with a little pre-planning. If you have lights already, take them out and test them to make sure they all work. Double-check how many strands you can safely plug together end to end at the same time.
If you are getting new lights this year, decide where you want to put them and measure everything, so you know exactly how much you need to buy. There’s nothing worse than being one strand short and going back to the store only to find out that the specific color, style, or size you need is sold out.
Pro-tip: wear a work belt, and stuff the pockets full of universal light clips and any tools you’ll need.
If you moved to a new house this year, or if this is your first season putting lights up, figure out where your outlets are located and what you’ll need for extension cords. Make sure you use outdoor-rated extension cords.
Safety first: if you’re using a ladder to hang your lights, take a few safety precautions. Have a helper to steady the ladder and spot you. Never stand on the very top rung of a ladder. Make sure you have both hands on the ladder when climbing up or down. Don’t try to put up your Christmas lights in lousy weather like during a snowstorm or freezing rain; it’s not worth the risk.
Pro-tip: wear a work belt, and stuff the pockets full of universal light clips and any tools you’ll need, so you don’t have to go up and down so many times if the built-in clips on your lights break.
Universal light clips are one of the best options for hanging your lights. They are designed to attach to various things, from gutters to siding to fascia to window frames. They also fit almost every style of Christmas lights out there.
Whatever you do, don’t use nails, screws, or staples to attach lights to your home. Besides the risk of accidentally driving a metal item through an electrical cord, they also make holes in your home’s cladding, which means moisture gets in and can cause rot and mold.
For the sake of convenience and efficiency, get a timer for your lights. You won’t have to think about going to plug in or turn on the lights every day or remember to turn them off when you go to bed. It’s all automatic, and you won’t have to think about Christmas lights again until it’s time to take them down!
Managing Snow and Ice on Driveways and Sidewalks
Managing snow and ice on your driveway and sidewalk is vital in winter for the safety of passersby and your family. Preventative maintenance is the best bet, but sometimes we’re busy and the ice build-up gets the better of us, or freezing rain turns all of Iowa into a giant skating rink in a matter of hours.
Salt is one of the most common ice control options. It’s generally easy to acquire and simple to use. But there a couple of cons to using salt:
Over time, salt can cause premature aging and breakdown of concrete.
It isn’t great for your lawn or garden beds. Plants don’t like salty soil.
It’s really hard on dogs’ feet and can cause their paw pads to dry out and even have painful cracking that could cause long-term sensitivity.
In some cases, like with freezing rain, salt may be the fastest and safest option. If you use salt and have pets, just be careful. Keep your pets off of salted areas, get them some boots to wear outside (yes, they probably won’t love it, but they get used to them, eventually), and clean up salted areas once the ice has melted.
Less is more when applying salt. The general rule of thumb is 3.5-4 pounds of salt per 1000 square feet of driveway and sidewalk. You probably don’t want to weigh out your salt portions every day, so just remember that an average 12 oz coffee mug full is about 1 pound of salt.
Finally, salt is just a melting agent, it doesn’t clean up the mess. Once you’ve applied salt, get out and start clearing with a shovel or ice chopper. When you’re done clearing the ice, any leftover salt should be swept up and thrown away.
If you want to avoid salt entirely, there are commercial ice melts that are pet-safe, or you can aim for creating traction on the ice. To add traction, try sawdust, coffee grinds, or kitty litter.
Preventative maintenance is always the best bet, so get out and shovel regularly and invest in an ice chopper if you can. Remember that Des Moines requires all snow and ice be cleared from sidewalks within 48 hours of the end of a storm, and last year the fines went up.
Timeless Decorating With Evergreens
Evergreen boughs are a simple and tasteful way to dress up your property for the holidays. They’re a classic winter feature, so they’ll give tasteful beauty through Christmas and into the new year. There are so many ways you can work with evergreens, from potted live evergreens to custom-designed porch pots.
You can check out and sign up for any of our evergreen workshops on the classes page. We are doing workshops in person now, with a limit of 10 people per class, and masks are required. Each attendee will have their own table and freshly sanitized tools to work with.
We’re also still doing the workshops virtually, so you can purchase your kit, take it home, and create a beautiful evergreen piece while watching our livestream events for instructions. Virtual classes are on the same day and time as the in-person workshop.
The transition from fall to winter can be a busy time for many of us. There are all the usual commitments. The annual tasks of decorating and preparing for Thanksgiving are followed shortly after by the transition to Christmas and holiday decorating, planning, and shopping. Fortunately, with a little creativity, you can save some time with your decorating this year!
This centerpiece craft uses versatile base materials that can transition seamlessly from the Thanksgiving table to your Christmas feast with a few simple changes!
There are a million different ways to design centerpieces for the holidays, but we like ones that embrace seasonal beauty and allow us to still see the friendly faces across the table. A classic, timeless centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table is a long and low arrangement with seasonal accents. A narrow wooden tray or even a narrow serving dish with pinecones and 3-5 candles is a perfect base to take you through to the next few months with tasteful style and an easy transition.
Create Your Base Centerpiece & Add Fall Accents
For the base centerpiece, arrange your candles in your tray. If you want to use real candles, you may want to consider setting them inside hurricane vases to prevent fire risk. Then, arrange an assortment of pinecones around the candles. If you’re using LED candles, you won’t need the hurricanes. Candles with a remote are ideal, as you won’t have to touch the centerpiece each time you light it up!
To give the simple centerpiece a fall aesthetic, add some colorful fall leaves, twigs with orange, yellow, or white berries, and some classic hardshell nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts, and brazil nuts. You could also add in a few mini pumpkins and some jewel-toned silk flowers if you like.
Transition Your Centerpiece for the Holidays
To transition your centerpiece to a more festive feel, remove the fall leaves, mini pumpkins, fall berries, and faux flowers.
Adding Christmas tree balls or ribbons are simple ways to tie the centerpiece to your other holiday decor.
If you like the look of snow-dusted pinecones, you can frost each pinecone with flocking (faux snow) spray, but you can also achieve a similar effect in a couple of other ways. You could sprinkle faux snow powder over the whole arrangement when you’re finished, or tuck small sprays of baby’s breath throughout the centerpiece to add that touch of white.
Work in some cedar boughs and sprigs of holly and berries to add depth and variation to the greenery. Adding Christmas tree balls or ribbons are simple ways to tie the centerpiece to your other holiday decor. You can also add cinnamon sticks for a subtle scent, along with a few navel or mandarin oranges for an extra pop of color.
Last but not least, a strand of LED twinkle lights, in addition to the candles, adds even more warm and cozy Christmas ambiance. You could even replace the candles with them, filling the hurricane vases with the lights. Or, you could intertwine them with your evergreen boughs.
Things to Keep in Mind About Evergreen Boughs
Evergreen boughs will generally only last 1-2 weeks indoors. You can extend their indoor life by keeping them in vases of water, spraying them daily with water, or soaking them in water every few days, although this adds a lot of extra maintenance and fussing for your centerpiece. Spraying them with an anti-desiccant spray, such as Wilt Stop or Wilt-Pruf, will extend their life for a little longer as well.
If you want to use fresh evergreens, you’ll probably want to wait until the week of Christmas to add them to your centerpiece or be prepared to replace them every few weeks with fresh ones. Faux evergreens boughs will make your centerpiece virtually maintenance-free.
Alternatively, you can create one of our designer centerpieces in one of our popular evergreen decor classes! You can either attend your preferred class in person or take home a class kit and follow along virtually. All in-person attendees are required to wear a mask, and classes are limited to 10 people. Each person will be provided with their own table and freshly sanitized tools to use.
Creating your own holiday centerpiece is a fabulous way to get in the spirit and spread a little holiday joy to your household! Visit us in-store for more inspiration, or explore our online holiday store to browse more fresh holiday decor pieces, all handmade by our designers. We offer contactless curbside pickup and free delivery for orders over $50!
If you’re one of those early Christmas decorators, we’re here for you! And we’ve got some fun ideas to help you with some indoor holiday planter inspiration. Besides the obvious centerpieces, wreaths, garlands, and trees, there are lots of simple ways you can take your decor even further. Include all of your indoor planters in your Christmas decorating to spread the festive feelings from one end of your home to the other.
Here are 9 ways to make your decorating scheme into an immersive holiday experience this year:
1. Change out your planters.
We often recommend that people plant their houseplants in a pot with drainage, usually plastic or terracotta, and then set that pot inside of a more decorative pot since many decorative pots don’t have drainage holes. If you want to take your Christmas decor up a notch, pop your plants into new decorative planters that match your seasonal decor theme.
2. Plant amaryllis for the center of your planters.
Amaryllis is a favorite Christmas bloom. Why not get a few and see if you can set them inside their own pot, in the center of your existing planters to add some gorgeous blooms in December.
3. Add small wreaths around planters.
Wreaths aren’t just for hanging on doors. They are a super-easy way to turn a plain plant pot into a festive planter. Lay a small wreath down, and set your planter in the center of it. Work some festive berries, colorful twigs, or pinecones into the wreath, and now your planter ties into your decor.
4. Dress up your houseplants.
Add twinkle lights and a few ornaments to larger plants. Hang small ornaments, or stick them onto planters to carry your decor theme throughout your houseplant collection.
5. Get wrapping!
Did you fall in love with a set of wrapping paper? Measure around the largest part of your plant pots, and measure how tall they are. Cut out a piece of wrapping paper 1-2 inches taller, fold over the top and bottom edge, wrap it snugly around your plant pot and secure it with tape. All of your houseplants coordinate with the presents under the tree now!
6. Put a festive bow on it.
Get out your Christmas ribbon or burlap, and tie bows around your planters.
7. Add simple natural elements.
Setting a bundle of birch poles, some pinecones, and a sprig of red berries in front of or across the top of your planters, gives a natural hint to the festive season.
8. Enhance with dried florals.
Colored twigs, dried seed heads, dried berries, and pinecones are all things you can add to your planters to turn them into festive dried floral arrangements.
9. Embrace faux greenery.
We love fresh pine boughs; there’s nothing like that fresh forest scent. But, fresh boughs don’t last long indoors. The warm, moisture-wicked air from our furnaces dries them out fast, and sooner than later, they’ll be dropping their needles all over your floor. Faux green garland stays looking vibrant and lush, and you don’t have to water it!
Many plants have periods of dormancy in the year, most often over the winter. Just like we need sleep, most plants need a period of dormancy to rest. Knowing whether your plants are dormant or dying can be a bit tricky since many of the symptoms are the same.
The typical traits going into dormancy include wilting, dropping leaves, and even looking utterly dead for some plants. For others, it may just mean not putting out any new growth over the winter.
Dormancy can be caused by seasonal changes or environmental stress. When the weather gets colder and days get shorter in the fall, it signals to outdoor plants that they should go into dormancy before winter hits Iowa. Environmental stress like lack of water, cold temperatures, or lack of nutrients can also cause plants to go into dormancy to conserve their energy in order to grow again if or when their living conditions improve.
Houseplants experience a bit of both seasonal change and environmental stress in winter. The amount of light they get goes way down, and while they don’t usually experience extreme temperature fluctuations, they do experience a pretty drastic change in humidity when we turn our furnaces on.
How to Check if Your Plants are Dormant or Dying
If your houseplants have played a dramatic tragedy lately and dropped all their leaves, you can check if they’re dying or just having a bit of winter rest.
Try the Snap or Scratch Test
The scratch test is the simplest. Using a sharp knife or your fingernail, scrape away a small portion of the outer layer of skin or bark on a stem. If it scratches away fairly easily, and underneath is damp and greenish, it’s still alive. If it’s brown and hard to scrape, it may be dying. Check a little further down on a lower limb or the main stem. If you discover green lower down, cut off the dead parts a few inches above the signs of life.
For the snap test, try to bend a section of a limb or stem near the tip. If it’s flexible and bends back on itself or cracks open to show flexible white or green tissue, it’s likely still alive and dormant. If it snaps off easy, that part is dead. But, like with the scratch test, there may still be life further down, so keep checking. Just maybe don’t keep checking with the snap test, because if you do get to where there’s life and it doesn’t snap cleanly, you put your plant at risk of disease or pest infestations. Switch to the scratch test as it’s a bit less invasive.
Dormant plants still need care, though generally a lot less than when they’re actively growing.
Check the Roots
Even if your plant appears to be entirely dead above the surface, there might still be life in the roots. Remove your plant from its pot and check the roots. If they’re healthy, they’ll be light-colored, supple, and full of moisture.
If they’re dead, you’ll probably smell it, and they’ll be squishy or shriveled up and rotting. But even if some roots are rotting, it doesn’t mean they are all rotten. A dormant plant may let outer roots die off to conserve energy, so the primary roots at the center may still be alive. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to remove the rotting sections of roots with a pair of sanitized clippers and put them into fresh, barely damp soil.
What to Do with Your Dormant Plants?
Dormant plants still need care, though generally a lot less than when they’re actively growing. You should keep the soil lightly moist for dormant plants. How often you’ll need to water dormant plants will vary a lot. The only reliable way to know is to check the soil with your finger. Feel the soil; if it’s damp an inch down, leave it be. If it’s dry an inch down, it could use some water, but just give it a light watering, don’t soak the pot.
If you think your plants are going dormant because of environmental circumstances like not enough water, not enough light, or low humidity, you can do your best to remedy the situation. You could add a humidifier, grow lights, and adjust your watering schedule. Or, you can cut back your watering to suit a dormancy period and let them take a break from growing for the winter.
Winter can be a tough time for all of us, even some of our outdoor plants and shrubs. Evergreens and roses will benefit from some protection over the winter. Freeze and thaw cycles and cold, drying winter winds can cause problems for roses and trees. The freeze-thaw cycles cause plant cells to expand and even burst, and the wind can suck every ounce of moisture out of needles and branches. It’s often a combination of the two that causes winterkill.
Here are some ways to prevent winterkill on your roses and evergreens.
Protecting Roses from Winterkill
If your yard often gets hit with 10° or lower, it’s a good idea to protect your roses. There are hardy roses for this climate that will be fine. But, if you have hybrid teas, floribunda, or Grandiflora roses, they won’t take kindly to 10°.
The biggest problem your roses will face is large temperature fluctuations and drying winds. The best way to combat these challenges is to insulate your roses really well.
Having a rose collar, shrub cover, or burlap, makes it easier to keep the insulation contained.
Once all the leaves have fallen off, bundle your rose canes up and tie them loosely together so that it’s a little easier to cover them. You can use a rose collar or a shrub cover filled with a dry material like straw to insulate your roses.
Before you put the shrub cover on, pile some soil up around the bottom of your plant to protect the bud union. Then, once the ground starts to freeze, pack a thick layer of mulch around your rose, at least a foot or two deep. Having a rose collar, shrub cover, or burlap, makes it easier to keep the insulation contained. For insulating material, you can use light mulch, straw, or dry fallen leaves. Basically, any material that is not going to soak up or retain moisture will work. Too much moisture could cause rot. Once you’ve given it a thick insulating layer, cover it with a shrub cover, or wrap it with burlap.
Don’t rush to uncover your roses in spring. It’s best to wait until the danger of freezing has passed.
Protecting Evergreens from Winterkill
Many evergreens are more than hardy enough to withstand an Iowa winter. But, when trees are young, or they’re less-hardy varieties, they will benefit from some winter protection. Freeze-thaw cycles are still a concern for evergreens, but mostly for the roots in the ground. The easiest way to prevent freeze-thaw damage is to give the root zone of your evergreens a thick blanket of mulch before winter hits.
Any evergreen, especially ones with exposure to high winds, can experience winterkill on branches and needles. You can spray evergreens with an anti-desiccant spray that will help them retain moisture. Giving your evergreens a long soaking watering in the fall will also help them be more resilient to the wind. For younger evergreens, it is a good idea to wrap them in burlap. Piling snow around them in the winter will insulate even more and give them a nice slow soak in the spring as the snow melts. Burlap also protects young evergreens from hungry deer.
If you have evergreens near the road, they might struggle from the salt spray from winter traffic. If they’re still small enough, wrapping them with burlap will help prevent some salt damage. If they’re too big to cover, you may want to consider replacing them with more salt-tolerant species of trees in the future.
Heavy and wet snow can also cause damage to evergreens. If your trees are still small enough and drooping under heavy snow, you can try to brush the snow off of the branches. But, in the case of an ice storm, do not touch the trees. Ice is much more difficult to remove. You may cause branches to break, or worse, get hit by large falling ice chunks and hurting yourself.
If you need supplies to protect your trees and shrubs this winter, burlap, shrub tents, mulch, or anti-desiccant spray, swing by the garden center on your way home. We’ve got the tools you need to keep your landscape insulated and safe through another infamous Des Moines winter.
Don’t let fall slip through your fingers without taking advantage of everything this season has to offer. We’re getting short on fall days in Iowa, but you’ve still got some time to embrace fall activities, make some memories, and of course, get a few last projects done around the yard.
If you’re short on ideas of what to do, here are a few last-minute strategies to make the most of autumn. It’s not all about work and yard projects; there are a few ideas for fall fun in this list, too, so make sure to take a few breaks and enjoy the best of an Iowa autumn.
If you had some favorite annuals this year that you’d like to have more of next year, save some seeds from them! Most plants are setting seed now, and it’s pretty easy to harvest them. Once the seedheads have dried up and turned brown, you can gather the seed. Be careful with flowers like poppy seeds; it’s best to take a container or envelope right to the plant when you harvest, so they don’t get spilled on the ground.
You can harvest and dry seeds from tomatoes, beans, peppers, corn, cucumbers, squash or pumpkins, spinach, and amaranth in the vegetable patch. In the flower beds, you can save seeds from:
Make sure your seeds dry well and store them in labeled paper envelopes so that you can start them early next spring.
Many of your favorite garden plants, like geraniums and coleus, are actually tender perennials. If you snip off some healthy chunks of young stems, remove a few of the lower leaves, and pop them into moist soil, you can have yourself a whole batch of free plants for next summer.
Create a Pumpkin Container
Make your porch decor a little more interesting by turning your pumpkins into a flower pot—plant things like ornamental kale or chrysanthemums right into your pumpkin. When the frost finally kills everything, you can toss the whole thing into the compost bin.
Go for a Leaf Drive
Take an afternoon and go for a drive in the countryside to check out the gorgeous fall foliage colors. It’s been a spectacular fall, so don’t miss it.
Visit an Apple Orchard
While you’re out on your afternoon adventure, stop by an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch. Enjoy the delicious flavors of the fall harvest, and take home some fresh apples or a few pumpkins for the front porch.
Play in the Leaves
Those leaves aren’t going to clean themselves up. But before you get rid of them, indulge your children, grandchildren, or your inner child, and play in them. There’s nothing like a pile of leaves to toss around and jump in to get everyone laughing.
Amend Your Garden Soil
Ok, you got those leaves raked up, but instead of filling up plastic garbage bags and sending them out with the trash, why not use them to improve your garden soil? As long as you don’t have trees with Anthracnose, you can turn those leaves into one of the best soil enrichments that exists. Mow over them a couple of times to break them up small, and then add them to your compost, or mix them straight into the soil in your garden beds.
This is also an excellent time to do a soil test and see if any other nutrients are missing, so you can add any other amendments if necessary.
Plant Spring Bulbs
Make spring easy and colorful by planting lots of spring bulbs. There are many more options than just tulips, and with just a little effort now, you can fill your yard with beautiful flowers from the time the snow starts to melt until summer flowers begin to bloom.
Plant a Tree or Shrub
Fall is also a great time to add trees and shrubs to your landscape. Just don’t wait too much longer to get them in the ground. Trees and shrubs should be in the ground about 6 weeks before the first killing frost of the season.
Dig out those bird feeders, disinfect them well, and then fill them up for our feathered friends.
Feed the Birds
There are lots of birds starting to arrive on their winter migration journey, and the bugs they eat are getting scarce. Dig out those bird feeders, disinfect them well, and then fill them up for our feathered friends. Consider adding a heated birdbath for them this winter.
Build a New Garden Bed
Do you wish you had more raised beds? Well, now is a great time to build some. They’re quick to build, and getting them done now means the soil will settle over the winter, and you’ll know how much more you need to add next spring.
Have a Bonfire
The yard is cleaned up, the tools are put away, and the season is nearing its end. Celebrate with a bonfire, some hot drinks, and one last session of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows around the fire with family and friends.
Ted Lare Design Build specializes in Des Moines Landscaping Design and Installation.
We cover a wide range of Central Iowa. We have installed landscapes for many years in all areas of the Des Moines metro, including West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola, and Norwalk.