Your Monthly Grow-zine

December 2020

Things to do in the garden this month...

Christmas Cactus

Shop at your locally-owned nursery for new landscape plants, winter annuals, and special seasonal things like Christmas Cactus. Christmas Cactus makes a great holiday gift - for yourself, or even for people who "aren't good with plants." (See the how-to on care for this wonderful plant further down on this page.)

This is a good time to plant herbs and veggies. The cooler weather we have in winter - similar to spring up north - is what these plants like.

Water once a week if we haven't had any rain.

Look for pest damage. Take bagged cuttings to your local nursery for diagnosis and treatment options.


Christmas Cactus care

This excellent container plant can last for generations if well cared for.

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is an epiphyte that comes from a high elevation jungle atmosphere. It needs bright indirect light and shelter from too much heat and too much cold. 

Four to six weeks before you want it to bloom, make sure  it gets total darkness at night.

Water regularly but let the plant go dry between waterings. Cut back after flowering, and repot every few years with fresh soil.

A visitor asks...

I get asked a lot - a LOT! - about plants that are harmful to pets. Here's one of the most recent:

"I just read your description of wild coffee, which we have a lot of in our yard. However, I also saw several online articles about the toxicity of wild coffee to dogs. It seems to me that your article should most definitely include this information, particularly because you encourage planting it in residential yards. It would certainly be a terrible situation should someone read your article, plant it and then lose a beloved pet due to poisoning."

The wild coffee you're talking about is Polyscias guilfoylei - the
plant on my website is Psychotria nervosa.

Here's a listing from the ASPCA - (plants toxic and non-toxic to dogs) - scroll down to Wild Coffee.

Here's a link to Top Tropicals with pictures of the wild coffee
you're referring to.

Many people fear their pets will eat poisonous plants in their
yards. But cats and dogs are carnivores, not herbivores, so they
don't generally eat greens* - they're not grazing animals like

And to be honest, I've never in my life had a cat or dog that ate
garden plants.

But on the website I try to cover toxins in plants based on the
information I can glean from reliable sources...just in case.
However, it can be confusing to keep up with it all (and nobody's
perfect!), so I appreciate your input.

When in doubt, ask your vet if he/she has specific info on a plant you're concerned about.

(*Some cats and dogs munch on grass occasionally. Make sure there are no fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides where they might do this.)

Planting Poinsettia in the garden

A web visitor sent me this photo of her striking backyard Poinsettia tree (yes, tree!), which is just starting to turn colorful.

I've never planted a Poinsettia, partly because most folks I know have no luck getting them to flourish.

This homeowner, however, gave me a few tips for success. She grows her Poinsettia in partial shade under trees, waters the plant when the leaves droop, and trims the branches back occasionally.

She lives in North Florida, so apparently these plants can take some winter cold.

Some online sources say full sun is fine, but her neighbor's Poinsettia, planted in full sun, is smaller with fewer leaves, so this plant benefits from at least mid-day shade. And, like Christmas Cactus, it needs dark nights prior to Christmas to bloom.

Here's an article with a bit more info.

What's new at

I've added this photo of Dwarf Clusia planted as a low hedge to its Plant Page. It's a carefree shrub, rich in texture, that I think should be used more in our landscapes.

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions about what you'd like to see included in the Grow-zine - or the website - please let me know!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Chase Landre

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Give the gift of butterflies

Succulent Milkweed

Who doesn't love butterflies? A gift of a plant that attracts them can be the perfect one for someone on your gift list.

Milkweed comes in many varieties - including the one pictured above (Asclepias tuberosa) - and is the host plant for the beautiful Monarch butterfly.

A host plant can be a wonderful learning experience for a child, and oftentimes when you buy one at a nursery there are already caterpillars on them getting ready to morph into butterflies.

Nectar plants are excellent butterfly attractors with their colorful flowers, and can be a pretty addition to any landscape.

See our Butterfly Page for info and lists of plants butterflies love.

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