Signs of Life

Galanthus and Crocus in the beginning of March!

Daylight savings time has me confused. It’s after 6pm and still light out! There is a nor’easter in the forecast as I write, but for the past few weeks  signs of the approaching Vernal Equinox (equal hours of daylight and darkness) are everywhere. Plants are stirring indoors and out.

No special treatment for these Cybister Amaryllis, Hippeastrum ‘Evergreen’, to bloom in March,

Houseplants seem a little perkier. Amaryllis naturally awaken right about now (so if you didn’t try to trick them into holiday bloom last fall, you get to enjoy them now). Hardy bulbs are showing signs of green (the snowdrops have been up for awhile!) And Hellebores, the first of our hardy perennials to bloom, have buds forming and are just waiting for a nice stretch of sunny warmer days to thrill us.

Hellebore buds breaking as the old leaves splay out

Yes, it’s time to go outside and remove last year’s tarnished Hellebore foliage. Wet, decaying foliage has pathogens that can mar the blossoms.  Epimedium foliage should get cut back now as well, so the new growth doesn’t become entangled  with the old.

Praying Mantids just hatching!

This year I’m trying to find a balance of holding off cutting back last year’s foliage on garden plants and leaving some stems that may be sheltering hibernating beneficial insects. Watch for praying mantid egg sacks, which look a bit like tan styrofoam blobs. We occasionally remove a stem with a sack to place inside our greenhouse. After a spell, these amazing creatures will hatch and march off in search of aphids and other greenhouse pests.

Peperomia scandens variegata

How are your houseplants looking? If you keep the “tried and true” plants that tolerate indoor dry air, low light situations such as Snake Plant, Asparagus Fern and some Peperomia, you may be pleased with how well they’ve held up. A suggestion: these plants could still benefit from a little root pruning and repotting with fresh soil.

Other plants that prefer more humidity, like many Begonia, may appear in need of help.  First remove any tired leaves, then bring the pots into a slightly warm shower and give a good soaking, leaving them in the damp room.  Do you follow Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden Blog. And podcast? Her recent interview with Karl Garcens provided great tips. Karl advocates restricting your houseplants to one’s that tolerate your home’s conditions. Easier said, then done.

Gasteria bicolor var. liliputana sending up its sturdy stems of curious flowers.

If you have a space indoors that receives good southern or western light, your succulents are probably are thriving. Aloe bloom heavily in late winter and early spring, many Echeveria and all their close relatives flower well at this time of year, and Gasteria with their  elongated stalks adorned with pale pink and green bladder pouch blooms make us smile.


A Pachyveria reaching for the light.

However if you have less ideal conditions (not so much light) and your succulents have stretched, cut back as needed, repot with fresh soil tailored for succulents and stick then you can stick the cuttings for more plants. The good news is that the days are getting longer and that means more light. We advocate bringing your succulents outdoors once the danger of frost has passed. Warning: Transition them slowly, first a few hours of early morning sun, then allow more. Succulents can get sunburned otherwise, and that foliage will forever be scarred. Click here for another post with more details on what to do with your succulents as spring approaches,

Generally speaking, potted plants appreciate some fresh soil each spring. We always begin feeding once new growth appears. I alternate between using a seaweed fish fertilizer (highly recommend Neptune’s Harvest brand, and Dyna-Gro). A half strength dose once a week is a good regimen to begin, except for succulents which we limit to once a month. We tend not to fertilize succulents in the summer and fall.

2 thoughts on “Signs of Life”

  1. The cleanup dilemma is right. Ugh. I was going to leave it all on the ground last Fall but then I found what might be the dreaded Asian Jumping worm. Freaked out. Had nightmares for a few nights. Decided to rake and clean up like the old days because the worms love the detritus…natch. I might be wrong and there is no way to stop them other than drown them in a bucket…catching a fast, not kidding, worm? Lordy.

  2. Carole, I haven’t heard much discussion about the jumping worm lately. Last winter (2022) I attended a virtual seminar at UMASS Amherst on the topic. From what the speakers were saying these worms are turning up everywhere, and there are no known predators. They only live one season, but there eggs are buried deep in the soil for the next year’s warmth. I believe there is a suspicion that they particularly prosper in wet seasons.

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