In the garden: Finding the right tree, poinsettas and more

This fiddle leaf fern could be repotted into a slightly larger container in spring. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette for In the Garden.)
This fiddle leaf fern could be repotted into a slightly larger container in spring. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette for In the Garden.)

ID help

Q: A friend of mine would like to know the name of this plant and if it should be put in a larger pot? Enjoy your column always!

A: That is a beautiful fiddle leaf fig -- Ficus lyrata. It is a large plant for that container, but it sure looks happy. I would wait until spring and then upgrade it to a slightly larger container. Indoor plants can struggle with low humidity and less light indoors during the winter months, so I wouldn't stress it any more this time of year.

Not a boxwood

Q: This is the smallest, tightest leafed boxwood I have seen. Can you identify? The bush was about 20 inches in diameter and very round.

A: It isn't a boxwood, but a type of small leafed Japanese holly. As to what exact variety, I couldn't say. Ilex crenata has small serrated edges on the leaves. Many gardeners lump all small, oval evergreens into a boxwood family. One way to tell the difference is to look at the leaf margin. Boxwoods have smooth leaf margins, while the hollies (depending on variety) will have either toothed, scalloped or thorny edges.

Wait to prune crape myrtles

Q: My crape myrtles took quite a hit last winter and finally started growing back in the summer. Now that most of the leaves have fallen, is this the time to prune them back? Anything I can do to retrain them better? I had very few flowers this year.

A: Leave them alone for now. We have no way to predict the type of winter we will have, but leaving them whole now gives you some buffer to protect them. Do your pruning at the end of winter or just as they begin growing in the spring. It will take a year or two to retrain our winter-damaged plants back into what they once were. I know there was a lot of damage, but I have been amazed at how resilient so many plants were.

Finding the right tree

Q: Would you please suggest a tree to plant in my front yard. I live in west Little Rock. Yard is on the smallish side and gets full east sun. Don't want ornamental or maple. Would like one trunk tree. Thank you in advance.

A: One of the biggest trends with trees these days is fastigiate varieties -- columnar growth habit, with a bit more height so they fit into smaller landscapes. Some of the most common are 'Slender Silhouette' columnar sweetgum, Fastigiata European Hornbeam, 'Fastigiata' Columnar English Oak, and 'Green Pillar' Columnar Pin Oak. And while there is a fastigiate Gingko tree, I think a standard one works just fine, and is slow growing enough on its own. Some other nice, small to medium trees are Chinese pistache, Ironwood (Parrotia) and Stewartia.

Poinsettas better new

Q: My friend convinced me that I could keep my poinsettia alive from last year and it would bloom again this year. I have babied it all year -- and you know how much I had to water this summer! It is happy, healthy, and huge but totally green.

I took it inside when it was supposed to be cold weeks ago, and it is still happy, healthy, and huge but still just green. When is it going to start blooming?

A: While I know that there are many gardeners who save their poinsettias from year to year and are thrilled when they "rebloom" again the following season, I think you are better off buying new plants each year. Not that you can't get them to rebloom, but it takes practice. Poinsettias are short day plants -- that means they need bright sunlight during the day, and total darkness at night, starting in late summer or early fall for a Christmas season bloom. If you have it in a room with lights on at night, that breaks the cycle. The true blooms of a poinsettia are in the very center of the red, pink or white colored bracts (modified leaves). If you have a greenhouse, it helps manage the cycle, but even if you do get recoloring, rarely do they rival what you can buy for $10-20 locally. Sorry!

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email [email protected].

photo A Japanese holly has serrated edges on its small leaves. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette for In the Garden.)

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