Ask the ISU Experts
Note to media editors:
Got gardening questions? Call the Hortline at (515) 294-3108, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m., or e-mail us at email@example.com. For more gardening information, visit us at Yard and Garden Online, http://www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu
How can I ensure the selection of a fresh Christmas tree?
The freshness of cut Christmas trees at commercial tree lots can be determined with a few simple tests. Gently run your hand over a branch. The needles on a fresh tree will be pliable. Those on a dry tree will be brittle. Another test is to lift the tree by the trunk and lightly bounce the butt on the ground. Heavy needle drop indicates a dry tree. A fresh tree will drop only a few needles.
However, the best way to ensure the purchase of a fresh Christmas tree is to select and cut a tree at one of the many cut-your-own Christmas tree farms in Iowa. A directory of Christmas tree growers in Iowa can be found at http://www.agriculture.state.ia.us/christmastree.asp
Is the poinsettia poisonous?
The poinsettia has long been regarded as poisonous. However, research conducted at various institutions has shown that the poinsettia is not poisonous. While the poinsettia is not poisonous, it is not intended for human or animal consumption. Individuals are still advised to keep the poinsettia out of the reach of small children and pets.
One potential health problem associated with the poinsettia is dermatitis or an irritation to the skin. When a poinsettia stem is cut or broken, a milky sap oozes from the wound. Some individuals may develop a skin irritation if the milky sap comes in contact with their skin.
What is the proper care of the cyclamen?
The cyclamen is the ideal flowering plant for a cool environment. Place the plant in a sunny, brightly lit location. Temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees F are ideal. Keep the soil moist, but avoid getting water in the crown of the plant as it may promote rotting. Lightly fertilize the plant every 2 weeks while in bloom. If given good care, plants will bloom for several weeks. The cyclamen is normally discarded after flowering.
Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033, email@example.com
Two high- resolution photos are available for use with this column, one of a red cyclamen, [Red Cyclamen113005.jpg] (550K), and one of a pink cyclamen, [Pinkcycl113005.jpg] (525K).