It's bud time
If you've been growing a Christmas cactus outdoors (left, with full blooms) in a pot or hanging basket, it should be forming buds now thanks to cooler nighttime temperatures that induce blooming. In yellow, salmon, pink, fuchsia and white, this bright succulent plant will hold its blooms well into the new year. Christmas cactus likes rich, organic soil in a shady to part-shade location most of the year. You can encourage blooming by moving the plant to a brighter location, but avoid prolonged direct sunlight that can burn. Don't fertilize now and water sparingly to keep the leaves from shriveling. Once your plant's in full bloom, keep it moist and feed it every other week with a diluted fertilizer solution.
Let there be no light
Your outdoor poinsettia plants should be gearing up for holiday blooming, too, but only if you planted them in the right spot last spring. Poinsettias need complete darkness at night to form buds, so they should never be planted near a window or outdoor light. Buds form in the fall, so you should never prune this woody perennial after August. Retailers are beginning to stock poinsettias, the top-selling plant at holiday time. You'll find them in rich hues of red, pink, white, orange and purple. Enjoy them indoors during the holidays, then transplant them outdoors in early spring.
Rain, rain come our way
You'll be wishing for rain with the tougher water restrictions just issued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Due to especially low water supplies and a predicted dry winter and spring, authorities are issuing immediate fines to homeowners who break the new regulations. The current one day per week restrictions continue, with these additions: no hand-watering or micro-irrigation from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., no turfgrass replacement, stricter water guidelines for new plant material and a four-hour daily limit for operating fountains and waterfalls. Further specifics vary depending on where you live and whether you use potable, well or reclaimed water. For full details, go to www.swfwmd.state.fl.us.
Yvonne Swanson, Times correspondent