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New Year gardening tips for happy plants

“Each age has deemed the new-born year the fittest time for festal cheer.”

The onset of the New Year has found me getting back to the garden, to loiter and unwind from the demands of the holidays. Old problems are resolved there and new challenges met. My occasional bouts with stress dissolve to make room for calmer introspection.

Your questions for the Plant Man, for this first month:

Q. What is the most important garden job this month?


A. January is the month for pruning. Prune carefully to encourage the type of plant growth you desire. Early-flowering shrubs and trees may be pruned after they have flowered.

Q. My tuberous begonias are going down now. What do I do with them in Laguna Canyon?

A. When the stems have fallen off, remove the tuber and shake off the soil. Dry them for a few days, place tubers in a paper bag, and store in a cool, dry place.

Q. My azalea was in blossom when I bought it about two weeks ago, but most of the flowers have turned brown and many leaves are dropping. What can I do?


A. Azaleas have a difficult time growing indoors. Rapid leaf drop is an indication of too much heat, lack of water or possibly the plant is sitting in saucer water. Plant it outdoors soon.

Q. My ficus benjamina is unhappy and keeps dropping its leaves. Some branches have also died. It is almost 5 feet tall, and I don’t want to lose it.

A. Your ficus is as finicky a house plant, as I’ve ever met and really prefers to be outdoors.

Q. I have planted bougainvilleas in pots. I would like the plants to grow longer and fuller.

A. To keep your bougainvillea full, you must keep the ends tipped back. Gradually, you can allow the branches to grow longer, but only to a point.

Q. My roses have been so beautiful this past year. Is it too early to prune for the winter?

A. It would be OK to prune your roses now.

Q. Is this a good time to plant roses?


A. The best! Your local nurseries will have their largest selection of roses at the best prices because it is bare root season through February.

Although gardening may not completely solve global warming or the rising cost of gas, it is a great hobby or occupation. I resolve again to enjoy our garden more often and keep the lawn tidy and green for Buster.

STEVE KAWARATANI is a “local” guy, who loves to walk with Buster. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to .