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Don Kinzler, Published October 04 2013

Fielding questions

Q This summer I set out a small poinsettia in the garden and totally forgot about it. Now it’s about four times bigger and very healthy looking. I would like to bring it in to see if it will bloom. Any suggestions?

– Carolyn Gaarder, Fargo

A Half the fun of gardening is trying things that are difficult or unusual. After Christmas, poinsettias should be kept in a sunny window and planted outdoors in June after cutting back to about six inches. Keep the plant in its pot, and sink it into a flowerbed in a sunny protected spot.

In early fall, before evenings become chilly, move the poinsettia indoors. This will be a little more difficult with your plant because it is growing directly in the garden soil. Carefully transfer to a pot, keeping soil/root ball intact and water immediately. Next time you’ll find planting pot and all will make this digging operation easy.

Poinsettia bracts turn red in response to day length. They must have 15 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night from Oct. 1 until coloration begins, which is usually 40 to 60 days. Cover the plants with a black garbage bag or box or place in a dark closet each evening at 5 p.m. and uncover the following morning at 8 a.m., or equivalent hours. Don’t peek. A flash of light from the room is enough to interrupt the process.

Q I have a question and maybe a warning about a plant I loved but am beginning to hate. I have two types of Russian sage in my flower beds. When I transplanted one of them, it left behind progeny in a 7-foot radius. Has anyone else had concerns about the invasiveness of this plant?

– Duna Frigaard, Cooperstown, N.D.

A Russian sage, also known by its scientific name of Perovskia, is a hardy perennial with gray foliage and pretty flower spikes ranging in tone from sky blue to deep blue. There are several named varieties in the nursery trade, most of which are grown from cuttings. There are also seed grown varieties.

None of the many plantings I’ve observed around Fargo are spreading invasively. However, complaints have been noted in other states indicating Russian sage was a nuisance for some people spreading by runners and seed, so you are not alone.

I suspect the named varieties (clones) obtained at trusted local nurseries will remain in controlled clumps. The varieties getting out of control might be seed-grown.

Russian sage is too nice to abandon. Maybe try a different source and purchase one of the named varieties. Thanks for the warning. You can bet we’ll all be watching our Perovskia.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler’s Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com