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Ask the Experts – December 2017

By Kelly Young

Where can I find mistletoe seeds? I’d like to plant some for the holidays while there is still time.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, which means it must grow on another plant to survive. Birds eat the white mistletoe berries and deposit the seeds on host tree branches in their droppings, where they germinate and tap into the host’s stems to steal water and nutrients. Because of its parasitic nature and need to pass through a bird’s digestive tract to germinate, it is virtually impossible to grow mistletoe in a home garden. You can find wild mistletoe growing in palo verde trees, ironwoods and mesquites in the low desert, but desert mistletoe is not the type we generally associate with holiday kissing traditions and tends to be too brittle for use as decoration. At higher elevations, you may discover the familiar, leafy mistletoe growing in cottonwoods, oaks, junipers and cypress.

I was given an amaryllis kit as a gift but I will be travelling soon and don’t want to miss the bloom. Can I wait a few weeks before I plant it?

As long as there isn’t a green shoot emerging from the bulb, it is still dormant and you can store it in the refrigerator for a few weeks until you are ready to plant it. The soil it came with may have dried out, so mix water into the soil to be sure it is thoroughly moist, without being waterlogged. Place the bulb, pointed end up, in the soil, leaving the top one-third of the bulb exposed. Place the pot in a sunny window, and water regularly so the soil remains consistently moist. In a week or two, you should see the shoot emerge, followed by a beautiful bloom a few weeks after that.

I planted a vegetable garden in October, and rabbits have eaten everything. Can you recommend any plants that will repel these cute but destructive pests?

Once rabbits locate a source for fresh produce, they will come back time and again, especially if there aren’t better alternatives nearby. No plant is truly rabbit-proof; a hungry bunny will eat just about any plant and will even strip bark from trees. Commercial repellents work for a short time, but eventually the ravenous pests overcome their reluctance and press through. Your best bet is to fence rabbits out, rather than try to repel them. Garden supply stores carry fencing materials designed to specifically exclude rabbits, or you can purchase hardwire mesh or poultry wire for the same purpose. Rabbits can easily dig under, jump over and squeeze through fencing materials that aren’t buried a minimum of 10 inches deep, that extend at least 2 feet above ground and that have openings no larger than
1 inch in diameter

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