Redwoods & Christmas Cactus

Q. We have a huge problem with the leaves from a Redwood tree in our garden. We cleared away most of the debris. Would the acidity of the remaining debris prevent anything else we plant from thriving? We’re thinking about installing turf next spring.

A. The debris from the Redwood trees shouldn’t inhibit plants so I wouldn’t be concerned about the acidity. Acid soil from conifers such as junipers, pines, cedars, and redwood is a long standing gardening myth. There may be a concern if you’re using well water or water from the Delta but not from EBMUD and the concern would not be acid soil but alkaline soil. You can always check on the conditions with a simple pH kit. You should take three of four tests and then average the results from dry soil. To avoid contaminating the samples, you should use a plastic, not metal, trowel and the soil should be semi-dry. One other point takes the sample from one to two inches below the soil surface and from different areas. With wet soil you should scoop some out and let it dry out in the garage before running the tests.

My biggest concern about growing under Redwood trees is the amount of light the plants or turf will receive. Redwoods are large, fast-growing trees with a dense canopy. Whatever their size is today, they will be even larger tomorrow. In a short period of time, they will be huge. The larger the canopy, the shadier the conditions under the tree. While we see grass growing under Redwoods in lots of situations, it may not be appropriate in your location. Grass, even the shady blends, require a minimum of four hours of filtered to direct sunlight, April through October. As the light intensity is reduced, grass thins out. Another concern will be the surface roots, as Redwoods are shallow rooted but like lots of moisture. Your irrigation system should separate the areas under the tree from the rest of the landscape. As the area becomes shadier, it will require less water than the sunnier areas. You’re the best judge of your location but growing under Redwoods can be challenging.

Q. I want to transplant my blooming Christmas Cactus into another pot, but I’m scared to touch it. Can I move a blooming plant to another pot without shocking it?dirt

A. It’s okay to transplant a Christmas Cactus and most other plants while they are in bloom. Actually, this is when an evergreen plant is technically dormant, as it’s not actively growing. There is no reason why you have to wait until it finishes flowering. I’d transplant it carefully as not to damage the flowers.

Christmas Cactus is also known as the Zygocactus or crab cactus because of their segmented leaves. They, along with Cyclamen, are a great red and white alternative to poinsettia during the holiday season. Zygocactus and Cyclamen are not sensitive to warm rooms, as is a Poinsettia, so the foliage doesn’t discolor quickly and they have a long blooming period.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at