Christmas Wrap, Trees & Plant Gifts

Q. Why is the holiday or gift wrapping not recyclable, after all, it is paper? I was hoping to shred it and then use it as mulch this summer.   

A. While some might disagree, I think it has merit as mulch when shredded and combined with other material. From a recycling point of view, today’s wrapping paper is often dyed, laminated and/or contains non-paper additives such as glitter, plastics etc. which cannot be recycled and made into other products. However, much of it can be composted. You need to avoid high gloss paper, paper with plastic or with metallic coatings, and “Astro Bright.” Tissue paper is ideal to be composted. I know many people believe it’s not safe to compost colored paper, but experts agree the inks used today are quite safe. Most modern inks, in fact, are soy ink, hence much of the holiday debris can be saved, shredded and used as mulch next year.

Q. What can I plant in a container that can be brought indoors for a couple of weeks during the holidays and then moved back outside?    

A. I’d consider a Sasanqua Camellia or an Alberta Spruce. Sasanqua Camellias are blooming now with the variety Yuletide being particularly popular. Yuletide has a single row of petals that is a festive, red color with yellow stamens in the center. It’s also available in pink. They make an excellent container plant. Sasanqua Camellias grow six to eight feet tall in the ground, but the size is easily controlled with pruning for containers. The blooming period starts in late fall and is usually finished by January. Unlike the spring blooming varieties, Sasanqua’s grow in the sun so long as the roots are insulated with mulch from the heat of the day sun. Alberta Spruce make an excellent small living Christmas Tree. They’re a dark green color with short needles and a compact growth habit. Whether they’re indoors or out you can decorate them with holiday lights, ornaments or any other type of decorations. For this year, I’d leave them in their original container and transplant them in the spring. The cans can be covered with any number of different materials such as foil, burlap, landscape fabric cover with artificial holly and berries. Before bringing them indoors, water thoroughly several days before by hand and place a clear plastic tray under them to protect the carpet or flooring. I’d keep them indoors for no longer than two weeks and water them immediately when they’re brought back outdoors. With room temperatures around seventy degrees. A cup of water or two depending on the container size, every five days should be sufficient. Also, keep them away from any heat generating source, such as heating vents or a fireplace. Sasanqua Camellias or Alberta Spruce are beautiful and festive around entryways when combined with red and white cyclamen, Zygocactus and, of course, poinsettias.

Q. I was given a mixed arrangement of plants consisting of Kalanchoe, Dragon Tree, and Silvery Queen Pothus. After separating the plants and transplanting them into separate containers, the leaves on the Dragon Tree are falling off. Is that normal?

A. The Dragon Tree or Dracaena is a columnar plant. They’re usually found with multiple plants growing in the same container at staggered heights. It is normal for the lowest or oldest leaves to yellow and fall off first. Unlike other plants, the new leaves will not develop where they dropped off. The new growth forms at the top of the canes; hence, there is no lateral branching. Excessive leaf drop can be from excessive moisture, so you don’t want to over water them. They can go several weeks in between watering. I’d give them a good soaking by watering them in the sink letting the water drain before returning them to their permanent location.