Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 19, 2018

Traditional plants add to season’s beauty

By Jean Thomson | Dec 21, 2017

Along with the conifers that serve so beautifully as Christmas trees, many of us associate several other plants with this season. Mistletoe, poinsettias and holly all have their places in Christmas lore and décor.

Mistletoe is a sort of odd duck. A parasitic plant, it sometimes kills the very trees on which it depends. However, it is beneficial as either a food source or habitat to some species of wildlife. Mistletoe is not hardy in Iowa, and many of us see only artificial versions.

Real, live poinsettias abound, on the other hand, gracing homes, churches, and other spaces with their exceptional colors. Of course, these plants appear in pots of various sizes. Poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico and certainly not hardy in Iowa. In suitable locales, they can grow to be 15 foot tall shrubs.

Many of us do not see much live holly, but properly selected hollies can be grown in Iowa. Neither American holly nor English holly, unfortunately, is an option. However, both Meserve hybrid hollies and winterberry are possibilities.

Most cultivars of Meserve hybrid holly grow to a height of 5 to 10 feet. A number of popular cultivars with “blue” in their names do indeed have bluish foliage; these are known collectively as blue hollies. With hollies, it is always necessary to have at least one male plant in the vicinity of female plants. Meserve hollies tend to dry out from sun and wind, so planting them in a protected location is wise.

Winterberry, unlike holly, is deciduous. It does best in moist, acidic soils. Fruiting is best with 6 hours of sun a day, but the plant tolerates partial shade. Berries are bright red and persist into winter. Just as with a true holly, a male plant is necessary to pollinate a female. “Jim Dandy” is a good pollinator for “Afterglow,” “Red Sprite,” and “Shaver.” “Southern Gentleman” is the top choice for pollinating “Sparkleberry” and “Winter Red.”

Plants contribute their beauty at every time of year, so do enjoy their beauty as we celebrate December and January holidays!

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