New Year’s resolutions are seldom kept, at least in the long term — not that a person shouldn’t give it a go.
Instead of working on self-improvement, then, how about making some garden resolutions?
My No. 1 intention for the New Year is to try super hard not to start my indoor tomato seeds too early, you know, like in February. When I do that, they tend to look more like stretched-out, spindly green sticks with gaps of lonely sparse leaves. This growth pattern is appropriately called “leggy tomatoes.” I call it sad for the plant and silly for me to jump the gun. Wait until April … wait until April … wait until April.
Here are some other New Year’s garden goals, must-dos or don’t-dos. They’ll get you started on thinking about landscape enhancements and a new garden beginning.
Maybe my list will encourage you in the New Year.
Indoor houseplants need more color (not ones that refuse to die and won’t dull me to death).
Although good choices, we know that ZZ plant (Zamiolculcus zamiifolia), Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) check the boxes of being hardy and mostly fuss-free. Isn’t it time to add some lively interest to our indoor plant palette? How about some glam plants that say “come and sit closer and admire my good looks”?
Variegated leaves on houseplants make a statement. Look for plants that have assorted marbling, and colorations of green, cream, pink and burgundy to red leaves. Plants with spotted leaves are impressive and fun, too. Cconsider unique leaf colors like neon green, head turners in any room.
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) with solid green leaves is a commonly grown houseplant with pretty heart-shaped leaves and trailing growth habit. Pothos are fast growers and super easy to propagate from cuttings, so share or start new plants of your own. Take pothos up a notch by trying one of the many striped or patterned cultivars such as Marble Queen, with white/cream variegation.
Drakaina (Greek, for “female dragon”) are durable and easy plants to grow indoors. Their palm-like appearance will let you dream of warmer climates, so enhance your digs with one or more dracaenas to chase away the winter blues. One of my favorites is Dracaena deremensis Lemon Lime, with its sword-shaped, wide leaves and distinctive greenish-yellow, cream and lime stripes.
Visit with your knowledgeable independent garden center staff about specific care for indoor plants since moisture and fertilizer requirements can vary. Variegated plants may need brighter indoor light conditions to keep the colors strong and vibrant.
There are scores of houseplants to choose from at your favorite store. Recharge your plant passion during the long winter weeks while spending time perusing the warm indoor plant aisles.
Admit and correct plant failures.
It’s never easy to dig out a dead plant or realize that the expense, location and time spent on some plants just never worked and never will. Over the years, I have had a hard time realizing and then acting on my plant errors. No more. I have finally learned not to sweat the mistakes that my plants and I have made.
Over a decade ago, I planted three viburnum Nannybury (V. lentago) shrubs in a small space that quickly outgrew the area in size and sucker growth. I let too many years go by before I decided they needed to go, using the old “shovel pruning” technique that eminent Denver master rosarian Joan Franson coined many years ago. (Shovel prune means to dig out the plant for a do-over.)
A strong high school neighbor was hired to axe out the root balls while I spent the next several days pulling Nannyberry roots that had multiplied like rabbits underground.
Despite these specific Viburnums being effective screening shrubs and very fast growers (not to mention having excellent flowering and fruiting), they were in the wrong place in our landscape. I replaced the Nannyberries with a much better choice for this area: Plant Select Manzanita Panchito (Arctostaphylos “Panchito”), an outstanding xeric, evergreen Colorado native shrub.
Please, just say “no” to landscape fabric in most cases.
Simply said, make your garden life easier in the long run by not using landscape fabric in planting beds.
Garden soil and dirt eventually blow in over the mulch, then weed seeds blow in and find any spot to put down roots, through the mulch and the landscape fabric. I found this out the hard way several seasons ago. I saw how landscape fabric left the soil in a shrub border that I was redoing where the fabric had been in place for less than five years. The soil was dense, gray and lifeless, while the root-compacted plants were mostly on life support.
I painstakingly removed the landscape fabric, amended the soil and then completed the planting project. It was almost as if I heard the plants sigh and say “thank you” for unsmothering them after the fabric was lifted.
Weeds will grow no matter what preventative technique is used in a landscape, so you might as well lean in and accept the fact. However, it is much easier to pull or dig out weeds from a well-mulched bed without landscape fabric. Weed fabric acts more like a weed grabber.
Finally, if you’ve ever tried to cut a new planting hole through landscape fabric, then you are aware of how difficult this can be. One can argue that once plants are in place, you’ll walk away and never make changes. Never say never!
House Plants Colorado State University PlantTalk (planttalk.colostate.edu/topics/houseplants)
Panchito Manzanita: plantselect.org/plant/arctostaphylos-x-coloradensis-panchito/
The Myth of Landscape Fabric: “Landscape fabric provides permanent weed control for ornamental landscapes”
Betty Cahill speaks and writes about gardening in the Rocky Mountain Region. Visit her site at for even more gardening tips.
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