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March Mania

A blooming jade, will poinsettias kill cats and storing grass seed

Don Kinzler, Growing Together and Fielding Questions columnist. The Forum1 / 2
A reader wonders why this jade plant is blooming beautifully now — especially because it's never bloomed before over the past two decades. Special to The Forum2 / 2

Q: I snapped this picture in November at our daughter Sara Spellman’s home in Denver. The family is fascinated because their jade plant has never bloomed during its 20-year life until now! — Ann Zavoral, Fargo.

A: Thanks for the photo of the beautiful jade plant. I’ve noticed most plants flower or produce seed under two circumstances: they’re happy with all their needs being satisfied; or, conversely, some plants will flower and seed in an effort to perpetuate the species when they are under stress. Your healthy plant certainly fits the happy category, with its needs being beautifully met.

I asked Sara to describe the care they’ve given the plant, and she replied, “When my husband and I were honeymooning in San Diego 20 years ago, we broke off a piece of a healthy jade plant, brought it home and potted it up. We’ve taken it with us whenever we’ve moved. I move the plant outdoors during the summer months. During the winter months indoors, I barely water it, but when it’s outside during the summer months, it gets a drink along with our other potted plants on the porch. We've replanted it four or five times and use Miracle-Gro Potting Mix or whatever we have on hand. Thank you for your interest in our blooming jade.”

Jade plants bloom more easily with age, when their root system fills the pot. Many plants, such as geraniums, bloom best when they feel comfortably “potbound.” Exposure to cool autumn temperatures and winter’s short days also might trigger a flowering response in a jade plant, similar to a Christmas cactus. Congratulations on a beautiful plant.

Q: Are poinsettias really deadly for cats if they chew on the leaves? — Mary Knutson, Moorhead.

A: The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University answers the question in great depth: “Commercially available poinsettias are not poisonous to dogs and cats or people. Other members of this Euphorbia plant family are poisonous as they can induce severe skin and mucous membrane irritation in some people.

“Poinsettia’s white latex sap in the leaves and stems is mildly irritating to the mucous membranes of the mouth and in some animals will induce excessive salivation and vomiting if the plant parts are swallowed. The wide variety of hybrid poinsettias available today have very little toxicity compared to the parent species. Unless a cat or dog eats a considerable amount of the poinsettia plant, the animal is not likely to show any effects. The modern day poinsettias sold commercially during the holiday season are not a serious risk to animals. This does not mean that if a pet has a habit of chewing on plants that it should be allowed to!”

Q: I’ve got some leftover grass seed. Will it keep until next spring? — B. Allen, Fargo.

A: Good quality seed with an initial high germination rate should retain most of its sprouting ability for its first year, especially if stored properly. Oregon State University says Kentucky bluegrass will still have a 50% germination rate even after three to five years if it’s kept cool and dry.

For best results, instead of storing leftover grass seed in the hot garage during summer, as I’ve been guilty — although it germinated fine the next year — store in a covered container in a dry, cool location. Heat and humidity decrease the lifespan of most seed.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.