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  • Lake Chapala


Updated: Dec 6, 2020

by Harvey Bliss Lake Chapala Garden Club, November 16th, 2005

We come from all over the continent and Europe, from vastly different growing conditions from each other and, certainly, from here. Here we have a wholly different microclimate than we were used to: we're a mile-high; by a large lake, which is a moderating influence, keeping us cooler in summer and warmer in winter, even more so now that it has grown; in a bowl surrounded by mountains; in the tropics.

There are also variations here: the south side of the lake is more shaded and cooler, some of us live by the lake and some up the slope, some are windy and some are protected by high walls, some are shaded by walls and trees and some are open and sunny.

We see vastly different growing conditions in the dry heat of april and may and then the rains of summer. Today we'll consider the effect of cold, dryness, dormancy, moving sun and shade and deciduous species. Days are shorter, the sun is more oblique and weaker - it is moving so that the north wall that was in shade is now in sun and vice versa for the south wall. The soil does not dry out as much - plants must be checked to see if they need water. Under-watering produces shallow surface roots rather than deep roots and over-watering can rot roots.

Plants transpire through their leaves. In the long sunny days of summer, or on a windy day, they transpire more and the soil dries out more quickly. In the shorter days of winter, or after pruning back, leaves transpire less and the soil remains moist.

In container gardening, pots will dry out more quickly than the ground. For bonsai, those small pots still need watering 1-2 times a day. Generally, sap rises in the spring - here February - and produces top growth that needs a lot of nitrogen (the first number), water and sun. In the fall, top growth slows or stops, root growth increases and plants need fertilizer with low nitrogen and higher middle and last numbers. In late October, November and December - January fertilizing stops (except for plants in small pots that don't go dormant and some others) and watering slows or stops, depending on the plant (and that is crucial). Treatment varies from plant to plant, as we'll discuss below.

All this is common sense and can be easily seen in your garden. You are the expert on the plants in your garden. If the plant remains leafy and green, it will continue to need water. If the leaves fall or are cut, the soil remains damp and must not be over-watered. Reduce fertilizer in the former case and withhold in the latter. It is also helpful to know where the plant comes from, where it lives in nature. Does it grow at sea level or in a cloud forest? In a desert or a swamp? In a tropical forest or open field?

We've developed answers to many questions and we'll go through the list alphabetically. This is a developing and cooperative effort and this list will continue to build with your input. This is not an encyclopedia but a select list of plants commonly found here.

ABUTILON (Flowering Maple, Indian Mallow) - Continue water and fertilizer

ACACIA. MIMOSA - Continue but reduce

ACALYPHA (Chenille - Long pendent red flowers) - Continue to water

ACHILLEA (Yarrow) - Reduce water in winter

AGAPANTHUS (African blue lily) - Continue to water

AGERATUM- Continue watering

ALLAMANDA & MANDAVILLA - Lots of water in summer, semi dormant in winter, prune and reduce water

ALSTROMERIA - Water sparingly in winter

AMARYLLIS (Hippeastrum) - Reduce water, consider dividing bulbs (larger bulbs produce more flowers so split off babies) - plant bulb up to its neck. Increase water as stem extends

ANTHURIUM - Reduce humidity and water sparingly in winter

ARALIA- Keep up water


BAMBOO- Water freely all year

BANANA- Water freely all year

BAUHINIA (Orchid tree) - Continue water

BEGONIA- Do not over-water

BOUGAINVILLEA- Better with occasional deep watering, keep just moist in winter

BOX - Continue watering

BROMELIADS - Water freely in summer, low nitrogen fertilizer, keep just moist in winter

BRUGMANSIA (Angel's Trumpet [points down, Datura points up])- Continue water but reduce

BRUNSFELSIA (1 of which is Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow) - Water sparingly in winter

BUDDLEIA (Butterfly bush) - Water sparingly in winter

CACTI & SUCCULENTS - Infrequent water

CAESALPINIA (Poinciana) - Occasional water

CALLALILIES - Very moist all year

CALLIANDRA (Powder Puff) - Occasional water

CAMELLIA- Reduce water in winter

CANNA- Water

CARISSA (Natal Plum) - Continue water and fertilizer

CITRUS TREES - Water deeply in ground every 2-3 weeks,more often in pots, prune when cold

COLEUS-Reduce water

CROCOSMIA - Occasional water (bulbs spread to football field size)

CYCLAMEN - 3 groups, some do not let dry out and some need dryness in dormancy- have to know which you've got

DAHLIA - Dormant in winter


DAY LILY - Occasional water

EUCALYPTUS - Water sparingly in winter

EUONYMOUS - Deciduous here?

EVERGREENS - PINE, JUNIPER, FIR, CEDAR, SPRUCE, YEW, CYPRESS, FALSE CYPRESS, HEMLOCK- Continue water but reduce. prune pines when cold -

MAXIMUM ~. Nip buds when elongate in spring to keep compact

FERNS - Continue water

FICUS - Continue water & fertilizer

FRUIT TREES - Continue water & fertilizer

FUCHSIA - Continue but reduce water & fertilizer

GARDENIA- Continue water & acid fertilizer

GERANIUM/ PELARGONIUM - Don't like summer rains, flourish in fall & winter, don't over-water

GERBERA - Keep moist in winter


GRASSES - Fertilize with winterizer for the spring and continue to water, every 2 days

GUAVA/ GUAYABA - Water every other day, water moderately in winter

HIBISCUS - Continue water&fertilizer

HOSTA - Keep moist, but some will tolerate drought

HOYA - Continue but reduce water & fertilizer

HYDRANGEA (Hortensia in french & spanish, after queen Hortense of Belgium, Josephine's daughter) - blue in acid soil, pink in alkaline, white in either - keep humid & moist and shelter from cold winds

IMPATIENS - Water sparingly in winter

IRIS - Some like to be kept moist, some dry

IVY(HEDERA) - Evergreen, Continue to water

JACARANDA - Water all winter (but appears to tolerate drought)

JASMINE - Low nitrogen fertilizer in summer, continue water but reduce in winter

JUSTICIA (Brandegeeana is our shrimp plant) - Keep just moist in winter

KALANCHOE- Occasional water, just moist

KITCHEN HERBS - Depends on which herb

CHIVES, PARSLEY - Water regularly

ROSEMARY, SAGE, THYME- Water occasionally

LAGERSTROEMIA (1 of which is crape myrtle) - Water sparingly in winter

LANTANA- Just moist in winter

LEONOTIS (Lion's Ear, Lion's Tail)- Water sparingly in winter

LILY- Keep moist in winter [also see sprekelia below]

LIQUIDAMBAR (Sweetgum)- Deciduous, reduce water

MAGNOLIA - Peat moss around base for acidity

MARIGOLD (Calendula) - Reduce water in winter

MEXICAN HEATHER (Cuphea) - Continue water

MONSTERA - Continue but reduce

NERIUM (Oleander) - Water sparingly in winter (& always avoid the sap)

ORCHIDS - For hybrids & cultivated orchids, reduce water and fertilizer after growth and flowering at any time of year. Species are a whole other study. There is a great variety of genera, types, growing conditions and treatment, from full sun to shade, full watering to reduced or no watering - have to check. Generally, orchids require bright shade in summer but like some weak winter sun

PALM - Continue water

PASSION FLOWER - Water freely in growth, sparingly in winter

PENTA - Water sparingly in winter

PEPEROMIA - Water sparingly in winter

PETREA VOLUBILIS (Sandpaper vine, purple wreath, queen's wreath) - water sparingly in winter

PETUNIA - Reduce water in winter

PHILODENDRON - Water sparingly in winter

PEPPER TREE - Water sparingly in winter

PLUMBAGO - Continue watering. cool growing, dislikes under 450

PLUMERIA (Frangipani) - water freely while growing. deciduous, keep almost dry in winter after leaves fall. grows 1m a year when mature, needs to be kept in check - prune 1/3 each year in december/january. Cuttings root easily or make good firewood.

POINSETTIA - Sets buds and produces flowers as autumn nights

LENGTHEN - Needs at least 14 hours of darkness (even house or street lights can interfere). Continue watering and fertilizing. if you don't know the dwarf white, look for it.

POMEGRANTE- Water sparingly in winter

POPPY - Sew seeds in fall, don't over-water, will bloom in spring

PRIMAVERA (Cybistax / Tabebuia) - Tolerates drought

PYRACANTHA (Firethorn)- Continue watering

ROOT VEGETABLES - Plant in fall

ROSE - Prune in october for christmas blossoms, prune heavily end december - january and apply epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to the soil for basal breaks and water in, then reduce watering

RUDBECKIA (Coneflower) - Sun or part shade, do not let dry out

RUELLIA- Reduce water after autumn blooming

SALVIA- Culinary, do not over-water ornamental, varies with various specie

NATIVES - On dry side all the time

SCAEVOLA - Lots of water, all year

SCHEFFLERA- Continue but reduce water

SENECIO CINERARIA (Dusty miller) - Keep just moist in winter

SPREKELIA (AZTEC LILY, JACOBEAN LILY) - Reduce water as foliage fades, keep almost dry when dormant.

STRELITZIA (Bird of paradise) - Water sparingly in winter

TAMARIND - In nature tolerates drought


TIBOUCHINA (Cristina) - Reduce water when semi-dormant

TIGRIDIA - Water freely in growth. deciduous, keep almost dry when dormant. Consider dividing bulbs. Tag well or may lose bulbs in ground. Does well in pots

VANILLA (which is an Orchid) - Continue watering freely in winter

VERBENA - Water sparingly in winter

VIOLA (PANSY, VIOLET) - Continue water

WISTERIA - Deciduous, reduce water

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