In the Garden:
White, red, pink or speckled, poinsettias announce the holiday season.
Caring for Holiday Plants
Even nongardeners appreciate the festive blooms of poinsettias, kalanchoe, cyclamen, amaryllis, and Christmas cactus during the holiday season. Whether you're on the giving or the receiving end of these cheerful holiday bloomers, providing the right conditions will keep them at peak performance all winter long.
Keeping Gift Plants Alive
Holiday gift plants are often delivered in leak-proof containers or wrapped in foil. Be sure to remove these pot coverings and punch holes in the bottom of the pot to promote good drainage. Place the pot on a saucer to protect furniture.
Winter home environments are tough on flowering plants. Because the relative humidity indoors tends to be quite low during the heating season, pay special attention to watering needs. Proper watering is critical. Large plants in small containers dry out quickly, as do plants in full flower. Check plants daily. When the top of the soil is just barely dry, apply enough water to fully saturate the soil, allowing some water to flow out of the bottom of the pot.
Light, Temperature, Action
Bright light, moist soil, and cool temperatures are the keys to keeping your plants looking good. Normal household temperatures (68o to 75oF) are acceptable, but cooler temperatures (60o to 65oF) will lengthen the life of flowering plants. Extremely high temperatures (75o to 80oF) usually shorten the display life. I move my plants to a cool room at night so they can recover from the day's events. Supplying adequate light is also important for extending the life of holiday and gift plants. Place your plants near east-, south-, or west-facing windows, where they will get high levels of indirect light.
To Keep or Toss?
At some point you will have to determine the fate of your gift plant. Because they're produced under ideal conditions that are difficult to duplicate at home, most gift plants are discarded after they've finished flowering. On the other hand, some can be kept healthy under household conditions and will provide years of enjoyment.
If your gift plant gets spindly and fails to thrive after the holidays, cut the stems back and reduce watering to force it into dormancy. Allow it to rest all winter and take it outdoors in the spring. This treatment may allow enough recovery time for your plant to put on a second holiday display.
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