In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2004
Regional Report

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This lovely holiday pepper plant with red and purple (very hot!) peppers and purple-variegated leaves makes a showy centerpiece for the holiday table.

Take Care of Those Holiday Plants

This is the season when florists, greenhouses, and even groceries are filled with exquisite holiday plants. With a little attention to the details of plant care, you can keep your holiday plants looking great for a long time. The very first thing you should do before bringing a new blooming plant into your home is check it over carefully for pests. All it takes is a few whiteflies on a new poinsettia to infect the rest of your houseplants. Here are tips for some seasonal favorites.

Poinsettia
Give these plants bright but not direct light. Keep them cool by placing them away from heat ducts, and keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Remove or poke holes in foil wrap to make sure the pot drains well. When the colored bracts begin to fall, discard the plant. You can get a poinsettia to rebloom the following year, but it takes a very specific light and dark regimen beginning in October.

Christmas Cactus and African Violet
Place these in a warm (70 degrees F.), sunny window to encourage blooming. Once you've chosen a spot, don't move the plants since this could cause bud drop. Both need evenly moist, well-drained soil. After blooming, water and feed them like any other foliage plant.

Christmas Pepper
Keep in a cool, sunny window to keep them blooming and producing fruit. Provide evenly moist, well-drained soil. If the soil dries out or the plant gets drafts of hot air, the peppers will drop, which will happen naturally after a period of time. Once the plant loses the fruits, discard it since it takes specific greenhouse conditions to get it to rebloom.

Cyclamen
Choose a plant with plenty of unopened buds to prolong the bloom time. Provide a north-facing window to keep the plant cool. Keep the soil moist but well drained at all times; submerse the pot briefly in water if the soil dries out. After it finishes blooming, reduce the water gradually until the soil dries and the leaves are yellowed. Remove the leaves and tip the pot on its side in a cool, dark place until midsummer when you can repot and start new growth.

Kalanchoe
Keep plant in a cool, sunny window to prolong blooming. Water thoroughly and then let soil dry between waterings. After flowering, prune out the tops of the plant and put it on a shady windowsill. Keep the soil almost dry for a month and then bring the plant into the light and begin watering and fertilizing.

Paper White Narcissus
Grow them in a cool spot with bright, indirect light to keep the stems from flopping. If growing bulbs in water, keep the water level at the bottom of the bulbs. If growing in soil, keep the soil moist. After blooming, discard the plants. They are not hardy outdoors and will not have the energy for blooming again.

Amaryllis
Keep it in a bright, cool spot while blooming to keep the plant from falling over. Keep the soil evenly moist but well drained. After blooming, treat like other foliage plants by providing bright light, cool temperatures, and regular watering. In summer, move the plant outdoors and continue to water and fertilize it.


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