Beautiful Blooms For Christmas Cheer
The holidays are a time for happiness and cheer; a time to enjoy with loved ones. The Christmas tree is up and boasting the many ornaments you’ve collected over the years. The stockings are carefully hung from the mantel. The delicious aromas of holiday baking permeate through the house. And festive, colorful plants displayed in your home add to the atmosphere and bring about a feeling of joy to your holiday decor.
Following are a few of the more popular Christmas houseplants and tips to help you properly care for these beautiful blooms, to ensure their lasting beauty all season long.
The poinsettia is probably the one that most quickly comes to mind when you think of Christmas houseplants. Their vibrant leaves echo the colors and spirit of the season. To care for your poinsettia, follow these guidelines:
– Avoid exposing them to extreme cold. Your vehicle should be warm for transporting.
– Place your plants in a room with sufficient natural light to read fine print. Poinsettias will droop and may develop yellow leaves if the light is too low.
– Water thoroughly when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Do not leave plants sitting in excess water.
– Avoid drafts or excess heat from fireplaces, appliances, radiators, or ventilating ducts.
– To prolong color and longevity, room temperatures should not exceed a daytime temperature of 74 degrees F and not below 60 degrees F at night.
– Poinsettias are not poisonous and research indicates that they are not harmful to people or animals. However, it is not recommended that they be eaten.
In our area, the florist cyclamen is intended to be grown indoors in order to enjoy their colorful flowers and pretty foliage in the home during the fall and winter months. Some are lightly fragrant of citrus. To get the most out of your cyclamen, keep in mind the following:
– You may find that a cool window will be the preferred spot for it.
– Be sure to keep it cool. Ideal temperatures are between 40 degrees F and 50 degrees F at night and less than 68 degrees F during the day. It will decline over time if kept above 70 degrees F in a dry home. A cool spot at night will help it tolerate indoor conditions.
– Cyclamen prefer bright light. From late autumn to early spring, provide as much light as possible.
– When watering, be sure to not overwater or underwater. Once the soil surface feels dry, it’s time to water. The plant should not be allowed to go limp. Cyclamen like a good soaking and then to dry out partially before being watered again. Overwatering can lead to rot problems.
– Do not water the center of your cyclamen. It’s better to set the plant in a bowl or deep saucer and pour water into the saucer so the plant can take up the water from the bottom. Pour off excess water after 10 minutes or so to help prevent the tuber from rotting.
– Fertilize cyclamen every three to four weeks with a half-strength solution of water-soluble fertilizer labeled for indoor plants. Overfeeding will probably result in more leaves than flowers.
– Remove dead flowers with a sharp tug on the stems. If that fails, wait a day or so before trying again.
– Most people discard their cyclamen once it stops blooming and the leaves begin to run yellow. In late spring, this is a sign that the plant is preparing to go dormant.
Don’t be fooled by the fabulously exotic- looking blooms of the amaryllis! Growing one is easy, and here’s a guide to help get you started.
– Soak it: Encourage roots by soaking the bulb’s roots before planting. Place the bulb in a saucer and cover the roots with a half-inch of warm water for a couple of hours.
– Pot it: Choose a container about one inch larger than the bulb with a drainage hole (even if it means planting in a plastic container and nesting it in a decorative cache pot). Fill in the bottom of the pot with potting mix and set the bulb on top (or bulbs – three amaryllis in a pot together are unforgettable). Adjust soil levels so that you have the bulb(s) where you want them and add just enough potting mix so that the top third is exposed. Water the pot draining off excess water.
– Care for it: Place the planted bulbs in a cool, bright location. Allow the soil to dry out between watering. As the bulb grows, it will need water more often. If you nest the planting pot inside a cache pot or have a container sitting in a saucer, make sure it doesn’t sit in water for an extended period of time after watering. Dump the excess water within an hour or so. Remove faded flowers promptly to increase the life of the remaining flowers. After flowering, cut off the faded flowers in order to prevent seed formation (takes too much energy from the bulb), and allow the leaves to continue to grow. Provide regular water during this time, letting the soil dry somewhat between watering. After blooming is finished, put the plant in your sunniest indoor location.
– Support it: Provide support if flower stems get too long and start to flop over (usually a sign of not enough light) by staking them with plant stakes and twine and raffia.
The undemanding Christmas cactus is not only beautiful with its jewel tone blooms, it is also easy to grow. It can live for years without a lot of maintenance, making it a one of the more popular houseplants. Here are the ideal conditions under which it will perform best for you.
– Light: Bright but indirect light is ideal most of the year. From late winter to early spring, moderate light allows the plant to rest. Plants can be placed outdoors in a shady spot for the summer.
– Water: From spring through fall, keep soil lightly moist. In winter, allow the soil to almost dry out between watering. If stems shrivel, the plant is not getting enough water.
– Temperature: Late spring to early summer, warm temperatures between 65 degrees F and 80 degrees F; in fall and winter, cool temps between 50 degrees F and 65 degrees F are preferred.
– Fertilizer: From spring through summer, feed every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer, mixed at a slightly reduced rate (use about three-quarters of the recommended amount). In fall and winter, feed monthly.
– Tips: Your holiday cactus will bloom best if it’s somewhat pot-bound, meaning that the roots have grown to fill the pot. You’ll know they are overcrowded and need to be potted when you see the reduced flowering and if you remove the plant from the pot and see roots filling the soil space completely. Summer is a good time to re-pot, if needed. Use only the next size up from the current container and use a potting mix for succulents or cacti.
– Getting your plant to re-bloom for the holiday season: Flowering is related to daylength and nighttime temperatures. To get plants to bloom for the holidays, try keeping the plant in a location where night temperatures are around 55 degrees F and 60 degrees F for six weeks, starting in early October and no later than early November. As long as the temperature remains in this range, buds will develop, regardless of daylength. Or, if the night temperatures are above the required range, place the plant in a dark room or cover it for 13 hours a day, starting in October.