Garden centers, florists and grocery stores are filling their shelves with a variety of holiday plants; a sure sign the holidays are approaching. This is the time of year to give, receive or fill your home with colorful poinsettias, Christmas cactus, cyclamen, and other holiday plants. Extend their beauty and longevity with proper care.
Start by selecting healthy plants that have been receiving proper care. The plants should be free of insects, disease and have no yellow leaves, brown leaf edges and spots. Flowering plants should have just a few open flowers, some buds showing color, and the rest healthy plump buds. You will enjoy watching the flower buds open, blooms expand, and a longer flowering period.
Always protect your gift plants from the harsh outdoors. Professional florists and garden center staff should provide a care tag and wrap your plants in a plastic or paper sleeve for the ride home.
Carefully remove the wrap as soon as you get home. This is especially important when caring for poinsettias. The upturned leaves emit ethylene, a ripening hormone that can shorten the longevity of your poinsettia’s colorful display.
Rewrap your holiday plant anytime you move it outdoors and never leave it sitting in a cold car while running errands. A chilled plant looks fine until it warms. By the next day, the plant turns grayish-green, wilts and may die. Not such a nice gift or addition to your holiday décor after all.
Once home, place it in a cool, brightly lit location. The cool temperatures and indirect light help the blooms last longer. Remove or fold down the foil wrap, if present, to allow sunlight to reach all the leaves. Avoid drafts of hot and cold air. These can dry or chill the plant resulting in leaf and blossom drop.
Check the tag for watering instructions. Most holiday plants prefer moist but not wet soil. Use your finger as a moisture meter. Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and just slightly moist or according to the directions on the care tag.
Pour out any water that collects in the foil, basket, decorative pot, or saucer. Or place pebbles in the bottom of these or the saucer to elevate the plant above sitting water. This reduces the risk of root rot and makes care much easier.
Keep your floral display looking its best by removing spent flowersfrom azaleas, Christmas cactus, cyclamen and kalanchoes. This keeps the plant looking fresh and often encourages more blooms.
Once the holidays have passed, keep enjoying these plants through the gray days of winter. Move the plants to a sunny window, fertilize with a diluted solution of complete or flowering plant fertilizer, and water as needed. This article explains how to keep your poinsettias beautiful all year long.
Add some artificial berries, cut flowers in water picks, or silk blooms to replace the faded flowers. Use colorful stakes or natural twigs for added beauty and to support floppy leaves and stems.
Boost your spirits and those of family and friends this holiday season with a few colorful plants. Giving them as gifts and using them to decorate your home is guaranteed to brighten your holiday celebrations.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts the “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Her website is MelindaMyers.com.
Photo provided by Melinda Myers
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