Taking care of holiday plants

Published 7:00 am Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday plants add a special touch to the season. Although poinsettias are the most popular holiday plants around, there are several other favorites that brighten those dreary days of winter. With proper care, many holiday plants can remain attractive for months or even years.

When buying poinsettias, check the maturity of the plant. The colorful bracts actually are vividly colored leaves, not flowers. The flower part of the poinsettia is the tiny yellow bead-like structure in the center of the bracts. Mature flowers are slightly swollen, with the cup showing nectar. Avoid purchasing plants with flowers that have dropped from the plant.
Your poinsettia will last many weeks, perhaps months, if you care for it properly. The length of time depends on the maturity of the plant at purchase, the variety, and how you treat the plant. To help poinsettias last longer, keep them away from windows, doors, other cold drafts and heaters. Provide bright light and keep the soil slightly moist.

The Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus is another favorite holiday plant. It requires bright light and high humidity. It will not bloom if it is kept too warm, so keep it away from heat sources inside your home. This true cactus can be “fussy” in that it can drop its buds if it is moved during the blooming period. It is best to leave it alone until after blooming. I like to buy them early enough so they will set their buds after I bring them home.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The amaryllis is a favorite holiday plant too. It has become a favorite plant among gardeners because of its large, colorful, bell-shaped flowers. Growing an amaryllis successfully does require a little effort. Amaryllis planted in pots need a small pot in relation to the size of the bulb. A pot that will give 1 to 1 1/2 inches between the bulb and the side of the pot is large enough. Use sterile soil that is combined with mulch, peat moss and vermiculite in the pot. Bury half the bulb in the soil leaving the other half exposed. Water thoroughly and let dry until the bulb sprouts. Once the bulb sprouts, keep the soil moist throughout the growing season. Be sure to give amaryllis plants at least five hours of direct sunlight a day. Remove the stalk about two inches above the bulb once the flowers are spent. Remove leaves as they wither.

The Norfolk Island Pine is a popular holiday gift. This “Living Christmas Tree” is a tropical plant that prefers high to medium light levels. High humidity, cool temperatures, and good ventilation is best. Be careful to not give your Norfolk Island Pine too much water. It cannot tolerate wet roots for very long.

Holiday plants come in an array of colors and textures that are sure to get everyone in the holiday mood. With a little care, they can provide vivid color for the holiday season and beyond.

By Eddie Smith