Holiday plant care, part 1

Published 7:00 am Friday, November 17, 2017

By Dr. Eddie Smith

Extension Agent for the Pearl River County MSU Extension Service.

The holiday season is here and you may receive some beautiful holiday plants this year. To keep the beauty of these plants through the holidays and beyond, you must understand their needs.   Poinsettia, Amaryllis, Thanksgiving cactus, and Christmas cactus are just some of the plants you may receive this holiday season.

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The poinsettia is the classic Christmas plant. It is possible to enjoy your poinsettia many weeks into the New Year. To prolong the bracts’ color, keep daytime temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees and nighttime temperatures about 60 degrees. Place the plant in a bright location. To increase the humidity around the plant, place the poinsettia on a saucer filled with gravel and water. Poinsettias do not like drastic temperature changes, so keep them away from vents, radiators, and space heaters. For information on continued growth after Christmas and reflowering.

Amaryllis is a popular indoor flowering plant in the winter and spring. It has large, showy blooms in colors ranging from white to shades of pink, salmon, red, and orange. It is the easiest bulb to bring into bloom, as it does not require precooling to flower like daffodils and tulips. If you cannot pot your new bulb immediately, keep it in a cool, dry location with good air circulation. Do not expose it to freezing, damp conditions. When ready to pot, use a container no larger than 1½ times the diameter of the bulb as it likes to be pot bound. Use a good potting mix and sink the bulb up to the neck. Place in a warm, bright light situation, and water sparingly until the stem appears. As the bud and leaves appear, gradually water more. Do not overwater because this will cause the bulb to rot. It is not necessary to fertilize during this flower development time.

Bulbs will flower 6 to 8 weeks after potting, depending on the growing conditions and variety. When in flower, move the plant where you will receive the most enjoyment, preferably in a cool, shaded area, which will prolong the floral display.

After flowering, cut the old flowering stalk off 2 inches from the bulb. Put the plant back into a warm, bright-sunlight area of your home, water, and begin fertilizing with a complete houseplant fertilizer, following the directions on the label. This will ensure that the leaves continue to grow and produce the sugars that will eventually be stored in the bulb to produce next season’s blooms.