Holiday Plants Add To A Home’s Cheer
For many, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without poinsettias, Christmas cactus’ and other traditional plants making an appearance. It is something they look forward to all year and the plants signal the start of the holiday season to them. Providing proper care for these plants will ensure that they thrive and look good all holiday season and beyond.
How To Care For Christmas Cactus
The name Christmas cactus can be a little misleading. They are not sun-loving and they are not desert plants. The actually originate from rain forest of the Organ Mountains of Brazil. Never the less, they are beautiful with their bright tubular flowers and they are easy to care for.
- Christmas cacti do not need a lot of light. Place in an eat facing window or in a location that gets indirect sunlight.
- Christmas cacti are short day plants meaning they bloom when nights are at least 14 hours long and daylight periods are between 8-10 hours for 6 weeks.
- Streetlights or indoor lighting may disrupt the required dark period so they may need to be covered each night.
- Christmas cacti will also flower if exposed to prolonged cool temperatures between 50-55 degrees F. No flowers will form at night temperatures above 68 degrees F regardless of light length.
- Christmas cacti like humidity. Mist the plant frequently or place a tray of water next to the plant so that the water evaporates and provides humidity.
- Fertilize the plant with a high potassium fertilizer every two weeks once buds from.
- Unlike most desert cacti, this variety cannot tolerate completely dry soil. If the soil gets too dry, the flowers buds will drop, and the plant will wilt. Feel the soil with your fingers; if it feels dry, it’s time to water.
- If buds drop off the plant, it is usually due to over watering. Back off on our watering schedule and let the soil dry out a bit more.
- Christmas cacti can be planted outside in the summer in a shady, moist location. Don’t forget to bring it back in before it gets cold.
How To Care For Poinsettias
Poinsettias are actually a shrub that is found in Mexico. They were introduced to the United States by John Poinsett, who was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. The showy flowers are actually colored bracts, or modified leaves. Contrary to urban legend, poinsettias are not poisonous however the milky sap can cause a skin reaction for those with a latex allergy.
- When bringing a poinsettia home, make sure it is wrapped to protect it from cold air. Even a few minutes exposure to cold air can damage the bracts.
- Once home, unwrap the poinsettia carefully. The leaves can be knocked off the plant easily.
- Poinsettias prefer daytime temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures around 55 degrees. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life.
- Poinsettias do not like drafts. Keep them away from doors and air vents.
- Check the soil moisture daily and water when it is dry.
- Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month. Do not fertilize when it is in bloom.
- Most poinsettias will last 6-8 weeks with proper care.
How To Care For Amaryllis
Growing amaryllis is kind of like pushing the “easy button”. Amaryllis can be purchased as either a bare bulb or already planted in a pot of soil. Either way, they add dramatic color to any home and make a wonderful gift. They are native to Peru and South Africa. Amaryllis is from the Greek word amarysso which means “to sparkle”. Flowers come in a multitude of colors and range from 4 to 10 inches across.
- Select the largest bulb possible. The larger the bulb, the more leaves and flowers will be produced.
- Make sure the bulb is dry and firm with no signs of damage, mold or mildew.
- Good drainage is a must so select a container with a drainage hole.
- Water the plant when the top 2” of soil are dry. Water until water comes out the drainage hole.
- Once the flower buds begin to open, move the plant out of direct sunlight.
- After the flowers have faded, cut them off so the plant does not waste energy producing seeds.
- Do not cut off the stalk until it has turned yellow. A green stem will still provide photosynthetic energy for the bulb.
- Continue to care for the bulb and it will re-bloom!
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