By Jimmy Deaton
Here we are just a few short weeks away from being visited by ol’ Saint Nick and we are decorating the inside of the house to celebrate the festive season. There are many plants that are sold during the holidays to enhance the festive decor while entertaining. I plan on touching base with some tips to help you care for them so they’ll be at their best even after the New Year is rung in.
Poinsettias are probably the most popular of all blooming houseplants and without a doubt are almost always associated with Christmas since the majority are sold during the holiday season. Plants that have been well taken care of can last well into winter’s second half. However, keeping the plants and re-growing them for a second season is quite difficult unless you live in a tropical environment where plants can be kept outdoors.
They prefer bright filtered light and average room temps of 60-70 degrees. Cool conditions can prolong bloom time but, if possible, do not let them experience temps below 50. Doing so can have the plants dropping their leaves due to being injured by the brisk air. Soil should be kept slightly moist at all times. When purchasing your poinsettia look for plants that have nicely covered branches and deep green leaves. Try to find a retailer who has them displayed well away from entrance ways and other spots that would expose them to the winter air on a regular basis.
The second plant on the list is one of Angie’s favorites, Cyclamen. This plant is also known as Persian Violet. The crisp shooting-star flowers make stunning accents in midwinter which is their strongest season of bloom. We have actually had our plants last well over a year with continuous blooming. They love bright light and up to 2 hours of direct sun in the winter will help them be the show stoppers they are. They love temps on the cool side (60-70 degrees) and can tolerate temps down to about 40. Feed them every 2 weeks with a high phosphorous plant food. Neptunes Harvest fish fertilizer is a great choice with a 2-4-1 ratio. Keep your cyclamen well-watered but refrain from getting the crown of the plant wet. The best way is to place the plant in a shallow container of tepid water for about 30 minutes and allow the plant to take up the water from the bottom. If you to keep the plant past the holiday season any well-draining potting medium is good, just make sure to go up one size in pot selection to give the roots room to grow.
Last, and my favorite, of this seasons picks is the Christmas cactus also known as the Holiday cactus. These heavy blooming rain forest natives are super easy to grow and are available in a large range of colors. The intensity of the bloom is due to the climatic factors it is grown in. Bright light in summer and fall with days that become cooler and shorter. One thing about these plants is they will have a tendency to drop their blooms if exposed to a lot of stress. This is why plants bought in full bloom will shed their blooms and buds. They love bright light from late spring till early fall and moderate light from late winter to early spring. Temps on the warm side from late spring to late summer 65-80 and on the cooler side 50-65 in fall and winter. Feed them every 2 weeks with a balanced plant food spring through summer and in the cooler season feed monthly. Keep your soil moist spring through fall and in the winter months allow the soil to almost dry out between watering. Stems that are showing signs of shriveling indicate too little water. Any good potting soil will suffice although I prefer Espoma cactus mix for the enhanced drainage. Propagation is super easy. Take stem cuttings that have 2 to 3 pads and allow the cutting to callus over for about a day. Place it in a container with some moist potting medium and keep in a low to medium lit place until you see new growth.
So, there you have some choices of plants to give you color and interest during the holiday season. And from Angie and I, Happy Holidays to all of you. We’ll see you next year and until then stay safe. Peace.