Very few of the holiday plants
at today's superstores cost more than $15, and most
are much less. As for quality, many large retailers
are purchasing plants locally if possible. Local
plants are often of higher quality due to the shorter
stressful shipping time. An extra bonus is that
buying them supports our local economy.
These plants are marketed and
sold this time of year primarily because most thrive
on the cooler temperatures and drier humidity of late
fall and winter. If your mother's house is very hot
and humid, you should look somewhere else for a
flowering houseplant that would enjoy those
conditions, but that might not be on the cheap side.
All of these plants are fairly
easy to merely keep alive, however if your goal is to
recreate the beauty, bloom, or color again next year
you will have varying degrees of challenge. Suffice it
to say that most are enjoyed like Christmas trees, for
one season and then composed. The following paragraphs
contain specific information on each variety to help
with your decision.
Normal room temperatures and
bright, indirect sunlight suit this plant. This helps
them stay alive (blooming is another matter) for many
years, sometimes so long that they are passed from one
generation to the next. For easy long-term care and
repeat bloom, this plant is your best bet. Keep them
evenly moist until they finish blooming, then let them
dry out slightly between waterings.
You may set these cacti
out-side in the shade after all danger of frost has
passed and bring them back inside before frost in the
fall. Spring is the time to repot with fresh soil,
using an African Violet mixture — but these cactus
enjoy being pot bound, so don't go up more than 1 inch
in diameter every other year or so. Just supplying
fresh soil each year will give it a nice boost.
Eight weeks before you want
the cacti to bloom, place them in a cool room (55 to
60 degrees) that is very dark after sunset or put them
in a closet over night so to completely restrict the
amount of light. A cool spare
room that isn't used at night is ideal. When flower
buds form, gradually begin keeping the soil evenly
moist and fertilize gently once a week. Warmer
temperatures will speed the bloom while cooler
temperatures will slow it down. Knowing this will help
you get the plant back into bloom at the time you
The first year, don't be
disappointed if it doesn't bloom at the exact time
you'd like, just getting it to bloom again in the,
fall is a
success. During the active
growing and blooming period, pinch the tips to keep
the plants pleasingly bushy then use the tips to
propagate your cacti.
Cyclamen are beautiful
flowering tubers native to the Mediterranean region.
Place them in or near a cool window in bright light,
out of reach from any heat source, because they enjoy
temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees. If suddenly
placed in a very warm room, they are prone to drooping
no amount of watering will correct. Over watering at
this point will often kill the plant.
Enticing them into bloom a
second year can be a challenge, but the foliage is
pretty enough to live with if you want to try. While
in bloom and growing, from autumn until late winter,
keep them evenly moist, then gradually reduce watering
and allow them to dry out between waterings. If a
plant droops at this time due to lack of water, not
excessive heat, plunge the pot into luke-warm water
and it will revive quickly.
Continue keeping them on the
dry side until late July or August when you can
gradually begin to keep them moist again. This is also
the time to repot them into a slightly bigger (no more
than 1 inch larger) pot with fresh potting soil in
anticipation of the growing and blooming season.
Fertilize biweekly when flower buds begin to show.
Cyclamen are propagated from seed that can be
purchased mail order from many major seed catalogs.
It's hard to imagine a holiday
season without those cheery bright red, pink, cream,
or white Poinsettias everywhere you look. Few would
recognize the wild, 6 foot, rangy Mexican bush that it
originates from. The blooms are not petals but bracts
surrounding a small greenish flower.
Poinsettias can be kept in
color for a couple months by keeping them in a cool
room (between 55 and 70 degrees) and bright light, out
of drafts. Allow them to dry slightly between
waterings. If the soil is too dry or too wet for an
extended period, the leaves will drop. Caring for them
few weeks is easy. Recreating their original cheery
color and shape is practically impossible for the
average home owner.
Professional growers use
growth-inhibiting hormones to keep Poinsettias
pleasingly compact and stocky as well as maintaining
perfect growing temperatures and humidity levels, not
to mention the necessary 14 hours of uninterrupted
total darkness nightly for two months before they
bloom. Propagation is by cuttings.
This potting arrangement is a
cheery Poinsettia surrounded by lovely green ferns. It
is a very attractive centerpiece or decoration for the
season, but forget keeping it looking the same for
very long, much less till next year. View it as a
lovely flower arrangement. Enjoy it and water it for a
few weeks and then allow it to enrich your compost
pile. Sometimes that is exactly the gift you are
looking for — one that doesn't require a bit of worry
or care beyond the season.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year in the garden
articles on Holiday Plants
Read other articles by Lee Royer