Garden Clippings

The know-how to buying and caring for holiday plants
By MIKE LANG
December 2005
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Poinsettias, Christmas cactus and amaryllis are some of the plants we bring into our homes for color during this time of year. With care, these plants will provide cheer throughout the holiday season.

• Poinsettias are a plant that most of us have had, and several of us have been disappointed by them because of the dropping of the lower leaves. Here are a few tips to guard against having this occur.

Be picky about the plants you buy. Select ones with dark green foliage that don't show signs of wilting. Those with yellowing or wilting foliage are stressed and may keep declining in your home.

Once the plants are home, pay attention to water, light and temperature.

Poinsettias suffer if there's too much or too little water. They like a moist soil, so the plants should be watered when the potting soil is dry to the touch. Saucers should be emptied after watering to prevent the plant from standing in water.

Poinsettias should be placed in an area that receives five to six hours of light each day. The lighting should be bright, yet filtered, to prevent direct sunlight from fading the colored bracts. A plant that doesn't get enough light will become anemic in appearance and will lose its leaves.

Temperature is important. Plants near drafty places will show damage. But, on the other hand, poinsettias don't like temperatures above 70 degrees.

• Amaryllis is the perfect holiday plant for those who don't have time to fuss with plants. Six to eight weeks after the bulb is potted, beautiful blooms should appear.

Amaryllis bulbs should be planted in a container that is one to two inches larger than the bulb. One-third to one-half of the bulb should be showing above the potting mix.

Amaryllis tend to bloom in almost any setting. However, for the best flowering, place plants in a warm area that receives at least four hours of sun. Low-light areas cause the flower stalks to become spindly and weak. Warmer areas will help prolong the blooms.

• Christmas cactuses are wonderful holiday plants that also make nice houseplants the rest of the year.

People are often concerned about them dropping flower buds during this time of year. Sometimes this is just a result of too many buds for the plant to support. Other times it's caused by the soil becoming too dry or excessive swings in temperature. Steady temperatures and consistent watering practices will result in a nice display of holiday color.








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