Garden Clippings

| December 2006

Poinsettias, amaryllis, Christmas cactus, pines and spruce are all plants we use to decorate our homes for the holidays. Their colors provide a sense of joy during a time when the outdoor garden is drab, if not dormant.

Poinsettias can bring extended holiday color into a home with just a little effort. These plants might be considered persnickety, but they really only require a couple of things to look their best.

Poinsettias will hold their color best if you provide nighttime temperatures in the 60s, and temperatures not exceeding 75 during the day. Placing these plants in the brightest naturally lit room of the house will be the best bet for great color.

Proper watering for poinsettias is a must. Watering too much will cause the plants to quickly decline in health, while not watering enough will cause them to drop foliage. A good rule for this is to check the soil each day by sticking your finger into the potting mix. When the mix begins to feel dry just below the surface, it's time to water. Always empty the drainage saucer after the water has percolated through the plant, so the roots will not stay too wet.

The blossoms of the amaryllis plant are also synonymous with the season. Large, colorful blooms can last three to four weeks with a little TLC. Like the poinsettia, this plant prefers cooler nights and warmer days. Watering doesn't have to be quite as precise as with the poinsettia, but too much or too little should be avoided if possible. After the plant begins to show its blooms, move it to a cooler room with less sunlight. This will extend the time the blooms will last.

Christmas cactus isn't quite as showy as the poinsettia or amaryllis plant. However, since it's easier to grow year-round, it brings holiday color into many homes. These plants are not so touchy about temperature. To perform best, the plants need bright, indirect light and constantly moist soil. They also don't like to be too crowded in the post, so if the number of flowers on your plants have diminished this year, spring would be a good time to move them into a larger pot.

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