Extension Educator, Horticulture
Flowering plants add important life to an indoor winter scene. By following a few general guidelines the plants won't be compost candidates before their time, and they might just be around for the next holiday season.
First, place plants in a sunny window or well lighted area, but out of direct light. Avoid cold or warm drafts. When entertaining move the plants to a decorative spot then return plants to the best spot for survival.
General care includes checking soil moisture daily. Keep flowering plants evenly moist. They are especially sensitive to over or underwatering. Replace foil covers with a decorative pot to make watering easier.
Flowering plants are often sold potted in a peat moss soilless mix. It is difficult to wet once it dries and the water may roll right off the rootball. If the water immediately runs out of the pot at watering time, the plant may have dried too much. Place the pot in a pan or sink of warm water to soak for about an hour then remove.
Poinsettias are traditional holiday flowers with brightly colored flower bracts of reds, pinks, white, combinations and even yellow. The actual flowers in the center of the bracts are visible as green or red button-like parts. If the plants have dried out or have been in low humidity, the actual flowers may fall off.
Insufficient water will cause the lower leaves of the poinsettia to wilt and drop. Too much water will cause the lower leaves to yellow and drop. Either way it's not good.
Poinsettias can be kept to rebloom next year. For those who need a challenge, we have a fact sheet detailing the process. I prefer the compost method of poinsettia recycling.
Cyclamens are a popular winter flowering plant known for their attractive foliage as well as flowers. The flowers, which can last 2 to 3 months, hover above the foliage like butterflies of pink, red or white. The leaves are dark green with silver markings. Generally cyclamen are sold in flower with many developing buds.
To maximize the cyclamen's flowering period, give the plant bright light such as an east window and cool conditions with 50 to 55 degrees F at night and 60 to 65 degrees F during the day. Cyclamens also appreciate high humidity. To increase the humidity around the plants fill a shallow pan with pebbles and fill with water. Set the cyclamen on an inverted dish just above the water line.
Cyclamens also need plenty of water in the soil and good drainage. Cyclamens are not very forgiving if they dry out even once. Don't apply water to the crown of the plant. If the leaves turn yellow or the buds fail to open, the problem could be hot dry atmosphere, lack of water or insufficient light.
Once the cyclamen stops flowering, gradually withhold water. When the leaves have withered, remove the bulb-like tuber from the soil and store in unmoistened peat moss or vermiculite in a plastic bag at 50 degrees F. Replant in May or June.
Azalea flowers will also last longer if they are kept in a cool spot. Never let the soil dry out or the flowers may quickly wilt and fall off. Azaleas are tough to keep year after year. Florists azaleas are not winter hardy here.
Most of the plants sold as Christmas cactus are actually Thanksgiving cactus. Both should be kept evenly moist while in flower. High temperatures or excessive drying will cause the flowers to wilt and drop. Christmas cactus are one of the easiest holiday plants to rebloom next year, but plan on them as Thanksgiving guests. Give us a call at 217-333-7672 for a fact sheet on reblooming Christmas cactus.