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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

What's Your Favorite Holiday Gift Plant?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

If you said the poinsettia, you would be in good company as do most of us. Since 1825 when the poinsettia was introduced from Mexico, it has been the traditional Christmas holiday gift plant.

With good care inside the home, poinsettias can last for several weeks to several months in our homes. Just like our other houseplants in the home, holiday plants have their own needs if you want to them to last. If you have the chance to visit retail greenhouses during their open houses, you will quickly "feel" one of those needs, a cool temperature. I am not suggesting lower the thermostat to 60 degrees, yet if you can place the poinsettia in a cooler location especially at night, which will extend the plants useful life as a holiday plant. There are a lot of leaves using a lot of water, so pay close attention and be sure the soil never completely dries out and be sure you water before the leaves wilt. To ensure your watering efforts pay off, that foil wrap should be removed so excess water can drain away and later disposed of. If the wrap is critical for the display, you should at least punch some holes in the bottom so the excess moisture can escape. You can easily see when the soil is becoming dry as it will typically turn to a lighter color and pull away from the edge of the pot. If the soil is really dry, any watering you do will run down the edges and quickly collect in the saucer. In order to really re-wet the soil, you will need to place the pot in the sink and run enough water into the pot until the soil swells and turns a dark color again. Be sure to let the pot sit there and the excess water drains away. More plants are lost to overwatering and waterlogged soils that being kept too dry.

There are a number of other flowering plants that can be gifted or received during the holidays that will brighten the home during the winter and remind us of spring by their bloom and fragrance. Two bulbs that are favorites are amaryllis and paper white narcissus. The larger amaryllis bulbs will usually have two flower stalks. Amaryllis bulbs can last for years and re bloom for many years if you grow the bulbs outdoors in the summer to create the flower buds you will force the next winter. Paper white narcissus has been a long time favorite throughout winter because you can always have them in bloom by starting them over a period of weeks. Christmas cactus is another houseplant that we usually see in bloom from Thanksgiving on into January. It naturally is a late fall bloomer after being outdoors for the summer. Greenhouses bring it into bloom for us for the holidays.

No matter the flowering holiday plant, they really enjoy lots of bright indirect light during the day and cooler temperatures at night to get the blooms to last many weeks and remember to watch for your holiday plants getting overly dry or wet.

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