A Symbol of the Season

   Written by on November 25, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Poinsettias have become a symbol of the holiday season, and rightly so, offering a vast array of choices to coordinate with whatever color scheme you use to decorate your home.  They’re the perfect solution for that empty corner that seems to need a spot of color, and clustered together, they make a quite an impact in front of the fireplace or marching up the stairs.  However, unless you have a greenhouse or a sunroom, poinsettias are also a throw away expense after the Christmas season is over.

logo - walk in gardenPoinsettias require a lot of attention to keep them at their peak during the holidays.  The plants purchased at most retail stores are young and tender, and the ones from the garden center have been nurtured in perfect conditions.  So how do you nurture or maintain these plants if you don’t want to see your dollars thrown out on the compost heap too early?

Poinsettias require lots of light for the flowers on top (those little things that look like buds) to develop.  Keep the plant where it gets natural light bright enough for you to read fine print or see a distinct shadow cast by your hand.  A few feet from a south or west-facing window is ideal.

Also, mix a small amount of all-purpose plant food into the water you use to keep the poinsettia’s roots constantly moist.  Your plant probably still has some growing to do, and fertilizer will keep it from turning yellow before its time.  Make sure the base of the plant doesn’t sit in water.  If the plant is wrapped in foil, slip a broad rubber band over the foil near the base of the pot and then use sharp scissors to remove the foil from the bottom of the container.

Planting your poinsettia outside after Christmas in this area just isn’t going to be successful.  It’s a tropical plant and isn’t suited for our climate. End of discussion.  However, there are some bright and cheerful flowering houseplants that can be used and given for the holidays that will adapt to life in this area.  Amarylllis, cyclamens and kalanchoes all offer indoor blooms that can be a gift to yourself or make wonderful gifts to cheer others.

Amaryllis bulbs are readily available right now and most will produce more than one bloom.  Move them outdoors in the spring and let them dry back in the summer.  Repot the bulbs in the fall, keep them watered, and expect another season of winter bloom. These are your best bet for an enduring plant.

Cyclamens often stay in bloom for two months.  Keep them in your coolest room, away from heat sources.  Dribble room temperature water just inside the rim of the pot twice a week.  Pretty, but disposable.

Kalanchoes are tough and long blooming, and the plants are easy to keep from year to year.  Trim the plants back by half their size in late winter and put them outdoors as summer porch plants.  Bring them in just before frost is expected, and they should rebloom in January.

A tip for a last minute centerpiece:  purchase several marked down poinsettias at the grocery store and cut the stems, using the colorful tops as cut flowers.  They last well in water and are ultimately more economical than cut flowers from the florist.  Mix with evergreens from the yard in a jar hidden inside a basket and you have a beautiful holiday arrangement.

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