12December 15, 2016

There are plants that are associated with the holiday season. Poinsettias, cyclamen, amaryllis, paperwhites are among the most commonly found plants that you can buy in a garden center. They all have specific growing requirements. Let me take a few moments to explain to you how to take care of these plants.

Poinsettias don’t like cold temperatures. When we sell one in our store, we make sure to put a protective plant sleeve over the plant. This helps to keep the plant warmer and less likely to be damaged by the wind. When you are looking for a place in your home for a poinsettia, you need to find a spot with very bright light. Poinsettias like to be kept a bit on the dry side. When you check the plant to see if it needs water, take your finger and push your finger into the soil about an inch deep. If the soil feels wet, don’t water the plant. If the soil feels dry, water the plant with warm water. The soil absorbs warm water better than cold water. Use enough water so that water comes out the bottom of the pot. Let any excess water drain away. If you have a foil wrap around the pot, either remove the wrap when you water or punch holes in the bottom of the foil to allow excess water to drain away. If you let poinsettias sit in water, you will kill them faster than you can imagine.

Cyclamen is a plant that grows from a bulb. If you have a cool house, it will love growing in a sunny to bright window. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in direct sunshine, but a few hours of sunshine in the morning won’t hurt the plant. Unlike the poinsettia, cyclamen need to be kept moist but never soaking wet. When you water a cyclamen, you do not put water onto the top of the bulb. This can cause the plant to rot. For many people, it is easier to set the pot in a tray of warm water and let the plant absorb the warm water through the holes in the bottom of the pot. Once the soil on the surface is moist, take the plant out of the tray and let the excess water drain away. If you fertilize the cyclamen every 2 weeks with a houseplant fertilizer, it will produce new buds and flower all winter. Once each flower goes by, pull the flower and its stem out of the plant. Leaving the stem attached to the bulb can allow rot to get into the bulb, leading to the death of the plant.

Amaryllis is probably the royalty of the holiday flowering plants. Once the flowers begin to open, they have 4 trumpet shaped flowers per stem. Once the flowers go by, it is possible that the plant will have one or two more flower stalks being formed.

Amaryllis like to grow in the sun, but once the flowerstalk is formed and the flowers are beginning to open, you can move the plant out of the sun. This will help the flowers to last longer. Since the amaryllis is a bulb, the soil likes to be moist but not soaking wet and it should never sit in water once you are done watering the plant. Once the flowers have gone by, cut the flower stalk off with a knife. The stalk should be cut back to within a half to an inch from the top of the bulb. This will allow additional flower stalks to form. Once all the flowering is done, you should keep up with fertilizing your amaryllis. Those big strap like leaves make food and store it back in the bulb. Eventually, those leaves will die off and the plant will go through a dormant period. Come next fall, you can get the amaryllis to bloom again.

Paperwhites are a scarce commodity this year. The majority of the bulbs are grown in Israel and it was not a good growing season for growing paperwhites. One of my suppliers had their order cut back by 500, 000 bulbs. If you want to grow paperwhites this year, you may have to buy pre-planted containers of these flowers. Their growing conditions are similar to amaryllis but unlike amaryllis, paperwhites cannot be re-grown for next year. Once the bulbs are done flowering, you can throw them out.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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