December 14, 2011
When people decorate for the holidays, wreaths, garland and the tree are things that usually come to mind. The other things that add the finishing touch to decorating are the plants associated with the holidays.
The holiday plant that first comes to mind is the Poinsettia. The plant is native to Mexico. It has been cultivated here for over 100 years. It is a plant that has been transformed from a dull red plant that would last for a couple of weeks in your home to a plant that is a myriad of colors with months of color.
Being a native of Mexico, the poinsettia needs warm temperatures in your home. Daytime temperatures should be in the upper 60’s and nighttime temperatures no lower than the lower 60’s. They will take warmer temperatures during the day, but don’t like really hot. The leaves are the part of the plant that turns color. To maintain that color, the plants need to be in bright light. An easy test to check if the plant will receive enough light is to place the plant in an area where you would like the plant to be. Pass your hand about 6 inches above the plant. If your hand casts a shadow on the plant as you pass your hand over the plant, then you have found a good home for the plant. Poinsettias don’t like drafty areas. A bay window may be fine during the day, but may be too cold and drafty during the night. You should keep the soil moist but not wet all of the time. Tradition has it that the plants’ pot is wrapped in florist foil or the pot is covered with a plastic pot cover. These covers act as an area to hold excess water once you have watered the plant. This water will keep the soil wet all of the time and that can lead to the death of the plant. If you like the pot cover on the plant, you can remove it when you water the plant and then replace it after the excess water has drained away or you can poke holes in the bottom of the covering to let excess water drain away.
Another plant that has become associated with the holidays is the Cyclamen. If your house is cool all winter, this is the plant for you. It can take temperatures in the 50’s and as long as it is in bright light, it will be a happy plant. The soil needs to be moist all the time, but like the poinsettia, if the soil stays soaking wet, the plant will die. At the store, we water the plants by placing the pot onto a saucer and then we fill the saucer with warm water. We add water as needed until the soil on the surface begins to get wet. Once this has happened, dump the water out of the saucer and place the plant back on the saucer to let excess water drain away. Never leave the pot on the saucer with water remaining in the saucer. If you allow the plant to dry out, the foliage and the flowers will collapse and you will assume that you have killed the plant. Just put the pot into the saucer and let it absorb the water until the soil is moist again. Within a few hours, the plant will “spring back to life”. By the way, both the poinsettias and the cyclamen have a soil mix that absorbs water faster if the water is warm.
Since the cyclamen is a bulb, the plant will eventually die back in the spring. When this happens, don’t throw the plant out. It is just going through a resting stage. Keep the plant in a cool and dark place with barely moist soil. After a couple months rest, bring it back up into the bright light and you can start growing the plant again.
The holidays wouldn’t be complete without some flowering plants. With proper care, the plants can continue to give you enjoyment through the dull and dreary days of winter.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.