Keep holiday plants merry, bright and fresh this season!

December 11, 2013 in Feature

One of the most appreciated gifts exchanged during the holiday season are living plants. If you’ve been lucky enough to receive this wonderful living gift, you will want to keep the vibrant splashes of reds, fuschias, pinks, and classic whites bright and fresh through the holiday season and beyond! Here are some tips from our Extension experts on getting the most from your holiday plants!

Poinsettias come in many colors

Poinsettias come in many colors

Poinsettias

Did you know that poinsettias do not like “wet feet?”

After receiving your poinsettia, remove or punch holes in the bottom of the foil on the pot. Poinsettias roots will not tolerate standing in water! Place the pot in a plate or shallow saucer to catch the water. When you water, add enough to saturate the soil. If the saucer still contains water after 3 or 4 hours, remove the plant and dump the excess. Allow the soil to go dry between watering. Watch the plant itself. When the soil feels dry to the touch or when the leaves begin to droop a little, then water thoroughly.  If the plant is allowed to wilt, it will drop its leaves prematurely.

Where to place your poinsettia?

Poinsettias are native to semi-tropical and tropical areas of Latin America, so they are grown in greenhouses at temperatures between 60-70 degrees F.   Place in your home near a bright sunny window with the same room temperatures. They thrive on natural, indirect light. If you are having company and want to use the poinsettia somewhere else this is no problem; just return it to its window location within a couple of days. Don’t place poinsettias so close to a window that the bracts touch a cold window.  Poinsettias do not like temperature below 50 degrees F.  In fact, temperatures below 50 degrees will cause damage to the plant.  Cold or cool temperatures with moist soils encourage root rots.  Night temperatures are ideally 60-62 degrees F.

Cyclamens come in rose, fuschia, light purple, red and white

Cyclamens come in rose, fuschia, light purple, red and white

Cyclamen

This is a long-lasting blooming plant. It does, however, have very specific requirements for its care. Cyclamen will not tolerate temperatures above 65 degrees F and really prefers night temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees F. In the house, in the winter, keep your plant in the coolest spot you can, with as much sun as possible. Cyclamen do not need much fertilizer; once a month feedings with a liquid fertilizer is sufficient.

Try to keep the soil moist without overwatering. Do not allow your plant to sit in water trapped in a saucer or a decorative foil cover. As each bloom fades remove it and as much of the flower stem as you can. Cyclamen have very few insect problems other than mites.

You may find it difficult to rebloom a cyclamen. So, enjoy the flowers and nice foliage while they last and then discard it for a more suitable warm-weather plant in the spring.

 

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving Cactus

These are actually two distinct species of Zygocactus. The old-fashioned Christmas cactus is more difficult to rebloom than the new hybrids. The new colorful hybrids actually bloom naturally around Thanksgiving. The old-fashioned form requires a period of 50 degree F nights in the fall, which causes the plants to bloom around Christmas.

Both species should be kept in a shady outdoor area or porch during the summer. In the fall, leave outside until freezing weather approaches. Keep the plant as dry as possible without having the plants wilt. Do not fertilize after the first of September.

The zygocactus enjoys being pot-bound so do not repot too often. These plants will live for many years and many have been passed on from one generation to another.

Please read our full fact sheet: How to Take Care for Your Holiday Plants. We welcome your questions! Don’t hesitate to Ask an Expert for any specific questions you may have!

What to do with your fresh Christmas Tree at the end of the holiday season?

How about use it as part of a wildlife habitat on your property?  Can you use it as cover for wildlife on your property?  Learn more about attracting wildlife to your backyard:   or visit:http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-070/426-070.html

Compost it?  Let Extension show you how! 

Discard at one of your local yard waste facilities?  View a list of drop-off sites.