The holidays are upon us, and thoughts of sugar plums and Santa Claus are replacing gardening thoughts. While our focus may not be on gardening, it is the season for giving and receiving. Holiday plants are a welcome gift to give and receive, and they can add color and interest to your holiday decorations. With a little care, they can also linger long after the holiday season has passed.
Poinsettias still reign supreme among flowering holiday plants. Yet, poinsettias are more than the traditional red, flat-bracted blooms. Today, poinsettias come in a range of colors, including shades of red, pink, white, yellow, orange and purple. There are speckled ones, miniatures, standards and even a curled one called Christmas Rose. They come in the standard four-inch pot, or in miniature pots, hanging baskets and large tree forms. There truly is a poinsettia for every home.
If you want to branch out, there are other plants besides poinsettia that can add cheer to the inner landscape. Other choices include amaryllis, anthurium, azaleas, cyclamen, Gerber daisies, holiday cactus, Kalanchoe, orchids and paperwhite narcissus.
When receiving a holiday plant, you need to know something about the plant’s care to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Poinsettias need bright light and even moisture. Avoid dark areas with drafts and don’t over water. The new varieties have been bred to hold their color for months, and can add color long after the holiday season is over. While they can rebloom, it is best to start with a new plant each year. Enjoy them while the color lasts, and then add them to the compost pile.
Amaryllis are sold as a dry bulb or a plant in bloom. For the longest enjoyment, start your own bulb or choose
one just beginning to show color. If they are in full bloom when you get them, they may not last too long. The bulb can linger for years and rebloom each season, much more easily than with most other blooming seasonal plants.
Anthurium is a rather new addition to our indoor plant repertoire. The Hawaiian flowers have the right colors to choose from — red, white or pink spathes of color, which can last for months. Some people use them as a green houseplant after bloom, since it is difficult to get them to rebloom inside. Let them dry out slightly in between watering.
The florist azalea is different than those we plant outdoors. Flower color can vary from shades of red, white or pink. Keep them cool and in indirect bright light. Flowers can last for four to six weeks. While many gardeners attempt planting this outdoors in the spring, many may not survive the winter.
Cyclamen plants come in a range of reds, pinks and whites. These plants grow from small bulbs called corms.
They prefer cool temperatures, and will decline quickly if kept warm day and night. They prefer bright light and even moisture — but too much water can cause the bulbs to rot. While many toss the plants after bloom, they can rebloom with proper care. As the foliage begins to die back, withhold water for a few months. After a rest period, gradually begin to add water. When you see signs of new growth, increase water and sunlight.
Gerber daisies are a semi-hardy perennial in our outside garden, but can last several weeks indoors as a potted plant. They prefer to be kept on the cool side, with plenty of sunlight. Gerber daisies come in a wide range of colors, but for the holidays you may want to choose red or white varieties.
Holiday cacti are also readily available. While some call them Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus, these blooming cacti can last for years. As flowers begin to open, give them indirect light, letting them get a little dry in
between watering. After flowering, move the plant to a cool, bright window, and you may get another set of blooms this year.
Kalanchoe is a succulent plant with a long-blooming cluster of flowers. Flower color ranges from reds and oranges to yellows and whites. To get them to rebloom, they need short days and long nights and warm, dry conditions. Don’t over water this plant because it is a succulent.
You may not think of orchids during the holidays, but what showier blossom can you think of that will last for six to eight weeks with very little care? They can also live to see another day, if you so choose.
And, last but not least, are paperwhite narcissus. These lovely clusters of white blossoms often come artfully arranged with greenery and berries. Like the amaryllis, they are available in all stages, from dried bulbs to blooming plants. If you get them in the dry stage, plant the bulbs in rocks, glass beads or soil. Once planted, they are usually in bloom in 4-6 weeks. Enjoy them while they last, and then toss them. Once forced into bloom, they typically do not bloom well again.
As a general guideline, keep holiday blooming plants in a cool room, with bright, indirect light to help the flowers last as long as possible. Extremely warm rooms can cause flowers to fade quickly. Try to have at least a slight differential in temperature from day to night. Make sure you have an even supply of water, but avoid over watering, which is the most common mistake.
With so many choices, why not select several to give and enjoy yourself? With just minimal care, these seasonal favorites are sure to add a boost to any holiday decor.