This year I am going to give amaryllis bulbs as presents and I would like to include some care instructions with the bulbs. Can you help?
Amaryllis bulbs are easy to care for. Place the pot in bright light and water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. The warmer your location, the quicker the bulb will bloom. Be patient as it can take 2-8 weeks for full blooming. Often the first growth is the flower stalk itself, but you may also see flat green leaves sprouting before the bloom stalk grows. The stalk usually produces several large flowers and may need stakes for support. Once the flowers fade, cut off the stalk but retain the leaves. To save your plant for blooms next season, see here: http://tinyurl.com/l9sva5c.
Is there anything I can do to keep holiday wreaths from drying out and turning brown?
To keep wreaths fresh-looking for a longer time, be sure to hang them away from direct sunshine. Wreaths hung outside in cold temperatures should not need to be watered, but those hung indoors should benefit from a good spritzing from a water bottle every few days. For deeper watering, lay the bottom of the wreath in a flat tray of water for an hour or so. If too much water is absorbed, the pine cones may close temporarily. If you are bringing wreaths indoors for a party, leave them outside until just before the event. A wreath placed in between a storm door and an entrance door may get extremely hot if exposed to the sun, so this is probably not the best place to hang one.
I recently purchased a poinsettia plant and hope to keep it in bloom for several months. What is the best way to do this?
Poinsettias have become the classic flower of the Christmas season for good reason. With luck and proper care, you can have blooms for up to 8 weeks. When you are purchasing the plant, look for one with plenty of healthy foliage with fully-colored “blooms”. These “blooms” are actually modified leaves that look like flowers. Poinsettias do have true flowers, which are the small little clusters that grow in the center of the bracts. The freshest poinsettias have tiny flowers that are still uncovered with yellow pollen so if you see a lot of pollen, look for a fresher specimen. Be sure that the plant is wrapped well to protect it from the cold on the way home.
Once home, carefully unwrap the plant and remove any decorative foil or paper that covers the pot or punch drainage holes in that covering. Place in a draft-free location with indirect lighting, avoiding the direct rays of southern exposure. For the longest bloom time, maintain daytime temperatures of 60-70 degrees but allow nighttime temperatures to dip to 55 degrees, even if you have to move the plant to a cooler location each evening. When the soil feels dry, water it well. If the plant wilts, that can sharply reduce bloom time, but you don’t want the soil to be soggy either. Check frequently. Although it isn’t difficult to keep the poinsettia alive as a houseplant, getting the plant to bloom again next winter does require some attention to detail. If interested, see http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/poinsett.htm.
While we are thinking about holiday plants, remember your holiday tree! A fresh-cut tree, brought directly home from the tree farm, can be placed directly into the tree stand. Trees purchased from lots should have their bottoms trimmed to make a fresh wound so they can absorb water. And remember, water your tree every day.
Beverly Carney can be reached at email@example.com.