Were you lucky enough to receive a colorful plant this holiday? Now that the hustle of the season is over, how can you keep your poinsettias popping and your amaryllis amazing?
Poinsettias are synonymous with the Christmas season and feature colorful bracts that we call blooms. Blooms will stay bright and cheerful longer with plenty of direct light and temperatures of 65 to 70 in the day and no lower than 60 at night. Prevent plant leaves from touching the cold window or wall to avoid leaf drop. Poinsettias prefer moisture so water whenever the surface soil is dry. Our heated homes tend to be dry so you may find yourself watering every day or two. With luck, your poinsettia should be pretty for several months. Although it’s easy to maintain this year’s bloom, saving the plant for next season can be challenging. If interested, check www.purdue.edu/hla/sites/yardandgarden/reflowering-poinsettias or drop me a line.
Amaryllis are super easy to get blooming and you often get several flowers. Most amaryllis are gifted as bulbs and the grower need only keep the plant in bright light and in moist but not wet soil for the spectacular blooms to appear. The brighter the light, the sturdier and shorter the stalk. To be on the safe side, insert a couple of sturdy sticks alongside the bulb to support the stalk. After the flowers fade, cut off both flower and stalk, but not the leaves. Treat the remaining foliage as a houseplant. After five to six months, gradually cut back on water until the leaves dry and die down. Store the bulb, pot and all, in a cool, dark location (50 to 55 degrees) for six to eight weeks. After this cold period, return the plant to its sunny location and start watering again. You should see blooms in seven to 10 weeks, just in time for next winter.
Walk into any garden center in January and you may see shelf after shelf of cyclamens. Since they prefer cool temperatures of 50 to 60 at night and no higher than 70 in the day, they are ideal plants for our cooler homes and in fact bloom best in the winter. Given indirect light, cyclamen should bloom for months. Keep the soil moist but be sure to keep the center crown dry. Cyclamens usually go dormant and the leaves die back and this looks like the plant is dead but they are merely resting. Let the plant stay dormant (you don’t even need to water) until fall. Once you begin watering again, the plant will bounce back for lovely flowers in the winter.
Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus are so hardy they are sometimes passed from generation to generation. Although technically different plants, they are often grouped as “Holiday Cactus.” This plant won’t go dormant or require much special care to generate or maintain its pretty flowers. While flowering, place the plant in some direct sun and water well, allowing the soil to dry a bit between waterings. Holiday cacti require more moisture than standard cacti, but they do not like to have wet feet. For the longest bloom period, keep the environment cool with overnight temperatures ranging from 55 to 60. After bloom, provide bright but not direct light. The easiest way to generate flowers in future years is to place the plants outside in dappled sun, perhaps under a tree, during the frost-free growing season. The gradual day shortening and the cooler nights will generate sturdy and reliable blooms with little work on your part.
If you didn’t receive a holiday plant as a gift, by all means treat yourself. Few things are as uplifting during the long winter as cheerful flowers.
Beverly Carney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.