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Holiday plants will last the season with proper care

Posted: December 11, 2011 - 1:08am  |  Updated: December 14, 2011 - 2:39pm

The one plant that everyone associates with Christmas is the poinsettia, which conveys the holiday spirit like no other plant. But there are other plants that have great flowers or foliage that can be used as well. Some of these are Christmas cactus and cyclamen. These plants can give weeks to months of color in the home.

To be successful, a plan is needed before the plants are bought. The first aspect that needs to be looked at is the amount of light available in the area that where the plants will be located. Buy the plant that will grow best in that amount of light.

Next, inspect the plants for hitchhikers. Are there any insects or disease problems on the plants?

One of the main pest problems on poinsettia is silverleaf whiteflies. They can spread from the poinsettia to other houseplants. Look for a sticky substance on top of the leaves and dots on the underside of the leaf that look like scale insects. These dots are the eggs of the whiteflies.

Next, make sure that the plant that is not wilted. Check the plant for a healthy root system and find a plant with flower buds that are fully developed and has few opened flowers on the plant. The more flowers that are on the plant when it is bought, the fewer flowers the plant will have for the remainder of the season.

One mistake with holiday plants is transporting them home the wrong way. I have made this mistake myself.

The best place to have the plants is in the heated interior of the vehicle. Also, these plants need to be protected by paper sleeves or a large paper bag. This will protect the plant and help maintain a higher air temperature around it..

Once the plants are in the home, remove the covers and spread them out. Poinsettias will last longer if they are given the chance to spread. Don’t place them near fireplaces, heating ducts or appliances; these heat sources will dry the plants out faster and increase their water needs.

The most important thing that needs to be done to help the poinsettias last the season is to make sure the plant doesn’t dry out. This will cause the leaves to drop off. When watering holiday plants, make sure the decorative foil is removed or has holes in it at the bottom to ensure good drainage. Also, don’t fertilize poinsettias during the blooming season; this can cause a rapid decline of the plant quality.

Christmas cactus needs to be placed in bright, indirect sunlight. One problem with Christmas cactus is over-watering. Allow the soil to dry before watering.

Cyclamen need bright, diffused light, not direct sunlight. They should be placed in areas that have high humidity or they should be misted.

Another way to take care of this problem is to place the pot on pebbles in a dish of water.

Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at cphillipshort@comcast.net, or at (706)
836-2152.

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