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Holiday plants can live year-round with proper care

Posted: December 22, 2013 - 1:03am
Julie Porter, owner of Greenbrier Nursery and Gifts, shows off some of the poinsettias for sale at her shop. Poinsettias can be maintained beyond the holidays, but it takes some time and effort.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Julie Porter, owner of Greenbrier Nursery and Gifts, shows off some of the poinsettias for sale at her shop. Poinsettias can be maintained beyond the holidays, but it takes some time and effort.

Holiday plants are enjoyed during this time of year, and some can be kept alive throughout the coming year with special care. Others, however, may require too much attention to be worth the effort.

Walter Reeves, known as The Georgia Gardener, has a Web site dedicated to most everything related to gardening. He notes that some of the most common holiday plants are the poinsettia, Christmas cactus and Norfolk Pine.

“As a houseplant, the Norfolk Pine can live happily in a home for many years,” he writes on his Web site. “A common problem is lower branches, which turn brown and fall off. Prevention is to provide plenty of light – a sunny bay window is an excellent placement.

“The plant won’t do well in the corner of a dark room,” he continues. “In addition, cool temperatures – around 65 degrees – will contribute to long life. Although the plant can grow in dryish soil, keeping the roots slightly moist is much better.”

Like the Norfolk Pine, the Christmas cactus prefers a cool, sunny location. However, it “appreciates being misted once each day to keep the humidity high around the leaves.”

The plant itself should only be watered when the soil is dry, as overwatering can lead to root rot. Christmas cactuses can be treated with a light fertilizer during the winter, but will need more nutrients when spring comes and they are taken back outdoors.

Reeves explains that Christmas Cactus is easy to root – “simply break off a short length of branch and insert it into moist sand or potting soil. Within a few months, the section will root and send up new leaves.”

Unlike the Christmas Cactus and the Norfolk Pine, most people don’t tend to keep the poinsettia around after it blooms. Reeves notes that after weeks indoors, poinsettias are usually “on their last legs and hardly worth saving. If you want to keep them, put the plants in a sunny window and water whenever the leaves wilt slightly.

“Give the plants some indoor houseplant fertilizer at half strength in early January, repeating every four weeks until April,” he continues. “The poinsettia can be put outside in a semi-shaded location then.”

At this point, the poinsettia can be replanted in a larger pot or in a flower bed. If it is fertilized, it will grow upwards of 4 feet tall by September. Of course, it will need to be cut back at least twice during the summer to keep it small enough to take back indoors in the fall.

“In my opinion, it is too much trouble to go through the gyrations needed to once again achieve the brilliant coloration on the plant that attracted you in the first place,” writes Reeves.

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