The Christmas season is here and many are in the process of decorating, or already have decorated, their homes.
Holly, cedar, pine and other evergreens are used to give homes the holiday feel, but there are other plants that are used to make your home festive. The one plant that everyone associates with Christmas is the poinsettia.
A traditional red poinsettia conveys the holiday spirit like no other plant. But other plants that have great flowers or foliage can be used as well.
Christmas cacti and cyclamen are plants that can give you weeks to months of color in your home.
If you are going to be successful with these plants, you need to plan before you bring them home.
First, look at the amount of light that is available in the area where you want to use the plants and buy the plant that will work best there. Next, when you go to the store to buy the plants, inspect the plants for hitchhikers: Are there any insects or disease problems?
One of the main pest problems on poinsettia is silverleaf whiteflies. They can spread from your 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.
You want a plant that is not wilted, has a healthy root system, and one on which the flower buds are fully developed but has few developed flowers on the plant. The more flowers on the plant when you buy it, the fewer flowers you will have for the remainder of the season.
One mistake that people make when buying holiday plants is transporting them home the wrong way. I have made this mistake myself. I have bought poinsettias on a cold day and walked outside the store and placed them in the trunk of the car.
You don't want to do this.
These plants are tropical plants and they don't like temperatures below 50 degrees. The ride home in a cold trunk can damage the plants and shorten their life, or cause them to lose their leaves or flowers. 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 to help maintain a higher air temperature around it.
Once you have the plants in your home, remove the covers and spread the plants out. Poinsettias will last longer if they are given the chance to spread out. Don't place the plants near areas that get cold drafts or excessive heat. You don't want them near fireplaces, heating ducts, or appliances. These heat sources will dry the plants out faster and increase their water needs.
With poinsettias, make sure the plant doesn't dry out, which will cause the leaves to drop off. Anytime that you water holiday plants, make sure that you remove the decorative foil or container from around the plant to insure good drainage. If you don't remove the container, you can over-water and cause root rot. Also, you don't fertilize poinsettias during the blooming season because it can cause a rapid decline of the plant quality.
Christmas cactus is native to the mountainous jungles of Brazil. They are true cacti. There are many bloom colors to choose from, such as pale to deep pink, red, purple, yellow and gold.
Place Christmas cactus in bright, indirect sunlight. They don't require direct sunlight.
If you start losing flower buds and flowers after moving the plant, you could have changed the amount of light that the plant was receiving. You will need to allow the soil to dry before watering.
Cyclamen have flower blooms in many colors as well. They come in white, pink, lavender, purple, red and bi-color. Cyclamen need bright diffused light, but not direct sunlight.
Place cyclamen in areas that have high humidity, or they need to be misted or their pot placed on pebbles in a dish of water. You do not let the pot touch the water. The soil needs to be kept moist at all times.
You can try different plants during the holidays to give a different look to your home. If you are going to buy plants for this holiday, let me encourage you to buy from a local or Georgia grower. These plants usually have better keeping quality.
Columbia County extension agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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