The Christmas season is here, and many people are in the process of decorating or have already decorated their homes.
The one plant that everyone associates with Christmas is the poinsettia. A traditional red poinsettia conveys the holiday spirit like no other plant. Holly, cedar, pine and other evergreens also are used to give homes the holiday feel, but there are other plants that have great flowers or foliage that can be used.
Some of these are Christmas cactus and cyclamen, which can give you weeks to months of color in your home.
To be successful, plan ahead before purchasing these plants and bringing them home. The first aspect to look at is the amount of light available in the area where the plants will be placed. Buy the plant that will work best in that area. Next, when buying the plants, inspect them 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 poinsettias to other houseplants. Look for a sticky substance on top of the leaves and dots on the underside that look like scale insects. These dots are the eggs of the whiteflies.
Choose a plant that is not wilted, has a healthy root system, and one in which the buds are fully developed but has few flowers. The more flowers that are on the plant when you buy it, the fewer flowers you will have for the remainder of the season.
One mistake 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. Don't do this. These plants are tropical and 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 for 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 home, you can remove the covers and spread the plants out. Poinsettias will last longer if they are given the chance to spread out. Also, don't place the plants near areas that get cold drafts or excessive heat. Don't put them near fireplaces, heating ducts or appliances. These heat sources will dry them out faster and increase their water needs.
With poinsettias, make sure that the plant doesn't dry out. This will cause the leaves to drop off. Remove the decorative foil or container from around the plant to ensure good water drainage. If you don't remove the foil or container, you could over-water and cause root rot.
Also, don't fertilize poinsettias during the blooming season. This 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, including pale to deep pink, red, purple, yellow and gold.
Place the cactus in bright, indirect sunlight. If you start losing flower buds and flowers after moving the plant, that could be a result of a change in the amount of light the plant receives. Allow the soil to dry between waterings.
Cyclamen have flower blooms in many colors as well. They come in white, pink, lavender, purple, red and bicolor. Cyclamen need bright, diffused light, not direct sunlight. Cyclamen need to be placed in areas that have high humidity, or they need to be misted or potted and placed on pebbles in a dish of water. 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, buy from a local or Georgia grower. These plants usually keep better.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.