How to care for festive plants received as Christmas gifts.
The countdown has begun and there are just five days to go before Christmas day has arrived. All this fuss and preparation just for one day! But what lasts much longer are your festive plants which you might be lucky enough to receive. The three most popular plants
at Christmas are:
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima):
Poinsettia are unmistakable! Their red 'flowers' are actually leaf bracts, or modified leaves.
Probably the most recognisable of all Christmas plants. Did you know that it doesn't actually have red flowers? Those blooming wonderful delights, not only in red but also in pink and white, are actually bracts, which are modified leaves. There are even Poinsettias with glitter added to their flowers for sparkly effect.
Glittery Poinsettia have a certain charm!
- Beware of allowing your Poinsettia to sit in an icy draught (from the front door perhaps). Exposure for even a short time can damage the leaves and 'flowers'. It also prefers to be unwrapped as soon as possible because the stems can easily be damaged by paper wrapping.
- Position your festive plant near a sunny window or a well-lit area. But make sure it doesn't touch the window pane. It will appreciate a cooler room at night time if you want to extend the blooming time.
- Water your plant when the compost feels dry to the touch. Rainwater is always best. Soak the soil but don't allow your plant to stand in water. If you notice the leaves turning yellow, you've given it too much!
- You can fertilise your plant about once per month and hopefully the bracts will remain colourful for several months.
- Eventually you can prune the old flowering stems back to about 20cm long and the best time to do this is well after the festive season - around February or March.
- Keep the plant in a light and bright position and feed them every two weeks after pruning
Amaryllis make wonderful gifts. But did you know you can keep them going year after year? These bulbs just need a rest period and they will be ready for next Christmas.
Bulb planting kits
at Christmas are dominated by Amaryllis.
This group of festive plants are tall and lanky if they are allowed to grow from a plastic pot. They emerge from a giant bulb which can look graceful and impressive. But it can also look a bit silly. The key is all about placing it in a suitable pot so that it doesn't topple over. The flower stems appear very soon after planting and they grow so fast you can also see them move. The huge flowers are trumpet-shaped and they come in all sorts of amazing colours.
look amazing in groups rather than singly. And did you know that you can keep them going year after year?
Amaryllis come in all sorts of colours.
- The flowers can be white, pink, orange, red, or a combinations of these colours. the petals can be striped or speckled - or plain of course.
- After the flowers have faded, cut the stalk down to around 2cm above the bulb.
- Leave the leaves!
- Water and feed this festive plant regularly during the spring and summer and continue doing so for as long as it has green, growing foliage.
- You can take your plant outside during the warmer months of the year.
- During this time the bulb is producing enough energy to form a new bloom.
- When it goes dormant, cut down on watering and allow the soil to dry.
- Bring your bulb indoors before the first frost.
- Cut off all foliage down to about 4cms from the bulb.
- Place in a dark position.
- It can stay dry for up to 12 weeks.
- Pot it up and commence watering and feeding so the cycle can begin all over again.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
Christmas cactus is an interesting and unusual house plant that blooms at Christmas or just before.
This plant is actually a succulent rather than a true cactus, and it gains its common name of Christmas Cactus
because it can be persuaded to bloom during the festive season! If left to its natural habit it is likely to bloom in November or early December.
The Christmas cactus is a great festive plant that is easy to care for.
- Very easy to care for.
- The Christmas cactus will adapt to low light conditions, but the plant will produce blooms more readily if exposed to brighter light.
- Avoid direct sunlight.
- Water regularly - do not allow the plant to dry out completely.
- Feed the plant every month or so.
- Likes average to high humidity levels.
- You can keep the plant on a tray of pebbles to help this.
- Allow the plant to have a period of dormancy by reducing light and temperature, also cut down on watering.
- 14 hours of darkness is ideal during this time.
- Bring it back into the light and warmth to start the grow cycle off again.