There are so many choices of flowering holiday plants these days. Chrysanthemums and poinsettias are still the most popular, but hydrangeas, azaleas, gardenias, jasmine, rosemary and ivy topiaries, Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti (schlumbergera hybrids, sometimes sold as zygocacti), kalanchoe and all types of flowering bulbs are on sale from October to December. Here a few tips on keeping your holiday plants fresh and in bloom for weeks.
First the general care guidelines for all holiday plants:
▪ Keep them inside the warm car when you bring them home. Even a quick chill can kill them.
▪ Remove all paper or foil wrappings and water them immediately in the sink with tepid water to soak the root ball. Many flowering holiday plants are rootbound (there are more roots in the pot than soil) and will need frequent, thorough watering.
▪ Find a spot, maybe temporary, that has bright, indirect light and that is away from drafts and heat vents. Most holiday plants are outdoor types; keep them in the coolest place in the house or on a sheltered patio and move them into the spotlight when company comes.
▪ Place some sort of saucer or protection under the plant to catch water before it ruins the carpet or dining table. Don’t let the plant stand in a saucer full of water.
Now here are specifics you need to know:
▪ Chrysanthemums are one of the few flowering houseplants that tolerate and need several hours of direct sun daily. Buy mums with one-third unopened buds to keep them in flower longer and turn the pot every day or two to promote even blooming.
▪ Poinsettias: New hybrids of these semi-tropical plants are more tolerant of cold and temperature changes, but they do need high humidity. Mist them daily or take them into the bathroom with you when you shower. The actual flower buds on poinsettias are the little yellow or green beads in the middle of the colorful bracts. Poinsettias with unopened buds will last the longest.
▪ Flowering bulbs (paperwhites, amaryllis, hyacinths): These really don’t do well in dry, warm indoor conditions. Keep them near the steamy kitchen sink (out of direct sun) and monitor water levels in the potting medium frequently.
▪ Rosemary and ivy topiaries: Rosemary topiaries need direct sun to keep their stems from rotting. Ivy topiaries dry out quickly and household dust and the spider mites that live in the dust will quickly kill them. Both are best kept outside or misted daily. Wash dust off topiaries weekly with tepid water.
▪ Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti: The schlumbergera family naturally flower in winter when there is less light. They can thrive indoors and are long-lived if they’re placed in a spot with indirect light now and given a rest after bloom with less water and no fertilizer. Mist daily or place the pot on wet pebbles to increase humidity.
▪ Kalanchoe: Kalanchoe are sold in flower throughout the year, but naturally bloom in winter. They require bright, indirect sun in winter and will do well on a south-facing windowsill. Water them thoroughly when the soil surface is dry.
▪ Hydrangeas, azaleas, gardenias, jasmine topiaries: All are landscape plants that tend to be severely rootbound. Keep them very well watered and as cool as possible. Place them outdoors in a sheltered spot when they’ve finished blooming and transplant into the garden in early spring.
Send Elinor Teague plant questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.