Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2009
Regional Report

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Flowering holiday plants can last well beyond the season.

Success with Holiday Plants

The holiday season comes alive with many flowering and fruiting plants, and many of them will last long after the holidays have become a memory if you are willing to give them some sensible care.

Available in shades of red, pink, white, and marbled, these are traditional favorites. Plant breeders continually develop new varieties with desirable traits, like lots of side branches and long-lasting color. Commercial growers plant these as cuttings, pinch them to encourage bushiness, treat them with growth regulators, and give them a photoperiod treatment so they're at their prime by early December.

With the proper care these new poinsettias will hold their colorful bracts into summer, well beyond their primary period of enjoyment. Keep your plant away from freezing temperatures, avoid placing it in overheated or drafty rooms, and don't allow it to become bone dry, as these conditions will shorten the poinsettia's life.

If you receive or purchase a plant with decorative foil wrap enclosing the container, poke holes in it to expose the drainage holes and allow water to drain out. Poinsettias won't tolerate wet feet.

Locate the plant where it will receive as much bright winter light as possible. A sunny window with bright, indirect light is ideal, but avoid direct sun that may fade the bracts. Keep the foliage from touching cold glass panes. Place the plant away from doors that open frequently, heating registers, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves.

The best temperature range for the poinsettia is 65 to 70 degrees F. Water when the soil surface turns a lighter color or feels dry to the touch. After watering, remove any excess water that stands in the drainage saucer.

Cyclamen is an old-fashioned favorite that likes cool temperatures. Choose a plant with lots of buds instead of many open flowers. To prolong flowering, give the plant bright, filtered light and temperatures of about 50 to 55 degrees F. at night and 60 to 65 degrees F. during the day. Make sure the plant has good drainage and is kept uniformly moist. These plants do best with some extra humidity, so it's a good idea to place the pot on a pebble tray.

When the cyclamen has finished flowering, place it in a shady spot and allow the leaves to die back naturally. Dead stems and leaves can be gently pulled off. Keep the soil barely moist during this transition period, and don't fertilize.

In mid-June the cyclamen should be carefully re-potted in a sterilized potting mixture. Make sure to leave the upper half of the small corm above the soil level to prevent rotting. Keep the newly potted plant out of direct sunlight. Start fertilizing with a flowering plant food on a monthly basis, and keep the soil moist. In mid-September make sure the plant has cool night temperatures between 50 to 55 degrees F. to induce flowering. You can remove flower buds that form before October.

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