Archive for Sunday, December 7, 2003

Holiday plants need plenty of attention

December 7, 2003


The Christmas season is quickly approaching.

Many homes and offices are starting to shine with the magnificent life of gorgeous holiday plants. Poinsettias, Christmas and Thanksgiving Cacti are in full bloom sprucing up otherwise dreary spaces. There are several tips you should know when it comes to caring for these plants.

Modern poinsettia varieties stay attractive for a long time if given proper care. Place your poinsettia in a sunny window or the brightest area of the room, but do not let it touch cold window panes. The day temperature should be 65 to 75 degrees with 60-65 degrees at night. Temperatures above 75 degrees will shorten bloom life, and below 60 degrees may cause root rot. Do not place the plant on top of a television set or near heat registers as it will get too warm. Likewise, move them away from windows at night or draw drapes between the two to avoid damage from the cold.

Poinsettias are somewhat finicky when it comes to soil moisture. Avoid over-watering as poinsettias do not like "wet feet." On the other hand, if the plant is allowed to wilt, it will drop leaves. Examine the potting soil daily by sticking your finger about one inch deep into the soil. If it is dry to this depth, the plant needs water. To water, temporarily remove the plant from the plastic or foil wrapping, then pour enough lukewarm water over the soil surface so water runs out of the bottom drainage holes. Wait for the water to stop dripping before returning the plant to the decorative wrapping. Do not water again until it is needed.

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) are epiphytes native to the jungles of South America. Epiphytic plants grow on other plants and use them for support but not for nutrients. Though these cacti are different species, they will hybridize and produce varying stem shapes. Christmas cactus normally has smooth stem segments, and Thanksgiving Cactus has hook-like appendages on each segment.

Both of these cacti prefer bright, indirect light. Too much sun can result in the leaves turning yellow. Common household temperatures are fine. The soil should be kept constantly moist but not waterlogged. Give them a light fertilization every other week. Blooming will normally cease in late winter to early spring, but continue to keep them moist and fertilized until fall. During the fall, stop fertilizing and give the plants enough water so the stems do not shrivel in order to encourage flower bud formation. If treated properly, the plants will bloom again for you next holiday season.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.