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Holiday Plant Care

FRANKLIN LIVING—

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and it is time to shower friends, family and co-workers with gifts and gratitude. This year you might want to consider giving something green to your loved ones – and no, I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about plants! Plants are the gift that keep giving year after year. Here are some basic indoor plant care and tips on keeping specific holiday plants alive for years to come.

PLANT CARE 101

  • Proper watering is crucial to keeping indoor plants alive. Plants in small pots tend to dry out quickly. However, over-watering is just as harmful as under-watering. Check water needs daily. Protect your furniture with a saucer or a plastic lid slightly larger than the pot. It’s often best to discard water collected in saucers to ensure the potting soil has an opportunity to dry in between watering. Make sure you remove foil from gift plants, and always confirm there are drain holes in the bottom of the pot.
  • Lighting is also important to indoor plants. Put your plants where they will get high levels of indirect light, like near a well-lit window but not directly in the sun. Few indoor plants can endure direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Conversely, low light levels can lead to spindly plant growth, low bloom count and even premature death.
  • Normal household temperatures, 60-75 degrees, are sufficient for most plants. High temperatures can shorten the life of your plants, while cooler temperatures can lengthen their life. Avoid rapidly changing temperatures and keep plants away from drafts and heating vents.

Try these tips for taking proper care of a few quintessential holiday plants:

  • Poinsettia: Poinsettias prefer bright, indirect light and must be kept from drafts and rapid temperature changes. When the soil starts to feel dry, water it, but do not let the plant sit in water. Room temperatures should be 65-70 degrees during the day and cooler at night. While the plant is growing, apply a complete fertilizer every couple of weeks or so.
  • Christmas Cactus: Christmas cacti are, in general, easier to care for than poinsettias. These succulents like the soil moist but not soggy, so remember not to overwater. When blooms have faded, move the plant to a cool room and reduce watering to a minimum. When buds begin to reappear, move the plant back to the warmer room, resume watering and lightly fertilize. Bud drop could indicate a draft or sudden temperature change, a need for repotting or that the room temperature is too high.
  • Amaryllis: Amaryllis care is relatively simple. To pot an amaryllis bulb, fill the bottom part of the container with potting soil and place the bulb inside so the top 1/3 of the bulb is sticking up above soil level once the pot is filled. Water plants well to begin with and then only water when the potting soil appears dry. It will usually take three to six weeks for amaryllis to flower when grown in a bright, sunny spot. Place the plant in a cooler location once flowers appear to help blossoms last longer. Once all of the flowers have faded, the flower stalks should be cut off where they emerge from the leaves and the plant left to grow on in a sunny location.
  • Christmas Tree:We couldn’t talk about holiday plants without mentioning Christmas tree care! Here are a few tips to help you keep those needles nice and green all season long: keep it watered regularly and avoid high temperatures; if a tree has been stored out of water few days, it is a good idea to make a fresh cut on the trunk: remove a disk about half an inch thick to provide a clean fresh surface for water uptake; choose a tree stand that is sturdy and can hold a large amount of water; the water level should be checked and refilled daily; your tree should be placed away from heat sources like a fireplace, and if possible, replace hot incandescent light strings with new cool-burning LED lights; when trees do dry out, they should be removed.

For more information contact your local Extension Office!


Taylor Reeder is a Regional Extension Agent specializing in Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests.