Holiday plants

first_imgBy Bodie V. PennisiUniversity of GeorgiaAs you decorate your home for the holidays, consider thesecolorful complements to the traditional poinsettias andevergreens.Christmas Cactus. This old-timefavorite gets its name from dependable holiday flowering.Actually, three related species look like Christmas cacti. Thethree types bloom faithfully at different times of the year:Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.They’ve been extensively hybridized to produce a wide range offlower colors: magenta, white, pink, salmon and orange.All holiday cacti need bright light and moderate moisture forbest growth and flowering. A south window is perfect. After thesix-week holiday blooming, remove spent flowers and apply ahouseplant fertilizer.Christmas Pepper. Thesegarden-pepper cultivars are selected for their fruit color andform. The peppers can be globe- or cone-shaped and yellow,orange, red, green or purple, with peak color for one to twomonths.The fruits will be brighter and last longer if you provide highlight and mild temperatures (60-75 degrees) and keep the soilmoist.Fertilize weekly with a soluble fertilizer. Be aware that thesepeppers are sometimes extremely hot. Keep them away from smallchildren.Gloxinia. Look for single orclustered, trumpet-shaped, red, violet-blue, pink, white orbicolored flowers. A 6-inch gloxinia will have a dozen or morebuds and will flower three to four weeks if properly cared for.The blooms last four to six days.Treat gloxinias as African violets: Avoid direct sunlight. Waterfrom the saucer with warm water (at least 70 degrees). Keep thesoil moist but not waterlogged. Avoid cold or hot drafts.Unlike African violets, gloxinias need to rest beforereflowering. When the leaves start to die back, water it lessoften. Allow the tuberous stem to rest two to four months in drysoil. Resume watering when new growth appears.Begonia. The Rieger (or hiemalis)begonia looks much like the garden tuberous and ‘nonstop’begonia. The leaves are somewhat glossy and can break easily.Both single and double flowers may be found on the same plant.Riegers are relatively tolerant of sun exposure and temperature.They prefer a slightly moist soil. A high-quality plant will beat least half-covered by flowers.Kalanchoe. A succulent plant withfleshy leaves, kalanchoe bears striking, bright clusters ofyellow, orange or red, long-lasting flowers. New multicoloredselections are available, too.This plant will be happy when warm and dry. However, droughtstress will shorten flower life. Feeding with houseplantfertilizer once a month helps. The plant will rebloom if youplace it in artificially short days for six to eight weeks.Amaryllis. A great spring bulb inthe garden, Amaryllis produces spectacular orange, red, white,pink and multicolored blooms. In pots, plants are generallyavailable from Christmas to Easter. They flower four to six weeksafter bulbs are planted.Individual blooms may last three to four days. To reflower, placethe plant in bright light (outdoors when temperatures permit).Let the foliage fully develop. Fertilize and water it all summer.In late summer or fall, as the leaves begin to die back, waterless often. When the leaves die, allow the soil to dry out. Placethe bulb in a cool, dry place four to eight weeks before resumingwatering.Cyclamen. These beauties show up instores from October through March. Attractive foliage and avariety of white, pink, lavender, purple, red or bicolor bloomsmake cyclamens excellent gift plants. They can flower for two tofour months with proper care.Cyclamens like cool indoor temperatures (50-60 degrees), so placethem on an east or north window. Take care when watering, asplants are easily damaged from over- or underwatering.After flowering has stopped, gradually water them less often.After the leaves die, allow the tuberous stem to remain dry sixweeks before rewatering.New foliage will appear after watering resumes. Bright light andcool temperatures, too, may sometimes produce a plant that willreflower.(Bodie Pennisi is an Extension Service horticulturist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)last_img

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