With the holidays a distant memory, you may have received or purchased a holiday plant. Below are a few tips about the care required for traditional holiday plants.
The bright red poinsettia is more easily established for outdoor use than other colors, such as pink, white or burgundy. This is a ‘short day’ plant, meaning it blooms when days are short, and nights are long. Blooming requires an extended period of darkness. If planted near artificial light, such as a street light or exterior house lighting, after October 1, there will be a delay in flowering.
This tropical plant likes temperatures in the area of 75-80 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night. Indoors, don’t fertilize and only water when the soil is dry. You can plant poinsettias outside after the last chance of frost has passed. In Central Florida, that usually means after mid-February.
Outdoors, it should be located in the sun and away from artificial light. This plant has received a bad reputation as being poisonous, but it’s not. There is white, milky sap in the stem. However, if you are allergic to latex, you are probably better off not handling this plant.
Amaryllis is a bulb that produces large, trumpet-shaped flowers which can be planted in containers or in the ground. It can reach a height and spread of 1-3 feet and makes a big impact when planted in groups of 10 or more. Plant this bulb between September and January.
Amaryllis performs best in partial shade and well in the sun. You can leave bulbs in the ground for years or dig them up and replant them during September and October. If you dig up the bulbs instead of leaving them in the ground, remove the foliage and store them in an area that is dry and shaded for a period of 6-8 weeks before replanting.
Gardenia produces fragrant white flowers and has glossy, dark green leaves. It can reach a height and spread of 4-8 feet. Full sun to partial shade provides the best flowering. After flowering has been completed, the plant can be pruned, which is generally mid-summer. Pruning after October 1 will decrease blooming the following year. Gardenia can be used as a hedge, groundcover, in mass plantings or as a specimen plant.
Christmas cactus is also a ‘short day’ plant. For it to bloom during the holidays, move it to a dark area from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily for six weeks. After blooming has ended, place it in bright light. If indoors, place the plant within 6 feet of a window. Light exposure in a north window is not effective. Flowers vary in color from white to pink to red and more. This plant is great in containers on a front porch, lanai or as a houseplant.
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