Holiday Plant Care

cyclamenSome of the brightest holiday colors come from potted flowers, often presented as gifts. Here are some tips for keeping them healthy and blooming.

AMARYLLIS
Plant the bulb in a light soilless mixture. Water the bulb thoroughly once, then again only when the soil mix is dry to the touch. Amaryllisbulbs can tolerate dryness but not soggy conditions. Place the pot in a bright location, out of direct sunlight and away from cool drafts or warm heating vents. Because the flower stalk grows quickly and leans toward light, rotate the pot often to ensure even growth. When the plant finishes flowering, pinch off the faded blooms and allow the stalk to wither before cutting it down. Most amaryllis bulbs will produce leaves at this time to manufacture food for next year's growth.

FLOWERING AZALEA
A healthy azalea will bloom for almost two months in winter given a minimum of attention. Place the plant in a bright spot out of direct sun. Do not allow the soil to dry out; keep it evenly moist at all times. As individual flowers fade, remove them to encourage new flower production. Mist the foliage during the dry months of winter. By mid-May, move the plant outdoors where it receives morning sun. Fertilize once a month with a dilute 10-10-10 solution. Bring the plant indoors before the first frost and enjoy a second year of flowers.

CYCLAMEN
With proper care, cyclamen flowers will last for weeks. Place the plant in a cool area and water only when the soil is dry to the touch. Avoid splashing water on the leaves. Fertilize with a dilute 10-10-10 solution until the plant stops flowering and moves into its dormant period.

IVY TOPIARY
These trained plants make popular holiday gifts and can last several seasons. Ivy prefers cool conditions and bright light, away from direct sun and heating vents. Mist the plant regularly with room temperature water. As the plant grows, continue to wind or train the stems around the wire frame to maintain the topiary shape. Pinching off some of the new growth will encourage the ivy stems to branch out.
When all danger of frost has passed, place the plant in an outdoor, semishaded area. In spring and summer the plant will actively grow and should be fertilized regularly with a dilute 10-10-10 solution. Keep the soil evenly moist and continue regular misting and pruning. Bring the plant back indoors next fall before the first frost and place it in a bright but cool location.

POINSETTIA
Poinsettia plants will remain healthy and lush throughout the holidays with the proper care. Poinsettias prefer six hours of bright light but must be kept away from direct sun, cool drafts, and heating vents. Keep the soil evenly moist and punch holes in foil liners to allow for proper drainage. If the soil is allowed to dry, the plants will wilt and lose leaves. However, saturated soil conditions can promote root rot and insect problems.

MOTH ORCHID
The Phalaenopsis orchid is one of the easiest to grow under normal home conditions. Place orchid plants in bright, indirect light, away from direct sun and drafts. Orchids prefer warm rooms with high humidity. Water sparingly and avoid pooling water where the leaves attach to the crown of the plant. Flowers are produced on a long slender stalk, and will open one at a time. The blossoms will last several weeks before dropping off the stem. Allow the stalk to yellow and wither before cutting it off at the plant's base. Fertilize the orchid once a month with a dilute fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or orchid mixture. When a new stem and flower buds appear, stop fertilizing and enjoy the delicate blossoms again.