Holiday plants

It is that time of the year that we start to fill our homes with all sorts of plant goods. There is the real Christmas tree, the wreaths, garland, flowers and other plants. Where does a gardener even start? Once you have all of the plants together in your home, then there is the task of keeping them all cared for during all of the activities that are going on through Christmas and the New Year.

Poinsettias: The poinsettia thrives on bright, sunny natural daylight; at least six hours daily is recommended. Placement near a sunny window is ideal. To prolong the bright red of the bracts, temperatures ideally should not exceed 70°F during the day, or fall below 65°F at night. Be sure to avoid placing the plants near drafts, fluctuating air currents, excess heat and dry air from appliances, fireplaces or ventilating ducts. Chilling injury will occur if poinsettias are exposed to temperatures below 50° F. Frost will kill them.

Holiday cactus: Locate holiday cacti indoors in a cool, bright location where daytime temperatures are 65-70°F and evening temperatures are 55-65° F. If plants are exposed to cooler night temperatures of 55°F, plants will bloom in approximately 5-6 weeks, sometimes regardless of the day length. However, if the night temperature is 60-65°F, these plants must have at least 12 hours of complete darkness every night for about 6 weeks in order to bloom. Plants are unlikely to bloom if exposed to night temperatures above 65°F.

Norfolk Pine: To care for a Norfolk Island Pine, place it in a bright, sunny location. Be sure to spin your plant each week so that it doesn’t start to lean or grow toward the window and light. In general, Norfolk Island Pines can be kept at 65-72°F, but it is important not to expose them to extremes, both hot and cold. The minimum night time temperature this plant will tolerate is 50-55°F. The plant will perform best where night time temperatures are about 10°F cooler than the day temperatures.

Christmas trees: The most important part of having a real Christmas tree is the care that you give your tree after you leave the tree lot or farm. If you don’t intend to bring your tree in immediately, store it in an unheated garage or in a spot protected from sun and wind. When you bring the tree inside, remove the bottom 1″ of the trunk to allow the tree to more easily absorb water. Position the tree away from heat sources and place in a sturdy stand with a large water reservoir. You don’t need a commercial preservative to prolong freshness, just plenty of water. Fresh trees can use one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter each day, so be sure to use a tree stand that holds enough water for a 24-hour period. If the stand goes dry, water uptake will stop and your tree will dry out rapidly. Check the water level 2-3 times per day for the first few days and daily after that, always keeping the water level above that base of the tree.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com.

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