Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Amy Ivy On Holiday Gift Plant Care

poinsettiasIf you were lucky enough to receive a gift plant or flower arrangement over the holidays, you may be wondering how to help it last as long as possible.

The most critical factors, and this goes for all houseplants, is to water them properly and be sure the excess water can drain out. Some potting mixes are loose and drain quickly while others are more dense and hold water longer.  It’s essential to look closely and give your plants as much water as they need, when they need it, rather than setting a schedule of watering everything once a week.

The ideal way to water is to bring the pots to a sink so you can use plenty of water and let the excess drain away. If the pots are too heavy to move, check the saucers after watering and drain off any standing water. A turkey baster works well for this task.

Tips for Caring for Particular Holiday Plants

Poinsettias are the easiest and should hold their bright color well into winter. The best tip here is to remove the foil from around the pot and keep it in a saucer. The foil holds excess water out of sight so it is very easy to overwater. You don’t want any plants to sit in standing water for more than a half hour. If you really like the decorative look of the foil then take the plant to the sink for watering, remove the foil and let the water drain out, then replace the foil around the pot.

Cyclamen are beautiful even after their flowers fade but with proper watering the flowers should last several weeks. The key to watering cyclamen is to keep water away from the large bulb, or corm, from which they grow. Lift up the leaves to find this corm then direct the water around it. Let the pot drain well before returning it to its location. Cyclamen like sunny, cool conditions so this is one houseplant that should thrive on a windowsill this time of year.

Christmas Cactus:  The important thing to know about Christmas cactus is that it’s a jungle cactus, not a desert cactus. This means it does not want to dry out completely and it does not like direct sunlight. A new plant may drop its flower buds during the transition from the store to your home, but as long as its needs are met it should re-bloom again this winter and for years to come.

Amaryllis grow from a giant bulb. The first growth they push out is their flower bud, followed by long, strap-like leaves. They are pretty much fool-proof their first year.  If you keep it to bloom a second year it may produce new leaves but no flowers. Once this happens you might as well start over with a new bulb. They need to grow under ideal conditions in order to produce flowers again.

Flower Arrangements: If you received a flower arrangement, keep an eye on the water level and never let it dry out. Some arrangements are made using floral foam, also called Oasis® as the base, which is a dense sponge-like material. Make sure this block of foam is always sitting in at least an inch or two of water so it can remain saturated. Arranging into this foam is a breeze; you just shove the flower and branch stems into it and they stay in place, allowing you to create a nice, full arrangement.

Photo courtesy University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

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Amy Ivy is a Regional Vegetable and Berry Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program. Amy also often leads local foods production research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. She can be reached at 518-570-5991,

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