A Christmas Gift
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The holidays are upon us, and how quickly do they come! It amazes me how tradition has affected so many facets of our life. Just consider how the calendar influences our thinking. Spring encourages gardening and flower planting. Summer sings lazy, sunny days at the beach. Fall shouts pumpkin, even without Halloween. Winter brings in the holidays which can mean so many things to different folks. Horticulturally speaking, winter thoughts of specific plants usually accompany these seasons. Let’s look and see if these following selections speak to you personally.
In no particular order, I imagine the number one most popular flower for the Holiday season has got to be the poinsettia. Originating in Central America requires it to be grown as a tropical and highlighted as a house plant. It flourishes in bright indirect light with indoor temperatures of 65-70 degrees. Avoid placing your poinsettia near drafts, heat ducts, fireplaces, fans, or space heaters. All of these can have a drying effect and cause damage to your plant. Poinsettias prefer moist soil that does not dry out. Never allow them to dry out to the point of wilting. Saturated soils will cause root rot though.
Gaining in popularity is the Amaryllis, a flowering bulb native to South Africa and known for its huge floral display. The Amaryllis prefers bright direct sunlight; a minimum of four hours in a southern exposure is great, an eastern or western exposure would be the next best option. They are available in a wide range of flower colors including red, white, pink, orange, salmon, or bicolored, and typically have two to six flowers per stalk. It likes evenly moist soil, or you may try the new method of waxed bulbs, which require no soil or water through the first flowering period. It uses energy stored in the bulb. After flowering, you can peel the wax off and plant the bulb as normal.
Another lesser known but gaining momentum is the cyclamen, a fairly easy to care for houseplant. Originating in the woodlands of Eurasia, it prefers cool temperatures. Flower colors range from white, all shades of pink, lavender, and red to accentuate the seasons décor. Cyclamens prefer bright indirect light, possibly near an east facing window. Overwatering can quickly lead to rot, so water from below or set the container in a shallow pan to allow the water to wick up the soil into the root zone. Allow the soil’s surface to feel dry to the touch before watering again. To encourage continuous blooming remove spent blossoms by twisting the stem and pulling sharply at the base.
How about the Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus? We often name it by when they bloom; of course, the Thanksgiving cactus will bloom about four weeks before the Christmas cactus blooms. You can tell them apart by the shape of the stem segments or the color of the pollen. The Thanksgiving cactus has more crab-like pinchers on the distal end of each stem segment where the Christmas are more rounded. The Thanksgiving cactus anthers (the pollen-producing male flower parts) are yellow and are a purplish brown on the Christmas cactus. They both like bright light and moist soil. Allow the soil to become dry to the touch before watering.
If the gifting season brings you a plant you are not sure how best to nurture, or for more information, contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent, at 910-671-3276, by Email at Mack_Johnson@nscu.edu, or visit our website at visit our website.