What to Do With Holiday Plants Now That Holidays Are Over
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Either you bought or received a gift plant for the holidays, now what do you do with them? You can keep them from year to year with a little TLC and maybe some re-potting and fertilizer!
Poinsettias are perennials native to Mexico. There they grow to become large shrubs, which incidentally naturally bloom at Christmas time. Poinsettias are commercially grown in greenhouses as an annual plant. Most people dispose of or compost their plants after the holiday season. If you want to keep your poinsettia and have it bloom the following year, follow these simple steps. Once the bracts begin to fade remove the flowers. Fertilize once a month with a water-soluble fertilizer, following label directions. Before moving the plant outdoors, pinch the plant to the height of 2 to 4 inches. Pinch the tips several times during the summer to encourage a bushy plant. When all danger of frost has passed, place your plant in a partially shaded location in the yard until fall. Keep watered and fertilized. Check the plant to see if it needs repotting in early summer. In September, place the plant in a room with no light for 13 hours each day. Be sure to put the plant in a sunny location the rest of the day. After about 9 to 11 weeks, the poinsettia should begin to show color.
Once the individual blossoms begin to fade, remove them from the flower stalks. Leave the stalks until they are faded. Water the plant just often enough to keep the soil slightly moist, and apply a light fertilizer once a month until spring. Once temperatures are at or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and danger of frost has past, move your amaryllis in its container outside and place in a protected location. After that transition time there are two options. One is to plant the container with the amaryllis bulb halfway into the soil. The other is to plant the bulb directly into the ground. Either way, place in a site that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Keep an eye on the bulb throughout the summer. You may need to water and fertilize depending on your rain and plant nutrient needs. Slugs, snails and voles are pests that may be problems, monitor your plants throughout the growing season. Once the foliage begins to die down, in late summer, dig the bulb from the garden and plant in a pot and bring indoors. If in a pot, just bring indoors after carefully cleaning the exterior of the container. Cut off any roots growing out of the bottom of the pot. Allow the pot to stay dry until the foliage completely dies. After that time, store in a cool, dark and dry place for a minimum of 2 months. Count back 5 to 8 weeks from time you want it to bloom and at that time, resume watering. Place bulb in a cool location with bright, indirect light. Water sparingly until you see sprouting. Increase watering so soil stays moist through the blooming season.
Holiday cactus are known for their colorful tubular flowers and ease of care. Often they are passed from family member to family member. Did you know there are several varieties of holiday cactus including Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter cactus? To tell the difference, look at the leaves. Christmas cactus have flattened leaves with rounded teeth on the margin. Thanksgiving cactus have pointed teeth. Easter cactus have pointed teeth with fibrous hairs in the leaf joints. Usually, the plant will bloom close to the holiday suggested in its name. Greenhouse growers and florists often force the plant to bloom at a specific time. Most plants sold at Christmas are Thanksgiving cactus, so remember next year, the plant you have will bloom around the time of the holiday it is named after.
Once your cactus has stopped blooming continue to grow the plant as a houseplant. It can be placed outside in a shady location after all danger of frost has passed. Soil should be well drained and most container soils will work. Fertilize monthly between April and October with a complete houseplant fertilizer. Prune plants in June to encourage branching and more flowers. Just remove a few sections of each stem with your fingers or a sharp knife. The removed pieces can be rooted in moist vermiculite to make more plants. Plants like to be slightly pot bound for maximum blooming.
To encourage blooming, the plants must have 14 hours of darkness and 8 to 10 hours of daylight for 6 weeks. Another requirement is to be in a cool room of about 50 to 55 degrees. If temperature is above 68 degrees, they will not bloom. Follow these simple steps and your plant should re-bloom each year.
For more information or questions contact Shannon Newton, Area Horticulture Extension Agent, by phone at 910-875-3461 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.