Holiday plants, which include poinsettias, Christmas Cactus, Kalanchoe, Cyclamen, and spring bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and amaryllis (which have been forced to bloom now), and others, are great to receive or give to someone.
However, how many know how to care for them, which should include:
- Location and specific light needs (including intensity and duration).
- Temperature requirements.
- Watering/fertilizing needs (including amount and frequency).
- Potential problems they can expect (including diseases, insects, etc.).
- How long they should last?, etc.
Although these plants often come with “care tags”, they aren’t always as complete or as accurate as they should be, especially in our area.
To aid you in this endeavor, I offer the following suggestions:
- Location and light needs – Place your plants carefully where they will not only thrive, but also look their best, usually near a bright sunny window away from drafts. They need preferably bright light for a minimum of 5-6 hours.
- Temperature requirements – Avoid sudden temperature changes, (cool to hot or hot to cool). Allow your plants to adjust, too much of a change can cause flower bud or leaf drop. As stated above, avoid drafts. Most do best where daytime temperatures are in the low 70’s with cooler temperatures at night.
- Watering needs – Water should be preferably at room temperature. Keep off of foliage. Plants should tell you when they need water. For most plants, the soil should be moist to the touch. Put a saucer beneath your plants to collect excess water, which should later be removed. (I use a bulb baster to accomplish this task.) Excess water can rot roots and ultimately kill your plants. Like us, plant roots also need oxygen.
- Fertilizer needs – most plants come with adequate fertilizer to last 2-3 months. If you feel the need to apply a controlled slow release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, Dynamite, or 6-6-6 to the soil surface, avoid getting particles caught among the leaves.
Anticipated problems may be:
- Premature flower drop – usually due to improper care, lack of/too much water, insufficient/too intense lighting.
- Insects/diseases – usually minimal. Sporadically check for aphids on new growth; spider mites if home interior is excessively hot and dry; white fly scale (including mealy bugs on undersides of leaves.
- Leaf spots – usually due to cold water on leaf surface.
- Yellowing leaves – too much/too little water.
If given proper environment and cultural care, most will last thru the holiday season. Spring bulbs will decline first followed by Christmas cactus, amaryllis, kalanchoe, and poinsettias.
No matter which plants you choose to purchase or receive for the holidays, proper care will keep them healthy.