Friday, December 26, 2014

How to save that poinsettia and other gift plants

Close up of red poinsettia flowers.
Close up of red poinsettia flowers.

Holiday gift plants have it hard. They light up the house during the festivities, but the only thanks plants like poinsettias and mums get in return is neglect. If you received plants as gifts this holiday season, it’s not too late to save them. Provide a little TLC, and that once-gorgeous plant will light up your house again next December.

Amaryllis planted now may even give you a repeat bloom come summer. Fertilize the plant weekly with a half-strength solution of bulb food until the bloom is completely spent. Then plant in a container in loose, well-draining potting soil. If you are in a climate with harsh winters, keep the potted bulb inside in a bright location until early spring when you can transition it outdoors. If you live in a mild winter climate, put the potted bulb outdoors in a sheltered location.

Azaleas can only survive indoors for two to four weeks, at which point they will suffer greatly from the warm, dry air. This means transitioning the plant outdoors now. Place it in a protected area of the yard, such as under a patio cover and close to the house, for a week. Then plant the azalea in a container in acidic potting mix. If you want to grow it in the ground, wait until early spring to transition it to a semi-shade spot in the yard.

Cyclamen fare the best outdoors, because they like cool weather, so transition this plant out now. If repotting is necessary, do so in a rich potting soil. Place the plant in a partly sunny outdoor location. Cyclamen are corms, which are bulb-like roots that like things on the dry side, so only water when the top inch of soil has dried.

Kalanchoe bloom indoors for several weeks, providing they are given medium to bright light and are kept on the dry side. Water when the top two inches of soil has dried. Once the kalanchoe finishes blooming, if you live in a mild winter climate, place it outdoors in a sunny spot. Where winter temperatures are harsh, keep the plant indoors in a sunny window until early spring, at which time it can be transitioned outdoors.

Mums bloom indoors for two to three weeks. Place the plant in a sunny window and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. When the blooms fade, plant the chrysanthemum outdoors in a well-draining, full-sun location. If you live in a harsh climate and are unable to plant in the ground at this time, keep the potted mum outdoors in a sunny location until planting is possible in early spring.

Poinsettias, a hallmark of the holiday season, last for a couple of months indoors, as long as you provide bright light and only water them when the top inch of soil has dried out. Also, apply a liquid fertilizer at half-strength every two weeks. In late March, plant your poinsettia outdoors in a sunny, well-draining area of the yard. To get blooms next year, make sure to plant in an area that is not exposed to street lights, as poinsettias require 12 hours of total darkness a day starting in October to bloom.

Julie Bawden-Davis
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