When the days are short and cold outside, a houseplant can be a saving grace, transforming a cold, sterile room into a welcoming space full of life and literally providing a breath of fresh air.
That’s why we like to fill our homes with Christmas plants in the winter. And with the right care and attention, we can return the favor, making our environments welcoming for our plants because they will want to live there.
“Most Christmas plants can thrive for years with the right conditions and care,” says Tim Pollak, outdoor florist at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. As with any garden, you need to take good care of your plants to keep them blooming this season and beyond.
These exotic-looking flowers (technically from the genus Hippeastrum) are renowned for their ability to thrive indoors, blooming four to six weeks after the bulb is planted. Some species send the flower forward before the leaves.
PLANT CARE TIPS: Place them in a bright light, don’t store them on a coffee table where low light will make them grow limp and shrivel. Turn the pot every few days to allow the plant to grow upright. Keep the soil evenly watered, but not flooded.
KEEP OR TOSS: Hide! Once the flowers are gone, cut the stem but save the leaves to help fill the bulb cavities. Step outside into a shaded area when the danger of frost has passed. In late summer or early fall, let the plant go dormant and put it in the garage or basement. Cut off any yellowing leaves and avoid them (no water!) until November, when you start watering and the growing cycle begins again.
These lovely-looking plants are as hardy as they seem and will bloom for months with little care, Pollak says, perhaps even in late spring.
PLANT CARE TIPS: Give orchids bright, indirect light. They are generally preferred on the cooler side indoors. Avoid sudden temperature changes, which cause buds to drop. Water once a week until the water runs out of the bottom of the pot (usually planted in a soilless growing area).
KEEP OR TOSS: Hide! Stand in a window that faces south, east, or west. Feed with a specific fertilizer for orchids. Water frequently, but in late summer, allow the foliage to dry out or wilt slightly for the plant to sprout new shoots. Once you see a new stem, start watering again but stop fertilizing.
Christmas cacti are so beautiful they could rival the beauty of your tree decorations. “This is one of the most hardy Christmas trees that can last for years,” says Pollak. Different species bloom at different times of the year, such as Thanksgiving and Easter.
PLANT CARE TIPS: Place in a bright window. Drops of flowers before opening may be due to heat or excessively dry soil. Water when dry, but do not let the plant sit in the water. “They’re succulents, so the pads get mushy and mushy if you water them too much,” Pollak said. Check the ship in seven to ten days.
KEEP OR TOSS: Hide! For flowers to develop next year, move the plant outside for about three weeks in late summer to early fall, move it indoors before temperatures drop to the mid-40s.They like to be potted, because that it does not need to be cultivated for many years. Fertilize monthly during the growing season from April to October.
Poinsettias are as classic as Christmas movies! “Choose plants with small yellow flowers, called cyathia, among colorful foliage,” says Gary Vollmer, director of product and technology for poinsettia breeder Selecta North America. If you choose a plant that sheds pollen or droopy yellow flowers, it’s past its prime and won’t last the entire season.
GARDENING TIP: Cover your poinsettia when transporting it home, especially if temperatures are in the 20s or below, and don’t leave it in the car while you run errands. Water when dry to the touch; overwatering is the most common way to kill them! Remove the paper wrap or pot lid (or poke holes in it) that is around the plant when you buy to make sure the plant is not in the water. Sprinkle sparingly, then let the water drain completely into the sink.
These cute little fern-like plants are the latest in the Christmas line. They are commonly found in high-end stores and nurseries. Keep it on your table or dining table; just looking at them will inspire some really meaningful Christmas card messages!
PLANT GARDENING TIP: Place in dim to medium light. They like constant humidity, so they do well in terrariums. Keep the soil moist. Use hot water from the room, not cold. Water from the bottom by placing it in a pan of water, letting it soak for 15 minutes, then remove the plant.
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