Flowering plants are good Christmas gifts, and they can be a reminder of the giver for months to come. But how you take care of a gift plant will govern how long it will remain attractive in your home.
One word of caution for those planning to give a holiday plant: to make certain your gift is still living when you present it, don't subject it to freezing or other adverse conditions between the point of purchase and its final home. Even a few minutes in an unheated car, or the time it takes to move from the store to the car in freezing weather can cause serious flower or foliage damage.
You really don't need a lot of gardening experience to keep quality in holiday plants. If you follow a few simple suggestions, the plants and their flowers will last for weeks after the holiday season.
- Set the plants in bright light, but not in direct sunlight
- Keep them as cool as possible
- Keep them out of drafts
- Make certain the soil is kept moist but not soggy
- Remove the flowers when they fade
- Once plants begin to flower, they need a lot of light to maintain their quality
South, east, or west windows provide the most light at this time of year. Avoid full sun, which tends to fade blooms. It is also a good idea to turn the plant weekly to keep it growing straight. If you have to set your holiday plant in a poorly lighted room, put it as close to artificial light as possible.
Just remember that incandescent lights give off heat, which may dry the plant. Consider moving it to a well-lighted location for several days during the week. The cooler indoor temperatures we now tend to keep our houses at is ideal for most flowering plants. Generally, 65 to 75 degrees F in the day and 50 to 55 degrees F at night will not harm the plants. Locations near windows are often a bit cooler than other spots in a room. You also have the advantage of extra light near the window.
It is important to realize that most holiday plants are produced under rather intensive conditions. They are not able to withstand moisture extremes around their roots. The roots will be severely damaged if they become bone dry or waterlogged.
At this time of year, the indoor air is dry and plants tend to lose water quickly and open flowers lose water much faster than foliage. When you water, add enough so a portion of the water passes through the drain holes in the bottom of the pot. It is very easy to prevent a water-logged condition by discarding this extra drain water.
Light applications of soluble fertilizer can be used to retain foliage quality of your plant. Generally, one quarter the rate suggested for the growing season will be just about right.
Don't be disappointed if your plant doesn't last too long after the holidays -- they were produced under ideal conditions, which you cannot duplicate in the home. Most holiday plants can be cut back after a few weeks and grown for use outdoors in spring and summer.
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