By now we have cleaned up the fall leaves, shredded them and added them to the compost with all those Halloween pumpkins. As we retreat indoors, the florists and nurseries bring us bright red Poinsettia, Pink blooming Christmas cactus, colorful Amaryllis and scented Paperwhite flowers. Many flowering plants can last all December and even longer with a little TLC.
Poinsettia – Wrap your Poinsettia well for its trip home. Low temperatures, even briefly, can injure it. Poinsettias, tropical plants, and are used to 60 to 70 degrees temperatures in greenhouses. They like bright light from a window but do not tolerate drafts. Keep them from touching a cold window. Water enough to soak soil to the bottom of the pot when dry but don’t leave it sitting in water. Your Poinsettia can last well into spring.
Christmas Cactus- Holiday Cacti are easy to care for but are not dry, desert sun-loving or drought-loving cacti. They are actually rainforest natives of the Brazilian Organ Mountains. As epiphytes, they live in tree branches rooted in organic debris with plentiful rainfall December through March. Flowering requires short days. They bloom with 14-hour nights and day-light of 8 to 10 hours for 6 weeks. To force flowering, keep temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees. Once flowering, keep in bright, indirect light at 70 degrees with cooler evenings. Let soil dry slightly between waterings but never completely dry when in bloom. Unopened flower buds may drop due to low humidity, sudden temperature change or too dry soil.
Amaryllis produce 6 to 10 inch trumpet shaped flowers atop 1 to 2 foot stalks. Their large bulbs are usually bought singly in a kit with pot and growing medium. Follow kit directions. Once planted, there is nothing more to do than watering. Four to six weeks from dormancy beautiful blooms appear.
Paper White bulbs look like miniature white daffodils and can be planted in a medium of stones or soil and then watered. I usually discard these bulbs after blooming.
To read more of Joanne Tanners “Down to Earth” reflections on nature and more good advice for greener, tastier and more fragrant gardens by our Master Gardener, please visit our website at www. jamestowngazette.com and click on Joanne’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.