Remember the scene from “Frosty the Snowman” with the greenhouse full of poinsettias in the middle of the winter snow? Flowers are always special but made even more so by the holidays and shortage of them outside this time of year. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to produce showy flowers in a greenhouse than inside a typical home. Here are a few tips to making your Christmas flowers last as long as possible.
- Amaryllis: Place your amaryllis in the brightest spot you can provide. Since they are tall and top heavy, clay or ceramic pots are best. Any high-quality potting soil will do, but remember that the pot must have a drainage hole. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not wet. After blooming, cut off the spent flower stalk. After all danger of frost, it’s best to plant them in a sunny flower bed for an easy-to-grow spring blooming perennial.
- Christmas Cactus: Place your holiday cactus in the brightest location you have and only water it when it dries out. It’s OK for the foliage to turn dull green before you water it. Overwatering will lead to root rot and death. After all chance of frost, place it outside on a deck or patio in partial shade. They generally come in small pots so you might want to pot yours into a larger pot. Once again, I prefer clay pots as holiday cactus are top heavy, too. Fertilize with a water-soluble plant food each month. Just before the first frost, buds should have formed in response to the short days and cooler tempteratures. Bring it inside to a bright location and repeat each year.
- Cyclamen: Cyclamen are beautiful flowering plants that prefer cool temperatures and bright light. Unfortunately, they can’t tolerate freezing or hot temperatures, so most people discard them after the plants finish blooming.
- Paperwhite Narcissus: Paperwhites are not adapted as long-term house plants but are certainly adapted as garden perennials. After they finish blooming indoors, plant them in a sunny location in the garden. They will generally skip blooming the first year, then bloom between Thanksgiving and New Year’s each year in the landscape.
- Poinsettia: It’s best to treat poinsettias just like Christmas cactus. Place in the brightest, least drafty spot in the home, then on the patio or deck during the growing season where they should be potted into a larger pot, fertilized monthly and tipped to make them bushier. Just before frost, hopefully they will have received enough short-day stimulation to set blooms again. For most busy homeowners, discarding them and starting over each Christmas is the smartest (and easiest) option. Keeping them alive isn’t so hard. Getting them to re-bloom each year is.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. You can follow him on Facebook at Greg Grant Gardens, read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, or read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com).