2 December 2021
It’s the time of year with the shortest amount of daylight and those gray snow clouds don’t help at all. It’s also the time for some indoor blooms. Here are some of the more popular items that you can get for a host/hostess gift or just to place around your own home.
It is hard to shop anywhere without seeing a display of Poinsettias ready for sale. Once only available in red, there are now over 100 varieties on the market including white, pink, yellow, and purple. They come in lots of sizes and the price varies.
How to buy: Choose a plant that has little yellow flowers in the center of the colored leaves. If the yellow flowers have dropped off, or it is shedding pollen, find another plant because this one won’t make it through to January.
When you check out and pay, if the weather is cold, windy, or precipitating, ask that the top of the plant be covered with plastic bags to prevent damage. Don’t leave it in the car for any appreciable amount of time if the temperature is below freezing. In fact, that is good advice for any plant.
Care: At home, remove the foil or poke holes in it for drainage and place it in a sunny window or the brightest area of the room. The ideal temperature is 65 to 75 daytime and 60 to 65 at night. Don’t let them touch cold window panes and move them away from drafty windows or close the blinds or curtains. Above 75 will shorten the bloom period and below 50 can cause root rot.
The most difficult part of poinsettia care is the watering. They don’t like to have wet feet or get too dry. That means you check the soil daily by using a probe or simply sticking your finger in the dirt about half an inch. If it is dry, water it with lukewarm water until it runs out the drainage holes at the bottom. Discard the drainage water and return the plant to its window.
Reblooming: Leave it in its sunny spot. After April 1 remove the colored leaves. Feed it every two weeks with an OTC fertilizer. In September, it goes into a room with absolutely no artificial light, although natural light is okay. In early October move it back to its usual spot and with luck, you will have colored leaves again.
Another popular plant at this time of the year is an amaryllis. It is sold in a lot of places including hardware stores. They come in a box with the bulb and all the “fixins” necessary. To have it bloom at the end of the month, start it in October.
They are fun for kids because they look exotic, especially at this time of the year. The bulbs are easy to handle and plant and grow quickly.
The bulbs can vary in size and the larger ones (as big as a grapefruit) will produce the larger blooms. Of course, it is also more expensive than its smaller siblings. They will produce three or four blooms on a stem that reaches a foot or two. Frequently a second stalk will appear about the time the first stem falters.
Care: It likes tight quarters so the diameter of the pot should be only an inch or two larger than the bulb itself. Suspend the bulb over the pot and add potting soil, being careful to not break the roots. About half of the bulb should be exposed.
This plant likes daytime temps in the 70s and nights in the 60s. Place it in a brightly lit area. Low light will make it limp and will fall over. Turn the pot every day or so to keep it steady. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not overly wet. You can move the plant to a cooler area and out of direct sunlight to keep the flowers longer. They will keep blooming for up to a month.
Reblooming: As the the flowers falter, you can trim them off. That will allow the plant to spend its energy in forming seeds.
After the danger of frost has subsided, move it outside into a shaded area. Eventually you can move it into soil (leaving it in the pot) with dappled shade. Full sun for no more than half a day. Fertilize like you would if it was a houseplant. Before the first frost, bring the plant in its pot indoors to a dark location. Withhold water so the leaves can dry out. Then in October or November you can start all over again.