Q: Most of my family gives me some type of flowering plant for the Christmas season. Could you give directions for caring for the common ones as I have lost my directions in a change in address sometime this fall?
S. S. of Maryville
A: The most popular flowering Christmas plant is the Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) which blooms in red, white, pink, peach, and marbled. You can find some different colored which have been spray-painted, even having glitter applied.
The main care factors include: temperature, light, water and air humidity. Temperature should range between 55 to 60 degrees. Light conditions should be as bright as possible, but avoid direct sunlight coming directly through glass windows which may burn the leaves. Watering should be given when the soil feels dry on the surface and apply water just when the leaves begin to droop indicating wilting. You can also spray a mist on the leaves to keep the air humidity higher especially on the colder winter days as the furnace runs a little more, drying out the inside air.
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Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) comes in bright or pastel shades with larger plants or can also be found in the small perfumed types. You can find the green leaves, marbled leaves or leaves lined in white. The size of the plants range from the large, standard varieties 12-inches tall and round; intermediate, which are nine inches; and the miniatures, which are six inches or less. They should be kept at 50 to 60 degrees with bright light but not direct sunlight. Place these plants on a pebble tray with water to add humidity. Keep the potting soil moist at all times but not soggy wet.
Christmas cactus (Zygocactus truncatus) is also popular as it blooms from mid-November through January. This plant can be found in the common pink, red, white and if you are lucky, you may receive a purple one. The ideal temperature is 55 to 70 degrees. This plant thrives in an eastern facing window. After it has finished blooming keep it at 50 to 55 degrees for a resting period. Then in June take it outside away from slugs until September. Then bring inside. When you see follower buds showing, increase the water.
Begonia cheimantha, or Christmas begonia, is a Lorraine begonia type which can be found in certain areas as the Christmas plant. The flowers are white, red, or pink and one-inch in size with three-inch glossy leaves. They need 55 to 70 degrees, but will wilt above 70 degrees. They need only four to five hours of winter light. Water freely when they are in bloom but do not keep soggy. Needs to be misted three to four times a day. If the floral buds drop, there is not enough air humidity. If the leaves turn yellow, there is not enough light.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to do this week:
- Store leftover garden chemicals in an area where they will stay dry, unfrozen and out of reach of children and pets.
- Provide winter protection for roses if you have not done so.
- You can trim your needle-leaf evergreens for indoor decorations.