The holiday season is upon us, and time to decorate our homes. Flowering house plants are one nice way to a touch of grace.
Over the years in these pages, I have discussed care of a number of common holiday plants, and now, to quote an old TV show, “it’s time for something totally different.”
The first step with all of these plants is to insure proper drainage. Cut a hole in the foil wrap if you must and put them in a saucer. Incorrect soil moisture will kill these plants long before the holidays are over.
Avoid putting any holiday plants directly under a heat vent or in direct sunlight. They have been grown is shady greenhouses. Also note that most of these plants are not intended to last past the holidays. They lend us their beauty for a while, then it is time for: “Out with the old and in with the new!”
Azaleas … can last up to six weeks in the home. They like an average to cool environment. Bright, indirect light is a must, because azaleas will drop leaves readily if kept in a dark spot. Never let the soil dry out. Most florist azaleas are grown in peat moss, and once it is dry, it’s very difficult to rewet. But don’t let the plant stand in water, either. Just a little water every day.
Kalanchoe … is the perfect plant for someone who kills everything. Once more commonly seen at Valentine’s Day, florists have been selecting for redder blooms and greener foliage. Bright, indirect to diffuse light. Soil can be allowed to dry out between watering.
Jerusalem cherry … also called winter cherry, is closely related to the deadly nightshade, so don’t eat the chili pepper-like fruit. The plant does well in average home climate. They prefer bright, indirect light. You can let the soil dry out before watering.
Amaryllis … is a large tropical bulb producing large, lily-type flowers on a one- to two-foot tall stalk. They must be planted in well-drained soil, with ½ to 1/3rd of the bulb showing above the soil surface. They like bright to diffuse light and average to warm house temperatures.
Gloxinias … have large, somewhat bell-shaped, velvety flowers. They like an average to warm climate and indirect diffuse sunlight. Like African violets, water with room temperature water. Keep moist and never allow them to dry out.
Chrysanthemum … prefer an average to cool house temperature. Bright, indirect light is best because new flowers will not fully develop unless enough light is given. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.
Cineraria … (now more properly called florist’s cineraria) attracts considerable attention because it covers itself with red, lavender or blue daisy-like flowers. It is the ideal plant for the energy-conscious since it should be kept cool … not over 55 degrees. It likes bright, indirect light. Keep the soil moist but not wet and never allow the soil to dry out completely.
Pocketbook plants … (Calceolaria crenatiflora) have pouch or slipper-shaped flowers in very brilliant reds, bronzes, and yellows. A cool room in your home is best for these unique plants. It loves bright, indirect light. The soil may dry out between thorough watering, but do not let the foliage wilt.
I hope you will enjoy some of these “totally different” plants for the holidays, and consider adding long-lasting foliage houseplants once they are gone.
Dr. Soule is currently working on a book on the herbs of Father Kino and how to grow them today. The book is scheduled to be released as part of the commemorative events surrounding the 300-year anniversary of Padre Kino’s passing. For information on the book or on classes I offer in the Tucson area, give me a call at 292-0504. Please leave a voice message.