Do you automatically go out the beginning of December and purchase a poinsettia as part of your holiday
decorating? Blooming plants make such a lovely statement during the holidays. While poinsettias are the most purchased
and traditional of
holiday plants, there may be others that can add some variety.
time favorite is anaryllis. But, holiday cactus, cyclamen, kalanchoe, red or white begonias and impatiens, or even a
topiary roseary tree can provide holiday color. I have even seen white blooming hydrangea that would look lovely included
in a planter with vivid red verbena or petunias by the front door. A bright red geranium outside is also lovely.
When choosing plants with blooms, look for those with only a few blooms open and plenty of buds, healthy
foliage and a compact form. For amaryllis, look for plants with a bloom stalk part way up and the bud well formed. If
you purchase an amaryllis in one of the pre-packaged boxes, be sure to open the box to see if the bulb has already sprouted
a bloom stalk that is twisted inside the box. These bloom stalks will not straighten, so only choose those with bulbs
that are just beginning to sprout.
The most crucial tip for keeping these plants looking good through the holidays is proper watering. Make
sure that the pot containing the plant has bottom drainage holes. Plants in small containers can dry out quickly, so
you should check them daily. Put your finger in the soil, if the top inch is dry it is time to water. Over watering
is just as bad as under watering. Plants do not like to sit in water. If they come with a decorative foil or plastic
wrapper covering the pot, either take it off or
punch holes in it. Then, when you water the plant, let the water drain well before placing the plant
on a water proof saucer to protect your table top.
Keep blooming plants in cooler temperatures
to preserve the blooms longer. Cyclamen prefer very cool temperatures, so if you place them in a protected area outside
over night when no frost is predicted, the blooms will last longer. Be sure to bring them inside in the morning before
any sun can reach the blooms. The other plants listed should be placed in areas with high levels of bright light but
no direct sun. Also keep them out of drafts; either cold from a door or in front of air-conditioning or heating vents.
After the holidays, all of the plants I have mentioned except the cyclamen can be
added to your landscape. I call amaryllis the Florida tulip. The bulbs will thrive and
multiply in well drained soil in a site with morning sun and some dappled afternoon shade. I plant several in large
pots so that I can protectg them from hungry deer. They bloom around March or April every year. The bulb that
is forced to bloom at Christmas will not bloom the first spring it is planted but shoudl reward you with blooms for years
after. Begonias and impatiens do very well in our winter landscapes. Impatiens need forst protection and can become
deer candy, so a container might be the best idea for these plants too. Kalanchoe is perennial in our area and enjoys
full sun and a well drained soil. Rosemary is also perennial and planted in the landscape can become a small shrubby
bush and will provide fresh rosemary for culinary uses year round. Hydrangeas prefer soil with an acid pH along with
morning sun and mid-day through evening shade. They are more of a challenge to grow here, so you might treat them as
an annual instead.