Ask an Expert – Festive Foliage Can Brighten Your Home for the Holidays and Beyond


By Taun Beddes

It’s easy to spruce up holiday decorating with live plants to add color and texture. Consider these plants that grow well in the home during the holidays.

* Holiday cactus – This includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cactus. They are closely related succulents that are easy to grow indoors. The winter blooms are spectacular and can be found in red, white, pink, and yellow. Christmas cactus starts blooming in late November and may bloom all winter. Long nights and cooler temperatures signal flower buds to develop. Keep them near oversized windows.

* Amaryllis – These bulbs are often sold in grocery stores and home improvement stores, but you can find higher quality bulbs and unique colors at garden centers. They produce elegant, long leaves and huge, striking flowers that can last 8-10 weeks. Amaryllis grow best in bright light.

* Poinsettia – Poinsettias provide bold holiday colors and make great gifts. They can be grown as house plants for many years, but it can be challenging for them to re-bloom without greenhouse conditions. Poinsettias will temporarily tolerate any light level, but will eventually decline without bright light.

* Norfolk Island pine – Norfolk pines look like living Christmas trees and can support lightweight holiday decorations. The soft, deep green needles look great year-round. Norfolk Island pines need bright, indirect light, but will manage with low light for short periods. They can tolerate somewhat cooler conditions as long as they are provided light.

* Kalanchoe – These are sold for their beautiful blooms and are available in grocery stores and garden centers. Flower colors include red, pink, orange, yellow and white. It is not easy to get them to rebloom, but long nights and cooler temperatures may help signal flower buds to develop. Keep them near oversized windows to provide these conditions. They prefer bright light and can be moved outdoors in the summer.

Tips for choosing a holiday plant:

* Look for short, bushy plants, which tend to be healthier and maintain their beauty. Inspect plants for signs of disease or insect damage before purchasing.

* Place the plant in a box to support it in your vehicle so it doesn’t get damaged during transport, and put it in a location in your home where you will remember to water it.

* Be sure to minimize plants’ exposure to freezing weather. Ask the store to provide a sleeve to protect them from the cold during transport to your home. Most holiday plants are native to areas with much warmer winters, and the cold can be a shock.

* Water plants weekly during the winter, but check them regularly to determine moisture levels. Root-bound plants or plants in smaller containers may need to be watered more often. If the pots are covered with a decorative wrapper, remove it when watering. Allow the water to drain from the pots into a sink or tub for 30 minutes before placing them back in the wrappers. Watering plants with the decorative wrapper on can cause roots to rot, which could kill the plant.

* Look for attractive containers and saucers to re-pot your plants after the holidays. Have potting soil and indoor plant fertilizer on hand.

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