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Melinda Myers
Photograph Melinda Myers

The holiday season has arrived. That means you will be on the giving or receiving end of a poinsettia, mum, cyclamen, or other holiday plant. Extend the beauty and longevity of these holiday beauties with proper care.

That proper care starts the minute you leave the florist or garden center. Always protect your gift plants from the harsh outdoors. Professional florists and garden center staff will provide a care tag and wrap your plants in a plastic or paper sleeve. Remove the wrap as soon as you arrive home. This is especially important when caring for poinsettias. The upturned leaves emit ethylene, a ripening hormone that can shorten the longevity of your poinsettia’s colorful display.

Rewrap your holiday plant anytime you move it outdoors and never leave it sitting in a cold car while running errands. A chilled plant looks fine until it thaws. By the next day, the plant turns grayish-green, wilts, and may die, not such a nice gift after all. 

Once your plant arrives home, place it in a cool brightly lit location. The cool temperatures and indirect light help the blooms last longer. Avoid drafts of hot and cold air. These can dry or chill the plant resulting in leaf and blossom drop. Fold down the foil wrap to allow sunlight to reach all the leaves. Keep the soil moist, like a damp sponge, but not wet. A quick touch of the top inch or two of soil will let you know when it is time to water. Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and just slightly moist. Pour out any water that collects in the foil, basket, decorative pot, or saucer. Or, place pebbles in the bottom of the container or saucer to elevate the plant above setting water.

Remove spent flowers from mums, azaleas, cyclamen, and kalanchoes. This keeps the plant looking fresh and often encourages more blooms. Remove the true flowers, those yellow knobs in the center of the colorful leaves of the poinsettia. This extends the longevity and beauty of the poinsettia plant.

Once the holidays are past, keep enjoying these plants through the gray days of winter. Move the plants to a sunny window, fertilize with a dilute solution of complete or flowering plant fertilizer, and water as needed. Add some artificial berries, cut flowers in water picks, or silk blooms to replace the faded flowers. For added beauty, and to support floppy leaves and stems, use colorful stakes or natural twigs.

So add a few holiday plants to this year’s gift list. They are guaranteed to brighten your holiday celebrations.

About the author: Nationally renowned gardening expert, TV and radio host, author, and columnist Melinda Myers (Milwaukee, WI) has more than thirty years of horticulture experience and has written over twenty gardening books, including her latest, Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, Minnesota and Wisconsin Getting Started Garden Guide and Michigan Getting Started Garden Guide (Cool Springs Press).

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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