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Thursday, December 22, 2011

What to Do with Plants After the Holidays

The stores have been filled with plants to give as gifts and for decorating. Amaryllis bulbs on sale, poinsettias of all sizes, rosemary plants trimmed like Christmas trees, Christmas cactus and kalanchoes, all in holiday colors. What can you do with those after the holidays?

Poinsettias are beautiful when in bloom. However, once the leaves begin to drop and the color is gone, it’s time to toss out the plant. You can give it good sunlight in a window and keep it going for a few months, but it will never look like the plant you bought again, no matter what you do. Greenhouse poinsettias are products of very specific growing conditions, virtually impossible to duplicate in the home. Throw it away, and don’t put it in your compost pile if you care about organics, the soil is full of all sorts of greenhouse chemicals.
Rosemary Christmas tree.

Rosemary plants have become popular over the past several years. I saw lots in stores this year, in one and two gallon pots, shaped like neat little Christmas trees. This is a plant that’s easy to keep for years if you observe a few basic cautions. First, don’t overwater, and don’t let the plant stand in water in a saucer. A small amount of water about every 10 days is plenty. Second, keep the plant in an unheated room, like in the garage near a window, or a back porch. It needs as much light as you can give it, but you will kill it if you try to keep it in a warm room. Next spring, take it out of the pot and plant it in your garden. I have one I bought from Lowe’s 12 years ago that has lived happily in the herb garden.
Christmas cactus comes in several colors.

Christmas cactus are very easy plants to keep growing for years to come. They bloom best when they are root-bound, meaning growing in a small pot. If yours is in a very small plastic pot, after it has quit blooming, pot it in a clay or ceramic pot, just make sure it has drainage in the bottom. Keep it in the window where it gets light. Water it every ten days or so, remember, it’s called a cactus because it doesn’t need much water. Next summer, put it outside on the deck in part sun and in the fall, bring it indoors to a sunny window. It will rebloom again during the fall or winter. Kalanchoe plants need virtually the same care as Christmas cactus, little water, good light and minimal care. 
All of these plants, as well as your houseplants, are dormant indoors in winter. It’s important to remember not to fertilize any of them during the winter months. Wait until April to begin fertilizing lightly again and then you can fertilize once a month during the summer growing season. 
Amaryllis are easy to grow for years to come.

Amaryllis bulbs are easy, too. Let it bloom, water it once a week and let the leaves grow to gather strength for next year’s blooming. I plant mine in a flowerbed in early spring, about 7 inches deep, where it will come back each year and bloom in mid-summer. 

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