In the Garden with Jackye

Stages of amaryllis bloom.
Stages of amaryllis bloom.
The holidays are upon us, and we’ll be considering the blooms we would like to have for the season. At this time of year, many merchants offer showy poinsettias, delicate paperwhites, bold amaryllis, bright cyclamen or dramatic Christmas cactus. To get the maximum blooming benefit of these plants requires some care in selection, placement and maintenance.

When choosing any of these colorful plants, look it over carefully to be sure it has been given good care. Select plants with no signs of wilting or drooping, especially if the plant is in a waterlogged pot. Such a condition could signify irreversible root rot caused by the soil being too wet.

Choose poinsettias with thoroughly colored and expanded bracts (these are what appear to be the red leaves) and dense foliage all the way to the soil line, so look past the foil cover that surrounds the pot. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow round balls at the base of the bract clusters. When choosing a poinsettia, choose one in which these ball-shaped buds are tightly closed. These plants will bloom the longest. If the balls have completely flowered, then the poinsettia has nearly completed its blooming cycle and will begin to go dormant. Cold drafts make poinsettias shudder or at least shed leaves, so do not choose a poinsettia nearest the store’s entrance.

Once home, place a poinsettia in an area with bright light, at least six hours per day of diffused sunlight. They do not like to be too cold (below 60 degrees) nor too warm (above 80 degrees). Hot drafts from heater vents or household electrical appliances also cause them to flinch. This plant may require fertilizer once or twice during the holidays.

Bulbs, such as cyclamen, paperwhites, and amaryllis, give us a hint of spring in our homes during the winter months. When choosing a blooming bulb, look for one with firm, green leaves. The flowers should be just opening or still tightly budded. Place these plants where they get at least three or four hours of sunlight each day. Blooming bulbs prefer a cool room, regular water, and monthly fertilizer until they complete their bloom cycle. Be sure not to overwater these plants, as their small root systems can rot very easily.

Christmas cactus is a succulent, meaning that it holds water in its leaves. Look for a plant that is not limp from too much or too little water. Choose a plant that has buds on most of the stem tips that are just opening or still tightly closed. Christmas cactus is not an actual cactus, so do plan to water it on a regular weekly schedule. They come in a variety of colors from pink to rose to white. This lovely blooming plant requires bright sunlight and monthly fertilizer while blooming. Be sure to allow this plant to dry out a bit between watering, as it can be overwatered easily.

By paying attention to purchasing a quality plant, placing it in an appropriate location, and tending to its water and fertilizer needs, a gardener will have these plants blooming throughout the winter months.

Jackye S. Meinecke is a freelance writer and garden consultant and designer. Contact her at gardens@zianet.com or call 323-0903.