Written by Tolly Beck
Tolly Beck is the horticulturist at Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Westchester County. She was formerly a horticulture educator for New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, NY.
In the Spotlight
Holiday Plant Care
One of the joys of this season is buying holiday plants for your own home or as gifts to others. Live holiday plants add warmth and cheer as well as color to any holiday decor. Knowing how to care for a holiday plant keeps them looking their best throughout the holidays and well into winter.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) continue to be one of the most popular holiday plants. They prefer to be placed in an area where they will receive bright, indirect light. A daytime temperature around 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures of low to mid 60 degrees will provide the coolness they prefer. Water a poinsettia when the soil just begins to feel dry.
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), pictured here, have flowers that appear at the tips of hanging leaves. The flowers are up to 3″ long with several tiers of petals. Flowering often lasts for several weeks. Christmas cactus like a bright location with some sun, such as an east-facing window. The soil should be kept evenly moist. Temperatures around 65 – 70 degrees are definitely preferred.
Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) produce beautiful, butter-fly like blooms in holiday colors of pink, red, and white. Cyclamen will bloom for up to 2-3 months. Like the poinsettia, cyclamen prefer bright, indirect light and cooler temperatures. Water when the top of the soil feels dry.
Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) are sold during the holidays with clusters of red, pink, or white small flowers produced throughout the dark green succulent leaves. Kalanchoe can be grown in bright light. These plants can tolerate dry soil for short periods of time. Water thoroughly when you do water. Kalanchoe require very little care and are easy to grow.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum cultivars) usually have four, large, showy flowers at the top of one long stem. The flower colors are stunning ranging from brilliant red, to red and white, to white and pink striped. The flowers will last longest if the plant is grown in a cool room, out of direct sun. Rotate the pot when the long flower stem begins to lean towards the light. This will keep the stem growing upright and showing off the beautiful flowers. Keep the soil barely moist.
If you are growing any of these holiday plants in a pot with no drainage, be sure to empty the water out of the bottom of the pot 15 minutes or so after watering. Likewise, If any of your holiday plants come with a foil wrapped pot, be sure to poke holes in the foil or remove the foil altogether and place it in a saucer so that water can drain out. Holiday plants are prone to being over watered if the pot they are growing in doesn’t allow for drainage.
These beautiful holiday plants, as well as others, will be on display in the Conservatory during the Holiday on the Hill Train show beginning December 4th. Many will also be on sale at the Shop at Lasdon. Bring color and cheer into your holidays with long-lasting holiday plants.