Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.
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Don't you love the beautiful colors, shapes and aromas of plants that seem to be available only at holiday time? The spectacular amaryllis plants that grow about an inch a day and the beautiful white-, red-, pink- and plum-colored poinsettias are so decorative.
One must take some special care to keep these and other holiday plants healthy and beautiful beyond the holidays.
Poinsettias prefer bright, indirect light and moist - but not over-watered - soil. To preserve them for as long as possible, keep them away from drafty areas and from the hot places in your home, such as fireplaces and radiator vents. Remove leaves as they turn yellow or break off.
Be sure to water your amaryllis often during its brief but spectacular bloom period. After the flower wilts, you can preserve the bulb for a re-bloom by cutting the stalk off at the base, leaving the leaves to send nutrients down into the bulb. When the leaves have dried completely, let the soil dry out and store in a dark, cool place for four to eight weeks before resuming watering. Frankly, I've not had much luck getting a second bloom, but some people do.
If you've decked your halls with mistletoe, wreaths and garlands of evergreen branches, you can extend their life by keeping them as cool and moist as possible. Misting them occasionally or using an application of an anti-wilt product will help.
The Christmas cactus, which usually blooms from October to April, prefers direct sunlight and fairly dry soil. Water this plant only when soil is dry to the touch, and be sure to drain excess water. From the time of flowering until new buds are set, fertilize the plant every two to three weeks with a water-soluble house plant fertilizer. This plant is difficult to encourage to rebloom.
The cyclamen grows best in cool temperatures below 68 degrees and enjoys plenty of sunlight. Try a north- or east-facing window. This is another plant that benefits from medium soil moisture.
Recently, orchids have been available locally, too. These plants can be cared for if kept in a warm spot with indirect light. Although most orchids bloom only once a year, the blossom can last as long as two months. Water often, but allow the bark to dry between waterings. (Orchids are not planted in soil; they require a special potting medium.)
The Kalanchoe plant, with bright red flowers, prefers a sunny window and regular water and fertilizer. To encourage reblooms, the plant should be put on artificial days (long nights) for six to eight weeks.
Extend the enjoyment of your holiday plants by following these easy care tips.
Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825.