Caring for blooming gifts

Kathy Bond-Borie
Guest Columnist

Poinsettias, African violets, cyclamen, azaleas, holiday cacti, and kalanchoe– all are popular holiday gifts to give and receive. But once they are settled in their new homes, how do we keep them healthy and thriving? Here are some tips to keep in mind. Include the key points on a care tag with the plants you give as gifts.

Keep soil moist, not wet.
Saturate the soil with room-temperature water in the morning so foliage can dry before nighttime. If water drains out immediately, the plant is rootbound and needs to be repotted with fast-draining soilless potting mix. Water cyclamen and African violets from the bottom by setting them in a tray of water for a few minutes and letting the soil soak up water.

Turn on the lights.
Flowering houseplants often don’t rebloom because of insufficient light. Place plants in a south-facing window or set them under full-spectrum grow lights.

Provide optimum temperatures.
Indoor temperatures of 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit are usually adequate for most flowering houseplants, although tropicals such as holiday cacti and gardenias need cooler temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit to set buds.

Fertilize.
Use a dilute soluble fertilizer according to label directions when plants are in active growth and flowering. When plants take a rest, stop fertilizing. Once a month, flush the pots for a few minutes until water drains from the holes to remove any built-up fertilizer salts.

Raise humidity.
Many flowering houseplant species are accustomed to high year-round humidity. Run a humidifier near the plants, or group the plants together on a 2-inch layer of pebbles in a tray of water. The water should not touch the pots.

Control pests.
Oftentimes you can control spider mites by dunking plants upside down in a sink full of soapy water. Sprays of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil will control many pests.

For more tips and garden information, visit garden.org.

A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathy Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as Horticultural Editor for the National Gardening Association.

Holiday

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