December 16th, 2014
The Christmas tree is on its death bed the second it’s cut in the field.
Poinsettias are bred as throw-away plants.
But what about the other holiday plants that end up as home décor or gifts this time of year?
It’d be nice if they served a longer purpose beyond December.
A lot of them will with only limited gardener skill.
The trick is picking plants that are both interesting enough for holiday gifting and/or decorating and tough enough to survive the typical abuse of a dry-air, limited-light, living-room pot.
Have it both ways with these five holiday survivors:
* Amaryllis. Other than the poinsettia, this non-cold-hardy South American bulb is our second favorite holiday plant – available in garden centers and mass merchants everywhere.
Take the easy route by buying amaryllis that are already potted and about to flower, but it’s almost as easy to start those seemingly lifeless brown orbs from scratch.
Just set them with the very bottom of the bulb in a pot with drainage holes that’s filled with potting mix. Keep damp, and within days, green shoots will emerge. Within 4 to 6 weeks, you’ll get one or more clusters of showy, trumpet-shaped, tropical flowers.
Instead of tossing them after bloom, just cut off the flowering stalks. Keep the leafy growth near a sunny window, and treat it like a houseplant. Keep the soil damp (never soggy), and give the plant a monthly dose of liquid, balanced fertilizer.
Come mid to late May, move your amaryllis plant outside. Get it used to the outdoors gradually over a week or so, then either plant it in a sunny spot or grow it as an outdoor potted plant all summer.
In late September, cut off all foliage, dig the bulb, and store it inside – dry without soil. Temperatures around 50-55 are ideal, but I’ve just tossed amaryllis bulbs on a work bench in the garage and had them survive.
After letting the bulb “rest” dormant for 6 to 8 weeks, pot it up inside to start a new cycle.
* Christmas cactus. These are flowing, flowering plants – usually grown in hanging baskets – that look their best when bought new under ideal conditions in a greenhouse.