Are you looking for a little more than the typical greenery seen around the holidays? Some tremendous blooming plants are staples of the holiday season. There are excellent options if you are searching for a showy, dainty, fragrant, or long-lasting blossom. Keep your eyes peeled for these fantastic plants during holiday shopping.
When you think of Christmas, you probably think of Christmas trees and poinsettias. Large, showy flowers can be found in various container sizes and blossom colors. Their color varies from burgundy, red, pink, white, and a wide variety of color combinations. You may think that the colorful portions of the plant are petals, but they are bracts. The difference between bracts and petals is that bracts are modified leaf structures, and petals are part of the flower structure. If you look toward the center of the bracts, you will find the tiny flower. The actual height of the poinsettia is usually yellow, creating a distinct center to the poinsettia. As part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge Family, the poinsettia naturally produces a milky sap. The sap contains latex that helps protect the plant from drying out and also deters animals and insects from attacking the plant because of the bitter taste. In the past, poinsettias have had a bad rap for being potentially poisonous to humans and animals. In reality, large quantities of the plant would have to be ingested to become toxic. If ingested, mild signs, and symptoms of irritation usually occur. If you have a pet that likes to chew on your plants, stay away from the poinsettia to prevent problems or put it in an area where pets can’t access it. Poinsettias can be kept from year to year, and blooms will be forced when the daylight starts to decrease because they prefer short days. Try to keep your poinsettia as a houseplant, and try your luck at new blooms.
Christmas Cactus are unlike other cacti because they originate from the tropical rainforest instead of the desert. They prefer humid air conditions and moist soil conditions. Remember to water Christmas Cactus when the top inch of soil is dry. You may be wondering how does this plant knows when to bloom? Is it tuned into the Christmas Spirit? Here is the science of the beautiful blooms. About eight weeks before bloom time, conditions become optimal for bud set. The cactus set flower buds when night temperatures reach 50-55 degrees with 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness at 55-70 degrees. Once the conditions are met, the flower buds are set and begin to develop for flowering in about eight weeks. You may have heard about Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus as well, so what is the difference between the cacti, and how do you tell them apart? The main difference is found in the shape of the leaves. The Thanksgiving Cactus has very pointy leaves, the Christmas Cactus has more of a scalloped silhouette, and the Easter Cactus has rounded edges. They also differ in the number of short days it takes to induce blooming. Because the Easter Cactus takes 8-12 weeks of short days versus about six weeks for the Christmas Cactus takes about eight weeks, the Easter Cactus blooms more towards April. This fantastic cactus can bring many years of joy to your home for the holidays.
Nothing beats the elegance of amaryllis standing tall for the holidays. The large bulbs can be found around the holidays as bare root or forced plantings. If planting bulbs, you will want to consider the time for flower bud development. Blooms develop in about 4- 6 weeks after dormancy, so look at your calendars. When planting the dormant bulbs, you will want to plant the bulb with the top 1/3rd above the soil in a narrow container. Amaryllis prefer to be pot-bound, so you don’t have to repot for 3-4 years. Once the amaryllis has bloomed, let the flower stalk die off, and let the green leaf stalks or scapes grow. By allowing the plant to grow as a houseplant, it will absorb energy from the sun and store it in the bulb. About 16-18 weeks before you would like your amaryllis to bloom, bring your plant into a dark and cool area to undergo dormancy for 8-12 weeks. Once the dormancy period has passed, get the bulb out of the dark and into a sunny location and start to water the bulb. In 4-6 weeks from dormancy, you should have durable, long-lasting blooms throughout the holidays.