Care for Gift Plant

Gift Plant

If you received a plant for Christmas or some other special occasion, it should be given special attention to be kept in good condition. Here are some suggestions:

First remove foil that is wrapped around the pots, or poke holes through it so that water doesn't collect at the bottom. Give plants as much light as possible, but keep them out of direct sunlight to prevent foliage from burning. Rotate plants so that all sides get equal amounts of light. Don't place plants near a heater or fireplace or in a drafty spot.

Outdoor plants should go out as soon as possible. Camellias, holly, pyracantha, living Christmas trees, and other outdoor plants won't thrive in warm, dry household air. Plant them, or least set them outside, as soon as weather permits. Plants roses and other bare root plants as soon as you can. If you can't do this right away, keep the roots constantly moist by covering them with wet sawdust, peat moss, soil, or other material. (finely shredded damp newpaper works well).

Florist plants can remain in the house all the time you are enjoying their blooms, but most of them should go outside at some point later on. Here are some instructions for keeping them flowering and caring for them when the bloom is over:

Azaleas: Most of the azaleas people receive at holiday time are grown in greenhouses and forced to bloom ahead of season. With care they will continue to bloom for as long as three or four weeks indoors.

Put plants in the coolest room in the house, and keep soil constantly moist, but never soggy. (Watch the soil carefully because it often tends to dry out quickly.) Pinch off old flowers as they fade. When the plants finish blooming, move them into the garden to a spot that gets partial shade all day or sun in the morning, shade in the afternoon. Plant in a soil mix containing at least half peat moss, ground bark, or other organic matter. Or move the plants into slightly larger containers-but keep them outdoors. Feed with some acid fertilizer. Given this treatment, the azaleas will get back on schedule and bloom in the spring.

Florists' cyclamen: These need more coolness than do azaleas. Put them on a porch or patio or other cool spot, and they will keep blooming until Easter. If kept indoors, the plant sometimes look wilted during the day, more likely the result of warm, dry air than lack of water. Don't over water this plant. When plants stop blooming, pull off yellow leaves and stems. Then you have a choice of setting plants out in the garden or keeping them in containers.

For planting them in the garden; Choose a spot that gets direct sun only in the morning or filtered sunlight all day. Plant in soil containing about 2/3 organic matter. Don't bury the corm (the knobby bulblike part). When new growth starts, feed twice a month with liquid fertlizer.

Keeping in a container: Place pot outdoors in the same exposure as for garden planting, either set the pot on top of the ground or sink it into the ground. Cut down on watering, but never let the corm dry out completely. When new growth starts in the fall, water more often and begin fertilizing. The cyclamen should bloom again the next winter.

Poinsettias: These plants are especially sensitive to drafts and overwatering, either causes leaves to drop. Don't water until the soil starts to dry out and do not let water stand in the saucer underneath. When plants stop blooming, move them to a cool, dark place, such as a garage or crawl space. Reduce watering and cut plants back part way, so that each stem is left with two buds. In late spring, put them outdoors. You can leave them in their containers, but by next Christmas they will probably be too tall to bring indoors. Also, poinsettias are easier to grow in the ground. In frost free areas, poinsettias grow and bloom without any trouble right out in the open. In areas where temperatures occasionally go below 32 degrees, they need overhead protection to survive through the winter. It is best to plant them against a sunny south facing wall and mulch well.

Citrus: These plants vary in height from a few inches to 3 or 4 feet, the fruit also vary in size. All have attractive evergreen foliage and fragrant, creamy white flowers that may that may produced off and on throughout the year. The little citrus plants need sun in the winter time. The plants will do best near a south or west facing window, in a room where the temperature can be kept constant at between 60 to 70 degrees. Fertilize regularly. After weather begins to warm up, the plants will benefit from an hour or two outdoors on sunny days. Rain showers will be good for the plants. When indoors, give plants a fine water spray once a week.