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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Plant Care 101

   It's hard to look at a poinsettia and not think of the holidays.  And that means we're thinking about the holidays a lot right now at Tagawa's.  Plant benches that are loaded with annuals in the summer are now bursting with the colors of more than thirty different varieties of poinsettias.  Many of them are grown from cuttings by Tagawa staff.  And for sports fans.... poinsettias in your favorite team colors.... orange and blue, perhaps?

     But you don't have to have a Tagawa green thumb to keep your poinsettia happy and healthy well into the New Year.

Poinsettias' likes and dislikes ...

     I'm hard-pressed which dislike to put at the top of a poinsettia's list:  drafts or getting too dry, so I'll just take them in that order.

     Poinsettias and cold air do not get along at all, and the plants don't hesitate to show their displeasure.  Tagawa's will always insist on wrapping your poinsettia in a paper sleeve before it leaves the store.  During our recent arctic spell, sometimes we'd put two paper wrappers around the plant.

     The draft rule still applies once the plants get home.  If you set them near an outside door that gets lots of use, your plants will protest by dropping their leaves.  A naked poinsettia is not a pretty thing.  They'll also pout and dry up if they're placed near a heat vent or fireplace.  They may be native to Mexico, but a stream of hot, dry air will do them in.

And if you let them dry out....

     ,,,,they will wilt... and wilt hard.  Then they'll drop their leaves.  You should check your poinsettia's soil moisture every day.  Smaller pots will dry out much faster than larger ones.  You can use a moisture meter or gently lift the pot and check the weight to keep track of how quickly your poinsettia is taking up water.

     Soak the plants thoroughly, until water come out through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.  But never let a poinsettia (or pretty much any plant, for that matter), sit in that excess water. 

     Bright but indirect light will help keep your poinsettia looking its best.  By the way, poinsettias are not poisonous!  Plants in general should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.  The milky resin of this and other members of the plant genus Euphorbia can be irritating to sensitive skin.  But no part of the plant is poisonous.

Dazzling amaryllis

     In his last years, I always sent my grandfather a big amaryllis bulb for Christmas.  He  swore to me that he could sit in his easy chair and actually "watch that plant grow!"  What fun, for both of us.  Amaryllis put on an amazing display, and they do all the work!  We just watch and enjoy.

     Remember that the bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower.  Amaryllis bulbs do best when they're a bit pot-bound, growing in small pots just an inch or two wider than the bulb itself.  They can be grown in a special vase that allows their roots to reach down into a reservoir of water only or pebbles topped off with water.  Watching the roots at work is a great lesson for kids.... of all ages...!
     Amaryllis bulbs need eight to ten weeks to flower, but the wait is worth it!  And with some follow-up T.L.C., which our Tagawa experts will be happy to explain, you may well get another show of flowers from the same bulb next season.

"Christmas cactus" don't read calendars.
    For some of the most exotic flowers you'll find on any plant, take a close look at blossoms of what are generally known as "Christmas" cactus. The flowers are complex, intricate and stunning!  But the plants aren't putting on their show because it's December.  It's the day length and temperature that have triggered their wonderful display of color.  Plants that bloom early are often referred to as "Thanksgiving" cactus.  Plants that bloom later may be thought of as "Easter" cactus.  But they're all just varieties of the same plant,.

    Tagawa's has already taken care of back-timing the show of flowers for our Christmas cactus, and the colors are eye-popping!  But like poinsettias, Christmas cactus are very sensitive to drafts.  We will always wrap your plants before you leave the store.  Otherwise, you'll wake up the next morning, and every flower and bud will have fallen off. 

Christmas cactus watering rules

     Christmas cactus are in the succulent family, and they do store some water in their leaf segments.  But they're not a desert cactus.  They're semi-tropical, but shouldn't be over-watered.  Allow the top one-third to one-half of the plant's root ball to dry, then give the roots a good soaking, 'til water comes out the drainage holes.  Don't water again until the top few inches of soil have dried.

     If you want to coax your Christmas (or otherwise) cactus into blooming again next year, talk to one of our experts in the Tagawa houseplant department.  They'll be happy to coach you on the basics.

And last, but definitely not least...

     People may not think of orchids as "holiday" plants, but perhaps they should.  Actually, why not see them as anytime plants.  Orchids do have some preferences... even some requirements.  But they are not the divas you might think.  And they make great gifts!

     I was given an orchid several years ago, and it bloomed for three months!  "Moth" orchids, properly known as "phalaenopsis" orchids, are my first recommendation.  They're elegant and come in a rich variety of colors and a wide variety of sizes.

    Once they're already in bloom, moth orchids (so named because of the shape of their flowers) are wonderfully easy to take care of.  Give them plenty of bright indirect light.... regular watering and fertilization... and any and all visitors to your home will be duly impressed.  And if you want to try your green thumb and push them to bloom again, you know where to take your questions:  straight to the good folks in Tagawa's houseplant department. 

   To one and all, the very best of the holidays from Tagawa's!