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'Tis the season that many of us have our homes decorated with colorful plants such as the poinsettia and Christmas cactus along with a cut Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. Here are a few tips to help keep this a colorful and safe season:

Christmas trees

When selecting a live Christmas tree, there are a few factors to consider. Make sure the tree will fit in the space provided. You need to know ahead of time the height of the ceiling and maximum width that the space will allow. Many of us want to be like Clark Griswold in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" by selecting the largest tree, but it is not always feasible. Also, make sure you select a tree that does not appear to be dry. A dried tree will often lose its needles. Finally, you will need bring some gloves along with you. Trees can be sticky and sappy.

When placing the live tree in a stand, you should cut around a half-inch off the base of the trunk. This will help your tree in taking up water. You should fit your tree to your stand and then fill with water. Make sure to keep your stand full of water throughout the season. A Christmas tree may take up a gallon of water the first 24 hours and several pints each day thereafter. Keeping the tree in water is the most important part of Christmas tree care. Special preservatives such as sugar, aspirin, or cola are not needed to preserve freshness. All that is needed is to keep the base of the tree covered at all times with plain, clean tap water. Never place trees near any source of ignition such as fireplaces, heaters or furnace vents. Cords and connections used on the trees light must be in good working order. Lights should always be unplugged when leaving home or going to bed.

Caring for poinsettias

The length of time your poinsettia will give you pleasure in your home depends on a few key steps and with good care should last six to eight weeks or longer in your home.

After you have made your poinsettia selection, make sure it is wrapped up properly if outside temperatures are low. Exposure to low temperatures, even for a few minutes, can damage the bracts and leaves.

Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place in indirect light. Six hours of light daily is ideal. Keep the plant from touching cold windows.

Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts, air vents or open doors and windows. Ideally, poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures around 55 degrees. High temperatures will shorten the plant's life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night, if possible.

Check the soil daily. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer. Water when soil is dry. Allow water to drain into saucer and discard excess water. Wilted plants will tend to drop bracts sooner.

Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a household fertilizer once a month. Do not fertilize when it is in bloom.

Caring for Christmas cactus

To get the most out of your Christmas cactus, pay close attention to light and temperature. You should take a few minutes a day to check the following needs.

The Christmas cactus grows best in light shade. Full sun is beneficial during fall and winter, but bright sun during the summer months can make plants look pale and yellow. Fourteen hours or more of continuous darkness each day is required before flower bud set will occur. Long nights should be started about the middle of September and continued for at least six continuous weeks for complete bud set. The photo period has no effect on flowering once the buds are set.

Fall growing temperatures should be kept between 60 and 68 degrees, but as close to 68 degrees as possible for maximum flower production. Water the growing medium when it is dry to the touch. Do not let the soil become waterlogged, especially during the dark days of winter, but do not let the soil completely dry out, either. Never let water stand in the saucer beneath the pot. Christmas plants can stay colorful this Christmas season with a little preparation and a few minutes a day of care.

Master Gardener information

Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. They're open to the public, and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension Service office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected]

EHC information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC, call 623-6841 or email Alison Crane at [email protected] Follow Alison on Facebook @garlandEGF and @Garland FCS, and EHC on Facebook @GarlandCountyEHC.

4-H information

For information about Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, contact Linda Bates at the Extension Service office located at 236 Woodbine, call 501-623-6841, or email [email protected] More information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.

Society on 11/26/2019

Print Headline: Caring for Christmas ornamentals

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