At this time of year, 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:
When you are ready to place your tree in a stand you should cut approximately a half-inch from the base of the trunk. Fit your tree to your stand and fill it 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 tree's lights 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.
To get the most out of your Christmas cactus pay close attention to light and temperature. 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 photoperiod 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. If you have questions give me a call at 501-623-6841 or come by our office at 236 Woodbine.
There are several 4-H clubs for Garland County young people who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available, call Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension Office at 501-623-6841 or email her at [email protected]
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 Luke Duffle at 623-6841 or email him at [email protected]
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information about EHC, call Alison Crane at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected]