Potted Plants for the Holidays Potted Plants for the Holidays

My mother and her mother before her grew the same Christmas cactus. It was huge and outgrew pots like a teen age boy that grows out of his jeans too fast. Each of us wandered into her cooler bedroom where she kept the plant for most of the year to check on the progress of developing blooms. When enough buds were ready to burst into flower, the plant was moved to the dining room table where it exploded into a grand show of deep pink for all to enjoy. The pleasure we all received from the plant spanned four generations making the holidays synonymous with indoor flowering plants, at least in my family. Potted plants for the holidays offer something for everyone who is passionate about growing or just wants to brighten the holidays. Who wouldn’t love being gifted with a potted Christmas plant?

Improper watering, lack of sunlight, and excessive heat are usually the demons that do in house plants. Although each species of plant has its own ideal growing conditions the basics remain the same. Plenty of sunlight, water, and a cooler temperature than most homes tend to be. Let’s take a closer look at each of these potted beauties.

Azaleas

Clusters of azalea blooms in coral, bright orange, pink, deep purple, white, or red brighten the winter days with flamboyant color. The lovely azalea blooms for two to four weeks keeping the house fresh and lively. If you want to have the best show possible from your azalea set it in direct sunlight. A night time temperature of about sixty degrees keeps the plant healthy and prolongs blooming time. It’s important to keep soil constantly moist but not saturated and do not use softened water. Heaven forbid the leaves start to yellow, but if they do the soil is not acidic enough. When the plant has outgrown the current pot you’ll need to repot it. Use a soil mixture high in sphagnum peat moss for the best results.

You can try to keep your plant year round by placing it in a shaded area of your yard during the summer months. Don’t just let it sit there, forgotten and left to its own devices, check on it often and don’t forget to water it during the drier times. Azaleas are not winter hard and you must bring in for the winter. You can try forcing blooms by giving it a cool, resting time. The plant should be placed in a room with filtered light and a temperature of around forty to fifty degrees. When the darling buds appear, situate it in a well-lit room where the temperature hovers around sixty-five degrees. Just as the magi brought their gifts on Twelfth Night, so will your azalea gift you with magnificent blossoms.

Poinsettia

A wee girl in Mexico wanted to give the Christ Child a gift. Being poor, she had nothing of great value to offer. A relative told her that any gift would be greatly appreciated, so the little girl picked a bouquet of weeds and laid them at the altar. The next morning the humble gift of weeds exploded into brilliant, awe-inspiring, red flowers. The legend tells that ever since the little girl’s gift, poinsettias have bloomed on Christmas Eve.

A native of Mexico, the poinsettia does indeed bloom at Christmas. Thanks to botanists and horticulturist we now find ourselves drawn to the colorful bracts in pink, marbled, white, and gold besides the traditional red. Keeping a potted poinsettia from drafts assures colorful bracts that last long past the holidays.

Bright sunlight, room temperatures between sixty-five and seventy degrees make for ideal conditions. Do not routinely water your poinsettia whether it needs it or not. Stick your finger into the soil to feel if it’s dry. Water well and then let it dry out. Decorating your home for the holidays with poinsettias adds splashes of vibrant color. A church nearby creates a beautiful towering poinsettia tree each Christmas in the sanctuary that simply takes the breath way of those who view it.

Christmas Cactus

Deep pink, pendulous flowers touched the dining room table. My mother’s Christmas cactus sat in a place of honor for the holidays. Full and lush after being tended by two generation of women the plant grew more beautiful as time passed. The growing conditions in my parent’s bedroom were perfect. The large plant sat in an east-facing window that was shaded by an old pear tree through the summer. With a summer temperature in the house of between seventy and eighty, ideal for a Christmas cactus, the plant flourished. In September, my mother would toss a printed sheet over the cactus. I never knew why until I grew up. For superb blooming, the plant prefers long, dark, at- least-thirteen-hour nights. Like any cactus, the Christmas cactus tolerates and likes to be somewhat under watered. Water regularly, but keep a close watch to not let the soil dry out completely. You’ll be amply rewarded with bright pink, white, red, purple, or orange flowers that brings sighs at their sheer beauty.

Amaryllis

The large showy bell-shaped flowers of the amaryllis grow from a bulb. Pick up a few of the bulbs and plant in containers one or two inches larger than the base of the bulb. Allow one-third of the top of the bulb to remain out of the soil. Place the bulb in a sunshine-filled window in a room that hovers around the seventy to seventy-five degree mark. Water well and then wait. Before you know it a green stem will appear at the top of the bulb followed by leaves and then finally the fat buds.

Everyone will want to place bets as to just when the flower will spring forth from the bud and fill the room with its rich radiance. When flowering begins be sure to check for water needs. If the soil feels dry, water it. Having an amaryllis bloom is indeed a joyful holiday sight.

Any of these four Christmas potted plants will brighten the holidays. Whether purchased as gifts for teachers, special friends, or someone who can’t get out much anymore, the colorful blooms sing silent songs of joy. Use them for decorating by bunching them together in a riot of reds, pinks, and whites. Place in the entry way, on the dining table, or anywhere that could use a spot of Christmas color. Just be sure to put them back where they can grow to their full potential once the party is over and your Christmas potted plant will blossom all through the festive holidays.

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