Don’t forget to look after indoor plants during the festivities
CHRISTMAS is coming, and that brings a number of challenges to people looking after indoor plants, whether they are professional interior landscapers or keen home gardeners. Here are some useful tips:
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are among the most commonly used seasonal plants. As well as the traditional bright red varieties, new types in deep red, cream, pink and white are also available. Unfortunately, poinsettias have a reputation as being short-lived and difficult to maintain. But you can help them to look good for longer. Poinsettias must be unwrapped from their sleeves as soon as you get them indoors.
Keep them warm. Poinsettias originate from the warm climate of Mexico and central America, and don’t like sitting in cold vehicles, cold buildings or watered with cold water. It substantially reduces their life span.
They will do better in warmer, draught free locations. Never place them near draughts or outside doorways. Red poinsettias often look poor under fluorescent lighting. Incandescent or halogen lighting makes them look their best. White or pink poinsettias will look better for longer display periods. Red ones tend to fade in colour if in low light for over three weeks.
Many of today’s modern poinsettias were bred to have flexible bracts (the coloured leaves around the rather insignificant flowers); thus they tend to weep a little. This is natural.
On some, the foliage has the same appearance. Whilst they can consume a lot of water, poinsettias should never be allowed to stand in water.
Soaking the root ball with warm water will often cause severely wilted poinsettias to revive. Revival should occur within one hour, so don’t chuck out your plants until you have tried this.
Poinsettia quality varies widely from grower to grower, and year to year. You often get what you pay for. And finally, the answer is no, white poinsettias don’t turn pink then finally “ripen” to red.
What about alternatives to poinsettias? One plant that you might consider is the Hippeastrum, often erroneously called Amaryllis (which is a related species, but not the one you’ll commonly find). It is a bulbous plant that is often in flower at this time of year. Available in a wide variety of colours and flower forms, this impressive and spectacular plant is easy to care for.
The word cactus conjures up images of the spiky, desert plants seen in cowboy films. However, the cactus family is quite diverse, and one member of this group is the Christmas cactus – species and hybrids in the Schlumbergera genus. These plants, originally from the cloud forests of Brazil (where they grow in tree tops at altitudes between 1,000 and 1,700 metres above sea level) are also very easy to look after. They can be induced to produce flower buds by keeping them relatively cool (10°C – 15°C / 50°F – 60°F) for six to eight weeks.
If your offices are shutting down over Christmas, or if you are going away on holiday, spare a thought for your indoor plants.
Most indoor plants are a lot more robust than you think, and can manage quite well for a week or two without much thought. If the lights are going to be turned off, turn down the temperature a little as well, otherwise the balance of light, temperature and water will be lost.
But don’t turn the thermostat too low, some succulents can’t cope with temperatures below about 10°C. Rassulas (money plants) can collapse and fall apart (although they can re-grow, very slowly) and Sansevieria (Motherin-law’s tongue) will go mushy and smelly. Don’t be tempted to over-water the plants. If it is cool, or darker than usual, the plants can’t make use of the excess, and you might damage the roots and the soil structure.