Extend the season with holiday plants

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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The traditional centerpieces and table accents — poinsettias, Christmas cactus, amaryllis — brighten the holidays and are popular gifts this time of year. But what do you do with them when January rolls around? Poinsettia Red comes to mind when you think of poinsettias, but growers are constantly expanding the color palette. “People are picking poinsettias that match their interior decoration,” Eisley Nursery employee Denise Furgeson said. At Eisley, customers can choose from 16 to 18 varieties, including tapestry, one of the newest variations. “It has a slightly muted flower with yellowish and green leaves,” Furgeson said. “It’s very beautiful and has been very popular.” Another standout is Cortez, which has more of a burgundy bloom. Whatever variety you choose, they’ll provide many months of color given proper care and location. “In our area, you can keep them year-round,” Furgeson said. Zygo “Christmas” cactus These winter-bloomers make ideal, easy-care houseplants. “They originated in South African jungles,” Furgeson said. The winter-flowering tropical flourishes best in 60 to 70-degree temperature and doesn’t tolerate freezing. “Keep (the cactus) moist but never soggy,” she said. “It can tolerate drought.” And place it in a location that receives medium-defused light. “If it doesn’t rebloom, you can try putting it where it will get 13 to 14 hours of dark for seven weeks in the fall,” Furgeson said No fertilizer is required in the blooming period. But once the flowers are gone, she suggests using time-release capsules with a balanced nutrient mix. The cactus comes in a variety of sizes. Colors of the blooms range from light and dark pink to salmon, fuchsia, white and red. They’re very low maintenance and will reflower in November and December each year. Amaryllis Another way to bring in traditional Christmas colors is with amaryllis. “It’s a beautiful bulb and comes in reds, whites and pinks,” said Lyn Bristol, manager of High Hand Nursery in Loomis. The easy-care tropical plant is very drought tolerant. But because Amaryllis is a forced winter bloomer, getting it to rebloom is a fairly complicated process, she said. Rosemary topiary Shaped to look like miniature Christmas trees, Rosemary bushes can even be decorated with ribbons and Christmas ornaments. “It’s a great little topiary plant,” Furgeson said. Usually sold in one-gallon containers, they keep well indoors for the holidays in a sunny spot. Then plant them in the garden or in a pot on the patio early in the new year. Water them sparingly, keeping the soil moist but not soggy, and use a well-balanced fertilizer, Furgeson advised. You’ll have to prune it to keep the conical shape. Alberta Spruce It looks like a miniature Christmas tree and has a nice pine scent. “It makes a nice houseplant or table centerpiece for the holidays,” Furgeson said. When it comes time to plant, put the spruce in an area that gets semi-shade or morning sun. It’s a very slow grower and at mature height will teach only 6 to 8 feet. “I have two at my front door,” she said. “It is a nice foundation planting.“ Furgeson said she decorates her Alberta spruce trees with weather-resistant red bows. Hydrangea Hydrangeas available at this time of year are florist flowers with forced blooms. However, the blooms will last for months, Bristol said. Once the flowers are gone, plant the hydrangea in a shady area of the garden. “They’re a super easy plant as long as they’re in the shade and, in time, they’ll grow into nice shrubs,” she said. In fact, this is a good time of year to plant them because they are in the dormant stage.