Looking for a hostess gift, decorating your home or office, or just longing for the nostalgia of traditional holiday plants? Read on –
“Holiday” Cactus (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter Cactus)
- Actually not a cactus at all – this stunning seasonal bloomer is a succulent.
- Native to the tropics – epiphytic (grows on the surface of trees in Brazil)
- Flat leaves, easy to propagate – just snap off and plant!
- Identify by the edges of each section and the flowers –
- Thanksgiving – Schlumbergera truncata – The flowers are pink, red, white or yellow and they typically bloom in November. The Thanksgiving Cactus anthers are yellow. Thanksgiving Cactus flowers are more asymmetrical, protrude from the ovary and extend horizontally from the tips of the stem segments.
- Christmas – Schlumbergera bridgesii – Flowers are usually white or red but occasionally may be yellow. The blooming time is typically in December. The Christmas Cactus has purplish-brown anthers. Flowers are symmetrical being evenly distributed around each flower tube. The flowers are more pendulous and droop straight down from the ovary.
- Easter – Hatiora gaertneri – The flowers are royal purple, red or pink and brighter than Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving Cactus. The flowers are more star-shaped than the other two ‘Holiday Cactus.’ It typically blooms in the spring months of April and May. Leaves are rounded.
- These plants need a bit more shade, hydration & humidity than other succulents –
- Some direct sun is good, but not too much. 12-14 hours of darkness per night for 4 weeks leading up to bloom time. Best spot – an unused bedroom or office. Not near the TV in the living room.
- A saucer of water & pebbles under the plant helps improve humidity. Water when the top layer of soil has completely dried out.
- Fertilize in spring, move outside to a shady spot in summer, keep it indoors as a houseplant from first to last frost.
- “Prune in June” to keep it flowering.
- Heart-shaped leaves with abundant red, pink, purple or white flowers held high on long stems. Attractive foliage often has silver marbling.
- Can bloom for months and requires very little care.
- Cyclamen persicum or Florist’s Cyclamen is not the hardy version that can be planted outdoors here.
- Tropical plant that prefers slightly cooler temps than might be assumed.
- Bright, indirect light and a cool room is ideal (68 degrees or lower).
- Well-drained potting medium, kept moist but not soaking wet. Water below the leaves and avoid getting water on the crown of the plant, which can cause rot. Tuber should be planted high.
- Repot every 2 years in the summer while dormant. Fertilize once a month when flowering.
- Not a fern at all – in the “spikemoss” family, but not a true moss either – Selaginella kraussiana has highly textural foliage
- Festive foliage accent among holiday decorations, centerpieces or alongside flowering holiday plants like poinsettia and Christmas cactus.
- Needs high humidity to thrive – around 70%, much higher than our homes’ winter environment – keep it on a tray of pebbles & water, or in a terrarium. Another way to create humidity is to cluster several plants together.
- Bright, indirect light is ideal.
Dwarf Alberta Spruce
- Evergreen conifer Picea glauca ‘Conica’ is an ideal evergreen for landscaping – diminutive evergreen with a classic pyramidal Christmas tree shape.
- Slow-growing small tree, can be grown indoors or out.
- Indoors – keep the humidity high and provide adequate natural light.
- Outdoors – protect from strong winds and excess heat. Full sun to part shade – east or northeast exposure.
- Great host/hostess gift!
Norfolk Island Pine
- Not a true pine – Araucaria heterophylla is a tropical plant that cannot tolerate temps below 35. Native to Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean, located between New Zealand and New Caledonia.
- Wants several hours of direct, bright light such as is found in a south-facing window.
- High humidity – weekly misting, humidifier in the room, or pebbles/water tray.
- Fertilize in spring & summer.
- Hippeastrum is an easy-to-grow bulb with red or pink flowers, some variegated.
- The base and roots of the bulb should be placed in lukewarm water for a few hours. Remember, if you cannot plant the bulbs immediately after receiving them, store them at a cool temperature between 40-50 degrees F.
- Plant bulbs in a nutritious potting compost, many are available pre-mixed. Plant the bulb up to its neck in the potting compost, being careful not to damage the roots. Press the soil down firmly to set the bulb securely in place after planting.
- Plant the bulb or place the potted bulb in a warm place with direct light since heat is necessary for the development of the stems. The ideal temperature is 68 to 70 degrees F. Water sparingly until the stem appears, then, as the bud and leaves appear, gradually water more. At this point, the stem will grow rapidly and flowers will develop after it has reached full growth.
- Bulbs will flower in 7-10 weeks as a general rule. In winter the flowering time will be longer than in spring. Set up your planting schedule between October and April with this in mind. To achieve continuous bloom, plant at intervals of 2 weeks for stunning color in your home or garden.
- Amaryllis bulbs are easy enough to grow in the garden in our region. They make great specimens. They perform well in beds, borders or containers outside. You can also scatter them throughout the landscape in naturalized areas. These plants look exceptionally attractive when planted in groups. Best of all, amaryllis bulbs are deemed resistant to both deer and many rodents. Divide every few years.
- Easy to force indoors, these fragrant bulbs in the same family as Daffodils are a holiday staple.
- No soil needed, just force in water with pebbles for anchoring as the long stems grow.
- Alternately, use 3-5 inches of soil. Never cover the top of the bulbs, though, except with decorative moss.
- Staking may be required to prevent flopping or use a tall vase to provide natural stability.
Planting outdoors after forcing indoors is rarely successful – this plant is too tropical for our zone.