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How to care for holiday plants

Extension advice

POSTED: November 28, 2017 6:30 p.m.
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Ashley Hoppers is UGA Extension agent in Liberty County.

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As we enter into the holiday season, many people are looking for the perfect gifts. For those who wish to communicate their well wishes with color, live plants make a wonderful holiday gift for both loved ones and colleagues.

I’m a big fan of gifting potted plants, because their beauty and sentiment can endure time.

If you are considering giving someone a potted plant this year, then it will need some help along the way to do well. Here are a few hints to keep your holiday plants healthy and happy all season long.

Most flowering plants require bright, indirect light, meaning do not place them in a spot that receives direct sun. Direct sun throughout the day may wilt and fade the flowers.

Depending on how much time you have spent around plants, you may have noticed that they tend to grow toward their light source.This phenomenon is called positive phototropism, and it is easily observed with indoor plants. To keep your plants from leaning toward the light turn them weekly.

Keep plants out of drafty areas caused heaters, fans and windows. The soil should be keep moist but not wet.

One of the surest ways to ensure your beloved house plant’s demise is by loving it too much. So, as tempting as it is to water your plant daily, don’t do it!

Resist the urge to overwater your plant and let the soil surface dry slightly between waterings. When you do water, use enough water to completely soak the root ball.

Water should run out the bottom of the pot at each watering, but to avoid root rots do not let the plant sit in excess water for long periods. Plants with flowers and larger leaves will require water more often.

One way to make your plant more attractive is by removing faded flowers and leaves and to keep the plant from producing seed. Ideal growing temperatures are found in most houses.

Strive for 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day and 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night, unless otherwise noted. Plants placed too close to windows may be injured by the cold on particularly chilly nights.

The poinsettia is one of the most popular holiday plants. They are grown for their colorful bracts (modified leaves) and not for their flowers.

Leaves may be flat or curled, and plant sizes now vary from huge specimens to miniature pocket-sized ones! There are red, pink, white and marbled varieties.

Again, those are leaves you are looking at, not the flowers, which are actually found in the tiny yellow pockets called cythia at the center of each leaf bunch (or bracts).

To get the longest life out of your gift plant, try to select plants in which these flowers have not opened.

Poinsettias are very sensitive to environment. Drafts, cold, heat, dim light, low humidity or improper watering may cause them to wilt or shed leaves and flowers.

Maintain a daytime temperature of 65 to70 degrees Fahrenheit and reduce this to low 60s at night. Put the poinsettia in bright light but never in full sun, which can bleach its lovely color.

Put the plant where it will not dry out. If placed in a window, remove it at night so it will not get too cold. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings and then water until it runs out of the bottom of the pot.

Unless you intend to try to keep your poinsettia then you will not need to repot; if so, use regular potting soil.

The most common mistake is overwatering. Remove the foil from around the container and water about once a week and try to avoid wetting the foliage. Though your plant appears to be in "full bloom," it is not actively growing, so no fertilizer is necessary.

Like other flowering plants, amaryllis requires bright light, cool conditions and moist soils. Bulbs bloom four to six weeks after planting. Individual flowers last three to four days but a plant may have two flower stalks with three to four flowers per stalk.

To re-bloom them, let the leaves grow normally in a well-lit warm location. Put them outside in the spring and summer.

Fertilize and water as needed. Once leaves begin to die back, slow and eventually stop watering. Store the bulb in a cool dry place for four to eight weeks before beginning growth again by watering.

Holiday cactus is generally available in three types, which bloom at different times of the year. They flower at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. All three require bright light and moderate moisture levels.

South facing windows are good places for holiday cacti. After bloom, remove faded flowers and fertilize. They can easily be grown outside in spring and summer in shady locations.

Stem pieces of three segments or more root easily. They flower based on day length, so they should bloom around the same time each year.

For more information on plants, call the Liberty County Extension Office at 912-876-2133 or come by the office. You can also contact us at

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