Happy Holidays! Now that the holidays are over, the real work begins. Time to get on the treadmill, put the holiday decorations away, and decide what to do with those holiday plants. You can keep these plants year-round with little trouble with a little help and know-how.
The most popular holiday plant is the poinsettia. After the holidays, a poinsettia makes a very nice house plant, but you have to be tricky to get them to color up again next year. Place the plants near a bright window, but not directly in the sunlight. Ideal temperatures would be between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperatures are kept above 75 degrees, the plants can decline quickly. Avoid overwatering, applying too much water can kill the roots of the plant. Wait until the surface of the potting media begins to dry slightly before watering. Apply water until it begins to run out the bottom of the pot, wait 30 minutes, and then dump out the water that remains in the bottom of the foil sleeve or drip tray. Don’t worry if the plant drops all of the bracts and looks like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree after the holidays. Continue to water as needed until new growth forms. Next year, near the middle of September, the poinsettia should be placed in complete darkness from 5 pm to 8 am daily. Put it under a cardboard box or in a dark closet to provide the “short day,” which encourages blooming. Lights from any lamps will prevent the bracts from changing color and for normal flowering. Continue this “short day” treatment until the plant bracts show color in late November.
Christmas cactus are another holiday plant that requires a little tricking. It is similar to the poinsettia in that it needs short days and cool temperatures in order to encourage blooming. Treat these like any other houseplant, water when needed and place in bright light. From mid-September to mid-October, bring the plants inside and cover them at night so they only receive 9 hours of light each day. Be sure to reduce watering and avoid fertilizing during the flower bud development.
The last holiday plant that can be kept year-round is the amaryllis. Once the blooms fade, cut off the flower stalk. This will allow the plant to put energy in to the big bulb instead of into seed development. Continue to grow the bulb as a houseplant or grow outside when the weather allows. When frost is predicted, bring the bulbs inside and store in a cool room. Withhold water until the foliage dies. The bulbs require a 2-3 month rest before growth and flowering can begin again. Flower buds should appear several weeks after moving plants into warm temperatures and watering is restarted. Bulbs that had four or more healthy leaves throughout the summer should be large enough to flower.
Be sure to take your once-live Christmas tree to be recycled. Recycled trees should be free of decorations and removed from tree bags. The city of Grand Island has two locations; ACE Hardware at the west end of the parking lot and the former Skagway South location at the north end of the parking lot. Trees will be accepted at these locations December 26- January 9. Mulch will be left at the site for anyone who wants it. The Conestoga Mall will also accept trees just north of Red Lobster until January 4th.
Upcoming Programs: Extension Master Gardener Program- Two training sessions will be held at the Nebraska Extension in Hall County meeting rooms in Grand Island. Session 1: Tuesday evenings February 7 through March 21, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Session 2: March 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, and 24 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please contact Elizabeth Killinger, 308-385-5088, with any questions about the program. Registrations are due prior to January 30 with the session you are interested in attending. Public welcome. More information, updated schedules, and an application can be found at http://hall.unl.edu
Elizabeth Killinger is the Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. For more information contact Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org, her blog at https://huskerhort.com/, or HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter.