David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois
Yard & Garden
It’s bloomin’ Christmas, already!
Take time to decorate your homes with holiday plants
December is typically a month you don’t consciously think of gardening. Chances are, if we look at the last five years as a benchmark, we’ll have snow, cold and probably some ice, which I have named “The Big Three.”
With The Big Three, gardening is the last thing on our minds.
Yet, December bombards us with gardening opportunities, though you may have to stretch your mind. Just think of it this way. It’s not December without holiday plants.
First, there is the ubiquitous poinsettia in reds, white, pinks and combinations, not to mention all the fake spray colors and glitter now applied to plants, making them maybe a little more decorator friendly. Still, for me, seeing a blue poinsettia is as appealing as blue potatoes.
Poinsettias are one of the few things that seem to remain the same price year after year. If you chart their price, they are one thing that has gone down in the last 30 years as more and more of these holiday plants are purchased at discount, home improvement and grocery stores instead of florists.
With low prices and various sized plants, you can quickly decorate any room or surface such as sideboards, buffets and tables. Just make sure to keep a saucer under the pots to catch water. Do not expect the decorative foil surrounding the plastic pot to do the trick.
While the percent of poinsettias sold as holiday plants is higher than the purity of Ivory Soap, there still are other plants that can be bought. Christmas cacti, amaryllis, cyclamens, and Christmas cherries and peppers are the most common.
Of all the holiday plants, only the Christmas cactus and amaryllis have the potential for enjoyment year after year, though not without some effort. Still, there are folks with 50-year old Christmas cactus.
Essentially, and to be totally blunt, once the holidays are over, take another swig of enhanced eggnog and throw all the poinsettias, Christmas peppers and cherries and cyclamen on the compost pile or in the trash can. Do it the same time you take down your Christmas tree.
If you can’t do this when you take down the holiday decorations because the plants might still give off the appearance they are doing well, give yourself another two weeks. That should be long enough to enjoy the memories of the holiday season without the plants looking too bad.
And 2012 will still come in if you kill a living plant. No one really cares, and there really isn’t a holiday orphanage where you can donate them.
Besides, discarding the plants gives you a reason to buy new ones next year, which keeps the greenhouse industry in business.
Enjoy the specialty blooms and the holidays and catch my column in the new year!
David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.
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