30 December 2009
In The Garden With the Fluvanna Master Gardeners
By Irene C. Burke - Fluvanna Master Gardener
Fluvanna County Extension Office: 434.591.1950
You have either bought one of those luscious holiday potted plants or have received one as a gift.
Theyre not hardy here and need protection from our inconsiderate winter weather. Unless you received a true cactus (Cactaceae family), those tender gifts need something different from our homes arid air. Incompatible lighting as well as over-watering joins dry air as the usual plant killers.
Pots and flowers
Among traditional holidays gifts are amaryllis, azalea, calceolaria (Lady's purse), Christmas cactus, cineraria, cyclamens, gardenia, gerbera daisy, poinsettia, and miniature roses.
Calceolaria and cineraria
Calceolaria and cineraria need 50 degree F, bright indirect light, moist but not soggy soil. Discard these plants after they finish blooming.
Gerbera daisy and gardenia
The gerbera daisy likes a southern California climate, so water when the soil is dry to the touch. Theyll bloom for 4-6 weeks and last about 2-3 years.
Gardenias need acid soil, 60 degrees F and high humidity, which can be achieved with daily misting. Set the pot on a deep, water-filled saucer of pebbles for additional moisture. Any more than 60 degrees F and the buds will drop.
Azaleas and miniature roses
Azaleas, if they survive our indoor climate, can be planted outside within a clay pot in a shady location after the last spring frost. Bring them indoors before the earliest autumn chill to a cool place (40-50 degrees F) so they can set buds before the next round of blooms. In January theyll need 65 degrees F and indirect light to flower again.
Miniature roses want 6 hours direct sun from your southwest window. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. They require 70 degrees F and will sulk when the temperature drops below 50 F. No cold drafts or hot breezes.
Like miniature roses, poinsettia requires still, warm air but cant abide direct light. If you are brave enough to carry them over to next year, then cut them to 5 inches above the soil after the red leaves have fallen and follow a strict regimen of controlled light, water and temperatures that duplicate its native subtropical climate. Check publication number 426-101 at the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) web site http://www.ext.vt.edu/ for care and culture.
Deadhead amaryllis flowers after bloom ends but keep the foliage vigorous indoors or out (following the last freeze). In September stop watering. Trim the yellowed leaves, storing the potted bulb in a cool dark area. Renew the forcing process in a warm bright room around Halloween.
These easy-to-grow natives of the Brazilian rainforest grow in the elbows and crevices of trees taking their nourishment from the air. They are adapted to the drying effect of rapid drainage but to bloom they need short days of bright light with nighttime temperatures of 55-65 degrees F from mid-September to mid-November.
Even if these lovelies do not survive, the potting soil can be salvaged when mixed with finished compost, transferred to another pot or worked into your garden soil. All these plants will readily add important nutrients to your compost pile.
Tip of the Week
Gently brush snow from heavily laden shrubs, rosemary, too and trees, within reach as soon as you can after a storm. Use twine to loosely bind the limbs to their original position. Remove the twine in the spring.