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Christmas Flowers

by Carol Siddall, Master Gardener

Loving Christmas and flowers, it is no wonder I have three of my favorites in my home at Christmastime, the Poinsettia, Amaryllis, and Christmas Cactus. I will touch on the Poinsettia and Amaryllis.

Having been a December bride, the Poinsettia was my choice of flower in my flower arrangements. After danger of frost and the ground had warmed, my mother planted all the potted ones that had survived the winter, along a south facing wall. (This was in El Paso, Texas.) The next Christmas she had LARGE blooming poinsettia plants! El Paso is quite a bit warmer then the Permian Basin, a bit more like the countries it is native to - Mexico and Central America. This plant was first introduced to the United States by Joel Poinsett, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and was subsequently renamed the poinsettia. Researching for this article I was surprised to learn that the flowers of the poinsettia are actually the yellow blooms at the middle of the bright red or white bracts that form on the plant. The Poinsettia is no longer just red in color. Several beautiful colors are available now. This plant will last way past Christmas if given plenty of light, mist the plant for help in retaining humidity, and adding adequate moisture to your plant. If leaves start to drop, more moisture is needed. Another cause of leaf dropping is a change in temperature. The goal is to keep the indoor temperature consistent. While many poinsettia plants are discarded after the holiday season, these plants can actually be cut back and saved for next season. If you do try to save your plant for another season, start reducing the plant's exposure to sunlight in mid September to October. This means moving the plant to an area that is in complete darkness each night, possibly a dark closet for 12 to 14 hours each night. During the day, the plant should be in a sunny window where it will have access to bright light. How exciting to see the leaves start to turn in November! This is a beautiful plant that gives lasting beauty if treated correctly.

The Amaryllis is a beautiful and showy bulb. Red and scarlet are the most popular colors, but there are many colors available as well as single or double blooms. You may purchase the Amaryllis as a bulb or a plant. If you chose to grow from a bulb, it is best to select the largest bulbs available as they will produce more stalks and blooms the first year. They should be firm and dry with no signs of mold, decay or injury. If you buy around Christmas, the bulb will come with its own container and soil. When planting, the bulb should be positioned so that at least one-third, preferable one-half, of the bulb is above the surface of the potting medium. Firm the potting medium around the bulb, water it thoroughly and place the container in a warm, sunny spot. Move the plant out of direct sunlight when the flower buds have begun to show color. Remove the spent blossoms to prevent seed formation by cutting the stem off just above the bulb. Place the plant in a sunny window and water regularly. After all danger of frost is gone and the soil warms, they may be planted outside. They probably will not bloom that first spring, but never give up on them. I have Amaryllis plants that comeback every year and bloom. It is always such a nice surprise to see that green leaf coming up out of the ground come Spring. Enjoy this bulb that produces such gorgeous large blooms!

For more information on Christmas flowers, please contact the AgriLife Offices in Odessa 498-4071 or Midland - 686-4700


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