When it comes to giving and receiving pot plants at Christmas those traditional favourites such as Indian azaleas and poinsettias are sold in the greatest numbers. Their bright, cheerful appearance especially those with red flowers, epitomizes the season and lifts the spirits at the festive season. But all too often, through a lack of knowledge and a shortage of care the length of time over which they provide pleasure is needlessly short.
How to Care for Five of the Most Popular Winter Flowering Pot Plants
Countless Indian azaleas (Rhododendron simsii) are bought every Christmas. Their single or double pink, white, red and purple flowers contrast strikingly with dark green foliage. Bi-coloured varieties and ones with ruffled petals complete the spectrum.
One thing they all have in common is a love of moisture. Allowed to become dry, the leaves and flower buds go brown and shrivel up. The compost must be kept moist at all times with rainwater. Tap water causes the leaves to turn yellow. Mist the leaves daily during the flowering period. Grow them cool ( 12-15 degrees Celsius) in a brightly-lit place, but not direct sunlight.
Cyclamen persicum (florist’s cyclamen)
Cyclamen should be placed in similar conditions of light and warmth as the Indian azaleas. The often selected position in a hot living room or near a radiator is responsible for the early demise of large quantities of cyclamen every year. Another cause of disappointment is overwatering. Cyclamen hate wet feet. When the surface of the compost feels dry immerse the pot in a bowl of soft water until the surface of the compost glistens. With care they can produce their beautiful swept back flowers in shades of red, purple, pink and white over several months.
Zygocactus truncatus (Christmas cactus)
The Christmas cactus has silky red, pink, orange or white flowers at the end of flat, fleshy, pointed segments. They are natives of rainforests where they are shaded by trees from direct sunlight. In the home they must be kept in indirect light and given a temperature of 13-17 degrees Celsius. Mist the plants occasionally with a fine spray to increase humidity and resist the temptation to move the plants around as this seems to unsettle them and the flower buds fall off.
Solanum capsicastrum (the winter cherry)
This small, shrubby plant with orange or red berries among dark green leaves is full of seasonal cheer. Give it a sunny window where temperatures are in the region of 12-15 degrees Celsius and its berries will last for months. Keep the compost moist, but don’t overwater and mist the leaves frequently.
Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia)
Although you can now get them in peach, pink, lemon and cream the red poinsettia is the signature plant of Christmas. Secrets of success are to give them average warmth (13-15 degrees Celsius) and maximum light during the flowering season. Water when the compost feels dry and avoid extremes of wetness and dryness as both will cause leaf fall. Frequent misting is beneficial. A properly cared for poinsettia can look good for months.
So Keep your Christmas Pot Plants Looking Good for Longer
Follow the above guidelines and your Christmas pot plants will perform superbly for many weeks or even months. All these pot plants can be brought back into flower next year. However the techniques needed for this to happen means that in most cases they are one season wonders, but when they perform to their best what a wonderful season that is.