PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL
It is open season on decorating for the December holidays and one simple, affordable way to bring long-lasting holiday cheer home is through holiday blooming houseplants. In addition to inviting a festive spirit into the home, these plants also make long-lived host gifts, gifts for gardeners and party decorations. Poinsettias are often the first winter gift plant to come to mind, but there are many others, and most easily rebloom.
Three beautiful, easy-to-grow holiday flowering plants are Christmas cactus, Cyclamen and Gloxinia. A tree-growing jungle plant, Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) come in a variety of colors and vigorously bloom yearly for generations. Keep them warm and covered on the way home, and place Christmas cacti in bright, indirectly lit and draft-free areas. Provide rich soil, occasional fertilizer, regular watering and total darkness at night to maximize the plant’s incredible flowers.
Cyclamen are also available in many colors. They sport tall, brightly colored blooms and lush green foliage. Keep them in a sunny but cool location, add water daily from below, apply flowering plant food monthly, and gently pinch off old blooms to enjoy colorful flowers from fall to spring. After blooming subsides, remove leaves as they die back and reduce watering to allow the plant to go dormant. Once the plant is dormant, replant it in a slightly bigger pot. Wait for new growth to appear and then resume regular watering.
Another delightful winter-bloomer is the Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) plant. It features month-long blooming flower bells and large fuzzy foliage. It requires diffused light, generous watering and cool temperatures while in bloom and can bloom again after a period of rest.
Christmas cherry and pepper plants make eye-catching alternatives to traditional blooming holiday houseplants. Christmas cherry (Solanum capsicasum), a potato-family plant, provides orange-red, inedible fruits against a backdrop of dark green foliage. To grow this plant as a perennial, place it in a temperate, sunny location and pinch it back regularly. Give it a good shake every few days to improve self-pollination and gain decorative fruits.
Ornamental bushy pepper (Capsicum annuum) varieties like ‘Prairie Fire’ and ‘Black Pearl’ make cheerful holiday accents and provide edible, exceedingly spicy yellow, orange, red or purple fruits. Provide pepper plants full sun, even moisture, cooler nights, regular misting and new shoot pruning to keep them full and healthy.
Outside of the bright, humid and warm greenhouses that brought them into bloom, holiday plants need care to thrive. Use our “Keeping Holiday Gift Plants Happy” factsheet, available online at www.growyourownnevada.com/keeping-holiday-gift-plants-happy, and these general indoor plant care suggestions to enjoy happy holiday plants that last long past winter snows:
- Transport plants in the cab of the vehicle, not the trunk or bed.
- Remove decorative foil, plastic or paper from pots, and water plants thoroughly.
- Place plants in decorative outer pots or baskets instead of keeping the decorative plant wrap.
- Provide plants with drainage saucers, a draft-free location, bright morning or filtered sun and cool nighttime temperatures.
- Pinch off faded blooms and maintain even soil moisture.
Ashley Andrews is the Cooperative Extension Horticulture Assistant. For questions about your plants, contact a Master Gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com.