Christmas Plant Care

Christmas is a time for giving flowering plants, but you must choose, keep and wrap them carefully so that they arrive in the best possible condition. Plants you receive will flourish too, if given the same sort of care.

Choosing plants with care

It’s wise not to buy house plants displayed on the pavement at this time of the year as they will suffer from the violent changes of temperature they are bound to go through when brought into the home.

Look for bushy plants with lots of buds. If flowers are already wide open they will be past their best by the time they are presented. Check the leaves, especially underneath, for any sign of pest or disease and reject plants with roots appearing from the drainage holes in the pot base.

Keeping in the best condition

Even if you are giving a plant as a present there will be a period when you are responsible for its health. In a nursery plants are kept in ideal surroundings, which in most cases means bright light and fairly cool temperatures with no draughts. If possible, maintain these conditions at home and water moderately. Flowering will start earlier and be foreshortened if plants are kept at too high temperatures. If you have nowhere cool to keep them, place the plants on a layer of moist pebbles to increase the humidity.

Hot, dry air, rapid changes in temperature, draughts and too much water are most plants’ worst enemies.

Transporting plants

Place bought plants on the floor of the car in a box with paper sandwiched between them to prevent them from falling over. If transporting by hand, make sure they are ‘4 sold to you in a protective sleeve, then place carefully in a strong carrier bag, and again use crunched-up paper around the pot to keep the plant upright.

Wrapping a plant as a present If the plant was bought in a transparent sleeve leave this in place, as the least possible handling is advisable to avoid bruising leaves or stems or knocking off any buds. Leave any decorative wrapping until the last possible moment. Remove any dead flowers or leaves and then enclose in a cone of paper in the traditional way. Hold the cone in place with a ribbon and bow or place in a decorative, plastic-lined basket, surrounding the pot with moist peat. Decorate the basket with ribbon trailers and bows.

Always bear in mind that plants given at Christmas will be taken home by the recipient – this may, in many cases, be a lengthy journey. Delicate plants may suffer without care, so be sure to include full instructions with the plant.

Before you give away plants as presents you must ensure that they remain in peak condition. Keep them cool and maintain humidity by standing them on trays of moist pebbles.

Going away?

Wu are spending Christmas away from home, here are some tips to keep plants left behind in good health.

Set heating thermostat at 10°C (50°F). This will ensure that plants don’t shrivel up and die of cold.

Place plants requiring similar conditions together. Stand plants in the right light and on a tray of moist pebbles to maintain humidity. Water just before you go away. Most plants will happily survive like this for a week at least. It may be worth using some fibrous water wicks it you are taking a longer break.

Feeding is not usually necessary during the winter, as most plants are resting. Some plants, however, have a winter growth period and will need a last feed before you leave.

Wrapping gift plants

  • It is doubly important that gift plants look good. Transport them carefully in a strong box with newspaper packing to keep plants supported.
  • Plants make lovely Christmas presents, even more so when beautifully wrapped. Experiment with Christmas decorations and ribbons.
  • Flowering plants add colour to the festive decorations and provide wonderful gifts. The right care will ensure that plants given or received remain in mint condition.

Ideal conditions for Christmas plants

indoor-azalea

  • Indoor Azalea (Rhododendron simsii): Place in a bright light when blooming. Keep the potting mixture thoroughly moist. Azaleas dislike lime, so use rainwater wherever possible. They can be placed outdoors in summer (use lime-free, soil-based potting mixture) and brought back indoors again the following year.
  • Christmas Begonia (Begonia x cheimantha): Winter sun is not strong enough to harm these plants, so place in a bright spot. If temperatures rise above (***** took out above by mistake) 18°C (65°F), place on damp pebbles to provide humidity and water moderately while the plant is flowering.
  • Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera hybrids): This plant needs good light in winter and a temperature when flowering of around 13°C (55°F). Water moderately, allowing the compost to dry out partially between waterings.

christmas-cactus

  • Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum): Display in a cool spot with light shade. Cyclamen dislikes bright sun. Avoid getting water on the tuber by watering.
  • Most Christmas-flowering plants like a bright, cool position in a window, but keep them away from draughts.
  • Christmas blooms can be just as colourful as those in spring. Group them with evergreens and ferns for a hill display around the edge of the pot or standing in water at room temperature for 20 minutes, then draining.
  • Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiona): A bright position, e.g. a south-facing window, is best for Flaming Katy. Allow the potting mixture to dry out partially before rewatering, and water moderately. Keep above 15°C (60°F).
  • Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudo-capsicum): Keep in a bright spot at 10°-13°C (50°-55°F) and water moderately.
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima): A bright position is best for Poinsettia and normal room temperatures are fine, but keep out of draughts. Water well but allow the compost to almost dry out before rewatering. Keep Poinsettia out of the reach of children as it is poisonous.
  • Claw Cactus (Schlumbergera truncates) should not be moved once buds have formed. Place in bright, filtered light and water well when flowering.

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