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Getting ready for holiday color with your winter-blooming house plants

In the Garden

It may seem early, but it is time to prepare your winter-blooming house plants so you can have that nice holiday color.

Poinsettia

If your poinsettia made it through the summer happy and healthy use these tips to get the bracts to color up.

  • Bring the plant indoors if you have kept it outside for the summer. Place it in a window that will provide at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Fertilize once a month until color starts to develop, then do not fertilize again until the spring.
  • Do not overwater or leave the plants sitting in a tray of water. Water when the soil feels dry 1 – 2 inches down in the pot.
  • Toward the end of September begin light treatment, giving at least 12 hours of uninterrupted dark (a nightlight or car headlights can interrupt this process)—the plants still need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. The bracts should start to color in about four weeks and develop full color by eight weeks.
  • Light treatment can be discontinued around Thanksgiving. Bracts will maintain their color until they fall off, but the color will become less vibrant as they get older.
poinsettia
This poinsettia is ready for light treatment. | Ron Patterson, EastIdahoNews.com

Holiday cacti

Night length and cool temperatures will help Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus to bloom for the holidays.

  • Reduce water during the winter blooming period. Water when the soil feels dry 1 – 2 inches down in the pot.
  • Bloom response is better if temperatures are below 68F — placement near a window is usually enough that temperatures are not an issue.
  • Reduce fertilizer until blooming is done.
  • Night length is the most critical factor. Provide at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day for at least four weeks. Buds will form in 6 – 8 weeks and bloom about four weeks later.

Once the buds have formed, the flowers should follow, barring some extreme environmental occurrence. Continued long nights will prolong the blooming season — mine bloom from mid-November through April.

Amaryllis
Amaryllis in full bloom. | Ron Patterson, EastIdahoNews.com

Amaryllis

The main key to getting amaryllis to rebloom is to treat it right after the previous bloom. Hopefully, you let the bulb grow and recharge after the flowers were spent. If it is a perennial houseplant this would require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. If you placed it outside, bring it back inside just before or after a light frost, or twelve to fourteen weeks before you want blossoms again.

It may take as long as 18 weeks to get your amaryllis blooming again. If you are starting now it will be difficult to get holiday colors.

  • Put the bulb through a dry dormancy for about 12 weeks. A basement or a garage that doesn’t freeze is good. Do NOT water the plant during this dormancy. This can be done in or out of the pot.
  • The leaves should dry up or turn yellow. Remove them.
  • After dry dormancy, pot (if bare root) the bulb and start to water it. It will likely take 4 – 6 weeks for the blooms to open.

Get ready for some beautiful holiday colors.

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