With Christmas rapidly approaching, our New Oscott Garden Centre has just taken delivery of that most seasonal of plants – the Poinsettia. These are David Hall's tips on to how to keep these beautiful plants at their colourful best.
Many people will have received Christmas bulbs and other plants as gifts at this time of the year. They can always be relied on to bring colour and scent into the house. After they have flowered, David Hall explains how you can get a repeat performance next year.
The sad fate of most seasonal plants however is consignment to the bin, but with some care the plant can be kept for another show the following Christmas.
All you have to do is allow the poinsettia to slowly dry out in the spring and prune back hard. Re-pot and place in a light location but out of direct sunlight where the temperature is about 16 - 17C.
Feed weekly, keep warm, and in November alternate between 12 hours of natural light and darkness. The bracts should then colour again but will probably never be as good as in the first year.
Hyacinth bulbs are also enormously popular. After flowering, leave the leaves intact until they die off but cut out the flower spikes. Move the pot or bowl to a sunny position and keep moist with a fortnightly tonic of seaweed based fertilizer.
When the leaves have withered either lift the bulbs or leave them in the container. Keep in a cool, dry, dark place for about eight weeks, then replant them and they will flower again in the spring.
For an Amaryllis the procedure is much the same, leave the bulbs in the pot but cut out the flowering stems quite near to the bulb, don't touch the foliage. Place the plant in a warm, light location perhaps a conservatory or greenhouse and keep feeding and watering
After the threat of frost has passed and the weather warms up, the bulbs may be placed outside in a sunny position. Keep moist and apply fertilizer every fortnight. In September bring indoors. You then cease watering and keep in a cool, dark, frost free place for between six to eight weeks.
Cut off any withered leaves and, about six weeks before you want it to bloom again, move into a lighter, warmer environment. Replace the top centimetre or so of soil with fresh, and water. Keep moist by watering from the bottom but don't over do it.
Daffodils can't be forced again, so after the foliage has died, keep in a dry place during the summer and then plant outside. In a couple of years they will bloom again.
Orchids are bought not only as presents at Christmas but throughout the year. They have been pampered in a greenhouse and arrive in first rate condition, and they bloom for long periods when pruned, watered and fed correctly.
Water your orchid sparingly to keep the plant moist but not waterlogged. Good drainage is essential, they like a drink but don't want to be drowned. You can also use a product such as Orchid Myst, a nutrient rich liquid feed that is sprayed onto the roots and is formulated to support long lasting flowers.
Pruning takes place when the flowers have fallen off and the spike or stem starts to turn brown. Some experts recommend cutting the spike off at the base, so that the plant regains its energy. Others say cut back to the highest 'node' allowing the plant to bloom again sooner on the same spike.
On a young plant it might be advantageous to cut back to the base, on older plants I prune to just above the highest unflowered green node. Then move the orchid to a cooler room and apply an specialist orchid feed from Baby Bio or Orchid Focus.
When the node begins to swell move the plant back onto the windowsill and a new flowering stem will emerge. As a general rule, I think that if the stem remains green, do not cut it. After all the nodes have flowered the whole spike can be removed to the base.
It's a good time for re-potting before a new flowering stem grows. Remove the plant from its current pot and untangle the roots, cutting out any old or dead ones.
Place in a slightly larger pot using a moist specialist orchid medium such as Orchid Focus that is a mix containing free draining graded bark, blended with coconut fibre chips. There's also a re-potting kit available that contains all you need including new pot, mix and clips.
Caring for your Christmas plants so that they bloom again is very satisfying and a the proper way to treat a gift. Or is it a waste of time when replacement plants are available so cheaply? We'd be very interested to find out what you think.
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