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Nov 24, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Get the most of holiday plants

Brant News

Mark Cullen FOR BRANT NEWS Whether you receive plants this season as gifts or you purchase them to dress up your abode, now is the time to consider how to extend the life of each one of them to maximize the pleasure that you get from them. Poinsettia, cyclamen, azaleas and the like have all received their share of attention from plant breeders over recent years and the benefits accrue to you and me – the consumers. Longer blooming times, less work, bigger plants. None the less, to get the most out of them, here is what you need to know. Poinsettia The classic Christmas flowering plant is easy to maintain and even to grow if you understand just a few things about it. They love a bright room. A south or west facing window provides the perfect place to call home. They do not like to be overwatered. Let the surface of the soil dry about a centimetre or two down between waterings. Do not let the plant sit in water for more than a few hours. If you experience yellowing leaves and leaf drop, this is usually the cause. Fertilize with one-half strength Plant Prod 20-20-20 every two or three weeks to maintain healthy green leaves and bracts (the red that you see is not the flower, these are the top leaves). Poinsettias do not like drafts, especially cold ones. Come summer, I recommend that you sink the pot and all into a sunny spot in your yard and treat it like an annual. Azalea The gorgeous “rose” shaped blossoms of the azalea are to die for. And the plant is permanent: you can expect it to bloom each year come fall or winter with the proper care. It will bloom for two to four weeks and makes a great foliage plant otherwise. It is evergreen. If it loses its leaves, this is not a good thing. Rather, it is a sign that there is some stress in its life. Azaleas are a bit spoiled that way – they experience stress often and seemingly without cause. This is where it is to your advantage to think like a plant. Azaleas like their soil to be damp but not soggy. When the surface of the soil gets dry, that is your sign to add water. Make sure it is tepid water (not too cold or too hot). They like to be fertilized every three weeks when they are out of bloom with Plant Prod 30-10-10 water soluble at one-half strength all winter and full strength from May through early fall. If all of the leaves turn yellow and fall off, cut the plant back by one-half and let it dry out 70 per cent. Put it in a sunny window and ignore it except for watering once every two or three weeks. Likely, you have given it too much love and attention. Get a pet. To re-bloom an azalea, leave it out of doors next fall during the early frosts. When temperatures drop to minus three Celsius, bring it indoors and place it in a sunny window. It has now been shocked into blooming once again. Cyclamen I love the new varieties of this exotic-looking indoor flowering plant best of all. Perhaps it is the ease of care that has biased me over the years, but who can deny that the new colours and colour combinations are eye-poppers? Cyclamen like slight drying between waterings, indirect sun while in bloom to prolong the blossom time, mild fertilizer application every three weeks (one-half strength 20-20-20 works well) and rest when out of flower (cut back on watering and place in direct sunshine). With a little attention, your seasonal plants can really perform. Some judicious ignorance can also work. Visit Mark Cullen’s website at www.markcullen.com.

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