December 26, 2003 at 9:24 a.m.
When I write on indoor plants, I always go to Deb Brown, Extension Horticulturist at the U of M. She separates those that will bloom for a short time and those that will last for months. Mums and azaleas can last about three weeks if kept in a relatively cool place. Christmas cactus only blooms for 2-3 weeks, but may be forced for years.
If possible, buy flowering plants with only some of the buds wide open and others just beginning to open. A plant with all its flowers already open may be showy, but generally won’t last long. If the buds get chilled, they may fall off before opening. This is the reason that places that know what they’re doing will wrap your plant before you take it outside, but even a wrapped plant can get chilled if left in a cold car. Try to make your plant purchase at the end of your shopping day.
Greenhouse growers have poinsettia production down to a science. There are many new and beautiful varieties. They seem to be better adapted to growing under ordinary home conditions.
To keep a poinsettia looking good for a long time, begin with a robust plant. It should have many large, well-colored bracts or petals surrounding the little gold flowers at the tip of each stem. Once in your home, be sure the foliage receives some direct sunlight every day. Don’t leave them in a dark location for more than a day or two at a time. Water it thoroughly whenever the soil surface begins to dry. The leaves will curl and yellow if you allow the plant to wilt repeatedly.
After about six week, begin a light fertilization regime. If you are up to the challenge you can put the plant outdoors after frost, bring it indoors in early autumn and force it into bloom again.
The Christmas cactus is very different from its desert relative. In fact, it comes from the humid environment of the tropical and sub-tropical forest, which gives us clues on how it should be taken care of. When blooming, place them in bright filtered light, rather than a sunny, south facing window. Keep the soil relatively moist at all times, fertilizing it lightly every 2-3 weeks. Buds will hang on better, and open flowers will last longer if the warm daytime temperature drops to 60-65 degrees at night. Once flowers fade, allow the soil to dry out more between watering.
Put these plants on a porch or outdoors in partial shade once danger of frost has passed. It’s easy to get blooms each year by exposing them to cool night time temperatures and short days after you bring them back inside.
The cyclamen is available in many colors from pure white to pink, red and fuchsia. Again, if you select plants with more buds you can enjoy the blooms for a longer time. As the older flowers fade they will be replaced with new ones.
Two important factors must be in place to keep cyclamen blooming well. They need good bright light during the day, followed by cool temperatures at night. Ideally, night temperatures should fall between 50-60 degrees, but even a drop to 60 or 65 degrees will help. Water and fertilize as for poinsettias. Getting cyclamens to rebloom is possible, but difficult. Most people discard the plant once it begins looking tacky.
I have never had a cyclamen plant, however, we do have an old farm house where the night temperatures may appeal to this plant. I have tried to make a Christmas cactus rebloom, but I’m not bragging about my success. However, this is not true with poinsettias. We have had a plant going on its fourth year. We put it out in the summer and bring it back in before frost, and it is beautiful. My wife just bought another one that has three different poinsettias in the same pot. One is white, one is red and the other is variegated. This plant is also very beautiful.
You can find more information on these plants on the U of MN Extension website: http://www.exten sion.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h145cyclamen.html
Extension update: We have moved to new offices located at the Green Acres Care Center, in North Branch. It is a much smaller office space, so it is taking some time to find creative ways to fit our necessary items. Please be patient as we work through the transition. Office hours for Starr Carpenter, Horticultural Program Assistant have been reduced to 10 hours per week. For this reason it may take longer for you to get a response to your questions, but be assured we will respond. The old office number is supposed to forward to our new number, but as of now it has not been set up. We also lost our county email addresses. I apologize to anyone who has been frustrated in trying to get in touch with us. The new number for your gardening questions is 651-237-3080.
The new email address is: [email protected]
Look for information toward the end of January about Bonanza 2004 “Garden Fever” which will be held at Maranatha Church, in Forest Lake, March 6. Call or e-mail if you would like to be added to the mailing list.