Q. I love giving and receiving live flowers for the holidays, but they always look pitiful within a week or two. What am I doing wrong? Cindy P., San Luis Obispo
A. Whether its a traditional red poinsettia, a crisp white cyclamen, an elegant amaryllis, or a graceful Christmas cactus (schlumbergera), giving or receiving live plants at the holidays produces good cheer!
All too often, however, those beautiful specimens wilt, lose their leaves, drop their blossoms, or do all three shortly after arriving at their destination, leaving you with the holiday blues.
Rest assured there are ways to keep your plants healthy and looking lovely well into the new year. Even though these plants are very diverse in their appearance, they do have similar needs. They all enjoy bright, indirect sunlight but wont tolerate drafts from a heating vent or fireplace; nor do they like having their feet wet.
Situating your flowers in a room with east/west or south-facing windows allows optimal sunlight for maintaining blooms; however, they all prefer cool conditions during their bloom cycle.
Cyclamen, Christmas cactus, and amaryllis prefer daytime temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees, while poinsettias do best at temperatures of 65 to 70. All enjoy cooler nights down to 55 degrees, while cyclamen like temps as cool as 50.
Most importantly, keep the plants away from direct sunlight, warm drafts and heat-producing electronics or appliances.
Good drainage and proper watering will also help keep plants fresh and healthy. Make sure all pots have drainage holes and no water is left standing in saucers or decorative foil wrappers.
In fact, its not a bad idea to get rid of the foil wrappers, as they also limit air circulation. Water regularly, but only when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Amaryllis bulbs and cyclamen tubers are prone to rot if water is applied directly to the leaf and stem surface areas, so be sure to apply water only to the soil surface.
Enjoy great success with your beautiful flowers, and have a wonderful holiday!
GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?
Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners Web site at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org