Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima cv. RedFox)
Garden Guide: Enjoy holiday plants all year
Poinsettias, Christmas cactus and holly bring color and life to holiday celebrations, and they can all be kept alive from year to year. Here's a look at what it takes:
Poinsettias. With more than 100 varieties, poinsettias come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, white and even gold. Here are some tips for choosing and caring for a poinsettia:
Choose a plant that’s about twice as tall as the diameter of the pot. Look for a well-formed, round, full shape and good color in the leaves.
Make sure the bracts are completely colored, with no green tips. Brown edges may indicate damage from improper handling, overfertilization, cold or excessive heat.
Look for flowers (the small yellow nubs at the center of the foliage) that are fresh — and either green- or red-tipped — and not covered with pollen. Yellow leaves or loss of lower leaves can indicate that the plant is suffering from dryness.
Check the soil. If it's wet and the plant is wilted, this may be a sign of root rot.
In USDA Zones 5 or anywhere the temperature is below 50 degrees, make sure the plant is completely covered when you take it out of the store.
Remove the plastic protective covering when you get home. Plants left covered deteriorate quickly.
Keep poinsettias in a spot where daytime temperatures are 60 and 70 degrees and the nighttime low is about 55 degrees.
Place the plant in a sunny window, but be sure no leaves touch the window.
Keep the plant away from drafts and heat sources.
Check the soil daily. Water when dry, and make sure the container has proper drainage.
To add cut poinsettias to flower arrangements, sear the cut ends for a few seconds with a flame or boiling water. You can also soak the stem in ice water for several minutes. Doing this will help them last up to 10 days.
Christmas cactus. Christmas cactus needs excellent drainage, several hours of bright light a day, medium temperature and medium to high humidity. To increase the amount of indirect light it receives, line whatever the plant sits on with aluminum foil. Water it thoroughly when the top half of the soil feels dry to the touch, and discard excess water. Here are some tips for long-term care:
After the holidays, keep Christmas cactus in a sunny indoor spot or a semi-shady area outdoors.
In February and March, keep it at 55 degrees, and water it infrequently.
In fall, reintroduce the plant to the indoors slowly, gradually increasing the amount of time it spends inside.
Force the plant to rebloom in much the same way as you would a poinsettia, keeping it in total darkness from early October through Thanksgiving.
Holly. Holly bushes can be planted in the garden for year-round color. You’ll have to be patient, though, as cultivation can take two years. Here’s how to do it:
Squeeze the seed from the berry and place it in a stratification consisting of a layer of sand covered with a mulch of evergreen needles.
Put it outside. The alternate thawing and freezing will crack the seeds.
Toward spring, plant the seeds outside in a semi-shaded location.
Home-Selling Tip: Successful pre-sale remodeling
Never be the last homeowner on the block to remodel. Homebuyers will pass up your property in favor of the one down the street where everything is already updated. Your home will sell slowly and for less money. Whether you want to make more money than you spend, or just recoup your remodeling expenses when you sell your home, know what's standard in the neighborhood.
How-To: Prepare your home before you travel
Face your fridge: If you're going on a long vacation, dispose of all perishable food and wipe down the refrigerator with an eco-friendly cleaning wipe. This is a great way to help clean grease and grime and prevent mold and odor buildup from spoiled food. Leave an open box of baking soda in the center of the fridge to soak up any remaining odors.
Class up your trash: Empty the trash the morning you leave. Try re-bagging your trash can with bags that help neutralize odors.
Be a garbage disposal Guru: Look for products designed specifically for pesky disposals. On the day you depart, drop a no-mess pack down your drain to eliminate lingering smells in your garbage disposal. It leaves nothing behind but a fresh, citrus scent.
Water off and power down: Unplug all nonessential appliances and electronic devices, including turning off power strips. Shut off the water-main running to the interior of the house.
Give your washing machine a break: Avoid a possible flood due to a burst washer hose by shutting off your machine's hot and cold water valves, usually located directly behind the washing machine.
-- Family Features
Did You Know ...
Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs.