Have you still got some Christmas flowers hanging around that you’d like to try to salvage? Poinsettias, Paper Whites, Christmas Cactus, Amaryllis–all greenhouse-grown in such a way that they will flower over the Christmas period. But what can you do to make that happen again, or to keep them blooming?
In most cases, the answer is “Not Much”. But let’s look at those 4 one by one.
Like most houseplants, Poinsettia is a tropical plant, so it requires a lot of light, moderate warmth, and moderate watering. And since our winter-time homes tend to be pretty dry, some extra humidity would also help. If your preferred spot is on the dining room table, odds are this won’t be the sunniest place in the house, so your plant will start to drop its leaves earlier than if it sat in a south facing window.
Once your poinsettia has lost many or most of it’s flowers (actually “bracts”–the flowers are the tiny little white bits in the centre), the careful attention it requires to rest, then grow, then experience total black-out in order to set buds, is more work than most of us are prepared to put into it. So my suggestion is, discard it when it looks tatty, and buy another next year. For more info on keeping your poinsettia looking as nice as possible as long as possible, and even trying to get it to bloom again next winter, here’s The Poinsettia Page.
Paper Whites (Narcissus)
We often grow paper whites in a shallow bowl (or in this case tall glass vase) with rocks or marbles. But it they’re grown in soil they will be easier to keep growing.
Once the flowers have faded, cut them off (just the flower head or the whole stem), but leave the leaves to grow and support the bulb with nutrition. (Remember, leaves feed the plant by converting sunlight to carbohydrates through photosynthesis.) Keep it indoors in a bright area until the leaves have also faded. Then they can be removed. Once all danger of frost is over (our last frost date in Vancouver is March 28) they can be planted out in a sunny spot. From there, they’ll act like any other narcissus (aka daffodil), except they may never multiply. The Narcissus papyraceus is less hardy (Zone 8+) than our common daffs, so you can’t expect it to perform quite as well. And you won’t be able to “force” it to bloom indoors a second time.
Now we’re getting to more hopeful re-bloomers.
To make sure you’ll be able to salvage your amaryllis for more years of bloom, you have to care for it appropriately from the start. Often the bulb comes in a gift box with growing medium and a pot. And often that pot has NO drainage holes. CUT OR DRILL SOME HOLES, or use a different pot that does have drainage holes. Water infrequently and give it as much sun as possible. Once in bloom it doesn’t need much light, since it’s at the end of this particular growth period.
Now treat the amaryllis just like the paper whites (above)–like a houseplant until late spring/early summer. (The ground here is still very wet until June, so better wait to plant out.) They can even be left in their pots when planted out so they get natural light and rain, as well as whatever fertilizer you supply to your annuals and perennials, but lifting them in the fall is easier. Before first frost date (Nov 5 in Vancouver) dig them up, shake off the soil from the roots, and put in a paper bag in the fridge for 6 weeks. then plant up in the same way you did at the beginning. Easy-peasy!
Of course the easiest one. Treat it like any other houseplant until the first of October. From that moment, don’t water or fertilize it, and if possible place it in a cooler darker area of the house. The plant figures it’s dying, so puts out flowers to generate new babies (in theory–although I’ve never seen these flowers, once faded, turn to seed heads…). Once it has put on quite a few buds, you can bring it back into whatever space you like, and water as usual. (With almost all houseplants “as usual” means “less than you think it needs“.) Repeat every year.
Have you tried to salvage any of your Christmas flowers? Would love to hear about your successes or failures.
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