-By Lynsey Grosfield-
There are a few Christmas plants that consistently hit the stores every year, and they couldn't be more different from one another. Here is the low-down on taking care of the three most popular seasonal botanical all throughout the holidays.
Poinsettias ( Euphorb ia pulcherrima) are native to Mexico, where they have been used as both a dye and as a symbol of Christmas since the 16th century.
Poinsettias aren’t grown for their flowers but actually for their bracts—which are a specialized form of leaf—that stop the show, they come in colors ranging from white to red, with white marbling, light green with orange, and pink cultivars available as well.
These tropical plants are in fact small trees or shrubs native to seasonally dry forests. This means they should not be exposed to frost, and are vulnerable to disease when overwatered.
It also means that with proper care, they can be kept alive for many years as a houseplant. If you are growing a perennial poinsettia, take care to give it two months of pitch-black nights (no Christmas lights, no light from the TV, etc.), so the bracts are as colorful as possible over the holidays.
Christmas Cactus ( Schlumbergera spp.) is, in reality, a subgroup of a genus of plants that have been hybridized to produce the stunning December floral displays. The cultivars that are available in the Yuletide season have either been bred or provoked to flower at that time, while others flower closer to Thanksgiving or Easter.
Caring for these cacti is relatively easy. They are native to cool coastal forests in South America, and they grow on mossy tree branches rather than in the soil (making them epiphytic or lithophytic). They are relatively free of pests and diseases, and not as sensitive to overwatering as some other cacti.
Amaryllis ( Hippeastrum spp.) most often come in deep crimson or white when being marketed for the Christmas season. Recently they have begun to be sold as wax-covered bulbs in addition to planted arrangements.
In nature, these South African natives grow in “fynbos” habitat, which is like sandy shrubland or heathland. They need moderate amounts of water to survive and can be re-planted indoors after the season ends. If you’ve bought a waxed bulb, peel off the wax before planting. The bigger the bulbs, the more (and larger) flowers you will have, so keeping them well year after year only means more blooms.
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