Garden Plot: Taking care of your seasonal plants long after the holiday season

Perennialize our poinsettia!

The holidays may be over, but the poinsettias remain!

Although generally tossed after the holidays, poinsettias are perennial plants if protected from frost. That doesn’t mean you can plant them outside with lots of protection or even place them in a greenhouse unless it’s heated, well-lit and as well-attended-to as your average billion-dollar botanic garden Victorian glasshouse.

Instead, you’ll treat it like a houseplant until mid-May, when it can go outside for the summer. Right now, ditch the decorative foil and add some compost to the soil in the pot, which is otherwise free of nutrients.

Water it weekly by letting the pot sit in water for an hour, placing it in the strongest light you have.

Perennialize your poinsettia — part two

We continue with our pulse-pounding poinsettia care advice.

As we explained in our last thrilling episode, ditch the foil, add compost to the top of the pot, keep the plant inside, well-watered, and in bright light until Spring. They can go outside at the same time as your tomatoes unless you put your tomatoes out too early and then wait.

You can plant it in the ground or transplant it to a pot twice as big as the original. It will grow nicely over the summer and revert to its true shape, which is a multi-branching tropical shrub.

When September rolls around, dig it up and repot it, or bring the new pot back inside. You’ve now have a really cool natural-looking poinsettia that you can still color up at the center of each clump of leaves.

Perennialize your poinsettia — The Rise of Skywalker!

Ok, it’s actually act three of our pointedly popular poinsettia play; the lack of Jar-Jar Binks and Ewoks should make up for that.

If you keep these plants indoors until Spring, they can go outside and grow all summer.

Bring them back indoors in September; then you have two choices:

Either enjoy this tropical plant in its natural form, or induce it to color up by giving it twelve hours of darkness and twelve hours of bright light every day, mimicking the conditions it naturally enjoys nearer the equator, where people probably stay up too late.

This treatment will induce the leaves — properly known as ‘bracts’ — to color up in the centers of the multiple flower heads it should have produced, just in time for the holidays.

(In case you were wondering, the actual flowers are those little yellow things in the middle of each set of leaves.)

Woodsman — don’t toss that tree!

So — how long are you going to keep that tree up? And when’s the last time you watered it?

Whether your plan is tossing it the day after New Year’s or waiting until you have an epiphany, don’t just toss it out at the curb so it becomes a colorful tumbleweed rolling toward Dupont Circle.

Take it to a recycling center, or even better, recycle it yourself! You can use a bow saw to remove all the branches and use these springy boughs to mulch winter plants like pansies, azaleas and rhododendrons.

Or take the tree out back — providing you have a back of course — and hang suet feeders all over it. Wild birds will flock to the suet, and the branches of the tree will provide them with protection from the weather and predators while they feed.

You may even enjoy a nest or three; chickadees, wrens and gnat and fly catchers love living near people!

Keeping your amaryllis happy

Did you get an amaryllis bulb for the holidays? If it’s a naked bulb in a kit, place it in that small pot with just enough potting soil underneath and on the sides to have the bulb hallway underground.

Don’t bury it!

Then place the pot in water and let it sit until fully saturated, drain and place in bright light in a cool, but not cold part of the house. A flower stalk should soon emerge, followed by flowers and then leaves.

If you received an amaryllis already in bloom, water it once (as above) and place it in bright light in a cool spot, which will prolong the flowering display.

When the flowers fade, clip off the very top of the flower stalk, place the pot full of leaves in the brightest light you have and feed it once or twice with a gentle liquid organic fertilizer. This will recharge the bulb with food and solar energy, enabling it to produce another set of flowers after those leaves turn brown.


I’m hopeful Mike McGrath, wishing you a happy, healthy and safe New Year.

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