GARDEN COLUMN: Seasonal decorations | Home & Garden

The weather has turned seasonably cold with the first frost being seen by most of us. For most of the holiday season, our thoughts tend to be inside with family and indoor plants, some of which are popular as part of our seasonal decorations. Poinsettias, cacti and amaryllis are just some of the plants that we find in the stores right now.

Poinsettias: The traditional Christmas poinsettia has been popular for decades with the bright red leaves still being the most popular color with shoppers. New colors such as variegated leaves or light-colored leaves dyed blue were a fad a few years ago and can still be found in florists or nurseries if you like them. If you kept your poinsettia from last year, you might find some red leaves starting to appear though nursery grown plants tend to be brighter with more flowers. Just as a note though, the red color is actually from bracts, or modified leaves around the small yellow flower that is in the middle. Once the color is set, the plant can be kept in shade or sun for the holiday season.

Christmas Cacti: There are a few different cacti on the market and all flower around this holiday season – one closer to Thanksgiving and one nearer Christmas/New Year. All are tender succulents rather than true cacti, so they can dry out quickly in your home. Water well in the sink and let it drain before putting back into the decorative container. These plants all survive well outside in summer and once the temperatures sink into the 40s and the daylength gets shorter, they produce bright red, white or salmon pink flowers. They do prefer full sun but will be fine for a few weeks in a partly sunny position. Keep the plant on the dry side but repeat the ‘water in the sink’ when the top of the soil is dry. For the rest of the year, keep the cacti in a sunny south facing window and place on your patio in late spring.

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Rosemary Topiary: These delightful plants are closely cropped to form a pyramid or other formal shape. The plant containers tend to be full of roots and difficult to water, but without water they go brown and die in days. The best remedy is to remove the outer pretty covering, leaving just the root ball and water like the succulents – in the sink. If the roots are too dense, take a knife and make a few slits in the root ball so that water can penetrate into the center as well as the outside. The rosemary is the same as a culinary rosemary but resist trimming the stems for your kitchen for a while – the nurseries use chemicals to keep away bugs and fugal issues and to keep the plant looking healthy. These chemicals are not safe to ingest. If your rosemary does survive the holidays, keep it slightly moist and in a cool room until spring when it can be planted in the garden. Give the plant at least a year to minimize contamination before using in your culinary dishes.

Amarylis: The amaryllis bulb is a popular hostess gift for seasonal parties and come in box or container. Read the instructions to prompt the amaryllis to produce a flower stalk. Once the stalk begins, it grows rapidly and finally produces the beautiful flowers a few weeks later. The bulb can be put into the garden for summer, then placed in a dark location until the leaves die and the plant is fully dormant. Give the bulb about a month of dormancy then bring back into the home and water well.

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We have such a long growing season that winter flowers indoors are not required to last months, but for the holiday season they are certainly an addition to your decorations.

Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving and holiday season. $5 for 5 months

Kate Copsey is a garden author, writer and speaker now living in eastern Orangeburg County. Her book “The Downsized Veggie Garden” is available from bookstores everywhere as well as her webpage