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As holiday cheer fills the air, we enter the darkest month of the year with, luckily, lots of exciting plants to explore! There are very few chores to do in the garden so we turn our focus indoors, to plants that can increase our enjoyment of the holidays in many ways! Read on for living gift ideas, tips for forcing bulbs indoors and a few exceptional winter bloomers. Happy holidays everyone!
Give the gift of potted plants
A living gift can be treasured for years, rather than some careless trinket that is quickly forgotten. The gift of a plant can have individual meaning and can enrich the life of the recipient. Give your loved ones plants that filter the air, like spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum). Gorgeous indoor blooming plants are always a hit as well; try african violets (Saintpaulia sp.) or orchids (Orchidaceae). If you plan a couple of weeks in advance, you can force a few bulbs indoors then give them as a gift, just as they are about to bloom. What a joyous present in the dark of winter! Keep reading for more information on forcing bulbs, like paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta papyraceus). Come down to the nursery to see our wide selection of bulbs, foliage indoor plants and flowering indoor plants.
Indoor Blooming Bulbs!
Many bulbs, like daffodils (Narcissus sp.), need several weeks of colder temperatures to bloom but still may be forced with effort and time. However others, like paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta papyraceus), can be forced to grow and bloom inside in December. This adds fresh color and fragrance to your home during one of the darkest months of the year! Paperwhites need no chilly, dormant period and may be planted at any time. They are most often grown in pots or bowls (even a glass fishbowl would work!), imbedded in stones or gravel, with water over the top. To plant them like this, fill the base of the your chosen vessel with the stones and place the bulbs on top, pointed ends facing up, next to each other (but not touching). Sprinkle more stones in between the bulbs, until they are filled in snugly and covered to their shoulders. Pour enough water to cover the base of the bulbs and place the container in a cool spot, to sprout. They don’t need light or very cold temperatures at this point so just about anywhere will do. Check their water level regularly and, when they have sprouted, move them to a sunny spot for all to enjoy! This method also works well for the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) and the Dutch iris (Iris reticulate).
Furney’s offers many seasonal indoor plants that delight and charm all gardeners and their guests, during the grayer months. Come down to the nursery to see our gorgeous seasonal display, complete with live poinsettias, Christmas cacti, holly and mistletoe!
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera kautskyi): A lovely succulent that provides marvelous green foliage for year-round indoor interest. But, December is when this plant really shines. True to its name, the Christmas cactus will bloom around December in lovely dangling flowers of white to pink and red. This plant will live to be a very ripe old age, if well cared for. There is an enormous Christmas cactus in the state capitol conservatory in Olympia, WA that came over on the wagon trains in the late 1800’s and it still blooms beautifully every winter! Remember to water your cactus sparingly, stopping all together in late fall, to encourage blooming.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima): Light up your holiday home with a traditional favorite! Poinsettias are at their best when the cold weather sets in, making them the perfect holiday houseplant. Give them plenty of light and nice, warm temperatures and they will continue to flourish, long into the New Year. With showy red bracts in a compact growth pattern, it’s no wonder this evergreen perennial is a time-honored tradition. A poinsettia can potentially last for several years, if properly cared for. They can be kept inside, as a houseplant that will bloom in season, or can be planted outside after the holidays. They prefer mild temperatures and damp, but not soggy, soil.
Holly (Ilex sp.): Hollies come in all sizes, from tall trees to hedges to pint-sized bushes. Many hollies grow to be little trees that are suitable for the smallest garden or patio pots. Their glossy evergreen foliage gives winter color in your garden and the red berries give holiday decorations for your home. Holly flowers are small and inconspicuous, usually white or yellow. Most holly varieties need a male and female plant present, in order to produce berries. They don’t need to be right next to each other but just within pollinating distance. Otherwise, you may miss holly’s crowning attraction! Ask our educated nursery staff about which hollies can be planted alone and which need a male and female companion.
Holiday Tree Care
When purchasing a cut Christmas tree, choose the freshest tree possible and cut the end off within 15 minutes of placing your tree in water, to ensure that it will soak up fresh water while in your home. It’s a good idea to keep your tree in a cooler part of the home, if possible; near a window is best. If choosing a living Christmas tree, make sure you have a place to plant it in your garden, after the holidays. It may be coaxed to make it until the ground thaws to be planted but will need lots of water and hardening off before it can live outside permanently.
Watching over the Garden
Check your garden often to see that no damage or disease is setting in to perennials, shrubs and trees. Remove any damaged material from plants, as needed, and add more mulch, as it settles and decomposes. Check your roses (Rosa sp.) and strawberry plants (Fragaria sp.), especially, to see if they need more mulch. Keeping roots well-insulated is a very important part of the winter gardening chore list. Be watchful for deer and other wildlife who may wander into your garden in December, looking for a tasty bite. Learn more about preventing deer in the June section of our Gardening Calendar (link).
You can also get creative, decorating your trees and shrubs for the holidays! String lights, hang shiny balls and tie ribbons around prominent branches. Celebrate the season inside and out!