For Release December 1, 1998

Holiday Plant Care

by Chuck Otte, County Extension Agent

There are a lot of seasonal plants that show up in homes every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, poinsettias and live Christmas trees being the most common. Having either of these plants in you house can bring a special feeling into your holiday home. But, to make sure that both of these plants survive until Christmas in good condition, a little extra care on your behalf is necessary.

Live Christmas trees grab the attention of many of your senses. The look, the smell and the feel of a live tree just can’t be duplicated. These are living plants though, and you have to pay attention to their needs. The most important need of any living plant is water. There are lots of recipes for additives and solutions you can buy in the store that are supposed to make your tree last longer, but the more important ingredient is still just water. When you get your Christmas tree home you need to recut the end so that you have a fresh surface to absorb water. Then get it into water as soon as possible and keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. When a tree is first put up it should take up quite a bit of water. If it isn’t, and it seems to be a fairly fresh tree, take it out of the stand and cut one half inch off the trunk. If this doesn’t improve water uptake, remove another half inch and if it still doesn’t take up water then the problem may be deeper and you’ll just have to remove the tree right after Christmas.

Check the water three to four times a day the first several days that it is up. After the tree stabilizes you should only have to check it once or twice a day. Make sure that the water doesn’t drop below the end of the trunk. Don’t place the tree near any open flame such as a fireplace, candles or lamps. If it is near a heat vent shut off the vent while the tree is up. The heat from the furnace vent will cause the tree to dry out faster and use more water. If the tree is near a window and everyone is gone during the day close the curtains. The more light the tree receives the more water it uses and the faster it dries out.

Of course nobody likes to see Christmas end, but a live tree needs to come down as soon after Christmas as possible. As the tree dries out it becomes more and more of a fire hazard so it is best to remove it from the house. You can then place the tree out by your bird feeders and let it become additional shelter for birds coming and going from your bird feeders.

Poinsettias are a traditional Christmas flower. This perennial shrub from the Mexican mountains is striking, but to keep it looking its best requires some extra care also. Poinsettias like as much sun as possible so put them in the sunniest window you have. But, they do not like extreme heat or cold so make sure that the leaves do not touch the window panes. They prefer daytime temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees and night time temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees. Temperatures over 75 will shorten bloom life, temperatures under 60 will cause root rot. Do not place poinsettias where they will get high heat such as near a furnace vent or on top of a television. Keep them away from door drafts as well.

You never want to let a poinsettia dry out as it will lose all of its leaves if it wilts. But over watering will cause root rot and death of the plant. If the plant comes wrapped in foil, punch holes in the foil and place on a saucer so water will run through. Water when the soil becomes dry to the touch. Check it every day, do not water by the calendar! If you are interested in keeping your poinsettia over the summer or want more information about poinsettias stop by the Extension Office at 119 East 9th in Junction City and ask for a copy of "Home Care of Poinsettias".

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