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October 2012
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Get holiday plants ready for their prime time

Easy-to-grow amaryllis brightens late winter days. Photo courtesy bulb.com

In some stores, Christmas decorations are as prominent as Halloween candy.

We can use retailers’ jump on the holidays as a reminder to begin the process of getting our holiday plants to rebloom. Shorter days and longer nights trigger the bloom cycle in amaryllis, holiday cactus and poinsettia.

Amaryllis and cacti frequently are cherished as gifts or passalong plants from loved ones. These are fairly easy to get to rebloom.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) — in fall, withhold water and place the potted bulb in a cool place for what’s called a rest period. Remove any brown foliage as it develops. After a couple of months, move to a sunny location and begin watering. In summer, move the potted bulb outdoors and fertilize as you would a container plant until late summer. Move indoors when temperatures drop to the 50s at night and begin the rest cycle again.

Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus (S. bridgesii) — Thanksgiving cactus, which has leaves with pointed edges, blooms a little earlier than its Christmas counterpart. Fertilize during the growing season. In fall, reduce water and stop fertilizing for about six weeks to allow the plant to rest in a cool room. You can also place in a closet or under a box from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. for eight to 10 weeks. Move to a sunny window, begin watering.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia) — For about 10 weeks, keep the plant in a dark place between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. You can use a closet or place a box that excludes light over the plant. Remove the box or move the plant from the closet during the day.

One accidental exposure to light during the night will disrupt or delay the coloration.

The plant should be watered and fertilized during this period. Once the plant starts to develop color, the night treatment can stop. Move the plant to a bright area, but out of direct sun and away from drafts.

Christmas cactus. (C) Fotolia

Thanksgiving cactus. (C) Fotolia