As the temperature outside gets colder, the atmosphere inside grows warmer. The fireplace crackles and pops as the warm glow from the flames dances throughout the room. The aroma of gingerbread and spices gently floats through the air. Hues of red and green decorate every corner of your home. Family and friends crowd the halls as the snow from their boots melt into tiny puddles. The holiday season has arrived and what better way to welcome guests into your home then with a few traditional christmas flowers placed throughout the house.
The Christmas poinsettia has always been a favorite during the holiday season and because of its festive colors, it will be sure to bring holiday cheer to any home. The poinsettia is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico as well as the first to introduce the plant into the U.S. almost 200 years ago. Poinsettias are native to southern Mexico and Central America and therefore, like lots of bright, indirect sunlight and prefer humid conditions. Be sure to let the soil dry out between waterings and do not let the the poinsettia stand in water at the plant’s base (A layer of pebbles in the bottom of the saucer keeps the poinsettia out of the water and increases the humidity around the base of the plant). Poinsettias are sensitive to extreme temperature, so be sure to keep them a good distance from heaters or fireplaces and out of cold drafts.
When picking out a poinsettia, check to make sure there are no yellow or wilting leaves or tiny white flies buzzing around the plant when you pick it up. Whitefly is a common pest to poinsettias and are only visible if you gently shake the plant or pick it up and look closely. A healthy poinsettia will have dark green leaves down to the soil line and bright colored leaves at the top and will look full and balanced.
The Christmas cacti were originally forest cacti, growing as epiphytes in the Organ Mountains north of Rio de Janeiro in southeast Brazil. Christmas cacti is just one variety included in the holiday cacti; there are Thanksgiving and Easter cacti as well. Christmas cacti have flattened leaves with rounded teeth on the margins as opposed to the Thanksgiving cacti that have pointed teeth. Easter cacti have pointed teeth with fibrous hairs in the leaf joints. Each holiday cacti will bloom close to the holiday suggested in its name. When the Christmas cactus is in bloom, it should be kept in bright, indirect light and mild temperatures; be sure to keep it away from heaters and fireplaces. When watering, be sure to let the soil dry between each watering. However, it is important not to let it dry too much while in bloom or it may drop its flower buds.
Christmas Cactus Tip:
After the cactus is through blooming, you can add fertilizer to the soil once a month up until November. It is also best to keep the plant in a cool and dark place. Placing the plant in a closet for at least 15 hours each night and watering when dry will be sure to produce blooms for the next holiday season.
Christmas holly is a very versatile plant; the boughs of holly are often used in christmas wreaths or garland, sprigs of holly add festive accents to christmas bouquets and holly plants look wonderful in a decorative flower pot. The wood from the holly plant is often used for carving chess pieces because of its white color and density, and during the 1800s, the wood was also used to make spinning rods for Looms. Some American holly species has also been used to make tea.
Holly berries are mildly toxic and will cause vomiting and/or diarrhea when ingested by people. However, they are non-toxic when ingested by birds.