The holiday season is poised to look a lot different during this pandemic winter, but thankfully you can still count on festive flora in your home to boost your spirits. We turned to Trudy Watt, a horticulturist with Red Deer’s Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, for tips on what’s available this winter and how best to take care of these holiday houseplants.
This traditional Christmas plant has modified leaves, called bracts, which come in many different colours, including peach, white and pink. Most popular, however, are poinsettias with bright red bracts on top of dark green leaves. To ensure this holiday favourite keeps its vibrant colour, put it somewhere that gets ample sunlight. “Poinsettias like a bright spot, away from drafts, and prefer to be kept moderately moist, but not overwatered,” Watt says.
The large, colourful trumpet-shaped flowers of the amaryllis brighten even the dreariest of winter days. Available in red, pink and a very merry red and white combination, this showy bloom sits atop a green stalk and is also simple to care for. “You can put them in a vase of water or in a small pot with soil, and they grow really easily,” Watt says.
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The shorter days of winter trigger this cactus variety to bloom, which is how it earned its festive name. Christmas Cacti have solid green leaves and are available with a variety of coloured flowers, including fuchsia, white, yellow and peach. “Because they’re not a true desert cactus, you want to keep them moderately moist. Allow them to dry a little between watering,” Watt advises. Aside from that, she says this easy-to-grow plant just requires a spot with bright light.
When buying a real Christmas tree, Watt says to make sure it’s healthy looking and fresh: If its branches shed lots of green needles when jostled, that’s a bad sign. Next, you’ll want to cut about half-an-inch to an inch off the bottom of the trunk before bringing the tree into your home. “Then it has to go right into water,” Watt notes. As the days go by, keep a close eye on the water level and regularly top it up, or else the tree will quickly dry out.
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In recent years, small potted trees (in particular, whimsically crooked “Grinch trees”) have become popular additions to holiday-season decor. While Watt cautions that they don’t make for great houseplants in the long run—our warm, dry homes are not an ideal environment for them—caring for a miniature holiday tree for a few months in winter can be a simple way to bring a hint of nature indoors. To tend to a potted tree, Watt recommends keeping its soil moist and placing it near a bright window.
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