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Christmas houseplants - How to care for Poinsettias and Cyclamen

 Yesterday afternoon we did a family trip to the local garden centre. As well as our Christmas tree, we bought some houseplants to cheer up our living room.

Poinsettiainsaucer

After working in garden centres for 12 years, I used to have a distinct Poinsettia overload at this time of year, (and tinkly, Christmas music which I can't stand) so there haven't been any in our house for the last couple of Christmases.

Poinsettiacream However this year I feel ready to get back into the Christmas spirit, so I bought a traditional red Euphorbia Pulcherrima, and a not so traditional but to my mind beautifully coloured cream one.


 

I also purchased a cyclamen, which I love for it's long flower lasting ability.

If, like me, you've got houseplants to brighten up your room, or been given one as a gift, - here's how to get the best out of them.

Poinsettias and Cyclamen actually like opposite conditions, so the first way to keep them looking better for longer is to split them up.

Cyclamen like it cool and dry, - a kitchen window sill, a guest bedroom that only has the radiator turned on when the guests are on their way, or a porch is good for them.  Keep them in a saucer, and don't water them from the top, as that could cause botrytis (grey mould) on the flower and leaf stems. Water into the saucer, and let the plant have a drink, but don't let it sit in water.  Deadhead them regularly, taking the whole stem away right back to the corm, - same with any yellowing leaves, and then when they have finally finished flowering, (hopefully late February / March is you got a good plant) leave them to dry out.  Over the summer you can ignore them (just don't let them shrivel up in the sun) and then you can plant them up again in late August/September and start watering them just as the temperatures start to cool, - they are fairly easy to get to flower again, but the plants won't be as tidy as the first year.

Poinsettias like it hot and humid, - so a living room standing over a saucer of water is a good place for these.  They won't even mind it fairly near to a radiator, IF you don't let them dry out. To do this, put some gravel, hortag or pebbles in the saucer and make sure there is always water in it, that the bottom of the pot is in contact with the water when topped up, but not sitting in it. Poinsettias are from jungle conditions, and grow to be tree size in their natural habitat, - they are given growth inhibitors when propagated here, and the method to get them to recolour next year is difficult and requires altering light conditions, so my suggestion is to compost your Poinsettia, and enjoy another one next year.

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