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At Christmas we went to our daughter’s home.  She had this amaryllis blooming on her table in the living room.  Like so many of us, a little guidance on how to care for this gorgeous plant would be helpful.  I will attempt to do that here.  I will give you the “simple” guide, but I will provide you with some links that will go into much greater detail, so you can go as deeply into this as you’d like…or stop at the simplest!

I am going to assume you were given a blooming amaryllis bulb and it is beginning to fade.  Your question now is probably, “What now?”

You can just treat it like any other houseplant in order to have it bloom again next year. BUT, there are a few things you need to do.  As soon as the flower has faded, cut the flower stalk off a bit above the bulb-maybe an inch or two.  DO NOT CUT OFF THE LEAVES.  The leaves are needed to replenish the bulb with all the nutrients it utilizes to re-bloom next year!  On the photograph of Christa’s blooming amaryllis, you’ll notice there are no leaves, or at least just a tiny one.  (After you cut back the flower stalk, leaves will miraculously appear.  Just let them grow until they fade as well!)

Place the pot near a sunny window, water and fertilize in the same manner you do with your other houseplants.  Then, when all danger of frost is gone, sink the pot in an east or west facing spot in your garden.

As the leaves begin to turn yellow during the progressing season, cut back on any watering until the soil drys out and the leaves fade totally.  At that time, your bulb is dormant and you can bring it back inside.  If you have a cool spot (about 45*-55*f.) allow it to stay there for a couple of months.  At that point, you can water it and set it back on your sunny windowsill and treat it the same as your other plants.

I promised you a couple of sites that would give you more in-depth direction and information.  Here are two.  One is from the University of Minnesota Extension and the other is from Iowa State University.

Here is a past Post from my New Hampshire Blog about how I dealt with Amaryllis there.  It’s from a different climate and zone, so you may get a chuckle out of seeing the differences!  Enjoy!

TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2005

Amaryllis, indoor

My amaryllis has finished it’s blooming. Those bright, vibrant red blooms were a delight on the window sill in our northern climate. The Easter Cactus blooming right next to it was the same color. What a joy!
All things must end, however, so it faded and I cut the stem off just above the neck of the bulb. Strangly enough the bulb never put forth any leaves. NOW that the bloom is gone, however, the leaves are making an appearance. There are 4 or 5 of them popping up from the bulb.
I will now put the plant downstairs in the cooler basement and cut back a bit on the watering. Fertilization will not happen again until the weather is a bit warmer, and it goes outside.
I do not have an outdoor cold frame, so I’ll have to find a sheltered spot out in the garden when the frost is no longer a problem. In this northern climate, we joke that the “no frost dates” are from July 4th until Labor Day!
Anyway, it will be coddled until it goes outside and then I’ll put it in my chicken-wire box where it will be safe from critters, but able to enjoy the great outdoors. In the fall the reverse process will happen. I’ll stop the water again, bring the pot back inside, checking for insects, etc. It will stay in the basement while the foliage dies back. At that point (January or February), I’ll clean off the old foliage and dried scales, as well as take out about an inch of soil from around the bulb (gently) and add some rich soil and compost.
Amaryllis bulbs do best if pot-bound, so don’t be too quick to use a larger pot. Give them 2-4 years before this kind of a change.

 

 

 

 

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We went to Molbak’s last week.  I got some tiny poinsettias, and then won a larger one at a Christmas Party we went to afterwards.  My window sill is a “groaning board” of poinsettias!IMG_7099

How about a little information about the “what & where” of poinsettias?  For instance what most of us tend to call the “flowers” are actually “bracts”. TIMG_7112he little yellow “things” in the center are actually the flowers.  Here’s

 

a rendScreen Shot 2017-12-08 at 9.39.48 AMering of what a bract actually is!

The issue now is whether you have purchased those plants for Christmas color, or to keep forever.  They are inexpensive, and therefore easy to “buy and toss.”  I have NOT got the room to save them from year to year, and they are so inexpensive to purchase, I’d rather just let them fade, compost them and buy new next year.

At this point, I’m going to assume you fall into the latter category.  If you keep them from year to year, that is a whole different story…not to be answered in this blog, but try this link for more information from Clemson University Extension Service.

Anyway, when you get them home, be ready to have a very christmas-y house.  They are wonderful for that, aren’t they?  But what do you do with them to keep them looking good and being healthy for the time they live at your place?

First, look for a draft free, relatively sunny spot for them to be located.  They don’t like to have a frosty reception when the sun goes down.  They do need about 6 hours or so of indirect sunshine…  Unless you live in deepest Alaska, pretty much any relatively sunny spot will do!  Some spots in Horizon House are incredibly sunny.  If you have one of those units, aim for a table nearby.

Watering?  If you don’t keep the soil from totally drying out, the leaves will turn yellow, curl and drop off.  OUCH!  Disaster!

Every other day, I take mine to the kitchen sink and let them (in their plastic pot) sit in shallow, tepid water for 20 minutes or so.  Then I remove them, drain the water, put them back in their  pretty (no hole) container, and place them back on the sill.  That seems to work very well.  Most directions say to water every day.  I think if you see the leaves looking a bit “curly” get them into water, and do it daily.

It is normal for the lower leaves to finally turn yellow and drop, so don’t panic, just be sure the plant is not thirsty.

You shouldn’t need to fertilize them, unless you are going to attempt to keep them longer than the 6-8 weeks we hope for under usual circumstances.

If you keep them in the foil they usually come in, be sure to punch some holes in the bottom, so any water can drain.  NEVER let them sit in water and become soggy.  That’s a sure path to disaster.  I set the plastic pots into a prettier pot (with NO hole) to protect my furniture.  Although the foil is pretty, I usually remove it.  But that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.  Do what you think best for your circumstances!

Contrary to popular thought, the leaves are NOT poisonous.  So your pets should not be bothered.  However, the sap can sometimes cause an allergic reaction so be aware of that.

Poinsettias are named for Joel Poinsett, a botanist, who was also ambassador to Mexico.  He introduced the plant to the USA in 1825.  It is pronounced:  “poin·set·tee-ya”.

Good luck with your new acquisition.  Enjoy all the Holiday color and cheer!

 

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1Schlumbergera bridgessii,  Crab Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, or Thanksgiving Cactus whatever you call it will (probably) have to do with when it blooms.  They are ALL Schlumbergera bridgessii which is MUCH too hard to pronounce, to say nothing about spelling!  So any title you choose to give it will work!
They come in many flower colors, sizes, and leaf shapes, but they are popular enough that even the greenest (pun intended) of gardeners can identify them!
I bought a white one last year, in full and massive bud for a little plant. IMG_4454 It was dirt cheap (no pun here!) since it was past the season (whatever season that might have been, knowing this plant).  I picked it up at the local grocery store for about $7.00!  I couldn’t resist, especially since I’ve never owned a white one.  Actually, when it blooms it has a blush of pink.  So much for white!  But it was very pretty, and still is.  However, this year instead of about 30 flowers it only has 5. Thanksgiving Cactus I’m sure it’s because it was raised (before I got it) in a greenhouse, where on my shelf it doesn’t get much sun at all.
My purpose for this post today is to help all of you who have one of these Schlumbergera bridgessii treat them so they give you as much pleasure as possible.
  • Sun exposure should be moderate.
  • Temperatures should be 60*-70* which is perfect for a home environment.  Note: most bud drop is caused by temperatures being too high, or light being too low.
  • Humidity should also be moderate.
  • Fertilizing should be done when it’s in a growth period, which is commonly between April and October.  A complete indoor plant fertilizer will be fine.  Less is more as far as strength!
  • Watering-it should be moist when in a growth period, but NEVER allow the soil to be WET!  When it’s “resting”, cut back on the water, only watering when it’s dry.
  • Propagation-can be easily accomplished by cutting a section (at a joint) of more than 2 or 3 segmented stems, after letting them dry out for a few days, root them either in water, or damp sand.  Once they are rooted they can be planted in a peat based compost, or potting soil.
  • Resting Period is after they bloom.  At that point they need to have less water; cooler temperatures; darker location and perhaps a summer vacation outside in a sheltered spot, img_0044hopefully safe from snails.  This can be difficult to offer a plant for many people, meaning that blooms may not be as prolific.  I’m sure that is what happened to mine!  Window sillWe live in a small apartment with limited exposure to sun on the window space.   It did NOT get outside this summer-next summer it will!!!  I’d check the soil every two weeks or so in our Pacific Northwest climate to be sure it doesn’t get TOO dry.  They can stay outside until temperatures drop below 50*.
  • Blooming Period-as soon as buds appear, cut back on the water, and don’t allow the temperature to drop below 55*.

So, there you have it.  I hope all these tips help you deal with Grandma’s Christmas (or whatever) Cactus.  It shouldn’t die on YOUR watch if you pay attention to all the advice I’ve given you here.

Maybe this is the year to make cuttings for next Christmas and give each family member their own piece of that family “heirloom”!  Enjoy!

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Here it is the end of April, and I’m still procrastinating about writing here.  We’ve settled nicely into our new apartment and are enjoying it’s cozy ambience.

I’ve hung a tiny Hummingbird Feeder that has been totally ignored by the hummers I IMG_5049know are here.  The reason I put it up was that a hummer came right to the window, as they used to do in New Hampshire when the feeders were getting low.  I took it as a sign, and went right out and got a little feeder.  (It has to be small since it has to be removed when the window cleaner guys come.)  That’s OK.  At the present rate, even the tiny one is too big!!!

Earlier this week our Garden Committee sponsored a trip to the Weyerhauser campus to see the Rhododendron Garden and the Pacific Bonsai Museum (in Federal Way).

It was a fabulous trip.  I LOVED seeing the Bonsai.  I hope I’ll have the opportunity to spend even more time there in the future.

 

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Succulents!  If you are concerned (which you SHOULD be) about use of water in your garden…think about planting some succulents.Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 1.55.07 PMThe picture I have here is of what I call “Hens & Chicks”.  I had these guys planted in many corners of my garden!  They were in stones, by the sides of steps, in gravel, in places where nothing else would grow.

Here is a picture of some Hens & Chicks where you can see the little chicks peeking out from within  the fleshy leaves of the mother plant.   Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 2.09.55 PMI would just gently pull these little guys out and stick their rootlets into the soil where I wanted them, and voila, before I knew it, I had a new “Hen” making her own “Chicks”!

Succulents are plants that have evolved into what is called “Xerophytic”.  What that means is that they do not need much moisture at all in order to grow.  Their roots are extremely shallow, which allows them to  take advantage of very light rainfalls.  Their leaves absorb that liquid, creating the “fleshy” leaves, the liquid of which can be drawn on during extended periods of drought.

Succulents can be indoor plants as well as outdoor plants.  They are easy to grow, because of their seemingly total disregard for water.  This makes for a GREAT (indoor OR outdoor) plant for a new gardener !

In this age of concern for use of water, there could not be a better choice!  TRY them…you’ll LIKE them!

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My Snake Plant

I have always put my larger houseplants out for the summer.

When we lived in New England, that involved protecting the plants from critters, as well as too much sun.  In Connecticut, the critters were not that big a deal, but in New Hampshire they sure were!  The deer, bunnies and moose LOVED snacking on tender indoor plants.  Yum!

I actually had a cage made of chicken wire where I kept the plants.  That worked quite well.  When our kids were little, that cage had been where they kept little critters they captured.  We called it the “Keeping Cage”.  Weekend ‘visitors’ (of the creepy, crawly kind) were kept there until we left again on Sunday afternoons, at which point they were released again to pursue their normal activities (the ‘creepy, crawly visitors’, not the kids!  We took the kids home with us.  I just thought I should explain that…).

In Connecticut, I parked my plants under shrubs so they would get shade, as well as rain.  It always worked well.  When it was time to bring them back inside, it involved a good shower to get rid of unwanted, traveling insects.  I also usually sank the pots into the soil, so they would not dry out so quickly.  That meant the pots also needed a good cleaning when it was time to bring them back inside.

But, this is WASHINGTON, and it’s the BEGINNING of the season.  The temperatures are staying high overnight, and the sun is SO inviting!

So, today I got some labels for my pots.  I will take a few photo’s to include here.

Off we go!

Off we go!

Now the plants will find their way to the Level C shelf that the Garden Committee has provided for over-summering, indoor plants.

Am I the only one?  If you’re looking for that shelf, go left off the elevator on level C (in the West Wing).  Follow the hall to the end and take a left again up the steps and outside.  The shelf is against the garage wall on your right.  You’ll find my plants there, as well as a few others.

If you choose to use this shelf, remember your pots MUST BE LABELED!!!!!!!  If they are not labeled, they may be removed, so heed my warning!!!  I would also suggest that you don’t put very small, or delicate plants outside.  They need your sustained care over the summer months, and in fact, may not like the breezes and bright sunlight.Outside at last IMG_3749 IMG_3748

You may not have to worry about moose, but slugs and insects must be taken into account.  Do NOT ignore your plants once you put them outside.  Be sure they are insect free and receive the necessary hydration.  Also be sure  the sun is not overwhelming your plant.  If, after a week or two, your plants look sickly, perhaps they need a comfortable chair and a book INSIDE.  Take pity on them, and bring them back to their usual windowsill.

Another thing you MUST remember is that YOU are responsible for your plants.  If it’s dry and sunny, they will need supplemental water.  That is YOUR responsibility…NO ONE ELSE’S!  There are hoses, and usually a watering can to use.  PLEASE remember to return ANYTHING you use (hoses, watering cans, etc.) to the place you got them!!!  Using the shelves is a privilege.  Do NOT abuse it, or that privilege will be discontinued.WATER!

The Garden Committee is trying to help ALL gardeners at Horizon House.  If your green thumb only addresses indoor plants; and perhaps you are a user of the Potting Room; we have your needs in mind as well.

IMG_3756While you are out there, take a little walk and appreciate the lovely gardens tended by your Horizon House neighbors.  The garden beds are labeled (just like your pot) so you should be able to compliment each gardener the next time you see them.  They would love to know someone is enjoying their hard work. IMG_3752 IMG_3750 IMG_3751

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I’ve been so proud of myself for keeping all my indoor plants alive over the last 2 years.  As you may recall, I used to be an OUTDOOR gardener (Master Gardener in CT and NH), but since moving to a small apartment (across the country, to an entirely different climate, in Seattle, WA) I’ve decided to turn my gardening efforts to indoor plants.  Up to now, I’ve been pretty successful.  With the exception of a Bonsai, that I had to toss because of aphids, everything is looking healthy…

Until NOW!  I have a Croton (Codiaeum) that is going NOWHERE fast! IMG_3077 I understand that to judge your success with one of these, it should have lots of leaves on the lower stem…  Mine does NOT fill that requirement.  It is also so very SLOW in adding either height or leaves.  It had what looked like little blooms developing…but they hardened up and died off.  Now I’m discouraged.  Hence, the need for my Teddy Bear!

What I have found from my research is that, in nature, these plants tend to grow tall.  The way to stop that is similar to pruning outdoor plants.  Prune the top, and leaves will (hopefully) sprout from the lower regions of the plant.

My searching has also indicated that it reproduces readily from cuttings!  That means that what I cut off the top, I can stick in the soil and it will soon yield another plant.  Perhaps I’ll try that and soon have a pot full of Crotons?  Maybe I’ll try that!  If you’ll notice my plant however, it isn’t exactly a “redwood” from Muir Forest!  It isn’t big enough to prune ANYTHING off the top!

This is one of my weaknesses.  I tend to buy my plants small and grow them big.  This one never got there!  I’ve had it about 6 months now, and it sure is puny!

Another thing to remember is that these pretty (should you be so lucky) plants  like full sun.  Mine grows in a north-easterly exposure.  Probably not the very best, but it will just have to do!  Even more noteworthy, it is POISONOUS if ingested!  Do NOT add this to your salad!

If you would like to read a bit more about the care and enjoyment of this lovely foliage plant, try this link: Croton-Codiaeum

If there are those of you that are expert with caring for these plants, please comment and let us all know how you are successful.  I know I’d appreciate a few words of advice.  Reading about it from a text, is often not nearly as good as hearing about it from those “in the know”.

Happy Gardening!

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