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Brighten holidays with blooming indoor plants

Potted now, amaryllis will bloom in six to 10 weeks.
Potted now, amaryllis will bloom in six to 10 weeks. Bigstock

Get into the seasonal spirit with blooming indoor winter plants. Brighten the holidays with potted poinsettias, amaryllis and cyclamen.

Indoors, poinsettias will last longer if placed in a warm, sunny location away from heating vents or drafts. Poke holes in the foil wrapper for drainage and place the potted plant on a plate or saucer. Same goes for cyclamens, which feel at home for the holidays indoors or out.

Amaryllis make great gifts. Potted now, they’ll bloom in six to 10 weeks – and last for many days once they open. To keep stems shorter, try this trick: Add a little vodka or gin to their water. Once the sprout is 1 to 2 inches tall, start adding a dash of alcohol (no more than one part vodka or gin to seven parts water) each time you irrigate the bulb. The flowers will remain the same size, but the overall plant will stay more compact – and won’t fall over. Once it’s done blooming, the bulb can be transplanted outdoors into partial shade.

Consider Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) as a bright and colorful water-wise holiday houseplant. Native to coastal Brazilian jungles, this cactus with neon-hue flowers can live for decades with little care. They prefer cramped roots and well-drained but loamy soil; Keep the soil barely moist for best results. These cacti prefer indirect filtered light. Darkness prompts blooms; they need about 16 hours of total darkness a night for eight consecutive days to trigger their flower cycle.

▪  Outdoors, add color to the garden with calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

▪  Time to get the tulips out of the fridge and into the ground. Also plant such spring-flowering bulbs as daffodils, callas and Dutch iris.

▪  Bare-root season has begun. Besides fruit trees and rose bushes, plant dormant cane berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

▪  Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

▪  After any rain, dump standing water that may have collected in saucers under potted plants to avoid root rot.