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Garden checklist: Brighten the holidays with plants

Poinsettias, such as this “marble” variety, brighten up the home during the holidays. Poinsettias like a warm sunny location away from heat vents and drafts.
Poinsettias, such as this “marble” variety, brighten up the home during the holidays. Poinsettias like a warm sunny location away from heat vents and drafts. Sacramento Bee file

Get into the seasonal spirit with blooming December 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.

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.

▪  Is a frosty night in the forecast? Mulch, water and cover to protect tender plants. Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Be sure to remove coverings during the day.

▪  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.

Debbie Arrington

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