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Garden checklist: Make holiday plants last a little longer

Cyclamen can be kept blooming inside through March.
Cyclamen can be kept blooming inside through March. Bigstock

Did you get a gift plant this holiday season? You can keep it merry and bright a little longer with these tips.

▪ Prolong the life of potted poinsettias with a little TLC. They love a cool window with half-day sun or filtered light. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch, but don’t let them get soggy. Punch holes in that pretty foil wrapping to allow drainage. Avoid heat or drafts, too.

▪ Cyclamen, another popular gift plant, can be kept blooming inside through March. As each flower fades, remove the entire flower stalk (a sharp little tuck usually works). That prompts new flowers to emerge from its tuber. Cyclamens like a cool room (50 to 55 degrees at night, 60 to 68 degrees during the day) with bright light and good air circulation. (They’re great in drafty old houses.)

The tuber, which is half-buried in the soil, may rot if watered directly. Instead, place the plant in a saucer of water and let it soak up the moisture. Feed every other week with half-strength houseplant fertilizer.

Cyclamen will go dormant in late spring as the leaves die back. Place the potted tuber in a shady place in the garden, then bring back inside in fall. The change of surroundings (and warmer indoor temperatures) usually prompts a new cycle of cyclamen blooms.

▪  If an onion sprouts in your vegetable drawer, pot it up and place it in a sunny window. The bulb will soon produce bright-green tops – great for salads, baked potatoes or other uses.

▪  Prune deciduous trees now while you can see their true shape and framework. (The exception are apricot trees, which are usually pruned in August.) Remove crossing branches and dead wood. Make cuts above an outside-facing bud or existing lateral branch.

▪ Bare-root roses, fruit trees, cane berries and grapes can be planted now. Before planting, hydrate by soaking roots in water overnight.

▪ Shield frost-tender plants such as citrus and succulents on cold nights with a cloth sheet – not plastic. If a plant has already been burned by frost, leave the damage alone until spring. That brown foliage can protect the plant from further harm.

Debbie Arrington

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