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Over the Garden Fence

Those Other Holiday Gift Plants

Holiday gift plants are always appreciated when given this time of year. The more traditional plants in the past have included Poinsettia, Christmas cactus and Azalea. There are others that are also given like Ornamental Pepper and Cherry, Amaryllis bulbs, Cyclamen and Kalanchoe.

All the holiday gift plants will provide us with beautiful foliage and flowers if kept in the coolest part of the home at least at night and returned to your display area during the day. Placing them away from heat registers or other sources of heat will also help.

Ornamental Pepper and Cherries are really annuals which are grown for the holidays. These plants were started way back in January and February to be ready for sale in December. Ornamental Pepper and Cherry are known for their ripening bright red fruits and strong green foliage. Peppers and Cherries can add color when included as part of the holiday decorations with evergreen boughs. Just remember they are living plants that need to be watered.

Cyclamen is a cool season plant growing from a corm like tuber. The ones given as gifts are often a variety that is not hardy if planted outdoors. Cyclamen like cooler temperatures too and should be allowed to dry out between watering's, but not so much that the plant wilts. Newer varieties come in an array of flower colors and foliage patterns. Cyclamen can be re-bloomed. After their bloom show the foliage remains for a while, but finally dies back. Let the bulb rest, but keep the soil slightly moist. Set the plant outside in a shady location for the summer. Foliage will appear mid to late summer. Water more and include some fertilizer to build up the plant. Brought back in the home in cooler, bright conditions, re-bloom will happen in mid-winter.

Kalanchoes are a succulent with fleshy leaves. They naturally bloom during January and February. Growers get them to bloom for the holidays just like they do for Poinsettia's. Kalanchoe may be the best choice for those less than ideal settings where light is limiting due to their succulent nature.

Amaryllis bulbs are frequently given in bloom or as a dormant bulb for blooming in the coming months. Amaryllis blooms show up first and the leaves later and can easily be kept as a summer bulb for future bloom. Once the bloom stalk fades, leaves will appear. Keep the bulb moist and growing until you can plant it outside or left growing in the pot. It is easier to get it to re-bloom and care for if you can plant it directly in the ground. Just before fall frosts, did it up, store it in a cool dry area until next February or March. Keep an eye on the bulb especially if your storage area is on the warmer side as the bulb may begin to grow before you are ready for it. If that happens, pot the bulb up as you would have. Bring it into warmer temperatures to enjoy the bloom show which will show up in a few weeks. If you receive the bulb as a gift and it has not begun to grow, store in a cooler location until you are ready. If the flower stalk has already emerged, go ahead and enjoy it now.

About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.