Five Things Gardeners Should Remember in December
1. Cut back on the amount of water and fertilizer you give potted plants after you bring them indoors.
2. Provide proper care for holiday plants if you want them to survive into the new year.
3. Take advantage of the holiday season to pass on your houseplants’ excessive offspring.
4. Throw strong hints about the tools and seeds you’ll need for next year.
5. Plan in advance to recycle your Christmas tree.
After moving your potted plants indoors for the winter, cut back on the amount of water you give them and cease fertilizing them until March unless they are positioned under grow lights.
The shorter days of winter and the reduced light levels indoors generally also will reduce the amount of food and water that resting plants need. When you purchase or receive holiday flowers such as poinsettias, Christmas cacti, and kalanchoes, keep in mind that they are sold at this time of the year because they bloom when the days grow shorter.
So, if you can contrive to keep them alive until next winter, you can force them to re-bloom by providing short days again. As soon as you get those plants home, remove the plastic sleeves and/or foil wrappings from their pots and place them atop easily emptied plant saucers or a tray of gravel instead. Otherwise, water may get trapped in the wrappings and keep the soil sodden, which can cause root rot.
Position the plants where they will receive bright indirect light and treat them as you would other houseplants, removing the blooms or bracts after they shrivel. When new growth begins in spring, cut poinsettias back to 8 inches tall.
Place all the plants outdoors in partial sunlight or bright shade during the summer. Continue to pinch back poinsettias occasionally until August to encourage them to bush out.
Around the beginning of October, move all your Christmas plants indoors to a windowsill in a rarely-used room which isn’t illuminated at all during the evening and nighttime hours. If they receive only about eight hours of natural light per day, they should begin to show color again after a couple months.
Speaking of gift plants, when you need a last-minute present and have no time to run to the store, you often can separate an offshoot from one of your overly healthy houseplants.
Those which send up such easily detached and easy to grow offspring include the burn plant (Aloe vera), zebra plant (Haworthia spp.), and snake plant (Sansevieria spp.). Spider plants (Chlorophytum spp.) and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) often make small plantlets at the end of arching stems which also can be cut from their mothers’ apron springs.
If you never receive any gardening-related gifts yourself, despite your friends and loved ones being aware of your hobby, don’t assume that they are inconsiderate boors. They may just not know enough about gardening themselves to have any clue as to what to buy.
If you are fed up with receiving sweaters or bath salts every year, be specific about what you would like--as in handing them a list with links to items on the ECOgardener site!
Consider purchasing a balled and burlapped live Christmas tree for those gifts to go under this year, since you can add such a tree to your landscaping after decorating your house with it.
You may want to dig its planting hole in advance, if there is any possibility that your ground will be frozen solid by the end of the holiday season. You can lop off the branches of a cut tree and use them to mulch marginal plants over the winter.
The purpose of such cover isn’t to keep the plants warm, but to keep the ground around them frozen, so they won’t attempt to emerge from dormancy too early.
Speaking of dormancy, keep in mind that—due to reduced activity levels—resting gardeners also require less food during the winter months. Otherwise, you may find that your holiday spread has caused you to spread as well!