Five Steps to Keep Your Gift Plant Healthy

If you’ve received the live gift of a flowering plant this season: a poinsettia, azalea, cyclamen, kalanchoe or amaryllis, you can enjoy it for long after holiday time by paying attention to a few care tips.
1. Watering Your plant needs just the right amount of water. That means: evenly moist throughout the rootball on first watering, and barely moist to almost fully dry before the next watering.

Watering Pitfalls: Getting water into a gift plant can be tricky. The green plastic pot, wrapped in foil, is planted at the nursery, assembly-line style, usually with soil right up to the top of the planter. This poses a problem, as there is no space at soil level to hold water. When you try to water, the water flows down the edge of the pot, as it has no room to collect and seep into the soil: a death sentence for your plant. You might think you’ve watered it, by throwing half a cup of water on it, but you really haven’t.

The Solution: Cut away the foil at the base, and stand the pot in a very deep saucer. If you don’t have a deep plant saucer, a salad bowl or anything with high sides will do. Water from the bottom, into the saucer, till the water rises about an inch and a half (4cm). The water will be absorbed upwards into the soil by osmosis, guaranteeing a fully-soaked root ball. After a couple of hours, if you still see water in the saucer, pour it out. Your plant will be happy and moist for several days.

2. Water Temperature: Use warm water when you water. Warm water is easier to absorb into the planting medium, and won’t shock the plant with a sudden temperature change.

3. Room Temperature: A cool room is best for all the flowering plants listed above, but they will survive in warmer rooms. If you can put the plant in a cool room at night, the blooms will last longer.

4. Sunlight Requirements: A bright light, without direct sunlight is best for Amaryllis blooms. Kalanchoe, Azalea and Cyclamen are fine with direct sunlight.

5. Test the Weight of Your Plant: Get touchy-feely with your plant pot. Lift it when it is full of water, and remember how it feels at that weight. Hoist it again when it is very dry. Remember the difference. Pot weight is the best indicator of how dry the soil is, and tells you when you need to water. If you lift your plant and it is super light, run, don’t walk for the watering can. Of course, if it’s so light it falls over, your message is clear: Water!

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