Some holiday plants are best enjoyed indoors

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 21, 2018

The holidays are upon us, and many are asking questions related to our holiday plants.

Here are a few examples:

Question: My friend from church gave me some paperwhites. They are now in full bloom and look very nice. Can I plant them outdoors after they have bloomed so I can enjoy them every year?

Answer: No, unfortunately, paperwhites bulbs are not hardy in our climate and will not survive the winters. These are like many of the holiday plants and designed to be enjoyed during the season and discarded after bloom.

Question: We have a real Christmas tree for the holidays. What can I do with the tree after the holidays? Is there a place I can take the tree?

Answer: Rowan County’s Department of Environmental Management offers free Christmas tree collection and disposal at the Julian Road solid waste and recycling convenience center. Beginning Wednesday and through Jan. 31, you can take your real tree to this site for disposal. The center is at 1455 Julian Road, and the hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Call the site at 704-637-5781 for more information.

Question: Can I keep my poinsettia until next year? I really love the color and hate to discard it.

Answer:  These plants can be over-wintered and used next year, but it can be a challenge. The colorful bracts generally fade in the spring. As they fade, prune them back to about 8 inches in height. The plant will look naked after pruning but eventually new growth will emerge from the nodes along the stem. It’s important to place the plant in a sunny location and continue to water it regularly while it’s growing.

Take the plant outdoors once the night temperature remains above 50 degrees at night. Fertilize the plant every two to three weeks during the spring, summer and fall with a well-balanced water-soluble fertilizer.

Poinsettia plants will flower next year if you follow a few procedures. The poinsettia is a short-day plant, meaning it needs a continuous long, dark period each night to form its colorful bracts. Starting the first week of October for the next 10 weeks, the plant must be kept in total darkness for 14 continuous hours each night.

Keep the plant in darkness by moving it to a closet or covering it with a large box. Locate the plant in a room that never gets light during the night.

During this period, the plant must also receive six to eight hours of bright sunlight daily. The poinsettia should break into full bloom in November or December.

Keeping a poinsettia for next year’s Christmas season can be done, but it will take a dedicated gardener. Many enjoy the challenge while others stimulate the economy.