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Holiday houseplants

POSTED: December 18, 2013 4:00 a.m.

The cold winter months can often be a depressing time for gardeners. The lush greenery and colorful blooms have long since faded.

However, bitter weather shouldn't keep you from getting your gardening fix. There are plenty of indoor plants associated with Christmas time that will bring warmth and color to your home during the holidays.

The most popular Christmas plant is the poinsettia. Poinsettias are a native of Mexico and were introduced to the United States by an ambassador in 1825. The colorful "flowers" on poinsettias are actually modified leaves called brachts. Red poinsettias are most common, but they can also be found in white, peach, pink and others. Place your poinsettias by a sunny window during the daytime, and move them away from the windows at night.

Another winter plant option is the Christmas cactus. These are members of the Schlumbergera genus, which include "Thanksgiving cacti" as well. Some people may not associate a cactus with Christmas, but these plants pack a lot of color that will really brighten up a room.

The blooms come in many shades of red, pink, yellow and white, and are often described as exotic birds in flight, according to Bob Anderson, floriculture extension specialist at the University of Kentucky. Christmas cacti originated in Brazil, where they naturally grew in decaying plant material on the forest floor. They should be placed in a sunny window during the day and moved away from the window at night.

Cyclamen is another indoor plant that can brighten up your holidays. This plant originated from the eastern Mediterranean area, around present-day Turkey. Cyclamen come in a variety of colors from red to pink to white. The leaves are also attractive because of their mottled coloration. They prefer cooler temperatures and indirect light, so they are best suited for a window with dappled sunlight. Water your cyclamen in the morning to reduce the chance of crown rot disease.

Amaryllis is another popular Christmas plant, often given as a gift. The amaryllis is a large tropical bulb that produces a lily-like flower on a 1-2 foot stalk. It originated in the tropics of South America. The bulbs bloom well indoors, making them a suitable Christmas time gift. They come in many different shades of red, pink, and white. I have seen amaryllis bulbs do well in bright sun and indirect light.

Kalanchoe is an indoor plant perfect for someone who kills every other plant. Kalanchoes are tolerant of low light and drought. They are native to Madagascar and arid regions of the tropics of Africa. You can find Kalanchoes in just about any color your heart desires. Place them near a bright, sunny window for best growing conditions.

Hopefully, I have piqued your interest in growing some indoor plants this holiday season. There are many other plant species available which make great additions to your home.

Visit your local garden center and pick out some houseplants that will make your time indoors more enjoyable.



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