grow your own

by ALINE CLEMENT
Just in case you weren’t aware, we gardeners absolutely love receiving plants as gifts. Last month I received the trifecta of holiday gift plants – some amaryllis bulbs, a lovely red poinsettia, and a Norfolk Island pine. Now that we’re into January, it’s time to decide what to do with them.
My dad used to send me several amaryllis bulbs every year for Christmas. They would arrive in the mail, carefully packaged with a pot to plant them in. It was always fascinating to watch how quickly the bulbs put out their long green fleshy leaves, followed by a stalk with one or more lovely red or white flowers, just in time to help welcome the holidays. While my dad is no longer with us, I still enjoy finding new and unique amaryllis to include in my landscape.
Amaryllis will do quite well in our northeast Florida gardens. Plant them in the spring in partial shade and well-drained soil. Scrape out a little indentation on top of the soil and set the bulb on the ground, root side down. Mound a little soil around it or use bamboo skewers to hold the bulb in place until the roots take hold. As the amaryllis becomes established, more bulbs may form around the parent plant. In addition, the bulb will begin to sink in the ground. If it sinks too deeply it will not produce a flower, so every two to three years dig up the bulbs, discard any damaged or diseased plant material, and re-plant them back on top of the soil. Go to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep060 for more information on growing these lovely plants.
After the holidays, a poinsettia will make a nice shrub in your landscape and a lovely and colorful display when the days grow shorter again. As temperatures grow warmer plant your poinsettia in well-drained slightly acidic soil in a sunny location. You’ll want to prune the plant throughout the growing season up until September 10 to encourage thicker growth. What most people think is the flower of the poinsettia is actually the bracts, or modified leaves, extending from the stem. The flower is located in the center of the bract, and is small and rather insignificant in comparison. For more details on how to care for poinsettias, refer to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep349.
My Norfolk Island pine came to me decorated as a Christmas tree, which made a festive addition to our home during the holidays. Unlike the amaryllis and poinsettia, I would not plant this gift in my garden. Instead, it’s best to keep it as a houseplant. While it might survive outdoors, it isn’t particularly cold-hardy in our area, and freezing temperatures would probably kill it. Refer to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st083 for everything you need to know about growing this tree.
Holiday gift plants can bring you joy for many years to come. Every spring when my amaryllis beds are in bloom, I think about my dad and Christmases past. You, too, can grow your own memories.

About Aline Clement

Aline Clement is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

october, 2021

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