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Plants to brighten the holiday season

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Rows of poinsettias, clusters of cyclamen--favorite seasonal plants are crowding florist shops and supermarkets.

Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy talks with Martha Foley about getting the most from these flowering plants.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Poinsettias come in a wide variety of colors with red being the most popular in this season. However it is not their flowers that look so good. As Ivy explains, “The flower is a little tiny yellow cluster of little yellow flowers in the center of that bright red--those are actually bracts,” The flower fades away but the colored bracts (specialized leaves) stay on for a long time.

Ivy said you should think about poinsettias as a throw-away plant. It's a challenge to keep them growing, as they develop into a substantial bush in their native tropical region. Bu to keep them as along as possible, you should take the foil off after you buy the plant, and repot them into a bigger/better pot than the plastic one that it came in.

For soil, don’t use anything heavy; use either potting mix or potting soil. It is important to make sure a poinsettia is watered, but it shouldn’t be drenched or left in standing water. The potting soil mix helps because it retains a good amount of water--like a sponge--and lets the excess drain away.

Cyclamen take a little more care then a poinsettia. Ivy recommended not repotting them, just removing the foil. It is important to water this plant to the side, so as not get the central corm wet. The corm is what the plant grows from, and it should stick up above the soil.

Cyclamen enjoy the colder weather; a perfect climate for them is 50 degrees and full sun. The best spot for them would be a bright sunny window away from a heating source. The flowers last for a long time--Ivy's usually last around three months. Once the flowers fade, the cyclamen still has pretty leaves, so still looks good.

With both plants it is important to find a happy medium between neglect and too much love, as both can kill the plant. It is best to go up in pot sizes gradually, as the plant grows, rather then putting a plant right into a large pot.

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