Get your holiday plants ready

Christmas and other winter holidays bring out the desire to fill our homes with greenery and decorative flowers. With a little extra care and forethought, many of these wonderful plants can continue to thrive long after December becomes just a distant memory.

Choosing a living Christmas tree is a great place to start. You can have it indoors for the holiday season, and then enjoy it for the rest of the year as a beautiful addition to your landscape. The trick is to choose the right type of tree that can survive indoors for three weeks or so, and then thrive in our soil and climate.

Some options to consider are Leyland Cypress and Arizona Cypress. If you live in the Elgin-Bastrop area then the Afghan Pine is a good choice. It will grow west of that area, but will not grow quite as strong because of our alkaline soil.

Hollies and asparagus fern are two other outdoor plants that look pretty when decorated for winter and are then planted in the landscape. Just make sure you give them even water while still in the containers, and remove any decorative sleeves that prevent water from draining (or punch holes in the bottom).

If you’re looking for a permanent indoor or porch tree, then the Norfolk Island pine can be a nice addition that you can decorate for Christmas and then use as a centerpiece of your indoor greenery for the next year.

Rosemary Christmas trees are always available this time of year and many people buy them for centerpieces in their home. However,W there is a problem with this: rosemary absolutely has to be in the sun and will crash if kept inside for more than a few days (at most).

But in a sunny spot on the porch it will thrive and then you can plant it as a full sun, evergreen anchor piece in your landscape after Christmas.

Greenery on your porch can also add to your outdoor decorations and looks beautiful when it’s decked out in lights and ribbons.

A native of Mexico, poinsettias have been an important part of the Christmas tradition in that country for nearly 500 years. Brought into the United States in the mid-19th century, we have enjoyed their colorful bracts in our homes each December now for generations.  Poinsettias are typically grown for the holidays and then discarded in January after the season is over.

If you want to keep your poinsettia growing, water only enough to keep the leaves from wilting.  Too much water (especially when covered in non-draining metallic florist sleeves) is the biggest detriment to keeping your poinsettia looking its best throughout December and into the new year.

After all danger of frost has passed, gradually move the pot out to a shady location on a porch and repot into a bigger container. When handling poinsettias wear gloves if you are sensitive to the milky sap produced by the Euphorbia family. The sap can be an irritant to some and can irritate a pet’s mouth if eaten.

Finally, Christmas cactus and amaryllis are two of my favorite holiday plants. They’re easy to grow and will reward you with years of blooms with little care.

Amaryllis is a true bulb that typically blooms in the late spring.  I buy a new one every year and plant them into large mixed tubs to create a beautiful spring display. My favorite varieties? Apple Blossom and Papilio. Many amaryllis can be planted in the ground here and will overwinter and multiply in all but the coldest years.

Christmas cactus is a succulent that will bloom the next Christmas with just a little care. Be careful not to leave the plant in the foil sleeve it comes in.  Too much water will kill it quick! In January pot it up into a clay pot with a good draining soil. Grow in an eastward / northward facing location and water only when dry. Buds should start to form again early the next December. A little organic fertilizer will help it to bloom even stronger.

With just a little care, your plants purchased during the holiday season can become a source of beauty into the new year.

Happy gardening everyone!

If you have a question for Chris or Amanda, send it via email to iathyme@yahoo.com.  Or mail a postcard to It’s About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748  www.itsaboutthyme.com

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