Along with holly and evergreens, feature a few blooming flowers among the glittering ornaments during the holiday season. The most well-known Christmas flower is the poinsettia, but amaryllis and Christmas cactus are nearly as popular. Varieties of these blooming plants will provide red color appropriate for the season, and they all make excellent houseplants the rest of the year.
The quintessential Christmas plant, the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is native to southern Mexico. The brightly colored red, pink, white or bi-colored flowers are actually bracts, a type of leaf. The flowers are the yellow cluster in the center of the bracts. Poinsettias need warm temperatures and full sun. Their preferred location is in a south-facing window, but they will survive in an east or west-facing one. Poinsettias do not grow well in the dim light of a north-facing window. Avoid exposure to drafts. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch on the surface. Do not let the soil dry out completely.
A tender tropical bulb native to South America, the amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.) bears a cluster of 6 to 10-inch trumpet-shaped flowers at the top of 1 to 2 foot stalks. Along with the popular red and scarlet varieties, amaryllis are available in pink, rose, salmon or apricot. Some are bi-color and some have different colored edges. Amaryllis grow from a bulb and are often sold already potted. After watering for the first time, the bulbs come out of dormancy and begin to grow. They will bloom approximately four to six weeks later. Put the potted bulb in a warm, sunny place to begin its growth. Once growth begins, move to a slightly cooler location to keep the stem shorter and stockier; this helps keep the mature flower stalk from tipping over with the weight of the flower cluster. Water when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch.
Native to the mountains of Brazil, Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) begin flowering in December and continue through January. They have fleshy, succulent, leaf-like stem segments (phylloclades) that grow from their mid veins. Flowers can be red, magenta, lavender, orange or white, and they appear at the end of each branch. Grow in bright, indirect light during winter and shade in summer. Flower buds are set when the plant is exposed to night temperatures between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit for several weeks in early to mid-autumn. This grows slowly into a graceful plant with a weeping habit. Mature specimens when in bloom can appear to be dripping with blossoms.
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