This is the time of year when many people will purchase plants for holiday home decoration or to give as gifts to family and friends.

The goal of anyone that has holiday plants is to keep them looking great throughout the holiday season. No one wants to take a family holiday photo with a wilted and bad looking poinsettia in the background for example.

The holiday time can be a busy time. Around the Bowman place the fall and winter months can be full of activity. We are normally bouncing from basketball gym to basketball gym, assisting with calving season on the farm, going to football games and of course, handling work responsibilities. I will add that we normally host a few family gatherings also.

With all of the activity, it would be easy to forget the basic needs of the holiday plants in the house. When you realize the plant is in bad shape, it may be too late to rejuvenate.

Today, I will be sharing information on basic plant needs in order for you to maximize the eye appeal of these special plants by use of a UGA publication by UGA Extension Horticulturists, Dr. Paul Thomas, Dr. Mel Garber and Dr. Bodie Pennisi.

For starters, proper watering of your holiday and gift plants is critical in keeping a plant looking great. I will state that over-watering a plant can cause more problems than not watering enough. I will also add that it is not recommended to mist plants with water. When you mist plants with water, you are wetting the plant foliage. This can lead to an increased chance of foliar diseases which definitely can take away from plant appearance.

The rule-of-thumb is for potted plants is you should not water until the soil is nearly dry to the touch. When you get to this point, you apply enough water that some water will drain from the bottom of the pot. The excess water should be discarded. Our information reminds that holiday and gift plants will often be in a waterproof container or wrapped in foil.

You should remove the pot covering if possible or punch holes in the bottom of the pot to provide good drainage.

Do not forget to place the pot in a saucer to protect your furniture. Plant water needs should be checked daily. This is because the relative humidity indoors will normally be low during the heating and even air conditioning times of the year.

Proper lighting is also important to keep holiday and gift plants looking great longer. Here is where you need to study up on the individual needs of the plant type you have. Keep in mind that most potted plants need places where they can receive high levels of indirect light. If you do not have such a spot in the house, most plants can be placed under lamps.

UGA information adds that some plants such as African violets and orchids can be grown successfully on artificially lighted shelves. Low light levels such as 150-foot candles or less will increase the decline of most indoor plants.

Do not forget about the importance of proper inside the home temperature in maximizing longevity of your holiday or gift plants. One thing to keep in mind is to not place the plants in areas of the home that will have fast temperature changes such as around doors or heater vents.

Normal house temperatures in the 60-75 degrees F range is adequate for most plants. Temperatures in the 60-65 degrees F range will extend the life of flowering plants while temperatures in the 75-80 degrees F range will shorten the life.

Our information states this is definitely the case with forced bulbs. Keep in mind that some foliage plants will be subject to chilling injury in temperatures below 55 degrees F.

Finally, most flowering plants even if you do everything perfectly will only last a few weeks. You do not need to fertilize them. If you do plan on keeping the plants for several months, the plants may can be aided with an occasional fertilization. Our information suggests that water-soluble or slow release fertilizer are easier to use.

You just should follow the label directions on how to apply the fertilizer. If you plan on keeping the plant for a long time, note that the plant may be in too small of a container. You may have to repot the plant in a larger container with drainage holes. Using prepared soil mixes for the container is fine too.

I will also remind you to educate yourself about the detailed needs or characteristics of your specific plant types. This can help in providing the best care while extending the longevity of the plant.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at gbowman@uga.edu.

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