November 14, 2011

Decorating With Holiday Plants, Inside and Out

Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service

Did you know that there are live Christmas tree farms here in Florida? To find one near you please visit the Florida Christmas Tree Association website. Buying a Florida tree supports local farmers and can provide you and your family a more traditional holiday experience. Christmas tree farms are “green” too- they provide green space preservation that also consumes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the environment. Many farms even have areas where you can choose and cut your own live tree. Not only will you create memories, but your fresh cut tree will last longer than one cut weeks before and shipped long distances. 

 The types of trees grown in Florida are different than those available on your typical Christmas tree lot full of northern varieties. The most common trees grown in Florida on Christmas tree farms are: Red Cedar, Virginia Pine, Sand Pine, Spruce Pine, Arizona Cypress and Leyland Cypress. I can tell you from personal experience that the sand pine makes a great traditional looking Christmas tree that will last long after Christmas is over. When your celebrations are done and the decorations put away, please remember to recycle your tree.
Sand pine grown in Florida on a Christmas tree farm.

Another great “green” choice for Christmas trees are living trees that you can plant in your landscape after the tinsel and ornaments have all been taken down.  One example is a small rosemary tree for tabletops.  For more info on their care, click here

If you are interested in something larger, you might consider one of the species listed above that are grown on Christmas tree farms.  Be sure that you have the appropriate growing conditions and ample space for the mature size of the tree you choose.  Once the holidays are over you can plant the tree in your yard, and this is a great time to do so because January is the best time of the year to plant trees in Florida.  Be sure to purchase your tree from a nursery.  Do not dig up a wild tree as it is likely that transplant shock will kill the tree.  They are also not as likely to have that traditional Christmas tree shape most people are looking for.   While the tree is inside you need to keep the soil moist to ensure that the tree keeps growing.  For all kinds of information about Christmas trees, both living and artificial, please visit UF's Solutions For Your Life
Rosemary Tree

Other Popular Holiday Plants

There are several popular options for indoor plants for the holidays, ranging from the traditional to some more modern choices.  Poinsettia is a traditional holiday favorite.  These plants come in a variety of colors to suit your holiday decorating needs.  If your holiday Poinsettia comes in a container wrapped in a foil outer cover, be sure to remove it or punch holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain.  Keep the soil around your poinsettia slightly moist, but not soggy, and place the plant in a bright window out of direct sunlight.  Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are non-poisonous and non-toxic, however, some people may be sensitive to the latex in poinsettia sap.  Even though eating even a large number of leaves will not result in illness, the plant is not considered edible.  If brought indoors it should be kept out of reach of children and pets.  After the holidays these can be planted in your landscape.   These plants are photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering. Click here for more information on poinsettias and planting in the landscape.

Another traditional holiday plant is the flowering holiday cactus, the Christmas cactus and the Easter cactus.  The Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, usually flowers from Thanksgiving to Christmas and its leaves have pointed lobes.  The Easter cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii, has wider leaves, which are rounded, flowers from Christmas to Easter.  Allow soil to dry out between watering and keep the plant in bright light while in bloom.  These are long-lived plants and can be kept outside in the shade during most of the year.  These plants are also photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering.  They do need to be protected from frost and freezing temperatures.  All parts of this plant are poisonous, so keep out of reach of pets and children.  Click here for more information on Christmas cactus.

Photo courtesy Okeechobee County Extension

Kalanchoe, a winter blooming succulent, has become popular as a more modern holiday plant.  The showy flowers are in terminal clusters and last for several weeks.  Flower colors are yellow, pink, red, and various shades of orange.  Since this is a succulent plant, let the soil dry out between watering.  If grown in the landscape, kalanchoe prefers light, sandy, open, well-drained soils and is moderately salt tolerant.  These plants are also photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering.  They are well suited to a rock garden or container garden.  Here in Pinellas County they may be cold tender and will require cold protection during frost or freeze conditions.   Click here for more information on kalanchoe.

Happy Holidays!

No comments:

Post a Comment