While We’re On The Subject of Misunderstood Plants….

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Okay, this isn’t the most glorious looking poinsettia you’ve ever seen but what if I told you this is its third year blooming–and it’s blooming here in July?

So what does that say about these plants? First, that you don’t have to put them in dark closets or under a box to get them to bloom–you can see that this one is sitting on a file cabinet in my office.

Next, that they are so much more than the finicky plants that we buy at the holidays and then discard. They actually grow into shrubs in tropical countries like Mexico and central America (so, no putting them in closets or putting boxes over them there, clearly).

So that’s myth number one–that poinsettias need to be kept in artificial darkness to rebloom.

The next myth gets us toxicity–a subject I touched on with respect to children and pets on Monday. While it’s just never a good idea to eat any plant unless you’re sure of its consumability (there are a few truly toxic plants out there–I even own some!) poinsettias are not toxic. They may give you a stomach ache–but they won’t kill you.

And despite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely reputable sources (here ite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely repurable sources (here ite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely repurable sources (here is one from the Poison Control Center, for example) this myth persists.

In fact, I would have to say that it is second only to hydrangea questions for me. Again, if I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, “Oh, I can’t have a poinsettia, because I have a dog/cat/child,” I wouldn’t be posting about this, I would own a place on a warm sunny island where I would no longer worry about poinsettias or winter!

If fact, if you don’t want to believe the poison control center, perhaps you’d prefer what doctors at the Mayo Clinic have to say about poinsettias. Again, they can cause mild irritation, some stomach upset, a skin rash–but then again, so can any plant in the euphorbia family.

And as we know, lots of plants, such as the dreaded poison ivy, can do far worse to those susceptible to its oils.

So please, people, let us stop the craziness. And if you like these plants, please buy them and enjoy.

Holiday Cactus?

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This may look like the same photo from Wednesday. It is the same plant. But I took the photo so that the tag was visible and readable in the photo. It says “Holiday Cheer Christmas Cactus.”

Hmm. I am not sure about you, but with the exception of our Canadian friends who celebrated their Thanksgiving on Monday, I am not quite ready for holiday cheer. And I am sure not ready for winter!

So what’s happened to my zygocactus? Nothing, really. Sadly, they’re not terribly good at flowering for any particular holiday. They tend to flower on their own schedule and their own time. In fact, an article that I just wrote about using plants for holiday entertaining suggests that one doesn’t try to use these particular plants if one needs them in bloom for a party–they can be terribly unpredictable.

What I did differently this year was I put them outside for the summer (or what passes for summer here in the frozen north:they were outside from about mid-June until just past Labor Day). After that, they came directly into the house.

The one that’s in flower is in a northeast window. But lest you think that this is an anomaly, here are two that are in a northwest window. As you can see, they are not far behind the first.

Still, I am not planning to use them for any holiday parties and I have numerous plants, some of which show no signs of budding. I am hopeful that this means a long bloom season for these plants!

About Growing Those Shrubs as House Plants…..

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What are you looking at? Last year’s poinsettia of course. Are you surprised? I know that no one really keeps these things from year to year. By March, they are toast–or perhaps if they’re lucky, compost.

But they do have a long and storied history as shrubs, particularly in Mexico, which is their home country. And obviously, if they are growing as shrubs in the ground, no one is doing the crazy machinations we hear about in the news or on blogs or web sites (which you won’t read about here, by the way) about putting the plants in closets or under boxes to get them to bloom. I think those folks who have them as shrubs in their yards have better things to do with their time.

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So if you don’t mind your plants not blooming not quite on schedule (and you know I don’t–I’m the one with last year’s amaryllis in June!) this is what you can expect. And this is just the beginning.

So this year, if you have the room, perhaps consider saving over a lovely poinsettia of your own. Or at least compost it, if you can!

More Seasonal Color

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Was anyone surprised to see my post listing this plant as a “bulb?” If you’re an outdoor gardener in a cooler climate, you might have planted its smaller cousins in a shady spot.

With my heavy clay soil, cyclamen corms just rot away and don’t even come up in the spring, nevermind naturalize in the lovely drifts that I have seen in other gardens.

For that matter, this plant doesn’t do particularly well in my home. I am not entirely sure why. It’s certainly cool enough.

It may be my watering practices and the fact that it is a corm (which is a bulb-like structure. Crocuses are corms if that helps you visualize).

All “house plants” that grow from bulbs–calla lilies and caladiums are just 2 more examples I can think of–need to be kept evenly moist. Once bulbs dry out, it tells them to initiate dormancy.

In my house, I am not so good with “evenly moist.” So I suspect that’s why I fail with these. But they are lovely to look at for the season.