Plants are wonderful for Christmas, and the selection available is particularly large and colorful this year. It includes poinsettias, chrysanthemums, azaless, cyclamen, kalanchoes, Christmas begonias, Christmas cactus, Christmas peppers, Jerusalem cherries and African violets.

If at all possible, these plants should be kept in a cool room awya from radiators and drafts, with good light but no direct sun. It's not necessary to fertilize them, and to do so could be harmful.

How you water can make a lot of defference. A light watering every day may just moisten the top layer of soil, leaving the body of the soil deeper in the pot, where the roots are, dry.

Use room-temperature water; hot or cold water shock the root system. Water until it comes out the drainage holes at the bottom. Wait 15 minutes for excess water to drain and empty the saucer. Never let the pot stand in deep water more than an hour. It invites root rot because the water keeps air from getting to the roots.

How can dry fingertip on the top of the soil. If particles stick to it and the surface of the soil is springy, the plant probably doesn't need water. Or give the plant the done-cake test: Stick a toothpick into the soil; if it comes out clean, you'd better water the plant. Then there's the listen test: Rap the side of the pot with your knuckles or a stick. A dull sound means the soil is moist; a hollow sound is the signal to water.

The cyclemen is one of the most attractive plants available for Christmas, but one of the most difficult to keep happy in the average home. It does best with a tempeture of about 50 at night and 60 to 65 during the day. The plant usually has several flowers and many buds in all stages of development. Given the care it needs, it should bloom until March. It's worthwhile even if it lasts only a week or two.

The poinsettia may need to be watered every day while at its peak; give it good light but no sunlight.

Jerusalem cherry and Christmas pepper are sold when the fruit is ripe, and it's natural the fruit will start to drop soon.

Chrysanthemums and azaleas will stay attractive much longer if given good light, watered when they need it and kept cool (about 55) at night. Actually, most plants forced into bloom for Christmas are not suitable for outdoor gardens in this area.

Kalanchoe does best with temperatures of about 60 a night and 70 to 75 during the day. It can be kept as a house plant all year round. Remove the flower heads when they've finished blooming and repot the plant in the spring.

Dwarf citrus trees will not do much unless they get good light, plenty of water and a humidity of at least 30 perfent.


Q - When is the best time of year to prune a pear tree? It has been bearing fruit tree years .

A - Pear trees are usually pruned lightly after they are completely dormant, in late December up until early spring. Your main objective is reduce excessive growth and reduce possibilities of the fire-blight disease .

Q - I have four orange trees I starged from seed. They are growing in tubs and are 5' tall. Will they ever bear fruit for me ?

A - It seems unlikely they will ever bear for you because they cannot get the sunshine they need indoors in late fall and winter, and winter weahter will kill them outdoors. If you had a warm green house in which to keep them, they should blossom and bear fruit when they're old and have enough, which will vary with different kinds and circumstances .