Christmas inevitably leaves garden chores in its wake. You may have holiday plants to shepherd into the new year; they'll need proper care to survive the winter in as good a condition as when you received them. And if you didn't stock up on poinsettias, cyclamen and other holiday plants, there are sales galore this weekend.
Considering all priorities, the balled evergreen tree displayed for the holidays in some homes heads the list of continuing jobs.
Continue your daily watering of the rootball with a quart of warm water poured gently over the ball.
On Tuesday afternoon, remove all lights and decorations.
Tuesday night, lift the tree from the tub and place it on a sheet of plastic on the floor. Move the tub and rubber tire to the garage, then carry the tree to the garage and place it in the tub. Immediately spray the tree with a water-and-surfactant solution in a hand-pump sprayer; the tree should be dripping wet when you're through.
Every day thereafter, spray the tree and wet the rootball with the customary quart of water.
Planting in the garden is scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 9.
If the balled tree has been outdoors for the holidays, continue your care program until planting time.
With the cut Christmas tree, the problem at the moment could be the dropping of needles.
If needles are dropping, your tree could easily catch fire. The best thing to do is leave well enough alone, but turn off the tree lights.
As long as the tree stays unlit, it should survive the holidays without a problem. Make sure everyone knows not to turn the lights on.
With holiday plants, here are the basics:
Poinsettia: Keep the soil lightly moist. Touch the top of the soil, and add warm water the same day when your finger senses the soil is starting to dry.
Water one week, use Peters' 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer the next. Without the nitrogen and molybdenum in the Peters, poinsettia leaves will discolor and fall from the plant. Let the pot drain fully before returning it to the saucer.
Keep the plant in direct or bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid blasts of hot air from the furnace.
Amaryllis: Keep the soil lightly moist, pouring warm water over the soil and not on the tuber.
Alternate watering with Peters' 20-20-20, as with the poinsettia. Let the pot drain fully.
This plant takes full, direct sun or bright, indirect sunlight. Room temperatures in the 60s are fine.
When the flower fades and you're sure another flower bud isn't present on the stalk, cut the stalk to within an inch of the tuber. A new stalk will surface within days.
Cyclamen: Keep the plant in bright, indirect light during the day at average room temperatures and then move it to a cool room at night where temperatures are in the 45- to 55-degree range.
If you don't chill the plant this way every night, flowers will drop and replacement flowers will not materialize. Blossoms usually linger for three weeks; when they start to wither, grip the stem just below the remains of the old flower and pull straight up. If you're doing things right, replacement flowers will show within a week. Fertilize once every three weeks.
For watering, rest your finger on top of the soil; when you sense the soil starting to dry, add warm water the next day, enough so it drains out the base of the pot.
Let pot drain in the sink for 15 minutes, then return the plant to its saucer near the window.
Holiday cactus: The care program for the cactus depends on the age of the plant. For a young cactus, cool room temperatures will prolong the life of the delicate flowers; when they wither, pinch them away with your fingers.
Keep the plant in bright or direct sun, watering every 14 days. Resume monthly feedings with Peters' 20-20-20 in late February or early March.
If you have a mature plant, cool room temperatures will extend the life of the flowers. When they wither, pinch them away and stop all watering for four full weeks.
This forced dormant cycle usually results in a second flowering of a mature cactus, often in mid-to-late February.
Resume 14-day waterings after the four-week rest cycle, but do not add fertilizer until late February.
Kalanchoe: Flowers will last for weeks, providing daytime room temperatures are warm but below 60 at night.
When your finger test on the top of the soil indicates it is starting to dry, add warm water the next day.
If you overwater, leaves will turn yellow. No need to feed the plant until March.
If you're looking for a holiday plant overlooked by the Joneses, go for the anthurium.
A handful in your home will have neighbors asking all sorts of questions. Give the anthurium bright, indirect sunlight, double-pot with stones so the plant has high humidity; keep the soil lightly moist and feed every four weeks with Peters' 20-20-20.
Flowers will last all January and into February. Jack Eden hosts "Over the Garden Fence" Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WTOP Radio (1500 AM).