University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
COOL CYCLAMEN AND OTHER DECEMBER
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist
Keeping cyclamen cool and evenly moist, poinsettias warm and away from
drafts, and making gardening gift baskets are some of the garden-related
activities for this month.
Cyclamen are a flowering holiday plant, most often seen during this time of
year and winter. The rounded dark leaves usually have silvery
markings, and the unique flowers arise above the leaves. Flowers come
in reds, purples, pink or white, and last for weeks with proper care.
New buds then arise, so you can get months of bloom.
Cyclamen like it cool -- right next to the heater isn't an ideal location.
Temperatures in the 60’s (F), even 50’s, are good. The small tuber is
susceptible to rotting so if you have the time, water by submerging the pot
in bowl of water until the soil takes up enough moisture, then remove.
Otherwise, water slowly so it seeps in and doesn't sit on the tuber. Make
sure the pot doesn’t sit in a saucer filled with water.
Give cyclamen bright light. As flowers and foliage fade, you can give
the plant a rest by withholding water and keeping it in a cool, dark
location until new growth begins.
Poinsettias are the typical holiday plant all know and see and it, too, will
last for months with proper care. Poinsettias prefer to be more dry
than wet, so if in doubt don’t water. They like it warmer than
cyclamen, but don’t like drafts near doors nor too near heat sources like
woodstoves. Keep away from pets or children that may chew on
leaves. Although not toxic, the white sticky sap may cause vomiting or
What gardener on your holiday gift list wouldn't appreciate a decorative
basket or pot filled with handy gardening items? Plus, they're fun to put
together. Some items to consider are pruners, an ergonomic trowel, fragrant
soap, hand lotion, seeds, plant tags, paper white narcissus bulbs, rain
gauge, decorative plant labels, and water-resistant gloves. Use a
large decorative pot, colorful plastic garden “trug”, or basket, and they’ll
get use from this too.
There are many garden books to choose from for gift ideas, both instructive
how-to ones and ones to inspire. Consider a couple references by the
authors—The Fruit Gardener’s Bible and Northeast Fruit and
The faux clay pots made of insulated plastic are handy for adding a touch of
greenery next to your front door, as are hanging baskets. Don’t use clay, as
it will absorb water and crack in cold temperatures. Use a 12- or
14-inch size pot or larger, and fill with old soil, peat moss, bark mulch,
or whatever material you have on hand that will anchor branches. Prune some
branches off evergreen trees and shrubs to use in the container, adding
other greens and berries from local nurseries or florists, and some tiny
Branches of holly berries add color among greenery outside, until they
freeze and turn black. Some faux branches of berries look remarkably real,
and who's going to know when they are covered with a dusting of snow.
There are many other types of upright, glittery or decorative accessories to
add that you can find at florists, craft and home stores.
Other garden-related activities for this month include buying some local fir
swags or roping for decorating, cutting your own Christmas tree, keeping
bird feeders replenished daily, potting some paperwhite narcissus or
amaryllis bulbs, and checking houseplants for pests.
(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known
horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach;
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