Plants have always been an integral part of the holiday season providing wonderful color, fragrance, and memories. Of course the most recognized is the Christmas tree, decked out in trim and sparkle, even if it’s an easy to care for artificial tree.

To keep a real, cut Christmas tree looking and smelling beautiful as long as possible, it should be kept in a reservoir filled with water. Poinsettias are the next most popular holiday plant. The red (or other colored) petals are actually leaves and poinsettia plants have to be forced to “bloom” at this time of year.  This is not its natural, tropical nature, so to keep them looking good as long as possible, put them in a sunny window and protect them from drastic temperature changes.

Cut boughs of ivy are another traditional holiday plant used to decorate homes this time of year, but not easy to grow here in the dry desert. Mistletoe, however, does grow here, even if we may not want it to because it’s actually a parasitic plant.  Its clumps of green can be found all over the desert living high up in mesquite trees and may eventually kill the host tree it attaches to.  The Christmas cactus comes in a beautiful array of colorful blooms and is another plant that has to be “forced” to bloom during the holidays. Christmas cactus are easy to keep all year round, but if you want it to bloom again, you need to be patient and diligent. You can force the blooms by creating the conditions under which it would normally go dormant and this means several weeks of cool and dark. Once the buds start to show you can bring it out and after many more weeks, it will bloom again. Happy Holidays!

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