How to Keep Poinsettias Thriving all Year

We always thought they were plants reserved for December.  The Christmas ornament that decorated our tables.  We started with a fake one from the dollar store.  It was pretty shabby but it didn’t die.  Once we started getting a real one every year, a gorgeous free one from the large nursery that we had dance performances at during the holidays, we threw the dollar store one out.  There were just whispers of glitter on the live poinsettias and their tropical leaves stretched out as if they were on vacation in the gentle heat of our house in winter.

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Their only enemy was Ichabod.  Ichabod is a quiet, incredibly lovable black and white cat who would be the stoner friend you know should he have been made human.  He is easy going and always has the munchies.  One of his favorite delicacies is Poinsettia leaves.  Delicious.  Nearly gave me and Doug a heart attack when he was a kitten.  For animals, the better safe than sorry method of educating people goes way overboard.  Look at a list of things that kill animals during the holidays and realize your pets should probably be dead by now.  Well, turns out poinsettias aren’t that poisonous after all.  Their poor frayed edges proof.

But how do you keep them alive?  Every year after a month or so they become tired of the winter dry heat and lose their leaves.  A mini tree of the dead on the dining room table resembling the grey skies of February.  I would throw it out.

One year I decided to lop the top off and see if the stem would produce a new flower.  Nope.

Last year Bret’s parents gave us a small poinsettia for Christmas.  It was red and fit perfectly on the kitchen window sill.  It never did begin to die.  It lost leaves and grew new ones continuously.  I would clean it up, water it with all the other plants, and its leaves never died.  They turned all green and stayed that way for the entire year until, like magic, they began to turn red just in time to put up the Christmas tree once again.  It was a Christmas miracle indeed.

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This year I ordered three small ones from a fund raiser from an adorable child that I could not tell no to.  I figured I could find room for three small ones in the windows somewhere.  They turned out to be gigantic!  They adorned our living space with fresh beauty.

There is no room in the window.  They stayed on the piano.  They began to wilt and they began to die.  I had a choice, shove them in the space in the living room window where they will receive ample light that they so desire and hope they can make it until the other pots go outside to sunbathe in May.  Because in that spot in the window they will be an Ichabod buffet.  Leaving them on the piano wasn’t doing them any favors.  In the window they went and they are happy as can be.

Simply water your poinsettia every five days or so, clean up the debris on the surface of the soil from time to time, and give it a cat-free south facing window and you won’t have to buy any more poinsettias.

Indoor Farm and Houseplant Maintenance

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The indoor farm is doing pretty good.  The tomato and pepper plants are a bit leggy and the basil looks like it misses summer.  It is time for some indoor plant R&R.

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First bring a trash can around with you.  For each plant, take off dead leaves, branches, and debris that have settled in the pot.  Then give each plant a nice shower in the bathtub with lukewarm water.  It’ll think it is in the tropics and instantly begin to relax.  Spray the leaves, give it lots of good water, and let it drain well.

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When putting the plants back, put them in a different spot or turn the plant so that everyone gets their fair share of sun.

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Four days or so later when the pots are dry again, give a little organic fertilizer to each plant.  I like Age Old products (Age Old Grow, Age Old Bloom, etc.), they won’t harm my kitties who are not supposed to be in the plants….but are.

Ideally, we would give this treatment to the plants once a month.  Since I have a million things to do, maybe I’ll do it…once.  But, every little bit helps to keep the houseplants alive until summer comes around again!

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Did you know that your leftover coffee is a nitrogen rich drink for plants?  I know plenty of folks that collect coffee grounds from coffee shops to put in their compost piles, but my Grandma taught me to use leftover coffee at the end of the pot to feed plants.  I take the leftover coffee in the pot, fill it to the top with water to dilute a bit, and water whoever needs it that day.

It looked like we were going to have an aphid problem again this year.  The lady bugs that I had placed in the pots seem to have hitched a ride to Florida.  But so did the aphids.  I gently placed a few spiders that fell out during the shower back into the pots.  Perhaps they have something to do with the insect free indoor gardens.  They can stay.

The aloe is busting out of its new pot, the chives are becoming casualties of the cats, and everything wishes for summer heat, but it is all alive.  Five more months until they (and I) can head back out to the porch!

Lady Bugs in the Window

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My little friend, Shelby, brought me a gift.  I could not imagine what it was.  She held a glass canning jar with a tulle slip of fabric covering the top.  Leaves and a stick decorated the inside of the jar.  Upon closer inspection, little red and black beetles held softly to the inside.  Lady bugs!  My favorite!

Shelby had been raising them as an experiment for girl scouts.  So, when it was time to let them go, she thought of me.  I laid them gently in the pots that line the window.  The indoor farm now has lady bugs.

Last year, when I was telling you about my indoor farm, I mentioned that the biggest problem we encounter indoors are the blasted aphids that decide to move in.  Aphids love them some indoor farms.  It’s like vacation for aphids.  I had mentioned that I needed lady bugs inside, a bunch of wasps, or something to control these buggers.  How pleasant to have lady bugs.  My family had vetoed the wasps.

How does one take care of pet lady bugs?  I placed a small saucer of water out.  Do they drink water?  Is the food and bugs in the window enough for them?

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So, a few things could happen.

1. I may do so brilliantly at this lady bug business that my house is positively swarming with them come spring time.

2. The cats may eat them.

3. They may all die because I have no idea what their needs are.

4. They may thrive within the expanses of the indoor farm windows and keep the aphids away, all while beautifying the gardens and creating a fun scavenger hunt looking for them.  A lady bug landing on your shoulder while drinking Christmas tea would be a lovely gift, don’t you think?