The end of the year brings around holiday festivities, with the hustle and bustle of decorating, gift giving, parties, and other social gatherings. As gardeners and plant freaks, we all tend to get an indoor holiday plant at one time or another. For many, it is with great joy. Then there are those out there that, as soon as the plant gets home, it is as good as dead. The care needed for some of these plants just seems to escape even the most seasoned gardener. It is not your fault!
Their beautiful colors, leaves, berries, or shapes, lull you into believing that this is just a very pretty plant. If you take care of it like any of the others that you have, it will be fine. Not so fast my horticultural friend. Some of the most common holiday plants come from tropical regions, while others come from rather chilly climes that you could not possibly reproduce and thus, the plant suffers.
Here then, is a list of the top 6 most commonly given plants for the holidays and how you should take care of them.
#1 Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
This is one of those plants that I actually grew up with as a holiday plant. You don’t see them as much any more, which is a shame. My Grandmother always had one that was just absolutely beautiful. I am not sure if it was the same one every year or if she bought a new one each time. Also known as Christmas Cherry plants, they are perennial ornamentals that are hardy in zones 8 and 9. It is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. As a houseplant, you should place the plants in full sun, if at all possible, but they will tolerate moderate light. These plants have been known to drop their foliage and flowers if they get too warm, above 72 degrees, and are in dry air, very similar to what you probably have during the holidays. Misting your cherry occasionally will help to alleviate this somewhat. They should be planted in a rich well draining potting soil, not garden soil. Water the plants as needed and fertilize regularly with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks while the plant is growing.
After the holidays are over, in the spring, and after the fruit have dropped off, prune the plant drastically and take it outside. Place it in a sunny spot in your yard. Chances are good, that your Jerusalem cherry plant will treat you to another spectacular display the following year. Just as a side note, do not eat the fruit of these cherries as they do contain some toxins. Keep the berries away from children, it may result in mild poisoning, but it is generally not life threatening, unless a very large quantity has been eaten. It may cause gastric problems, including vomiting and gastroenteritis. They are also highly poisonous to dogs, cats and some birds.
#2 Rosemary Topiary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary topiaries shaped like a Christmas tree are great gifts to give and receive. But they can be really tough to get to survive through the holidays and out to your garden in the spring. It often takes months and months to shape these plants into their desired form. They spend the majority of the time in a controlled environment greenhouse and will not be the least bit happy in your dry, heated house. Even though they are native to the Mediterranean, hardy in Zones 8–10, the plant prefers a sunny location and dislikes extreme cold, heat vents and electronics. You can place your rosemary in a decorative spot, like on top of your coffee table or on your dining table, if it doesn’t get much sun in that location, the tree will suffer. You will want to provide about six to seven hours of light every day.
A Mediterranean environment is hot, but humid, so place the pot on a shallow pebble-filled container or tray. Add just enough water so that it does not cover the pebbles. You want the rosemary plant to have increased humidity but not wet soil and roots. Rosemary plants sold as holiday decorations that have that beautiful triangular habit like real Christmas trees are not growing naturally. This isn’t even close to being its natural growth habit. Immature plants that have been trimmed and manhandled into this shape are likely suffering from shock and need time to recuperate.
After the holidays are over, and once warm weather arrives, take your rosemary outside. Give it full sun, well-drained soil and don’t expect it to keep that shape forever.