Did you get a gift plant? You can keep it merry and bright a little longer with these tips.
• Prolong the life of potted poinsettias with a little TLC. They love a cool window with half-day sun or filtered light. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch, but don't let them get soggy. Punch holes in that pretty foil wrapping to allow drainage. Avoid heat or drafts, too.
• Cyclamen, another popular gift plant, can be kept blooming inside through March. As each flower fades, remove the entire flower stalk (a sharp little tug usually works). That prompts new flowers to emerge from its tuber. Cyclamens like a cool room (50 to 55 degrees at night, 60 to 68 degrees during the day) with bright light and good air circulation. (They're great in drafty old houses.)
The tuber, which is half-buried in the soil, may rot if watered directly. Instead, place the plant in a saucer of water and let it soak up the moisture. Feed every other week with half-strength houseplant fertilizer.
Cyclamen will go dormant in late spring as the leaves die back. Place the potted tuber in a shady place in the garden, then bring it back inside in September or October. The change of surroundings (and warmer indoor temperatures) usually prompts a new cycle of cyclamen blooms.
• Moth or phalaenopsis orchids have become very popular gift plants, too. These easy-care orchids like indirect bright light, a spot out of drafts or direct heat, and temperatures in the low 70s. Water them sparingly. Try this trick: Place two or three ice cubes on the growing medium, not leaves or roots, once a week. As the ice melts, that's all the water they need. They'll keep blooming six to eight weeks.