Florist departments are stuffed with colourful, foil-wrapped plants for giving this time of year.
Christmas gift plants like this little tree can sometimes leave the recipient in a quandary as to its care.
These presents may be cheerfully received, but oftentimes the recipient is nervously wondering, "How am I going to keep this alive?"
There are five simple rules to follow with regard to keeping any plant thriving and happy.
1. Place it where it will receive bright light. During the winter, sunlit hours are at a minimum and most plants should be placed where they will be exposed to lots of sunlight, preferably in a southeast or southwest window. Positioning them in a high traffic area will provide your visitors, and yourself, with more enjoyment. It will also facilitate the second most important point in plant care.
2.Check plant daily to see if it needs to be watered. Your gift plant has been carefully grown to bloom for the Christmas season, so don't expect it to continue for longer than a few weeks. Touch the surface of the soil each day. If it feels dry, water it thoroughly. Don't just wet the surface. To do this properly you should pour enough water in so that it seeps down into the soil. Wait until that is absorbed and repeat several times. On the other hand, do NOT water the plant if the soil is already moist.
3. Fertilize on a regular basis. Few new plant owners realize the important role fertilizer plays in keeping a plant healthy. Apply once every two weeks at half the strength recommended.
4. Increase the humidity. Think about where plants normally grow. Outside, they are exposed to showers, mist and dew. Inside, they depend on you for these 'cleansing' experiences. You can set pots in saucers of moistened pea-sized gravel or spray the leaves once a week with a fine mist.
5. Keep them tidy. Inspect plants daily to remove any old blooms, yellowing or dead leaves. By removing dead flowers you are reducing the potential for fungal or viral problems and this makes the plant look better too. Some leaf loss and yellowing of foliage is normal as your plant makes the adjustment from ideal growing conditions to a more challenging environment.
Eventually, after months of careful nurturing, your plant will probably put out new growth and you may have to prune or 'pinch' branches back if it seems like your plant is beginning to grow too tall and leggy or in an undesirable shape.