It’s time to start thinking about holiday color. It may seem early, but getting poinsettias and amaryllis ready for Christmas takes some planning ahead.
Every year, students in Spokane Community College’s greenhouse management program grow several dozen different varieties of poinsettias as part of their crop management education. They start growing small cuttings in the summer and continue into the fall making sure they get the required regimen of light and dark to cause the bracts to turn color in time for the holidays.
Each student is responsible for a block of plants and keeps careful records of growth and flowering characteristics. The information is then reported to two of the world’s leading poinsettia breeders, Paul Ecke Ranch and Fischer, USA, and used to help decide which varieties will be offered to the public in the future.
The cold weather a few weeks ago was a challenge for the students this year and slowed the plants down a bit. “They are a little smaller than we expected,” said Tyler Beasley, the greenhouse manager. He added that this was part of the challenge for the students.
Now that the research is done, the students will sell the plants Thursday and Friday at the SCC Greenery (Building 10), 1810 N. Greene St. Along with the familiar red plants, there are plants with bracts in shades of white, burgundy, pink and even a few variegated and dual-colored plants. All the proceeds go back into the greenhouse program.
Once you get your poinsettia home Beasley recommends keeping it in a 68- to 70-degree room with bright, indirect light. Keep it away from cold drafty doors and heat vents. Poinsettias will bloom well into January and can make nice green houseplants through the year. They are difficult to get to rebloom though so Beasley suggests just supporting the local greenhouse industry and buying a new one next year.
Now is also the time to start amaryllis bulbs so they will bloom close to Christmas.
Choose a container with good drainage but only one to two inches larger than the bulb itself. They like to be crowded. A kit should come with the right sized pot. Plant the bulb in good-quality potting soil with the top third or half of the bulb above the soil.
Water well to settle the plant. Insert some small stakes in the soil to help hold up the heavy flower after it emerges. Place the plant in bright indirect light in a cool room and water only when the soil surface is dry to the touch.
The flower stalk should emerge in a few weeks followed by the strap-like leaves. Once the blooms have faded, trim down the flower stalks and let the leaves soak up the light to store energy for next year. The plant will go dormant in the late spring. To revive it for next year’s holidays, begin watering it about six weeks ahead of the holidays.