Tag Archives: houseplants

A Year in the Life of an Amaryllis

amaryllis_akaIf your holiday amaryllis is nearing the end of its blooming cycle, here are tips to enjoy the plant through the year and give it the best chance to bloom again. Unlike paperwhites, which are one-and-done indoor bulbs, with care, amaryllis can re-bloom for years to come.

While flowering, the plant benefits from bright, indirect light and moisture. When each trumpet-shaped flower is finished, snip it off and when the last flower on the stem has shriveled, cut the entire stem about an inch above the bulb. Leave the strappy leaves in tact. Occasionally amaryllis won’t develop leaves until after blooming, so don’t fret if the plant is foliage-free at this stage. However, adding fertilizer to a bulb without leaves will kill the roots.

Treat the bulb as a houseplant throughout the winter by providing direct sunlight, watering when dry below the soil line and feeding common houseplant food once or twice a month. The bulb should remain snuggled in the original pot, with the top half to one-third above the soil line. In spring, the leaves will yellow and die, signaling that they’ve done their job of providing nutrients to the bulb, a common bulb process. Cut the foliage about an inch from the top of the bulb; new leaves will emerge through the summer. Leaves equal energy, so the more leaves developed at this time, the more vigor the bulb has to flower again. During the summer months, you’ll want to give the pot as bright a spot as possible, either indoors or out. Burying the pot in a partially shaded garden bed is also an option.

In September, reduce water significantly until leaves turn yellow and die. Store the plant in a cool, dark area (45 to 50 degrees) for 8-12 weeks, checking regularly for signs of new life and watering sparingly. This fall “Goldilocks” phase of not-too-hot, not-too-cold is critical to the forcing process so choose the resting spot carefully. When you see fresh growth, move the plant to bright light and resume regular watering. The plant is now ready to produce new foliage and flowers.

Many find this process a snap. If that’s not the case for you, keep in mind that the size and quality of the bulb can effect re-blooming, so from the start choose large, blemish-free bulbs which are heavy relative to their size. Amaryllis forced in water are also unlikely to re-bloom as they lack the energy to survive. But if this experiment doesn’t work for you, you may not want to give up as the bulb can take a year off from flowering and then come back with a vengeance. Growing amaryllis sure can be an exercise in patience!

Posted by Linda McDonnell, a Denver Master Gardener

Living With Plants and Pets

20160126_123421[4]Keeping pets safe around house plants has been on my mind with the adoption of Chance, a charming, spirited feline. His only plant-related indiscretions (so far) have been a few nibbled leaves, a toppled jade and a snatched spider plant baby. Then there’s the twinkle in his eyes when he gazes up at the six-foot tall ficus tree, which makes me think he’s plotting something.

Ivy sitting by plants

Many find discouraging dogs and cats from digging or eating plants can be accomplished by moving plants to less trafficked areas; lightly covering the soil line with rocks, shells, or screening; sprinkling cayenne pepper or bitter apple spray around the leaves or lending the plant to a friend until the pet matures. Some cat owners grow wheat grass as a treat and a distraction from other plants.

If ingested by dog or cats, house plants can be toxic and trigger reactions ranging from mild discomfort (such as vomiting or diarrhea to release the toxin) to more serious illnesses. Some to be aware of are:

Dieffenbachia– Dogs and cats can react to eating leaves with intense burning in the tongue and mouth, difficulty swallowing, drooling and vomiting.

Corn Plant – the leaves contain saponin, which ingested in large amounts causes dogs and cats to vomit, lose appetite, have increased salivation and even show signs of depression. Cat’s pupils may also dilate.

Lillies – Many varieties, including peace lilies, are toxic to dogs and cats, although cats have more severe reactions including kidney failure and death if not treated. Easter  lilies and common florist varieties are very toxic to cats.


Peace Lilly

Often cat owners prefer not to bring lilies into their  homes.

Cyclamen – The tuber  (the pod-like structure just under the soil) contains the poison, not the leaves or flowers. Reactions can include abnormal heart rhythm and seizures.




  • DSCN0546[1]








Jade – Dogs and cats react to eating the fleshy leaves by vomiting, or in more extreme cases by losing coordination and a lowered heart beat.

The ASPCA website contains a far more extensive list of toxic and nontoxic plants for both home and garden.

Should your pet become seriously ill from eating a plant, promptly contact your vet or the  ASPCA hotline,888-426-4435.

Pets frequently out grow their plant-loving stage as they mature, although avoiding the most toxic plants will give you peace of mind  and keep your friend from temptation.

Any suggestions for keeping pets safe around house plants? We’d love to hear from you.

Submitted by Linda McDonnell, Denver Master Gardener, with thanks to models Ivy and Chance.

Keeping the Ho Ho Ho in Holiday Plants

holiday plantsHoliday tables just wouldn’t be the same without a few blooming plants to add to the festivities. While poinsettias are the most popular of the flowering houseplants, there are plenty of others plants with colorful foliage that make nice gifts – either for you or someone else.

If you take a few minutes to learn about your plant’s specific needs, you’ll be able to keep those beautiful flowers blooming into the New Year.

One of the top tips for holiday plants is to either remove the container’s foil wrapping or poke holes through the foil on the bottom. This step improves drainage and helps keep plant roots healthy. Be sure to place the container on a plant dish or saucer to catch water runoff. Dispose of any water that remains in the saucer after the plant gets a good drink.

PoinsettiaPoinsettias prefer to be kept in a cool area. Place your poinsettia plant near a bright, sunny window, but keep flowers and leaves from touching the glass. One of the most important care tips for poinsettias is to give the plant some humidity to help hold its leaves. Spritz lightly with water every day or place the plant’s container on a gravel-filled saucer that’s filled with water. When the top few inches of soil dries, water with a diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer. This step helps keep flowers on the plant longer.

CyclamenAnother popular holiday plant is a Cyclamen. These plants can be kept in full bloom for weeks with the right care. Plants need sun, but not intense sunlight, and temperatures from 60-65 degrees during the day; cooler at night. Watch for flower buds that start at the crown, and be sure to keep the crown dry. It’s best to water slowly and deeply near the edge or rim of the container. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry or if the plant starts wilting. Remove flowers as soon as they fade and clip off any leaves that turn yellow. Fertilizing every 3-4 weeks will encourage the plant to keep sending out flower buds.

HydrangeaHydrangeas make for a beautiful holiday display because of their showy and ornamental blooms. To keep hydrangeas blooming indoors, place them in bright, but indirect light. Like most houseplants, hydrangeas need to be kept out of the way of cold drafts and blasts of hot furnace air. Keep soil moist, but not soggy, while plants are in bloom. Apply a diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer every other week.

Christmas cactusMy favorite flowers for the holidays grow on Christmas cactus plants. The trick to keeping these delicate-looking flowers longer is to place plants in cool locations that have indirect sunlight. A consistent temperature that keeps plants away from cold drafts and blasts of hot furnace air will keep flowers and flower buds on the plant longer. Christmas cacti like a drier soil, but avoid wilting by watering when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry. Use a standard houseplant fertilizer to keep plants healthy.

Do you have any tips or tricks to keep your holiday plants looking good? Please add them here!

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver master gardener