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Houseplants Welcome Your Holiday House Guests

The holidays are approaching, your spare time is consumed with shopping for gifts, and guests are expected this weekend. Sound familiar? Living plant arrangements create a welcoming atmosphere in any home, but choosing the right plants for the right places can be stressful for you and your plants. Let me show you some quick and simple solutions for this busy, but wonderful time of year.

Certain seasonal houseplants coincide with Christmas. Poinsettias certainly are the most familiar to us, combining in one plant both red and green, the two traditional colors of Christmas. Behnke’s also offers many new varieties of our Signature Poinsettias available in shades of pink and creamy white, even some with speckles or streaks. Cyclamen, azaleas, Christmas cacti, and Rieger begonias are also some of my favorites.

Cyclamen and azaleas, among the most popular houseplants in autumn and winter, have a potential life-span far longer than is often realized. While these plants can be stressed by too much or too little water and excessive heat, if properly treated they can flower year after year, increasing in number of flowers.

You can easily increase the impact of a seasonal display by massing several identical plants together, either in one large container or several individual ones. This is particularly true if you have a large room, where a single display of four or five Christmas cacti or Rieger begonias, grouped together in a large clay bowl or rustic-looking basket can appear quite spectacular. In addition, houseplants will benefit from being massed together, rather than being positioned randomly around the house. Plants “like” growing together because they give off water vapor which makes the surrounding air more humid.

Even more fun and adventurous is creating your own arrangement using a variety of winter-flowering plants or attractive foliage plants. When selecting your container keep in mind that not only must it match the scale of the plants, but it must harmonize with the flowers. Many people select white containers, thinking they are a safe choice for displaying indoor plants. Unless your scheme incorporates a lot of white flowers or variegated foliage, white pots can look very lonely when set against healthy looking plants. A safer choice is green or terra-cotta, which tends to look good with most color schemes and never dominates.

Whether you have chosen a wicker basket, ceramic bowl, or simply a large terra-cotta or plastic saucer, it is time to carry it through our greenhouses and experiment. Focus your attention on our large selection of plants in 3- and 4-inch pots, keeping in mind that you won’t have to re-pot or transplant your creation. In this way you can choose to group together plants with different watering needs so long as they require similar amounts of light and temperature. It will also make replacement of plants that have finished blooming much easier. Don’t forget to pick up a small plastic saucer for each plant. They make putting together an arrangement even quicker and easier.

Behnke’s has flowering plants for every season of the year. I prefer cool, subtle color harmonies – blues, pinks, mauves, and whites. They have a very calming effect and are easier to live with than the vibrant colors of reds, yellow, and oranges – which tend to dominate or overpower. Try the latter colors in January when light levels are low and a more rigorous treatment is needed to brighten an otherwise dreary room. If you are creating an all-foliage display instead of a blooming arrangement, it is important to pick plants with different leaf shapes, colors, and forms.

If you’re running short on time, you can always select from our large assortment of ready-made dish gardens and plant combinations. Many of them will feature our specialty – African violets.

For something different, any sturdy, woody-stemmed houseplant can be a potential Christmas tree. By far the most popular indoor Christmas tree is the Norfolk Island pine. I eagerly await our new shipment of these beautiful and delicate light green evergreens in mid-November. These, along with our “early-blooming” poinsettia varieties, officially begins our holiday plant season. Norfolk Island pines prefer a cool location in your home for the winter and bright indirect light during their winter rest period. Our pines are sun-grown to provide you with the best possible shape and are not spray-painted green.

Weeping figs are especially beautiful with Christmas tree lights strung through their branches. I recommend that you try our “new” discovery Ficus benjamina ‘Monique’. It has deep green, glossy foliage which resists the leaf drop which often plagues the older varieties of weeping figs. Our growers call this “the ficus of the future.”

I have even seen dragon palms, corn plants, and rubber trees become attractive Christmas features using various lengths of fine black string to hang a variety of Christmas ornaments.

For children in the house, decorate your living Christmas tree with red and white striped candy canes, foil-covered Santas, or bags of foil-covered chocolate coins. Our Christmas Shop can provide you with Christmas treasures of the non-edible sort – exquisite handmade glass ornaments in imaginative shapes from Europe, American-made blown glass ornaments, and much more. For an elegant yet simple presentation, you could decorate your indoor tree with red, green, gold, silver, or white ribbon bows.

By the way, don’t forget to “festivize” the dull green foliage plants already in your home. A quick and easy way to provide seasonal interest is to add branches of contorted willow or walking stick, or holly sprigs in berry, eucalyptus sprigs, or even berried twigs of pyracantha, winterberry, or cotoneaster, just to name a few. Come to Behnke’s and let us help you welcome your house guests!

by Mike Bader, Buyer/Manager, Houseplant Department

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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