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Potted plants going to pot

Kalanchoes typically get discarded after bloom.

It seems like such a waste that so many of the prettiest blooming plants are generally regarded as temporary. They are grown in the most synthetic of environments, forced into bloom, sold at their prime and kept as potted plants just long enough to finish their bloom cycle. When their bloom deteriorates, they typically get discarded or planted out into the garden, where they rarely survive.

Poinsettias epitomize these flowering potted plants, which are known in the nursery industry simply as pot plants. Almost all of us have given or received them as gifts or decorated our home with them prior to Christmas. Although they are not considered to be annuals, few survive as houseplants, and almost none survive in the garden. No one wants to admit to what happens to the rest.

OK, so it is not really a big loss. Poinsettias do not do well here anyway; and even if they survive, they are not as appealing in the landscape as they are as pot plants. What about all the others? Easter lilies, chrysanthemums, amaryllis, hydrangeas, orchids, azaleas, miniature roses, kalanchoes and even a few evergreens and living Christmas trees are all grown as forced potted plants.

It is important to be aware that all of these forced plants were grown in very synthetic environments, in which temperature, humidity and perhaps even day length were manipulated to coerce the plants to bloom, or for evergreens, to be as lush as they are. Some were stunted with growth regulators. Recovering from such manipulation takes some time and effort, but for most, it is possible.

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Of course, they all have their own personalities and require different sorts of pampering. Some only need their old flowers to be pruned away and will be able to produce new foliage that is adapted to their new environment. Amaryllis starts out without foliage, so it has the advantage of making all new foliage after bloom. Chrysanthemum will eventually want to be cut back to favor new basal foliage. Easter lily foliage should be left while it dies back slowly until dormancy. New foliage grows next year.

Horticulturist Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.wordpress.com.

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