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Make most of season's living symbols

by Karen Woodard
Daytona News Journal

Poinsettias, Christmas cactuses, rosemary topiaries and fresh wreaths are natural counterbalances to the season's glitter and tinsel. These tips can help you keep the greenery in top form through the season and beyond.

Poinsettia Pointers
Picking a plant: Select fresh plants. The colored bracts, or modified leaves, should be undamaged. The tiny, yellow-and-green flowers in the center of the bracts are called cynthia. They will be present and tight on fresh plants.

Keeping it alive: Pamper your poinsettia. Remove any paper, plastic wrap or covering to prevent foliage damage. Keep the plant in an area where it will receive about six hours of bright, indirect light a day. Fertilize every two weeks with a high-nitrogen plant food. Mist often and keep the soil barely moist. Never allow plant to stand in water. Protect the plant from temperatures below 50 degrees. The perfect environment for poinsettias: temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees and a draft-free location.

Pest patrol: Poinsettias can be susceptible to whiteflies, spider mites and mealybugs. Watch for these and treat immediately with a spray of mild soapy water.

Fresh Wreath
Choose a fresh wreath like you would select a Christmas tree. It should have bright green color and should not shed needles when handled. Fresh greens of an undecorated wreath or swag can be soaked in warm water for several hours or overnight to rehydrate. Hang to drain of excess water before decorating and placing on a door. hang out of direct sun if possible. Refresh by misting or re-soaking if decorations can be easily removed. In warm Florida weather, the shelf-life of cut greens is rather short, about two weeks. One way to extend their decorative value is to touch them up with floral paint. Try touching up a magnolia wreath with gold paint and you may decide to keep it for another year.

Rosemary Topiary
Care is similar no matter what shape the rosemary is carved into: tree, wreath or traditional (standard) topiary form. Rosemary, an herb, prefers well-drained, alkaline soil. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

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