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Smart Thoughts

How to Build a Beautiful Christmas Arrangement in Five Simple Steps

When you think of a winter bouquet, what comes to mind? Artificial flowers stuffed in a vase? Dead, lacquered flowers glued to a straw wreath? This year, take a different approach. Grow your own, living winter bouquet in your window sill. Holiday flowers create a cheerful, festive ambiance for you, your family and visitors during the holiday season. Grow your own winter flowers using these five simple steps.

Step 1: Choose the right species. When selecting Christmas flowers, you want species that add a splash of vibrant color to gray winter days. Suitable species include African violet, begonia, cyclamen, geranium, hibiscus, kalanchoe, cape primrose, Christmas cactus, and many more. Check with your local nursery to find species available in your area. You can also take cuttings of your outdoor summer plants and grow them indoors. Remove leaves from the lower two inches of the cutting and hydrate it for several days in a vase. It will then be ready for transplanting.

Step 2: Transplant and water. Place your winter flowers in a container with organic potting mix. Organic mix provides the right balance of nutrients to keep your flowers growing strong all winter long. Consider transplanting into fabric pots to promote even watering and drainage. Place your fabric pot on a saucer or plate to collect water that drains through its porous surface. Water thoroughly once or twice a week, and keep an eye out for wilting. If your plant starts to sag, it’s time to give it a drink!

Step 3: Create optimal lighting conditions. Place plants that thrive in direct sunlight in southern or western windows. Position shade-loving plants in bright, indirect light. Winter flowers bloom best when they’re given a full night of darkness. So keep them in rooms where the lights remain off at night. If you have trouble creating lightless conditions, you can always move your plants to a closet where they’ll get an uninterrupted night’s rest.

Step 4: Fertilize. While your organic potting mix provides tons of beneficial nutrients, it never hurts to fertilize. After several months of growing, your plants may begin to slow down. This is the perfect time to add a water-soluble fertilizer. You can mix fertilizer in water and pour it over the soil or use a fertilizer spike that penetrates beneath the surface. Fertilizer spikes deliver nutrients directly to the root structure. If your plant exhibits pale leaves or poor growth, it may be high time to fertilize.

Step 5: Deadhead old flowers. When a flower dies, the plant concentrates its resources on seed formation at the bud site. This detracts from its ability to form new, thriving flowers. To keep your holiday flowers blooming throughout the season, deadhead old flowers when they die. Simply cut the stem with scissors below the dead flower and just above the first healthy set of leaves on the stem. By deadheading, you allow the plant to re-focus its energy expenditure on holiday flower formation.

Living winter bouquets are an attractive alternative to mass-produced Christmas arrangements. Their vibrant colors and perfumed aromas light up any holiday gathering. They’re also the perfect antidote for the winter blues. So don’t delay. Take cuttings today or visit your local nursery. When the skies turn gray, and the snow is churning, you’ll be glad you grew winter flowers!