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Poinsettia Alternatives

The holidays are a time for old traditions, and one of these in the gardening world is the poinsettia. But this year, make a new tradition when it comes to your home decor. Here are a few great plants to use around the house in coordination with your traditional poinsettias.


The first plant is the original Christmas flower, the cyclamen. Cyclamen were originally the go-to Christmas flowers in the Victorian Era, and they are making a comeback. With their affinity for cooler temperatures, their blooms last a long time and their easy maintenance makes them a great gift for those lacking the greenest thumbs.

Cyclamen, or the poor man’s orchid, have unique flowers that come in a variety of colors ranging from white to red to purple and they can even be two-toned. Each flower has five petals that can be single, double or ruffled, and appear as if they are a cluster of butterflies hovering above the plant.

Their Christmas Flower title came from being a cool season blooming houseplant.  With the proper care, a cyclamen can last on average 2-3 months or longer, and often will change color when they re-bloom. Cyclamen require bright indirect light and should be placed in the coolest room of the house.  Like a lot of plants, definitely keep cyclamen away from heating vents as the warm drafts can dry them out quickly.

Cyclamen require even soil moisture and are tuberous plants, so it is best to water them from the bottom. Simply fill a saucer with water and place the cyclamen in the saucer.  Be sure to drain off excess water if the saucer you use is under the cyclamen at all times.  Also, be sure the plant dries out a little before watering it again.  You wouldn’t want the bulb to rot.

Christmas Cactus

The Christmas Cactus is another great plant to decorate with this time of year. Its real name is actually zygocactus, but its holiday name comes from its consistent blooming during the holiday season.

Christmas Cactus are not your typical cactus. Native to Brazil, these cacti do not have needles or spines like the cactus that most people think of. The plant blooms from the ends of its branches, and its blooms vary in color from white, yellow and orange to red pink and magenta. 

The buds are set in the fall when the plant is exposed to cooler temperatures at night, between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. After it is done blooming at Christmas, it will rest some and then set more buds to bloom again during the Spring, often falling around the time of Easter.

To care for your Christmas Cactus, keep it in bright but indirect light. It is best to keep the cactus away from drafts, heat vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air. You can also move the plant outdoors in summer to a shady location. When it comes to watering, it is important to remember that Christmas Cactus are tropical cacti, not desert cacti. Unlike most desert cacti, this variety cannot tolerate completely dry soil. If the soil gets too dry, the flowers buds will drop, and the plant will wilt. Feel the soil with your fingers; if it feels dry, it's time to water.


Amaryllis are a great statement piece to add in on your table centerpiece and around your home.  They are beautiful six to ten inch trumpet shaped flowers at the top of a one to two foot stem.  The large blooms come in a variety of colors, sizes and can even vary in being a single layer of petals or a fuller double layer of petals.  The colors range from a simple white or red to striped petals of pink or a bright lime green.  Petal shape can also vary, giving you loads of textures available to decorate your home with.

Amaryllis take between six to ten weeks to bloom after planting, meaning that now is the time to get yours planted to have it blooming for Christmas. It is best to put the potted bulb in a warm, sunny place to begin its growth.  Once it has begun, place the pot somewhere a bit cooler so the stem does not grow too tall. These make great holiday gifts for gardeners who want a little bit of color in their home during the winter.

Amaryllis can be planted from October through April. When you go to plant your bulb, place it in lukewarm water  for an hour or so to stimulate the roots. Choose a pot that is barely larger than the bulb itself. Be sure your pot has proper drainage.  Being that an amaryllis is a bulb, it will rot easily if the water has nowhere to go after you water it.

As you plant the bulb, be sure to avoid damaging the roots.  No matter how deep your pot is, be sure that at least a third of the bulb is exposed at the top of the soil. (See Photo) While it may look funny to us, this is how amaryllis need to be planted to ensure success.  Water the bulb after you planted it, but then less frequently until the stem begins to grow.

Amaryllis may shoot up only one stem, but can often shoot up multiple stems, each producing multiple flowers.  Once the an amaryllis flower has finished blooming, cut that faded flower off promptly.  This will allow the plant to give its energy to the flowers that remain, keeping them in bloom longer.  


Another great bulb to decorate with for the holiday season is the Paperwhite.  Paperwhites are more well known among amateur gardeners. They are truly the “Just add water” tupe of plant.  Part of the narcissus family, paperwhites produce bunches of fragrant small white flowers that look like miniature daffodils.  

These bulbs and can be easily force-grown indoors, not needing to be chilled before growth begins, as hyacinths or tulips need.  As soon as the flowers are planted, they begin to grow, producing blooms about three to four weeks later.  To prolong blooming, it is best to keep them in a cooler room and indirect light. These are also popular gifts to give, as well as decorations in homes.   

Paperwhites are popular because they can be grown in or out of soil.  Many people will use them as a table centerpiece after being grown in decorative stones and water.  You can basically plant them in any medium, and as long as they have water, they’ll grow. Just be sure that when growing paperwhites in this manner, that you do not have the bulbs completely submerged in water, as they will rot.

When you plant them, put a layer of your medium, let’s say stones, in the bottom of a shallow dish that has no drainage.  Then place your bulbs in the medium so that they will stay standing.  Part of the trick is to pack the container with as many bulbs as it will fit.  Once all your bulbs are placed, fill in and gaps with your stones, leaving the point of the bulbs sticking out of your stones.  Then fill the containers with water up to the base of the bulbs.  Be sure to refill the container with additional water as needed.

Every year it is the same routine.  The lights start to go up on trees, wreaths on front doors and holiday carols are played at the mall. Then out come the poinsettias.  Everywhere you look, you see the beautiful red, white, and pink blooms.  This year, add a few of these additional holiday blooms to the mix.  The collection of heights, colors, textures and shapes will add a new dimension to your holiday decor. 





Poinsettia Quiz: True or False?

While everyone knows that poinsettias are the Christmas flower, not everyone knows all the facts about them.  There’s lots of misinformation out there concerning these beautiful plants; do you know the truth? It’s time to clear the air regarding the most popular holiday houseplant.

Poinsettias are poisonous
False. Despite popular belief, poinsettias are nontoxic to humans and animals alike.  Granted, much like other plants, the sap can irritate sensitive skin, but the plant will not kill animals or people if they eat a leaf or two. Poinsettias are the most widely tested consumer plant, and the studies have all shown that they are nontoxic.  A study shown at Ohio State University have proven a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 1.25 pounds of poinsettia bracts, about 500 to 600 leaves, to exceed the experimental doses that found no toxicity.  However, this doesn’t mean you should serve yourself a salad of poinsettia leaves. Much like any other non-food items, ingesting poinsettias can cause stomach discomfort, but nothing more than that.

Poinsettias are the original Christmas Flower
False. Cyclamen were originally the go-to Christmas flowers in the Victorian Era. Their Christmas Flower title came from being a cool season blooming houseplant.  Poinsettias are native to Mexico where they bloom during the winter months.  There is a story that explains how they became the Christmas flower that goes like this: Long ago, people in Mexico flocked to church on Christmas Eve because they loved to fill the Christ child’s manger with flowers. A little boy named Jose was too poor to buy any flowers. An angel appeared to Jose and told him to pick some weeds from the side of the road. Following the instructions, Jose brought the weeds to the church. When he put them in the manger, they changed into beautiful scarlet flowers, which the Mexicans call the “Flor de la Noche Buena,” the Flower of Christmas Eve.

Poinsettia flowers are yellow
True. The red, pink and white leaves that we see are just that, modified leaves called bracts.  The flowers are actually at the center of these, small and yellow (See photo) The bracts change colors in the fall to help attract pollinators as the flowers are getting ready to bloom.

Poinsettias are difficult to keep alive
Poinsettias are fairly easy to maintain, they just need proper water and light.  Place your poinsettia in indirect light for at least six hours per day and avoid direct sunlight. Water the poinsettias when the soil feels dry to the touch, and do not over-water or allow to sit in standing water.  Also, when watering, do not water the poinsettia over the top.  This can cause spots on the leaves and can also kill the plant. Poinsettias like room to breathe, so be sure not to crowd your plant and unwrap it immediately. Avoid placing in colder temperatures, below 50 degrees F, or places with a draft, near a front door or fireplace.

Poinsettias will bloom again next year
Poinsettias are usually kept around the holidays and tossed, but in they make great houseplants for the entire winter when taken care of properly. To get them to bloom again the following year does take some dedication.  Poinsettias can last from year to year, but getting them to turn colors again can be tricky if you don’t have the right conditions.  To keep your poinsettia going, fertilize after the blooming season with an all-purpose fertilizer.  Keep it in sun to part sun outdoors during the summer, and then move it in when temperatures begin to fall below 50 at night. From September through November comes the key time to help your poinsettia change color.  You will need to put the poinsettia in a bright room during the day, and in an absolutely dark room as soon as the sun goes down.  This darkness is the key to getting it to change.  Even if it is in a closet, put a towel by the crack of the door so no light gets in.  If all is done right, your poinsettia will last into the next season for you.

Blue poinsettias are fake
True. Poinsettias come in a wide variety of beautiful flowers.  Ranging from red, pink, white, marble, burgundy and orange, there are lots to choose from.  During the last decade, the popularity of blue and purple poinsettias has grown in popularity.  These colors, however, are not natural.  The poinsettias are sprayed with a blue dye before getting covered with glitter and splashed with alcohol or glue for an effect that is interesting, to say the least. Whether you love the dyed poinsettias or hate them, the color will not last for long. A poinsettia that has been dyed blue or any other color will eventually start producing normal leaves and is best thrown out.


Happy Thanksgiving!



Wildflower vs. Weed

 Many people love the look of a prairie-style or native garden, where they let wildflowers grow wild. The question many gardeners face is how to keep this style going? How do you determine what is a wildflower, growing as it would in a prairie, and what is a weed? 

A lot of people define a weed as anything that is growing where you don’t want something to grow. In fact, Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth.”

Based on this definition, you can think of any beautiful flower that creeps into your lawn as a weed. The common blue violet often spread into someone’s lawn, but is not usually welcome.  It is, however, planted in beds as a beautiful perennial. So while it is a weed in your lawn, in a garden bed it would be considered a flower.

While weeds can be beautiful flowers, they are seen as a weed due to the location they’re growing, the habit they are growing in, and how easily they can be to get rid of. Wherever weeds grow, they are in competition for nutrients, sunlight and water with your other plants.  They take all of these things away from the area, which is why they are undesirable.

Weeds can also host diseases that then spread to your plants.  Mildew is one that I often spot on weeds in my garden.  Not only do weeds hog the good stuff like sunlight, but they can share the bad stuff like diseases and pests.

Another attribute of weeds, is that they are often vigorous in growth.  They steal the necessities for growing from the plants around them and grow like crazy, invading your garden and choking out other plants.  Because of their growing habits, they can be difficult to eradicate.  It doesn’t help that some weeds, like dandelions, spread their seeds by air, while other vining weeds have runners that are hard to dig up.

Finally, wildflowers may be considered weeds in one region and flowers in another.  Depending on the region you live in, you may consider the same plant a wildflower or a weed.  This again goes back to where it is growing for you, the habit it is growing in, and if it is desirable. A great way to define the difference of a wildflower vs. a weed is whether or not it is a nuisance.

So after all of the deciding factors are looked at, wildflowers can be weeds and vice versa.  When growing a wildflower or native garden, it is important to keep the plants that have the most attractive display of flowers for your garden.  It is recommended to avoid more invasive species, just so you won’t be having to pull them out of your yard as they spread beyond your garden edge. 

A few of these choice wildflowers are perennials like gaillardia, Echinacea, rudbeckia, daises, asters, liatris and coreopsis.  For more native plants to Illinois, check out this great link.


Meet Our Customers: Nancy K.

Each spring we love assisting you all with making your plant selections and designing containers, and now we want to see what you've done! Goers is excited to be starting a new monthly series that gives our customers a chance to show off their gardens. Goers Greenhouse is looking to feature some of our best customers each month on our blog.  We want to share your photos of your beautiful garden and containers and hear about your garden story. 

How long have you been shopping at Goers?

I have been shopping at Vern Goers only for 1 year

What do you like most about the greenhouse?

What I like most about your greenhouse is that all your plants and flowers are healthy and well taken care of

What’s your favorite season for your garden?

My favorite season for my garden is Spring

What’s your favorite plant & why?

My favorite plant is the tomato plant simply because I have had very good luck with growing a good crop each year

What’s one word you would use to describe your garden?

Small but full of color and very garden like with the combination of annual and perennial flowers and plants as well as vegetables 

What do you most enjoy about gardening?

I love watching all my plantings bloom and flourish 


Interested in being next month's featured customer?  Contact us here and let us know!