Flowers - cut or potted - and plants make festive host and hostess gifts that last long past the party.
Don't worry if you don't do plants well, two local florists say. Just a few simple steps will keep your arrangement going at least through the holidays.
The best way to water flowers in a vase is to lift out the arrangement, dump out the dirty water and refill the vase with clean room-temperature water, says Joan Lightner of Inglis Florists.
Walt Doran of Campbell Floral & Plants suggests the same thing, but prefers to use the hottest water the vase can handle. The flowers will hydrate better, he says, even if you don't cut the bottom stems as recommended.
If you want to use the preservative that comes with the flowers, Lightner says, mix a little with the water and pour it into the vase. You don't have to use the whole packet at one time.
Floral foam, that green block that florists stab with flowers and evergreen stems, makes watering easy. Pour water into the bottom of the container and the foam will suck it up and transfer it to the flora.
When the container bottom runs dry, add more water. Lightner says you can't overwater these.
"Watch where you put it," Lightner says of these arrangements. You want a waterproof surface in case water seeps from the container.
Doran cautions that if you rearrange the foliage, make sure the stem end has direct contact with the foam. Otherwise, it can't draw water.
"It's best to follow the care instructions with the plants," Doran says. Generally:
• Don't overwater.
• Take the plant out of the decorative container and remove any wrapping to water it. You don't want the plant to sit in accumulated water.
• Don't repot right away (unless you really want to) because florists tend to use pots a plant can grow into.
For specific plants
• Poinsettias. Keep out of breezes and provide good light.
• Peace lily. Place in low light. A droopy plant will perk right up with water.
• Amaryllis. These are usually delivered without blooms; they'll show up in about a week.
• Orchids and other tropical plants. Spray the blooms with water. You don't have to water the base.
December's to-do list
Here are some gardening tasks to do this month, courtesy of the master gardeners at the Pima County Cooperative Extension.
• Repot your houseplants to slightly larger containers. Move them to brighter areas of your home or near a lamp. Cut back on watering and fertilizing plants that are dormant in the winter.
• Pick exposed lemons and limes from your tree if a hard freeze is predicted. These citrus can't take temperatures of 28 or lower.
• Control cabbage worms on your winter veggies with B.T. (Bacillus thuringiensis) spray.
• Water the lawn as needed, generally once a week, but once every two weeks in cold weather is OK.
Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at firstname.lastname@example.org