UNITED STATES—Poinsettias are very popular blooming potted plants for about a month prior to Christmas. Then, most quietly disappear prior to spring. A few become foliar houseplants. Fewer go into home gardens to likely succumb to frost or neglect. Very few survive for more than a few years. It is not easy to recover from the procedures that forced them to bloom so well.
Forcing bloom is stressful. It provides unnaturally indulgent doses of stimuli that optimize floral performance. It involves any combination of deceptive environmental and chemical manipulation. Optimal bloom is the primary objective. Sustainability or even survivability after bloom is irrelevant. Forced plants are barely more than cut flowers with potted roots.
For example, poinsettias receive much more than the nutrition they require for exemplary growth and bloom. The greenhouses that they grow in maintain optimal temperature and humidity for them. Shading shortens their daylength to deceive them into believing that it is the season for bloom. Transition from such decadence to natural conditions is difficult.
Most popular blooming potted plants are forced.
Almost all fancy blooming potted plants that are available from supermarkets and florists, and several from nurseries, are forced to some degree. These include poinsettia, orchid, chrysanthemum, hydrangea, azalea, a few types of roses and various bulbs. Such bulbs include lily, narcissi, crocus, hyacinth and tulip. Some exhaust their resources by bloom.
Many forced plants are cultivars that are distinct from more common landscape cultivars. For example, many florist hydrangeas bloom with huge and very abundant floral trusses on short stems. They are spectacular in pots but might not be so practical for landscape situations. Landscape hydrangeas support bloom higher over the ground on taller stems.
Their potential for inferior performance after their potentially difficult recovery from forcing should not necessarily disqualify forced plants from salvage. Short florist hydrangea can be delightful accessories to bigger landscape hydrangea. Moth orchids are impressively adaptable. Premature doubting of possible ultimate results can be more effort than trying.
Even if never as overly indulgent in bloom as when new, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is one of the more sustainable of popular blooming florist plants. Forced bloom remains colorful for quite a while. By the time it deteriorates enough to necessitate grooming, new foliage may already be developing. Sporadic subsequent bloom is more natural in appearance.
Ultimately, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana becomes more of a succulent foliar houseplant that occasionally blooms, rather than a spectacular floral plant. Individual plants may survive for only a few years, but are likely to generate basal pups that grow as new plants during that time. Also, they are very easy to propagate by succulent stem and even leaf cuttings.
Mature Kalanchoe blossfeldiana do not get much more than a foot high and wide. Some may stay half as tall. Their lower leaves can get three inches long, with crenate margins. Minute yellow, orange, red, pink or creamy white flowers bloom for late autumn or winter. Garden plants require shelter from chill through winter and hot sunlight through summer. Most are houseplants that appreciate copious sunlight.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.