Take a break from all your last-minute holiday preparations to take this short quiz on holiday plants and Christmas trees. It’s never too late to pick up some pointers and learn a few new things.
(Answers at the bottom of this post. No cheating.)
1. Today’s custom of the Christmas tree started in Germany in the 15th or 16th century. It was popularized in England by Queen Victoria in the mid 1800s.
2. Most real Christmas trees sold today are (in order of popularity and sales) Scots pines, white pine, and blue spruce.
3. The best thing to do to keep the Christmas tree from dropping needles is to put aspirin, 7-Up, or vodka in the water.
4. Most 6-foot Christmas tree species used today take about six years to grow. Newer hybrids grow in tight, cone shapes and need almost no pruning or shearing.
5. Poinsettia are beautiful gift plants but are poisonous for pets or possibly children.
6. An amaryllis is a bulb that flowers beautifully indoors, and can be kept for re-blooming in future years.
7. To make a Christmas cactus flower again next year, you need to arrange for eight to 10 hours of complete darkness at night for about six weeks — usually done in the fall for Christmas flowering.
8. Paperwhites are pre-forced bulbs that flower in several colors; many people think they stink.
9. The Norfolk Island Pine is sold in garden centers or grocery stores for holiday decorating; it can be planted outdoors in spring as a landscape plant.
10. You should water your Christmas centerpieces, boxwood tree or Kissing Ball to keep them fresh.
True or False: 1 True. In 1846 the London news pictured Queen Victoria sitting in front of a Christmas tree. 2 False. Fraser fir and other firs top the market. 3 False. A fresh butt cut helps, and fresh water is key. (Other products not proven to be effective.) 4 False. Most require seven to 10 years before harvest and nearly all require shearing. 5 False. They are not toxic to pets or people (although not edible); it was a myth, now thoroughly disproven. 6 True. 7 False. No darkness required; just keep them outside or in a cool room in early fall to trigger bud set. 8 False. They only come in white. Some people don’t like the smell. 9 False. Great houseplants, good for many years, but they are not hardy in our region. 10 True. Water the oasis (the spongy material) to keep greens fresh.
Sally Cunningham is a garden writer, lecturer and consultant.