Most people use plants to decorate living rooms, doors and holiday tables, but how much do you know about them?
Let’s test your holiday plant knowledge. Answers are at the end.
Part 1: True or false
1. The most popular plants used during winter holidays are evergreen trees (first place) and poinsettias (second place). True or false?
2. The most popular Christmas trees in America are pine trees. True or false?
4. Using a high-quality artificial tree is more environmentally or ecologically responsible because you are not killing a living tree. True or false?
5. Best advice to keep the tree fresh: Make a fresh cut to the butt and keep it in fresh water. Replenish the water often. True or false?
6. Poinsettias are not poisonous to people or cats and dogs, although the sap – typical of Euphorbias – can irritate some people’s skin. True or false?
7. The red part of a poinsettia is not the flower, but actually a bract, which is a modified leaf with a little flower in its axil. True or false?
8. Poinsettias like really warm, damp conditions. Keep the soil moist, extra water in the dish, and do not turn down the thermostat lower than 72 degrees. True or false?
9. Boxwood trees are actually boxwood seedlings, grown in greenhouses and pruned frequently to form a tight shape; keep them moist. True or false?
10. Several plants are severely harmful to pets or children, including mistletoe, hollies and lilies. True or false?
Part 2: Short answers
11. Name a pre-forced bulb with a white flower that is typically grown on pebbles with its roots in water; some say it stinks and others love it.
12. What evergreen tree (often sold at Christmas) came from a South Pacific Island and can become a great houseplant?
13. Hellebores are perennials that are often sold at holiday time because they naturally bloom in winter. (Outside they generally flower from February on). What’s its common name?
14. What is the name of a flowering houseplant with succulent leaves that blooms indoors in winter, especially if you have given it a cold treatment or kept it in the dark for a period of time?
15. The amaryllis is a huge bulb often sold for its giant blooms in winter months. When the flower fades, what should you cut back immediately, to help it get ready for next year?
True or false
1.) True. “Evergreens” refers to firs, pines, spruces, hemlocks (and some broad-leaved plants such as boxwoods that keep their leaves). All trees are plants, in case that’s where you went wrong.
2.) False. Fraser firs are most popular, followed by other kinds of firs such as Douglas, Concolor. Decades ago Scots pines and spruces were most popular; 2018 stats aren’t in, however.
3.) True, probably beginning late-15th century; later widely popularized in Victorian England.
4.) False. Real trees grow on farms using sustainable practices, and provide wildlife habitat. They are often the only choice for farmers who might otherwise sell the land to developers. Artificial trees come mostly from China, use petroleum products, and end up in landfills in an average of eight years.
5.) True. Additional claims about aspirin, soda pop, etc. are mostly unproven.
6.) True. The poisoning legend is a complete myth as proven by many universities. Poinsettias are a Euphorbia and are not edible however. (Eating bushels of them would make any mammal throw up.)
8.) False. Poinsettias will die if you leave them standing in their own water so remove the foil cap and dump the dish after watering. They will last longest if you lower the nighttime temperature (60 to 65 degrees) and keep the room no hotter than 70 in the daytime. Avoid drafts.
9.) False. Boxwood trees are made by florists or in garden centers by clipping ends of boxwood branches and sticking them into foam, attempting to make a cone-shaped “tree.”
10.) True. Be careful what you introduce in the house and watch for nibbling.
11.) Paperwhites. Other bulbs need a cold treatment.
12.) Norfolk Island Pines. Once a 6-inch plant, mine is now 6 feet, I take it outside in summer, and use it inside as a Christmas tree.
13.) Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose.
14.) Christmas cactus.
15.) Cut back the stem but not the leaves, and grow the leaves through summer.
Quiz results: 15 correct: You are probably a true plant person.
12-14 correct: You’ve been reading and listening. Fewer correct: That’s OK – you’ve been busy. But take time to notice how plants enrich our lives all year long.