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Plants Can Follow Christmas Trees
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Not only is it kind of depressing, it is also a chore to take down the Christmas tree. To make matters worse, the room then looks bare.
My favorite Mississippi restaurant fights this dilemma by leaving the Christmas tree up all year. In February, it is a Valentine tree, followed by an Easter egg tree and on through various celebrations. It is also obvious to you now, that it is an artificial tree.
We do get use to having a green tree in a special place for five to six weeks a year. You do not have to despair when the old Christmas tree comes down, simply replace it with a nice tropical tree.
Southerners love fig trees outside but sometimes we forget their tropical relatives that happen to be great choices for that window that so beautifully framed the Christmas tree.
The weeping fig, or ficus benjamina, is a popular choice for brightly lighted areas. You see them commonly grown in malls. It is amazing at how long you can keep one pot bound in your home. Once you start moving it around it will drop those leaves.
I have always enjoyed the rubber tree that is also a ficus, or fig. This is the one plant that I have vivid memory of my mom growing inside extremely well. My love for the rubber tree also stems from living in an area where they were used in the landscape. Recent improvements make them one of the easiest plants to grow.
One of the more unique plants is the fiddle leaf fig, or ficus lyrata, with its glossy, prominently veined green leaves. If your Christmas tree area is really bright, then this may be your most striking choice. Use a damp cloth or sponge occasionally to freshen up the leaves on the rubber tree and fiddle leaf fig.
The fig that is gaining in recognition everywhere is one called Alii. You may not recognize it as a ficus. Its leaves that are not prone to drop are long and willow shaped. Like the ficus benjamina, you can find these with straight or braided trunks.
Let the plant dry completely between watering and then drench it thoroughly. Remember that all figs will suffer if left to stand in water.
Plants in a brightly lit area like a mall will need fertilizing about 4 times a year while yours in a normal home situation will need fertilizing in spring and summer. In other words, fertilize lightly when the plant is growing.
The indoor ficus is not prone to insects, but if they become a problem, use a fine horticultural oil spray.
One other good choice for those brightly lit areas is the schefflera. These too can be kept root bound in a container for years. To me there is nothing quite as lush and exotic as a healthy schefflera. The large glossy green palmate leaves are hard to beat.
All indoor tropical trees go through a period of adjusting to their surroundings, and unless it is too dark, these plants should do fine. Tropical trees are excellent choices to give you that feeling of having a little bit of Puerto Rico growing inside. They are definitely perfect for that spot where the Christmas tree stood.