Forced Bloom Is Not Sustainable

Moth orchids are grown for bloom.

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.

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.

Some Plants Can Go To Pot.

What ever happened to those poinsettias and cyclamen from last Christmas?

Chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, azaleas, callas, kalanchoes and miniature roses can not really be as happy as they seem to be while in full bloom at the florist counter. Then there are all the seasonal blooming plants like Easter lilies and poinsettias. Wrapped in undraining mylar, often with ribbons and bows, they are actually quite humiliated.

All are forced to bloom in artificial greenhouse environments that are nothing like the home environments that they ultimately go to. As they finish bloom, most get retired directly to the garden where many are unable to adapt quickly and efficiently enough to survive for long. Many do not make it that far, but get sent to the compost or the trash by those who prefer to not prolong their agony.

These potted plants (which are actually known as ‘pot plants’ in the horticultural industries) are not like houseplants, since they are not actually expected to survive for long in the home. They are only expected to perform for a limited time while in bloom.

Adapting to the home environment is not the difficult part. Most potted plants can manage that for a while, but eventually want more sunlight. Hydrangeas, roses, Easter lilies and other deciduous plants also eventually want a cool winter for their dormancy. The problem is adapting to exposure to the sunlight and weather that these plants crave. Foliage can get scorched, frozen or desiccated.

As unsightly as plants can be during transition, most can eventually replace their greenhouse foliage with foliage that is adapted to their new environment in the garden if transitioned slowly and carefully. Large ‘forced’ flowers will eventually be shed or can be pruned off as they deteriorate. The more sensitive types of plants should be moved to a sheltered spot on a porch or in partial shade for a few months before being moved to more exposed spots. Once in the garden, they will want regular watering until their roots disperse.

Deciduous plants and bulbs can stay in the sheltered spot until they defoliate for winter. If put into their permanent location while dormant and bare, their new foliage that emerges in spring will be adapted to the new exposure.

Aloes, Christmas cactus and various other succulents are considerably more resilient and adaptable than the more common potted plants. Both rosemary and small olive trees that have become trendy during the past many years can likewise be adaptable if not kept in the home too long. Olive trees can stay potted indefinitely if pruned regularly, or can go into the garden where there is room to grow. Christmas trees are just as adaptable, but do not want to stay potted for long. Sadly though, most get much too big for home gardens.