Plant for a berry nice Christmas

Ardisia an alternative to the venerable poinsettia

  • Dec. 20, 2012 3:00 p.m.

Poinsettias are beautiful and still the world’s number-one indoor plant in terms of sheer numbers grown, but many folks are looking for other alternatives to decorate their homes for the Christmas season.

Well, there is a new and very unique plant that deserves some attention.

Ardisia crenata (or coral berry) has arrived on the market after 35 years of research and development by Vanden Bos, Sr. in the Netherlands.

Ardisia, an Indonesian native, is a soft-leafed evergreen that grows in layers. In spring each layer produces masses of tiny white flowers which produce berries in August and September that then turn a beautiful red in November and December.

Ardisia looks almost like a layer cake and is highly decorative and very unique. It takes a very specialized grower to produce these plants over a two-year growing cycle.

Only two Canadian growers are licensed to produce these plants:  One in Ontario and one in B.C.

In our homes, coral berry loves indirect light or direct exposure if placed in an east or north window.

They like to be well watered, then allowed to dry out slightly before being watered again.

In other words, pick up the pot and if it feels light, water it very thoroughly until it feels heavy.  Let it dry out slightly, before watering again.

Photo: Ardisia Crenata (or coral berry).

If you have a very hot dry home, mist the foliage daily to bump up the humidity.

The ideal temperature for them in winter to balance their humidity needs  is 16 degrees Celsuis.

This will also help keep the berries on  and  the plant at its prime.

Spring and summer temperatures of 20-25C are fine.

When spring comes, ardisia will flush out with lots of new growth, especially on the top layers and even on the bottom layers, and white flowers will appear.

The trick is to get them to set buds.

Starving them a little works well to get a better bud set.

Using a liquid 0-10-10 fertilizer or a similar formulation every time you water will help greatly.

Once the buds are set, use 20-20-20 to grow good sized foliage and to keep it nice and green.

In winter, reduce the fertilizer to half strength just to help keep the plant looking healthy.

Ardisia is a wonderful new rising superstar for the Christmas season.

They are now widely available in the Lower Mainland to enjoy in your home, and they also make a wonderful gift.

Brian Minter is a master gardener who operates Minter Gardens in Chilliwack.

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