Nurse a gift plant to hold its bloom a little longer

Unlike holiday cacti, many other flowering gift plants won't, without extraordinary means, rebloom in the average interiors, and should therefore, once their flowers fade, be discarded.

Yet, there are things that you can do to prolong the bloom of these plants and help them last a couple of months instead of a couple of weeks.

* Peel off any fancy paper attached to the plant's pot, and place it away from direct light, heat, drafts, gas leaks, and smoke.

* The cooler the location the better; 70 degrees F. daytime temperature with a 10 degree drop at night is ideal.

* Water thoroughly and regularly, making certain the soil is moist to the touch at all times. Use tepid water and empty out water sitting in the saucers.

* Mist plants, other than cacti, daily.

* Don't feed.

When it comes to cut plants the first two rules for potted gift plants apply. In addition, subscribe to the following:

* With a sharp blade remove any damaged petals or leaves, and strip stems of any buds, foliage, and thorns which will fall below the water line. Also cut off an inch of the stems.

* Sear, with matches, candle, or lighter, the cut ends of hollow stemmed flowers, such as dahlias and poppies.

* Split with a sharp blade an inch of the stem ends of semiwoody plants such as chrysanthemums and goldenrods.

* Mash the bottom inch of woody stemmed flowers such as lilacs and quince.

* Immerse entire stems in warm water and preservative -- ask your florist for a packet and follow package directions -- for a couple of hours.

* Clean an appropriate vase -- one with a broad base and a narrow mouth is best -- and arrange your flowers in it without crowding or twisting them.

* Fill with warm water halfway up the stems; add two tablespoons of white vinegar per quart of water.

* Change the water and vinegar mix every third day.

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