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BONNIE’S GARDEN – How to Care for Your Holiday Plants

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

Did you get a poinsettia for your mantle? Maybe someone gave you a beautiful amaryllis to enjoy? So what do you do with them when they finish blooming? Throw them away?

Not so fast! Here’s a quick guide on how to care for these Holiday beauties.

How to Care For Your Holiday Plants

Poinsettias

Keep them in a sunny window and allow them to dry partly (but not completely) between waterings. Around the middle of March, cut each flower stem back leaving 8 to 10 inches to encourage side branches. Fertilize occasionally with African violet food—it is a blossom booster. I set my poinsettia outside around the first week of May depending on the weather.

If you want your plant to bloom again, in the middle of September bring it inside and place it in a dark closet from about 5:00 P.M. at night until 8:00 A.M. in the morning. During the day, it goes in a very sunny window. Continue to do this until the top leaves begin to turn color—usually mid to end November. At that point, you can leave it in your sunny window.

Amaryllis

When it’s finished blooming, cut off any spent flower stems, leaving about a half-inch stump. Do not cut back any leaves that have begun to sprout. Keep in a sunny window and feed with a good houseplant fertilizer. Place the pot outside for the summer in May, remembering to keep your plant watered and fed.

Bring inside the middle to end of October and allow the plant to go bone dry. Cut off all leaves and store the bulb in the pot someplace cool, dark, and dry for eight to ten weeks. I check on mine after eight weeks. If I see a bright green bloom shoot starting to poke out, then I take it out then. If not, I leave it for two more weeks. You can keep amaryllis for years and years this way and they’ll bloom reliably every year. I ought to know. I have 26!

Paperwhites

If you have grown paperwhite bulbs in water and rocks, then toss them. The bulbs basically “eat” themselves as they grow and bloom. If you have grown them in soil and want to save them, then treat them pretty much like amaryllis, though the leaves usually die back early summer. With paperwhites being so inexpensive, however, I save the sunny spot that a pot of paperwhites would take up for something else and buy new bulbs every year.

Christmas Cactus

A holiday cactus is a true cactus but is native to the rain forest!  So while it loves light, avoid the direct mid-day sun. Place in a bright window (direct sun before 10:30 a.m. or after 2:30 p.m.) and remember to let it go almost, but not quite, dry between waterings. Feed regularly. African violet food works great. Place outside the first of May (under a tree where it gets dappled sun) and leave outside until night temperatures fall below the low forties. It’s the combination of the shorter day length and cooler night temperatures that help the buds form. When you bring it inside, put it back in that sunny window.

Norfolk Island Pine

They need about a half-day of sunlight. Allow the soil to dry partly but not bone dry between waterings. Because they are native to the tropics, they prefer some moisture around the foliage so indoors for the winter, a light misting a couple of times a day would help. It can go outside in the dappled sun for the summer.

Cyclamen

With their pretty variegated heart-shaped foliage and sweet flowers, cyclamen are beautiful plants. To keep it looking good as long as possible, keep in a bright spot—avoiding hot mid-day sun. Be sure to keep away from heating vents as they like it a bit on the cool side. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry and be sure when you water, not to water directly in the crown of the plant.

Cyclamen is a tuber, therefore sometime after it has finished blooming, it wants to go to sleep. When the foliage begins to looks “tired” (droopy and/or yellowing—usually May-ish) let it go completely dry, remove the dead leaves and store it cool and dry for two and a half months. Around the end of August or first of September, bring it out, water it and let it grow again, feeding occasionally. Keeping it in a window, right next to the glass where it gets cool at night, can help with bud formation.

A Word of Caution!

This time of year, a lot of plants come wrapped in decorative foil. Unfortunately, plants cannot happily live in a foiled pot very long—excess water can’t drain away. Either remove the foil or poke holes in the bottom so the water can drain freely when you water.

Get Your Holiday Plants Now

Stop by the Great Big Greenhouse now and select those “just right” holiday plants to brighten your home this year and—when you choose the right plants—for years to come.

To read more from Bonnie, visit our blog

2 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – How to Care for Your Holiday Plants

  1. I did not know African Violette food is a bloom booster! I can’t wait to try it. Thanks!

  2. Therese–do remember that a “bloom booster” plant food will only help if the light is right–in other words, if your plant isn’t getting the right amount of light, then they’re not going to bloom no matter what you feed them. In good light, however, it helps!

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