Caring for Holiday Plants

— Written By and last updated by Elisabeth Purser
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The tradition of taking plants as gifts to friends and family is part of the holiday season. With modest effort you can keep these plants in tip-top shape for weeks to months.

Red Flowers in GreenhouseThe Poinsettia is a native of Mexico, so it should not surprise us that it needs a little “helping hand” to ensure a longer, fuller life in our indoor environments and colder climate. Place poinsettias in your home in bright light (but not direct sun). Ideally, your home would be 70°F during the day, and the temperature would be lowered to 60°F at night. Do not let the plant completely dry out. Water when the soil surface feels slightly dry, water with 1-2 cups of tepid water, but do not allow water to accumulate in the tray below the plant or inside the foil wrapper. Wait five minutes after watering and then empty any excess water that remains.

Amaryllis is the real do-it-yourself plant of the season. Available in red, white, variegated, single and double flowered forms, the amaryllis is available already budded and blooming or as a dormant bulb that you plant-and-grow in the pot. A cooler room with bright light will yield a shorter, more compact plant. As with most plants grown indoors, excessively warm indoor temperatures will shorten the flowering life of the amaryllis.

Christmas cacti require relatively little care to maintain their luster and bloom. The blossoms of Christmas cacti will retain their color and last longest if kept in a moderately cool room (~60-68°F) in bright light. These plants though called cactus are not,  so you will need to water about once a week when the top half of the soil becomes dry. If the plant becomes too dry, it will drop its flower buds.

Cyclamen have some of the most attractive flowers and foliage of any of the “traditional” holiday plants. Their marbled foliage sets off the satiny sheen of red, pink and white blooms like few other garden or pot plants. Like other pot plants, over watering can cause yellowing and shorten plant life. Keep the pot slightly moist and fertilize with a complete, houseplant fertilizer at ¼ strength every other watering. Cool temperatures (50°F at night) and bright light are essential for an extended display of color.

Rosemary, ivy or myrtle topiaries; paperwhites, kalanchoe, and ornamental peppers expand the gift palette even further. For a personal introduction to the wonderful variety of potted plants available this holiday season visit your local nursery or greenhouse. Your family and friends will thank you for it.