Plants are a favorite gift during the holidays. Many who host events are gifted a beautiful poinsettia or Christmas cactus. These plants can continue to bloom beautifully and have long lives if properly cared for. Save the landfill space and give your holiday plants a long life with these tips!
Holiday plants need natural light
Once the holidays have passed here in Florida you can typically keep your gifted plants on a porch or screed in patio if the outdoor temperatures are between 65º–75ºF during the day and 50º –60ºF at night. If you are keeping your holiday plant indoors, a spot near a window where they can receive bright, indirect light is best. Watch the watering. You want soil damp but not wet. Watering once a week is usually good, but you may need more depending on how warm and dry you keep your indoor environment.
Caring for flowering holiday plants
Full of color and looking their best, most plants are already flowering when you receive them. Eventually the flowers will fade and you should remove them. But fear not, most favorite holiday plants will re-bloom.
With proper care given throughout the year you can expect new blooms in time for the next holiday season. Note that for specific plants like Poinsettia and Christmas Cactus they need to experience shorter days and be kept away from artificial light at night to stimulate flowering. In October be sure to leave them in a cooler area that received no artificial light. By doing this you will trigger the blooming process to begin.
Caring for Amaryllis
The amaryllis plant grows from a bulb and can easily be forced to flower. Once the blooms have faded, remove flower and stalk leaving only the leaves. You will have a nice green leafy plant that is pleasing to the eye even without the bloom. In Florida your amaryllis will enjoy bright light and regular fertilizing.
In late summer your plant will not “look” its best, the leaves will slowly start to die back and the underground bulb will go “rest”. During this time you will want to reduce the amount of water it receives, and store the bulb in a cool, dry place for two to three months. To get your plant to flower you just begin watering again, and the bulb should re-flower four to six weeks later. If left with no changes in its care, or transplanted in your Florida yard, you can typically see blooms sometime in the spring.
Poinsettias can be more difficult hard for novice gardeners to re-flower on schedule for the holidays. This does not mean that you will not have a change in color, just that this chance might not occur during the season you would like.
When your poinsettia plant begins to drop its leaves it will be starting a seasonal resting stage. Be careful to not over-water your poinsettia during this time. Water just often enough to keep the stems and roots from drying out.
In spring, around early to mid April, prune the stems to approximately six to eight inches high and begin regular watering and fertilization. Plant or place your poinsettia where it will receive bright light but not the full sun. Fertilize monthly from March to October in South and Central Florida or May to September in North Florida. Remember to prune regularly during the growing season to keep the poinsettia from looking “leggy.” Stop pruning in September, and flower buds should form in October.
Photo Courtesy of HGTV
Planting your Holiday Plant Outdoors
Most of the holiday plants that are given as gifts are cold-sensitive and cannot handle temperatures under 40 degrees, if you live in south Florida you can consider planting your holiday plants outdoors without too much worry. If you reside in the central or northern parts of Florida you will have to protect and insulate your plants from dipping temperatures if you want to keep your plants outdoors. If your plant is damaged by cold, cut it back to 12–18 inches off the ground or to living tissue in the spring after the chance of frost is passed.
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Adapted and excerpted from:
- Park Brown, Poinsettias at a Glance(ENH1083), Environmental Horticulture Department (rev. 11/2013).
- Williams, “Christmas Plants Can Last Beyond the Holidays” (28KB pdf), UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension (12/2010).
Source: University of Florida, IFAS Extension Holiday Plants