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Caring for Holiday Plants after the Holidays
Christmas Cactus.

Caring for Holiday Plants after the Holidays

Pointsetta.

Pointsetta.

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pilcherrima) is probably the best known holiday plant. In the past years they have hybridized this plant into many different colors, but I still believe red is the most popular. I have been asked hundreds of times how to care for them after the holidays so they will bloom next year. The price of poinsettias are so reasonable that most end up in the garbage after the holidays and new ones are bought next year. But if you’re like me, as I hate to see any plant being thrown away, here’s what you have to do to revive your plant for next year.

Poinsettias

1. After bringing your plant home, keep it in a sunny window and water until spring as if were a house plant. It should continue to grow and flourish.

2. In the spring (May) cut the plant back to three to four inches and repot in a pot one size larger than what it is now in. Watch for new growth, and begin fertilizing with a water soluble plant food every two weeks; follow the directions on label.

3. In June, move the plant outside in a partially shaded area. Stay on your fertilizer and water schedule.

4. Summer (July and August), cut back three to four inches. This will keep plant full and not let it get leggy.

5. In late August, pinch back slightly and bring inside to a sunny window and continue water and fertilizing.

6. As of September, begin taking care again as a regular house plant care.

7. October is the most important time. To have your poinsettia bloom for Christmas, keep it in complete darkness from 5 PM to 8 AM. You can do this by keeping it in a box, basement or closet until Thanksgiving. You should see buds at this point. Place the plant in a sunny window during the day and continue to water and fertilize plant.

8. If this is all too much, throw it away and buy another one. Merry Christmas

Just in passing, the reports that poinsettias are poisonous have not been proven and are believed to be an “old wives tale.”

Christmas cactus

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera ) is native to Central and South America and has been a favorite houseplant not only around Christmas but year. Everyone’s grandmother had one and was passed down in families for years because it lives long and is fairly easy to care for. Keep in bright indirect light – out of direct sunlight which could burn plant.

The Christmas cactus is more tropical than desert so it needs a little water than if it were a desert cacti, but be careful not to overwater because most plants do not like to be overwatered. You can create humidity by placing the plant on a tray of stones which will create humidity when water is placed in the tray. This is actually a better way to water than watering from the top.

To get your cactus to rebloom in the fall, plants should be watered less and kept cool until buds appear on the tips of the plants.

In the spring and summer, plants should be watered and fertilized on a regular basis. Spring is the best time to prune when the new growth appears. Christmas cactus does well if it is kept pot-bound and in the right location will bloom several times a year.

The key to getting Christmas cactus to bloom during Christmas is bright light during the day, total darkness at night and cool temperatures with very little water. The rest of the year, treat like any other house plant. Bud drop can be a problem with Christmas cactus; this is usually caused by insufficient light or overwatering.

Christmas cactus should not be placed near any drafts – hot or cold – that goes for most plants. I have actually had my Christmas cactus to bloom every Christmas with very little care from me. It just seems to do its own thing.

Amaryllis.

Amaryllis. PHOTOS BY MIKE MALLOY

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)

This is truly a fun Holiday plant. Usually it is sold pre-planted and only needs a little water to get it started. You can watch the buds shoot and leaves grow every day. They are prized for their blooms, sometimes having four to five huge blooms on each flower stalk and are extremely easy to grow. Colors range from white to red and many combinations in between. Placing your potted bulb in a sunny warm window will help speed up development. The flowers are long lasting – lasting for weeks.

After the flowers are gone, cut the flower stalk to the top of the bulb, but leave the leaves as they act as nourishment for the bulb itself and help it get larger and multiply. Only remove leaves after they turn brown. Keep the bulb in a sunny window, watering and fertilizing it until the warm weather returns. Then, put it outside until fall.

In the fall, bring the bulb in and cut off the leaves. Put it in a cool dark place for eight weeks. Then, repot and begin to water; new growth will begin to emerge and the process starts all over. I have kept bulbs in the vegetable bin in my fridge for that eight week period and it has worked. In Florida, a lot of people grow Amaryllis outdoors because our weather is warmer, and they make a great landscape plant with a lot of color.

Rule of thumb the larger the bulb the bigger the flower.

Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

This plant is usually used as a small Christmas tree around the holidays – sold everywhere in clay pots. They make great little decorations, but remember, do not plant this in your landscape. It is on the invasive do not plant list. They have a bad habit of blowing over or breaking apart in wind events. Do yourself a favor, and if you decide keep it, leave it in the pot to avoid any future problems

Remember, all these holiday plants usually come wrapped in colorful foil. Just be sure when you water it is not building up in the bottom of the foil otherwise you could drown your plant.

KEEP BUTTERFLYING!! 

About The Author

Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, 
www.naplesbutterfly.com

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