2016-12-22 / From The Garden

Tips for Favorite Holiday Plants

By Cynthia Gibson

Papilio Amaryllis Papilio Amaryllis Here are some tips for tending to your holiday plants, how to keep them fresh, and what to do once they are “past prime.”

A Christmas amaryllis will bloom again. It will need full to filtered sunlight in a south-facing window. Clip off the stem and leaves and water once a week, all winter long. In the spring, place it outdoors as soon as the temperature hits 50. If the bulb is large (at least 5 inches in diameter), it will bloom in either July or August. If smaller, your chances of seeing blooms are not good.

Christmas cactuses are keepers! They love remaining in their plastic pots and really do not like terra cotta at all. It is difficult to kill these plants. They will re-bloom once in the summer (a small number of blooms) and then follow again with a full display in November and December.

I have three Christmas cactuses that are more than four years old. This year I will replant them in larger plastic pots. While they are fairly common as far as houseplants go, the color and shape of their exotic flowers are a welcome sight in the winter. They run by an internal clock that seems to know when Christmas is around the corner.

Poinsettias are now so inexpensive they are not really worth keeping. Ten years ago they were far more exotic, in new and unusual colors; now they are huge and inexpensive to buy. I would keep them only for a school science project or if you want to prove to yourself that you can keep one alive.

In the winter months, keep poinsettias in their pot with a saucer in a warm dark place (a closet works) and water once every two weeks. In the spring, put them near a sunny window so they become acclimated to the light. They will start sending out new green leaves, and if you are lucky, with the addition of fertilizer they will start producing red leaf bracts you’ve come to know as flowers.

Paperwhites are another favorite at this time of year. Each day you can see nature’s beauty at work as you watch these magnificent plants grow. Add water as necessary; do not let the bulbs dry out. After paperwhites have bloomed, toss out the bulbs or add them to the compost pile.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

Return to top