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January 10, 2006
The holidays are full of traditions, many of which include giving, receiving and decorating with potted seasonal plants. With the proper care, many potted plants can be carried over from season to season. Here's a handy guide to keep yours looking and blooming their best, long after the holidays fade.
This easy-to-grow tropical beauty comes in a festive array of colors and sizes. After the flowers (and the holidays) finally fade away, don't throw your amaryllis out. It can be made to flower again next year. As the stem starts to die back, cut it down to 2 inches above the bulb. Place the pot in bright light and continue to water and fertilize as normal. Once the temperatures warm up (to at least 70º F), place it outside for the duration of the summer, letting the stalk and leaves develop as normal.
When the leaves begin to yellow in early fall, cut the stem back again to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb, only this time, remove the bulb from the soil. Clean the bulb and place it in a cool (40-50º F), dark place for a minimum of 6 weeks (the fridge is fine, just keep apples out of the fridge or they will render the bulbs sterile). Anytime after 6 weeks of storage, remove the bulbs and replant them in pots. In about 7-10 weeks you should see new blooms.
*Christmas Cactus (also Thanksgiving Cactus and Easter Cactus)
After the holidays, encourage you're Christmas cactus to branch out by removing a few sections from each branch of the plant (pinch them or use a sharp knife). These sections can be saved and rooted to propagate new plants. While it's indoors, keep your Christmas cactus in bright light. A plants can be kept on the dryer side until it starts actively growing again in the spring, when its feeding and watering schedule can return to normal. Move plants outdoors for the summer, but keep them our of bright sunlight or their leave will burn and become permanently discolored.
When it's time to bring the plants back inside in the fall, slowly adjust the plants to life indoors by gradually increasing the number of hours they spend indoors each day. Once inside, keep them in a cool location (50º F). Around mid to late October, begin giving them at least 12 hours of complete darkness every day while keeping them in a cool location. Once the flower buds set, do not move the plants. Any changes in light positioning can weaken the buds and causes them to suddenly fall off.
Many people find cyclamen difficult to carry over from one season to the next, but with some effort, it can be done. To trigger them into a period of dormancy after the holidays, withhold water and store the plant in a cool location (50º F) until June. In June, repot the corms in equal parts soil, peat moss and coarse sand, leaving the top half exposed to bright (not direct) sunlight.
Feed twice monthly when watering with a high phosphorus fertilizer formulated for houseplants. In mid-September, move the plant to a location with full sun and cooler temperatures (50º F night and 60-65º F day) to encourage holiday flowering.
There are dozens of types of holly and holly-like species, all with different types of growing requirements. Most species are intended to be outdoor plants, and are only hardy in certain growing zones. If possible, consult with a local nursery to find out what type of holly you have and the best way to take care of it after the holiday season. Generally speaking, holly needs frequent watering. Give indoor plants well-drained soil and place them in a sunny location.
The kalanchoe is often kept around after the holidays just for the beauty of its foliage, but this beauty can easily be coaxed into blooming again providing you're willing to monitor its light conditions. When the flowers start to die back after the holidays, cut them off and let the plant go dormant. Remove the spent flowers and reduce watering during this period, but keep the plant in direct sunlight until spring. When the weather warms up, resume a regular feeding (every 2-3 weeks).
Give water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. You can put the plant outdoors in the summer, but keep it out of direct sunlight. Unless you the control the light, the flower will continue to bloom and rest at its own pace regardless of the season. To get the plant on a holiday schedule, put the plants in complete darkness (10-12 hours per day) for a period of 30 days starting in early September.
Norfolk Island Pines
Keep Norfolk Island pines in bright, indirect sunlight with temperatures from 50º F to 70º F. Prevent branches from getting brown tips by keeping the tree's soil evenly moist and misting frequently to increase humidity around the plant.
To keep poinsettias looking their best long after the holidays, keep them in bright, indirect sunlight and away from drafty (hot or cold) locations. There's no need to fertilize them while the bracts have color, but keep a close eye on the plant's moisture level. Don't over water them, but don't let them completely dry out either. If your poinsettia came wrapped in decorative holiday foil, remove it or punch drainage holes in the bottom to allow water to drain freely from the pot. After the holidays, cut back the stems by 1/3 as soon as the color on the bracts (leaves) fades.
Be patient, poinsettias can stay colorful for many months! Move the plant to a cool room in the house and reduce watering. In the spring, move the plant back to a sunny location and resume a regular schedule of feeding (twice monthly) and watering (when soil is slightly dry to the touch). Starting in mid-September, give the plant 10-12 hours of total darkness per night for a period of 8 weeks to encourage blooming.
* Pets and Plants: If ingested in large enough quantities many plants can be GI irritants. These particular plants have been known to cause minor to severe intestinal upsets and other health problems in dogs and cats. Companion animals face extra hazards around the holidays. Keep them safe by keeping all holiday plants out of their reach. For more information on keeping your pet safe for the holidays, visit www.aspca.org