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Caring for Holiday Plants

Kathleen Reed, Extension Agent - Agriculture & Natural Resources, VCE-Roanoke

December 18, 2017

It is the time of year for holiday plants to make their seasonal appearance. While they grace our mantles and brighten corners of rooms, keeping them alive through the season can be a challenge. Some seasonal potted plants, like poinsettias, Christmas cactus, and amaryllis, are brought into their bloom during the season by the longer nights and shorter days, but still require sunlight to flourish. Others, like our wreaths and Christmas trees, are in our houses on borrowed time, they have been cut and need to be maintained in order to extend their longevity and to ensure a safe and fire free holiday! So, on behalf of overwatered poinsettias and crispy Christmas trees, I offer some care instructions for your holiday botanicals:

Poinsettias: Poinsettias require bright light and temperatures between 65° and 70°F. Keep them away from drafty windows or active vents around the house. Let the soil dry between watering times, and be sure not to overwater.

Christmas Cacti: It’s all about the nighttime to get these beauties to bloom. They’ll develop buds and bloom when given bright daytime light during the winter, long nights and short days, and nighttime temperatures between 55° and 65°F. These potted cacti also prefer to be a bit tight in their pot – you should only repot approximately once every three years. Water sparingly.

Amaryllis: If you’ve recently purchased an amaryllis, it is going to be ready to bloom. The trick is to keep them in a warm room with plenty of light. As they begin their new growth and flowering cycle, water moderately. If you’d like to keep your plant year-round, set it outside in a semi-shaded spot after the danger of frost has passed in the spring. Continue to water until September, when you will bring it in and store it in a cool, dark place until next year’s holiday season.

Christmas Trees: When you get your tree home, saw a few inches off the bottom of the trunk before putting it in the stand. This will allow the tree to drink by clearing the pitch that oozed out and sealed the pores when it was first cut. The most important part of having a live tree is to keep it well watered. Fill your stand with water and do not let the water level drop below the tree’s base. This will not only help keep it fresh longer, but also stops the tree from becoming a serious home fire hazard. Be sure to keep your tree away from heating ducts or other heat sources around the house.

Evergreen Wreaths: If keeping your wreath inside or in a warm outdoor location, be sure to water every few days. To do so, you can spray with water or let the wreath lay in a few inches of water so that the stems are able to take in water. Wreaths should be kept out of direct sunlight if possible and away from heat sources. A wreath displayed in a cool, outdoor climate should not need any supplemental water. 

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