How to Grow: Caring for Holiday Plants

Learn how to take care of Christmas cactus, poinsettia and other holiday plants after the holidays.

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Poinsettia, Adventsstern, Christmas StarNow that you’ve put away all your holiday decorations, what are you going to do with those holiday gift plants still adorning your house? Like many gifts, some are worth saving and others are better regifted. So let’s go through the list of holiday gift plants and I’ll tell you what I think you should do with them.

Some plants require special growing conditions to look beautiful at the holidays. These include poinsettia, azaleas, and hydrangeas. These plants are great to enjoy while you can, but should be composted once they start looking ratty. The azaleas and hydrangeas are varieties not hardy in our area and the poinsettia need a special dark treatment for months to get the bracts to turn color again in December.

Other holidays plants, such as kalanchoe and bromeliads, are difficult to get to flower again in most homes, but the foliage is attractive, so keep these as beautiful foliage plants year round.

The keepers are amaryllis, Christmas cactus and cyclamen. With little care you can get these to flower again next year. Give Christmas cactus cool conditions and dark nights in fall to stimulate flower bud initiation. Place amaryllis bulbs in a part sun location and fertilize and water them all spring and summer. Cut back the foliage in fall and let the bulb dry out in a dark basement for 6 weeks. Bring it into a warm, bright room, water and let it grow. Cut back cyclamen leaves to the ground in late spring and let it dry out and go dormant for 2 to 3 months in summer. In fall, start watering and it will send up new growth.

And now for this week’s tip, do a seed germination test on your old seeds by placing 10 to 20 seeds in a moisten paper towel in a warm, area out of direct sunlight. In general, if you get at least 70% germination, then use that seed again next year. If not, look for replacement packets.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio


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