BONNIE’S GARDEN – How to Care for Holiday Plants

‘Tis the season to give or receive holiday plants so here is a quick care guide.

How to Care for Those Holiday Plants


Poinsettias will be happiest if set in a fairly bright location. Water when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. If it is wrapped in foil, poke drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out. After the holidays, remove the foil.

Around the middle of March, cut each flower stem back to 8″ to 10” to encourage side branches. Fertilize occasionally. You can set them outside in May. If you are not going to try to bloom it again (it does make a very pretty green plant), bring it in around the middle of October and place it in a sunny window. If you do want to bloom it again then around the middle of September, bring it inside and place it in a dark closet from 5 at night until 8 in the morning. During the day, it goes in a very sunny window.

Continue to do this until the top leaves begin to turn color—usually mid-end November. At that point, you can leave it in that sunny place.


Keep it in a bright window, turning the pot a quarter turn every few days to keep the flower stems growing straight. Water when the top inch or two of soil is dry.

Once it has finished blooming, cut off any spent flower stems, leaving about a ½ inch stump. Do not cut back any leaves which might have begun to sprout. Keep in a sunny window and begin to fertilize.

Place the pot outside for the summer in May, remembering to keep watered and fed. Bring inside the middle to end of October and allow to go bone dry.

Cut off all the leaves and store the bulb in the pot someplace cool, dark, and dry for 8 to 10 weeks. I check mine after 8 weeks and if I see a bright green bloom shoot showing, I bring it out then. If not, then I leave it for two more weeks. You can keep amaryllis for years and years this way and they’ll bloom reliably every year.


While they are growing, keep them evenly moist and in bright light. Once they have finished blooming, if they were grown in water and rocks, toss them. The bulbs basically “eat” themselves as they grow so are not worth the trouble to save.

If you have grown them in soil and want to try to save them, then treat them pretty much like amaryllis, though the leaves usually die back early summer. With paperwhites being so inexpensive, however, I save the sunny spot that a pot of paperwhites would take up for something else.

Christmas Cactus

A holiday cactus is a true cactus so needs some direct sun—but because it’s native to the tropical rainforest in Brazil it doesn’t want all day long sun—a couple of hours of morning sun (before 10:30 a.m.) or later afternoon sun (after 2:30 p.m.) is ideal.

Remember to allow the soil to go almost, but not quite, completely dry between waterings. Fertilize regularly.

I put mine outside the first of May (under a tree in a little dappled sun) and leave it outside until night temperatures are falling below the low forties.

By the time I bring it back inside, it already has tiny little buds forming. It’s the combination of the shortening day length and cooler night temperatures that contribute to bud formation. When you bring it back inside, put it back in that bright spot.


With their pretty variegated heart-shaped foliage and sweet nodding flowers, cyclamen are beautiful plants this time of year. To keep it looking good as long as possible, keep in a bright spot—avoiding hot mid-day sun. Be sure to keep away from heating vents as they like it on the cool side. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry and be sure not to water directing in the crown of the plant.

Cyclamen is a tuber, therefore a couple of months after it finishes blooming, it wants to go to sleep. If you choose to keep the plant and want to bloom it again, then allow it to grow until mid-end April, then gradually begin to let it get dryer between waterings until the foliage begins to look tired. At that point, let it go completely dry, remove the dead leaves and store it in the back of the closet for two and a half months.

Around the end of August or the first of September, you can bring it out and water it and let it grow again, feeding occasionally. Keeping it in a window, right next to the glass where it gets cool at night, can help with bud formation.

Norfolk Island Pine

Take off the foil wrap or plastic sleeve—or poke holes in the bottom so the water can drain freely. Norfolk Island pines will tolerate bright indirect light, but really prefer several hours of direct sunlight.

While you don’t want to let your Norfolk Island pine dry out all the way, you do want to let it dry about a third of the way down before you water. When you do water, water well—until it trickles out the bottom—but don’t allow it to stand in water longer than a few minutes.

Like so many of our indoor plants Norfolk Island Pines LOVE humidity. A light misting a couple of times a day would also help. Remember that the right way to mist is to “fog” the plant—not rain on it. I set my mister on the finest spray and spray the air above the plant so tiny droplets just settle on the foliage.

Get Your Holiday Plants Now for Best Selection

If you have any questions about what kind of plant will be ideal in a given growing environment, our plant experts are here to answer every question and offer “just right” recommendations.

Plants are popular gifts, so you’ll want to stop by the Great Big Greenhouse now for the best selection.

To read more from Bonnie, visit our blog

2 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – How to Care for Holiday Plants”

  1. My house is about 12 years old. Every window has a heating vent under it. From a HVAC perspective I guess this makes sense, but makes it hard for plant lovers. “Place near a window” and “ Keep away from heat” are not possible. Would putting a small table over the vent for the plant to sit on help, or is there another solution? ( grow cacti?) Thanks.

  2. Julie, I’ve got the same problem. If you go to a hardware store and tell them your problem, they can show you “deflectors” that you put over your heating vents that direct the air out into the room instead of letting it blow up the side of the window. That’s what I use and they work pretty well. They even make them with magnets for people who have ceiling vents that blow down.

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