BONNIE’S GARDEN – How To Keep Your Holiday Plants Merry

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had numerous people ask me how to care for the holiday plants they either received or bought for Christmas, so here is a quick guide.


Take them out of foil they came in or poke holes in the foil so they can drain well. Keep them in a sunny window and allow them to dry partly (but not completely) between waterings. Around the middle of March, cut each flower stem back to 8 to 10” to encourage side branches. Fertilize with any good houseplant fertilizer according to label directions.

Keep in a sunny window or set outside around the first week of May.  If you are not going to try to bloom it again (it does make a very pretty green plant), bring in around the middle of October and place it in a sunny window.  If you do want to try to bloom it again, 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 sunny window. Continue to do this until the top leaves begin to turn color—usually mid-end November. The tricky part is even a night or two of forgetting to do this will affect whether it blooms or not.


While it’s blooming, keep in bright window and water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Once it has finished flowering, cut off any spent flower stems, leaving a ½ inch “stump.” Do not cut back any leaves. Keep in a sunny window and feed with a good houseplant fertilizer.

Place outside for the summer around the first of May, or keep in a sunny window, remembering to keep watered and fed. Around the middle to end of October and allow to go bone dry (this will allow for blooming the end of January or so, which is when I want mine to bloom. If you must have it bloom for the Holidays, put into dormancy the first part of September.)

Cut off all the leaves and store the bulb in the pot someplace cool, dark, and dry for 8 to 10 weeks. You can keep amaryllis for years and years this way and they’ll bloom reliably every year.


If you have grown paperwhite bulbs in water and rocks, then toss them. The bulbs basically “eat” themselves as they grow and bloom so is not worth the trouble to save. If you have grown them in soil and want to save them, then treat 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 (like the 26 amaryllises I save and rebloom every year.)

Christmas Cactus

A holiday cactus is a true cactus so it needs some direct sun, but would prefer to avoid the direct mid-day sun. Place in a bright window and remember to allow to go almost, but not quite, completely dry between waterings. Fertilize regularly though not after mid-August.

I put mine outside the first of May under a tree where it gets dappled sun but NO direct beating sun. I leave it outside until night temperatures are falling below the low forties. Usually, 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 sunny window for the winter.

Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island Pines are easy-care plants if they get the proper light—several hours of morning sun is ideal. They are not good lower light plants! Water when the top inch or two of soil is dry, but don’t allow to go “bone” dry. When you water, water till water trickles out the bottom but never allow to stand in water. It can go outside for the summer if you prefer, but under a tree where it gets good dappled sun but not overhead beating sun. List misting every couple of days when it is inside is beneficial. Feed during the summer but not at all during the winter months.

Remember, when you move any plant outside for the summer, get them accustomed to outdoor sunlight gradually so as not to sunburn the foliage. We still have a fabulous selection of holiday plants and fresh greenery to decorate your home for the holidays so come see us!

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2 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – How To Keep Your Holiday Plants Merry”

  1. I’m wondering if there are certain strains of Poinsettia that, after so many years of breeding, stray from having to go thru the dark/light reblooming routine? More than once I’ve had white varieties (snow white – not the cream/yellow whites) that rebloomed for me without having to do a thing. They lived on the kitchen counter (bright natural light) & received no special treatment, yet colored up & bloomed the following year. Not as densely as originally, but still enough to put on a show.

  2. I think it’s wonderful you had some bloom without any special treatment! I don’t know WHY they did, though. Poinsettias (regardless of color) are ‘obligate short day” plants–meaning they all need the “short day/long night treatment.”

    Now that said, I did have one bloom several years ago in the window in my spare bedroom–without trying. And, yes, I did go in the room at night on occasion. On the other hand, it has never bloomed since–and it spend every winter in that same bedroom.

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