What to Do with Holiday Plants After Christmas

caring for holiday plantsJust like you, those holiday plants that performed so admirably over the holidays now need a rest. Here's a quick list of basic after-holiday care techniques, along with more specific tips on how to keep them for future seasons:

  • Remove the decorative tin foil or plastic outer liner. Although it looks good, it allows the roots to sit in water and this can cause rot.
  • Remove spent flowers as they fade and drop.
  • Don't rush to move plants to a new location.
  • Water sparingly. Don't fertilize them, yet.
  • Protect plants from heat or draft exposure. Boost indoor humidity as needed.
  • Decide which specimens are worth the trouble. And yes, discard some as necessary.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

After the colorful bracts (yellow centers) die back, this plant will need regular and constant care and some special treatment in the fall to make it bloom again This makes it one of the higher-maintenance blooming plants on this list.

Give the poinsettia at least six hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily. In May, pinch plant stems back to 6 to 8 inches and fertilize every two weeks.

caring for holiday pointsettia plants
In June, move pots outdoors to a shaded spot. Continue to water and pinch for fullness throughout the summer months. Continue to fertilize as the plant grows.

When temperatures drop, bring the plant back indoors. The long, dark nights of fall are what trigger winter blooms. In October, provide complete darkness between 5 PM and 8 AM daily. To help the process along, cover plants with a box or bag or move to a closet or the basement.

Provide bright light during the day; continue to water and fertilize and maintain a temperature of 60 degrees F. When buds appear in late November, stop the long night treatment, cut back the water and fertilizer, and enjoy the new years' blooms!

Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera hybrids)

Keep this plant in a bright spot with indirect light and do not move until it has finished blooming.

Just like poinsettia, winter blooming holiday cacti require a resting period and some short days and long, cool nights in the fall in order to bloom again.

christmas cactus after holiday care tips

During February and March, water less and keep temperatures at 55 degrees F. The plant can be moved outdoors to a sheltered location during the summer.

In October, move to a cool, dimly lit windowsill and wait for buds to set. The "dark treatment" described for poinsettias will force budding, but only if the night temperature is 50 to 55 degrees F. Cover instead of moving to a dark location as these plants do not like to be disturbed.

Amaryllis (genus Hippeastrum)

Remove flowers as they die off. Carefully cut down old flower stalks. Watch for any new flower stalks and leave the pot in place for the enjoyment of additional flowers. Keep the pot in a cool location with diffuse light. Allow the growth of tall, strappy leaves which feed the bulb. In late winter, move to a sunnier indoor location and keep moist.

Amaryllus bulb holiday plant care

When the danger of frost has passed, pots may be moved outdoors to a sheltered location or the bulbs may be placed directly in the ground. Water weekly and fertilize monthly throughout the summer as this rebuilds the bulb for future blooms.

When light frosts arrive, stop watering and let the leaves yellow and die naturally, then let dry in the shade for a week and remove dirt and withered leaves. Move to a cool, dark, well-ventilated place until time to replant. Storing in peat moss, wood shavings or a paper bag can help prevent rot, mold and mildew.

Amaryllis bulbs grown only in water or pebbles will not bloom reliably in subsequent years. They should be discarded.

Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus)  

When the flowers on these bulbs are no longer a cheerful reminder of spring, it may be time to discard this holiday gift. Although it is possible to replant forced paperwhite bulbs outdoors, it may take as long as three years for them to rebloom -- if they do at all. 

paperwhite holiday plant care

Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

This tree is not cold-hardy and cannot be planted outside as it does not tolerate temperatures below 35 degrees F.

If you give it lots of bright, indirect light and plenty of humidity, a Norfolk Island Pine makes a handsome and long-lived houseplant. It is slow growing, and will top out at about 6 feet high inside your home.

norfolk pine holiday plant care tips

Do not do any major pruning and be careful not to disturb the fragile root system. Giving the pot one-quarter turn regularly will keep this tree in good form.

Holiday Plant Safety Tips

Some holiday plants can cause health issues in people and pets. Display these plants and store bulbs with appropriate care, away from the reach of pets and children.

  • The foliage, bulbs and dust of amaryllis and paperwhites contain lycorine, a substance known to be extremely toxic to humans, dogs and cats. Handling paperwhite bulbs, stems and sap can cause contact dermatitis. Nitrile gloves offer some protection.
  • Exposure to and ingestion of poinsettia can be irritating, but not toxic as often believed. Poinsettia sap may cause a reaction in those with latex allergies.
  • According to the ASPCA, Norfolk Island Pines are toxic to dogs and cats. Symptoms include vomiting and depression.
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