Holiday plants such as poinsettias, amaryllises, and Zygo Christmas cactus are traditional gifts that can be enjoyed long after the Christmas season is over. If you decide to purchase a Christmas plant or receive one as a gift, care for them and they will thrive now—and later.
Poinsettia Paul Ecke Jr., from Eagle Rock California was responsible for advancing the association between the plant and Christmas. For generations his family owned dairy and orchard had cornered the market on poinsettias for decades before finally, publicly sharing their unique grafting techniques. As of 2008, they still serve about 70 percent of the domestic market and 50 percent of the worldwide market.
There is a common misconception that the poinsettia is highly toxic. This misconception was spread by a 1919 urban legend of a two-year-old child dying after consuming a poinsettia leaf. Poinsettias are actually safe around children and pets. Get more Poinsettia safety facts here.
Poinsettia Care Tips: Water when the surface soil is dry to the touch, pouring water into the soil until it runs freely out the drainage hole in the container. Allow to drain completely. Keep your poinsettia near a sunny window. South, east or west facing windows are preferable. Poinsettias are from a warm climate and prefer temperatures between 65° F to 70° F degrees during the day and around 60° F at night. Don’t place plants near cold drafts or excessive heat from appliances, fireplaces or ventilating ducts. Even the hearty Freedom Poinsettias are sensitive to cold, so don’t place them outside during winter months or expose to temperatures below 50° F. To rejuvenate your poinsettia for next year’s holiday season, move it outside after the threat of frost is over and prune back to keep it bushy and compact. To promote flowering, the poinsettia needs at least eight hours of dark beginning in fall. Get more tips on caring for poinsettias, plus an illustrated re-blooming schedule here.
Amaryllis are prized for their striking, large trumpet shaped flowers that bloom on tall stalks. They have become popular Christmas plants because they can bloom in mid-winter.
Amaryllis Care Tips: Once your amaryllis has stopped flowering, it can flower again in just a few months. Just snip old flowers from the stem once the blooms wither and dry out. Cut the entire stem back to the top of the bulb once it begins to droop. You can remove your Amaryllis from its decorative container and replant the blub in a year-round planter. Water and fertilize as normal for 5 to 6 months, allowing new leaves to fully develop and grow. When the leaves start to turn yellow, cut them back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil for storage. Store the bulb in a cool (40-50 deg. F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for a minimum of 6 weeks. (Note: The refrigerator method works only if it does not contain apples. Apples give off ethylene gasses which will sterilize the bulbs). Your Amaryllis bulb can be replanted after the 6-week cold storage period. New flowers should begin sprouting and start to bloom in about eight weeks.
Christmas ‘Zygo’ cactus has been a favorite houseplant for generations and is a tradition in many European and North American homes during the holidays. It’s perfect for a window box or hanging basket which creates a colorfull cascade of fuchsia, salmon, and white flowers.
Christmas Cactus Tips: It’s not unusual for it to flower several times throughout the year. To promote further blooming seasons, let your Christmas cactus rest after the holiday season for about a month. Keep the temps around 50 degrees. Christmas cactus requires about 12 hours of complete darkness at night and about 50 to 60 percent humidity. Place a cardboard box over the plant to keep out natural or artificial light at night. Keep a glass, vase or tray of water near the plant for humidity. Prune only between March and April by pinching off a few sections of each stem to encourage branching. And if you like, re-root these sections to start new plants. Fertilize from April through September.