Winter holiday plants such as poinsettia, holiday cacti, and amaryllis make wonderful additions to indoor spaces. Choosing healthy plants, watering appropriately, and keeping them at the right temperature can help extend bloom time so that you get the most out of these plants.
From festive indoor blooms to summer vegetables, Virginians can have year-round gardening success with the help of Virginia Cooperative Extension experts.
“When choosing poinsettias, you want to look for plants with the yellow true flower in the center of the bract,” said Ed Olsen, Henrico Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. “Many times, especially after they have been sitting out in big-box stores, the true flower will drop off which means those plants won’t last as long.”
Poinsettias should be kept at temperatures between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Placing near temperature extremes, such as by a cold window or in front of a warm fireplace, will shorten their lifespan. Poinsettias should be kept well-watered – but not overwatered – and care should be taken to ensure water isn’t pooling inside any decorative wrapping on the outside of the pot.
Holiday cacti should be kept slightly cooler, from 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and soil should not be allowed to dry out during flowering. However, during non-blooming periods, the soil should dry between waterings. Keep holiday cacti out of direct sunlight but in bright, indoor light.
Popular winter-blooming holiday cacti include the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumgera truncate), which has sharp, claw-shaped projects along leaf edges, and the Christmas cactus (Schlumgera bridgesti) which has more rounded or scalloped leaf projections. Both species need at least 12 hours of darkness and cool temperatures to bloom.
When transporting holiday plants from the store to your home, be sure they are protected from cold as even short trips in cold temperatures can cause cold damage.
For gift-giving, Olsen suggests choosing a plant with longevity, such as a holiday cactus or an amaryllis bulb, which will last and produce flowers for multiple years.