Christmas Plants (aka ‘Holiday Season’ Plants) are so beautiful when they arrive in our homes. It’s possible to keep them looking great all winter and blooming again for years to come. Here are some specific tips for Poinsettia, Christmas cactus, Anthurium, Cyclamen, Frosted Fern and mixed containers.

Poinsettia 

Requirements –  bright, indirect light. Water when the soil starts to feel dry. Will last much longer if kept in a cool spot (but out of drafts).

Key to success to reflower your poinsettia – Follow these strict light/dark instructions carefully:

DecemberFull bloom. Water as needed.
AprilColour fades. Keep near a sunny window and fertilize when new growth appears. Cut back stems to about 20 cm.
June 1Repot if necessary. Fertilize monthly. Water when dry to touch. Move outside into light shade.
Late AugustTake inside. Cut stems back, leaving three or four leaves per shoot.
Sunny window. Water and fertilize as needed.
Sept. 20 ’til December 1Keep in light only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Put in the dark (NO LIGHTS) 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Christmas Cactus

Requirements:

Cool Temperature — these plants are from cool mountains. Avoid higher temperatures and keep away from a heating vent. Keeping them indoors all year is preferred.

Light — Bright indirect sun

Water — keep the plant evenly moist with plain water through the bloom period.

Soil — Cactus mix is ideal as it has good aeration, drainage, and nutrition. They have fine roots and don’t need repotting often – actually do best in a pot that looks too small for them.

Rest – For later rebloom, let them rest after blooms are done. Water less.  Be sure pots have good drainage and let the soil dry three days or so between watering.

Rebloom – Toward the end of summer, apply a quarter strength bloom fertilizer and begin watering more regularly until blooms have come and gone.

Amaryllis

Requirements – needs warmth and sun while growing. After growth appears, it is essential to fertilize the plants regularly with a high phosphorus fertilizer. Move the plant when the flower buds have begun to show color to a cool spot out of direct sunlight (blooms last longer). Regular watering.

Rebloom – keep the plants growing – Cut off fading flowers but DONT remove the flower stalk until it has turned yellow – it will help feed the bulb. Give it plenty of bright sunlight. Water thoroughly when the soil is dry to the touch. Avoid standing in water. Continue to fertilize regularly. Move it into the garden when temps allow into a spot with full sun for > 6 hours daily. Sink the pot into the soil and fertilize with a balanced houseplant fertilizer monthly. Bring in before frost. No dormancy required but bloom time can be controlled by giving an 8-12 week rest period (in a dark basement or cool closet -not freezing, not watered, leave the foliage on until totally dry). Inspect periodically and bring into the light if new growth appears. Flowers will develop in 4-6 weeks from dormancy. For Xmas, bring them into bright light and water thoroughly in mid-late Nov. Repot every 3 or 4 years.

Anthurium

Requirements:

  • Anthuriums need a high light but not direct sunlight.
  • Water thoroughly, but allow it to dry slightly between waterings.
  • Do not over-water as it may cause root damage and yellow leaves.
  • Fertilize the anthurium plant about every other month.
  • Avoid drafts and strong temperature fluctuations.
  • In winter, anthurium plants need a 6 week rest period at a 15°C with little water. This allows the plant to flower profusely again in the following season.

Cyclamen

Requirements – While in bloom, keep the root ball moist and feed the plant every two weeks. Cyclamen should be kept moist by watering from below in a tray once per week or every few days. Remove yellow leaves and spent flowers.

As a woodland plant, they prefer cooler temps. Direct sunlight and heat will put them into dormancy. Will flower for 8 weeks if kept in cool bright indirect light (mid-May). Northeast window works well.

Must have Dormant period – stop watering when they stop flowering and let the leaves go yellow and wither. (April or May). Store in a cool and dry spot all summer. Too moist = tuber rot. In September (or when you see regrowth), start watering again. Soak the pot well. If no growth shows when you water it, wait for shoots to appear before watering again. In the right cool place with gentle watering, they should be in flower again soon after Christmas and will get bigger and better each year.

 Frosted Fern

Requirements lots of moisture at all times. The frosted fern has the same issues that any other fern that is brought indoors has and this includes not enough humidity and proper light.  To address this issue, one must first place their frosted fern in a shady location.  Direct sunlight, even reduced due to the winter months, can burn the fern.  To combat the dry, winter air, I suggest choosing a more humid spot near kitchen or bathroom sinks and also mist your fern regularly. You can also try placing the fern on top of a tray that has been filled with pebbles and is topped up with water regularly. Water your plant twice a week.

During the growing season, feed your fern a diluted version of a high nitrogen fertilizer once a week. In warmer weather, you can plant your frosted fern in a shady, moist but well-drained area of your garden.  It will grow to 1 ft by 1 ft and will spread.

Mixed Planters

Requirements – repot to their own container unless you’ve determined that they all like the same growing conditions and have adequate drainage. Do this sooner rather than later; before their roots intertwine, making it much more harmful to separate them.

Pest prevention and treatment

  • Choose the soil carefully. A good commercial potting soil is best. Resist the temptation to use disease and pest prone garden soil.
  • If possible, keep new plants separate from your other houseplants at first – inspect for insects or disease during this “quarantine”.
  • A plant weakened by hot, dry indoor conditions is even more susceptible to spider mite, whitefly, or aphid damage than a healthy one. Help your new indoor plants stay healthy by providing the correct mix of light and temperature AND if possible, give regular baths.
  • A good blast of water in a shower or sink is helpful
  • Insecticidal Soap sprays are effective IF they come in contact with the insect.
  • Don’t overwater as it can lead to root rot and fungus gnats or leave plants in standing water (or in non-draining containers)
  • Monitor regularly and act quickly to avoid an infestation
  • Neem oil and Hort oil are effective for chewing sucking insects that attack leave or for scale where the oil will smother them.
  • Qtip dabbed in alcohol works on mealy bugs if you can find them all.

Worried about Children or Pets?

The chart below will help you understand which plants are toxic. For more information, click this link. It might surprise you to find that poinsettia aren’t bad at all.

With a little tender loving care, your beautiful christmas-season plants will be the gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy a bright spot of colour in your home for years to come!

Happy Holidays!

More info – Bringing plants indoors