How to care for holiday plants

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Christmas cactus, poinsettia, kalanchoe, cyclaman and amaryllis are some of the flowering holiday plants that can be kept for enjoyment even after the holidays are gone.

All of these plants require bright, indirect light. They should be placed close to a sunny window and turned once a week to prevent them from leaning toward the light. In rooms with poor light, place your plants under incandescent or fluorescent lamps. Plants located too close to incandescent light may be damaged from excessive heat.

Temperature should be kept cool with most indoor plants associated with the holidays. The ideal temperature is lower than found in the average room. Your plants should do well if the day temperature range is 65°F to 75°F with cooler night temperatures.

It’s important to keep your plants evenly moist. This includes the Christmas cactus since it is not a typical cactus. Avoid letting the plants become bone-dry or water-logged, either extreme can result in root injury.

As the flowers fade on your holiday plants, it’s best to remove the spent flowers. This will improve the plant’s appearance and prevent the plant from setting seed, providing more energy for growth.

The poinsettia eventually will begin dropping its leaves. This is normal as the plant is going into a resting stage. When it begins to drop its leaves, decrease watering until you are watering only enough to keep the root and stems from drying out excessively. In April prune the stems to about 6 inches, begin watering, fertilize and place where it will get plenty of light but not direct sun. Forcing the poinsettia to reflower each year for the Christmas season can be a challenge within the average home environment.

Amaryllis is sold in flower or as a bulb. Each flower lasts only a few days, but since multiple flowers are produced, the plant may remain in flower for a week or more. After the last flower fades, remove the bloom stalk. Leaves begin to emerge at flowering. It is essential that the leaves remain for the bulb to manufacturer foods needed for reflowering. Keep the plant under high indoor light and watered and fertilized regularly. After danger of frost has passed, it can be placed or planted outdoors in light shade to full sun. Here in Florida, amaryllis can be grown outdoors all year and make excellent garden plants. More information on growing amaryllis in Florida is available online at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep060 or from the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County.


Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, December 11, 2015


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