Care of seasonal houseplants after holidays

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

Happy holidays form the Nye family to yours!

My wish this Christmas is that you are able to spend time with loved ones, that you are healthy and safe throughout this holiday season, and that you remember the true reason for the season.

Now – On Dasher, On Prancer … oh you know how it goes. Let’s talk Christmas plants that may beautify our homes during this time of year.

The information shared here comes from a number of university horticulture resources.

These plants may include the poinsettia, Christmas cactus and amaryllis. After the holidays, how well do they survive in your home?

All can be kept to bloom again another year if they are properly cared for and you have a very “green thumb.” The Christmas cactus, for example, is an easy to grow plant, which can be kept for many years. Some of the others may be best discarded after the beautiful blooms are gone.

The poinsettia if given proper care in the home should retain their colorful bracts for 2 or 3 months. If you want a challenge it is possible to get the poinsettia to bloom again next season.

Cut the stems back to 4 to 6 inches above the soil when new side shoots develop below the bracts or when the bracts fade in March or April. The poinsettia may be repotted at this time. When new growth appears, place in a sunny window with temperatures of 65 to 75F.

Water when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch and fertilize every 2 weeks with a houseplant fertilizer.

In late May, move the poinsettia outdoors. Harden or acclimate the plant to the outdoors by placing it in a shady, protected area for 2 to 3 days, then gradually expose it to longer periods of direct sun.

Once hardened, dig a hole in an area that receives 4 to 6 hours of sunlight (preferably morning sun and afternoon shade) and set the pot into the ground.

To obtain a compact, bushy plant, pinch or cut off the shoot tips once or twice from late June to mid-August. Continue to water and fertilize the plant outdoors.

Bring indoors in mid-September. Place the plant in a bright, sunny window.

The poinsettia is a short-day plant so it grows vegetatively during the long days of summer and produce flowers when days become shorter in the fall. To get the poinsettia to flower for Christmas, the plant must receive complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily from early October until the bracts develop good color, usually early to mid-December.

Protect the plant from light by placing it in a closet or by covering with a box. During the remainder of the day, the poinsettia should be in a sunny window. Good luck!

Holiday cacti include the Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and numerous hybrids.

After flowering, place plants in a cool area (60 to 65 F) and water sparingly. Water the plants more frequently during their active growth period from spring through summer. Fertilize cacti approximately once a month during the growing season. Flowering of holiday cacti is controlled by temperature and day length.

During the fall, place in a cool location (60 to 65 F) that receives only natural daylight. Flower initiation will occur under these conditions and plants will bloom sometime between late October and January.

Amaryllis bulbs are often given as Christmas gifts. While many people discard the amaryllis after flowering, it is possible to get the bulb to bloom yearly.

After the flowers fade, cut off the flower stalk with a sharp knife. Make the cut 1 to 2 inches above the bulb.

Don’t harm the foliage. In order for the bulb to bloom again next season, the plant must replenish its depleted food reserves.

The long, strap-like leaves manufacture food, which is stored in the bulb. Place the plant in a sunny window and water when the soil surface becomes dry. Fertilize every 2 to 4 weeks with a houseplant fertilizer.

The amaryllis can be moved outdoors in late May or early June. Harden or acclimate the plant outdoors for a few days.

Once hardened, dig a hole in an area that receives partial to full sun and set the pot into the ground. Continue to water the amaryllis during dry weather.

Also, continue to fertilize the amaryllis once or twice a month through July. Bring the plant indoors in mid- to late September. Plants left indoors should remain in a sunny window.

Amaryllis bulbs need to rest before blooming. To accomplish this, place the amaryllis in a cool, semi-dark location and stop watering the plant in late September/early October. Cut off the foliage when the leaves dry and turn brown. Then place the pot in a dry location with a temperature of 45 to 55 F and allow the bulb to rest for 2 to 3 months.

The rest period for amaryllis bulbs varies. After several weeks of rest, periodically check the bulbs for signs of new growth. When a bud or foliage appears, place the amaryllis in a warm, bright location and water to start the growth cycle again.

If repotting is necessary, do so before watering.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension