How to keep your holiday plants cheerful after the festivities are over

A VACATION POINSETTIA is essentially a semi-durable flower arrangement with roots. Tuck it among your resident houseplants for a splash of color and joy. But please remove any foil or cellophane wrapping – what was festive in December seems a bit forced in January. Enjoy the display until your plant starts to look sharp, then toss it in the compost with dignity.

Amaryllis produces spectacular, trumpet-shaped flowers on top of stems up to 24 to 30 inches tall, followed by dark green, strappy leaves. Like poinsettias, amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are from a warm growing region and like a comfortable, draft-free location under bright light. Keeping your plant growing actively after flowering is the trick to getting the bulb to bloom again next year. The more leaves produced during the growing season, the better the chance that you will have repeat performance.

Remove individual flowers when they wither, but leave the stalk green until it wilts naturally. Like the leaves, the stem is used to supply the bulb through photosynthesis. Once all danger of frost has passed, your amaryllis will flourish outdoors in bright but indirect light with regular water and feeding.

At the end of August, stop watering it, bring the plant indoors to a dark place, and let the foliage go dormant. At the end of October, take the bulb out of its container; it should be firm, without soft spots or signs of rotting. Remove the wilted foliage and cut off the dead roots.

Amaryllis likes to grow in similar conditions, so repot the bulb in the same container with fresh potting soil so that two-thirds of the bulb is above soil level and water well to fix the roots. Now you wait. New growth will emerge within a few weeks – whether the bulb produces a flowering stem depends on how efficiently the plant has restored its energy after flowering.

Unlike the previous examples, the Christmas cactus and florist’s cyclamen are better suited to the cool conditions of the Pacific Northwest. Schlumbergera is the botanical name for a variety of plants that go by many names – depending on when it flowers, your plant may be labeled a Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus.

My plants live indoors all year round, but like amaryllis, you can move your Schlumbergera outdoors during the growing season. Schlumbergera are native to Brazil, where they grow in the shade and high humidity of tropical mountain forests. Provide indirect light with regular water and food. Cool temperatures and shorter days trigger bud formation in late fall, but be sure to bring your plants indoors before the first frost. While late fall and winter are the main flowering season, you’ll get a second set of lighter blooms in late spring triggered by similar light levels and cool temperatures.

Most resources say florists’ cyclamen are picky about blooming in warm weather indoors, but if you have a veranda, enclosed porch, or (like me) an old drafty house, I encourage you. to try this beautiful fragrant plant. Indirect sunlight and cool temperatures are essential to the life of your cyclamen.

An east-facing (single-pane) window with generous sill provides ideal conditions for a plant I bought over a year ago. Water the plant when the potting soil feels dry to the touch and fertilize like you do for other houseplants. My plant bloomed from Thanksgiving until spring and the foliage persisted until the plant went dormant in late summer, at which time I placed it on my potting bench in the basement for the watch – no watering. When new leaves start to appear in early October, I put the plant under fluorescent light and started watering again. I was delighted when the flowers soon followed.


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