University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter (Holiday) News Article
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CARE OF FLOWERING HOLIDAY PLANTS

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
 
If you purchased or received a poinsettia, cyclamen, or other flowering potted plant for the holidays, there's no need to throw it out after bloom. With proper care and feeding, these potted plants will continue to flower for many weeks, and may even bloom again next year.
           
The most popular flowering potted plant and one most buy, or receive as a gift, is the poinsettia.  They need good drainage, so if the pot is wrapped in foil, remove the foil or make a hole in the bottom so water can drain out. Put a saucer underneath to protect furniture, but make sure water does remain in the saucer. Then water only when the soil surface is dry. If in doubt, don’t water.  Too much water leads to drooping and falling leaves, and root rots.
           
A common complaint about poinsettias is that they lose their leaves too quickly. This is a sign of poor growing conditions. Poinsettias need at least a half day of sun or bright light for at least 8 hours, a draft-free location, and night temperatures of 65 degrees (F) or above. Given the proper care, you’ll probably get tired of the poinsettias before they begin to lose their color, often as late as mid-summer.
           
If you want to try and get poinsettias to bloom next year, grow them through the season as you would other houseplants.  Then from early October, for at least 10 weeks, you’ll need to move the plant into darkness every night, and bring it out into daylight every day.  Plants need 12 hours or less of daylight for this period, every day, to rebloom.
           
The Christmas cactus responds well to the shorter days of fall, and cool temperatures. It usually will bloom year after year if kept at 50 degrees for several weeks each fall. Starting about mid-September, gradually reduce watering until buds set. Then keep soil constantly moist (but not waterlogged).
           
The amaryllis, with its stalk of colorful blooms, is another favorite holiday plant. After the flowers fade, cut the flower stalk to about two inches above the bulb. Place in a lighted area, water, and fertilize as with other houseplants. Next summer, place it outdoors, and continue to water and feed as needed. When the tops die down, bring it indoors again. For four weeks, keep at 70 degrees and water sparingly. At the end of that time, increase water to encourage new stalks and blooms.
           
The popular kalanchoe (said as cal-AN-cho), found in many bright colors through late fall and winter, is a “succulent” plant or one with thick leaves, and that prefers dry soil.  In addition to not overwatering, this plant grows best in high light.  Keep cool (55 to 65 degrees) at night and warmer (65 to 75 degrees) during day.  Fertilize as with other houseplants while it is blooming and growing.  If you want to try and rebloom these next year, you’ll need to give a similar fall light schedule as with poinsettias.
           
Azaleas are found through the holidays and winter in stores. They will bloom for the longest period if kept cool (68 degrees or less), the soil stays moist (but don't overwater), and with bright light. Feed monthly, using a fertilizer especially formulated for acid-loving plants, or at least houseplant fertilizer, according to label directions. The ones you find in stores are “florist’s azaleas” and are not hardy planted outdoors in northern climates. 
           
If you plan to keep an azalea, snip off flowers when they fade and pinch back the tips of the new shoots to promote compact, bushy growth. You can put plants outside in their pots during summer.  Before the first fall frost, move the plant indoors to a cool, sunny room, preferably with 45 to 50 degree nights until buds begin to swell. Then move it into a warmer (60 degree minimum nights) location to force flowering.
          
You can prolong the bloom of your cyclamen by keeping it cool (68 degrees or below is best) and evenly moist. Too high temperatures, too little or too much water, or too low light may cause leaves to yellow and drop. With proper conditions, and if plants begin with lots of buds, you can have flowers for many weeks.  Feed regularly with houseplant food at about half strength.  
           
Most discard cyclamen after bloom.  If you want to keep them for possible future blooms, stop watering when leaves turn yellow and wither.  Keep dry, in cool, and out of direct sun.  When you see the first signs of growth in fall, or at least by October, water well.  Water again and treat as above when shoots and leaves appear.
           
There are other potted flowering plants you may find in stores, including mums, gerbera daisies, or ornamental peppers.  As with other such potted plants, generally cool temperatures (60 to 70 degrees) and avoiding too much water will result in the longest bloom period.  You’ll also get the longest bloom if you buy plants with lots of buds rather than all flowers already fully open.

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