University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter Holiday News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

If you received a poinsettia, cyclamen, or other flowering plant for the holidays, there's no need to throw it out with the Christmas tree. With proper care and feeding, these potted plants will continue to bloom for many weeks and may even bloom again next year.

Azaleas like it cool, wet (don't overwater), and bright and will continue to bloom under these conditions. Feed monthly, using a fertilizer especially formulated for acid-loving plants. When flowers fade, snip off and pinch back the tips of the new shoots to promote compact, bushy growth.

Around June 1, repot in a mixture of equal parts peat moss and sand or soil. Add a heaping teaspoonful of bone meal or superphosphate. Bury the pot up to its rim in the garden. Water often and turn every few weeks to break off any roots growing through the drainage holes.

Before the first fall frost, move the plant indoors to a cool (45 to 50 degrees F nights), sunny room until buds begin to swell. Then move it into a warmer (60 degrees F nights) location to force flowering.

Poinsettias 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. Water only when the soil surface is dry.

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, a draft-free location, and night temperatures of about 65 degrees F.

To induce bloom next year, cut back the shoots by about one-third their length when the bracts (colored leaves) fade. This may be as late as July! Move the plant to a cool, well-ventilated spot. Water infrequently.

In late May place the plant in a sunny window. Water and fertilize regularly. Pinch back new growth. For eight weeks, beginning in mid-September, place your poinsettia plant in a dark closet or room each night and remove it in the morning. This will encourage it to bloom again next December.

The Christmas cactus responds well to short days and cool temperatures. It usually will bloom year after year if kept at 50 degrees F for several weeks each fall. Starting about mid-September, gradually reduce watering until buds set. Then keep soil constantly moist.

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.

Next summer, place it outdoors,  water and feed as needed. When the tops die down, bring it indoors again. For four weeks, keep at 70 degrees F. At the end of that time, water to encourage new stalks and blooms.

You can prolong the bloom of your cyclamen by keeping it cool and evenly moist. Too high temperatures, too little water, or too low light may cause leaves to yellow and drop.

Feed regularly with houseplant food according to the label. Cyclamen can be put outdoors over the summer. As with azaleas, after flowering keep the plant on the dry side a month or more, then repot.

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