Holiday Plant Rescue – What to Do with Holiday Plants?

By Elizabeth Cornell Fake, Fairfax Master Gardener
The holiday decorations have been returned to boxes and bins and now it’s time to think about what to do with the holiday plants. Here are a few pointers about what to do with the Poinsettias, Christmas Cacti, and Amaryllis bulbs often used for holiday décor.

poinsettiaPoinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants, especially the bright red varieties. Contrary to popular opinion, Poinsettias are not poisonous to pets and children although the milky sap exuding from the leaves can cause a rash for people allergic to latex. Poinsettias are not frost resistant so plan to keep them inside until spring. Leave them in a sunny spot where the temperature will be about 65 to 75 degrees F. Remember to water when the surface dirt is dry to a one-inch depth. As perennial shrubs, poinsettias can be planted outside for the summer, and but need to be repotted and moved back inside again before frost.

Most gardeners want to know how to make Poinsettias to rebloom the next season. It can be done, but it is tricky and requires a lot of patience and attention. The references below give instructions in case you want to try.

Christmas Cactus
christmas castusThe Christmas Cactus is a popular gift and makes an easy-care, year-round house plant. As it is a tropical not a desert cactus, it requires a sunny place out of direct light and careful watering. Begin post-holiday care by pruning about a month after blooming ceases. Be careful to water just enough to keep the plant hydrated, watering when the top inch of soil has dried out. If you want blossoms for the next holiday season, manipulate the lighting, temperature and watering schedule to create dormancy. Between September to October, move the cactus to a site where it will receive indirect sunlight during the day but total darkness at night. The temperature should be about 50 to 55 degrees F. Water sparingly and maintain these conditions for 6 – 8 weeks. When buds begin to form, usually in November, move the cactus back to a sunny place and resume watering as before. You will be rewarded with new blooms for the holidays.

Amaryllis Bulbs
amaryllis 'Amourette'Amaryllis bulbs have a dramatically fast growth cycle and produce large showy blooms. Traditionally, the bulbs are forced for the holiday season. After the blossom fades, you may be tempted to dump the bulb in a trash can. But, Amaryllis can bloom again for several years if planted outside and for at least one more life cycle if kept in a container. As a first step, post-holiday, cut the flower stalk to the height of the leaves. Keep the leaves to fuel regrowth of the bulb and continue to water sparingly as needed. In spring, plant the bulb outdoors in a sunny spot. In late August or early September, repot the bulb in a container and bring indoors. Keep the pot in a cool, dry site and allow the bulb to dry out completely. After 6-8 weeks, bring the pot back to a sunny location and begin watering again to restart the growth cycle.

The Poinsettia Pages, University of Illinois Extension
Christmas Cactus Care, North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Amaryllis, UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions, University of Florida
How to Care for Holiday Amaryllis Gift Plants, Get Busy Gardening: DIY for the Beginner on a Budget