Holiday Houseplants – What now?

So the holidays are over, the decorations packed away, and now there are all these plants around, purchased for their beautiful bright colors, that have now faded into just green foliage. Do not despair! With just a little bit of care, all of your holiday plants can continue to provide beauty for years to come.

Christmas cactus (technically Holiday cactus, or Zygocactus) are one of the easiest holiday houseplants to care for and have thrive, long after their season seems to have passed. They will live in moderate to bright light indoors, and adore being outdoors in a sheltered location during the summer months. Often, the diligent gardener will be rewarded with at least one summer bloom (all of mine like to blossom in June), and possibly more. Cool temperatures encourage them to set flower buds, so keeping them in a windowsill or moving them outside in late spring will increase the chances of an out-of-season flower. It is best to avoid temperature or moisture extremes, as that will cause any flower buds that had formed to be damaged and drop without opening.

Amaryllis and Paperwhites are bulbs, and can be saved and grown again next winter. Neither one is winter hardy here in Maine, but both greatly benefit from a summer vacation outside. After the flowers fade, do not cut back the foliage. Cut back on watering, and let it yellow and die back naturally. The pots can be moved to a cooler, dark location once this happens, just take care that the soil is not too moist when they are put away. The dried foliage should be removed, and the bulbs left dormant. Once warmer weather rolls around, they can either be planted directly in the ground, or left in their pots and sunk outside in the garden. New foliage will grow, recharging the bulbs and preparing them for their next display. Fertilizing during their growing season is the key to getting beautiful wintertime blooms from these two bulbs.

Cyclamen are one of the more difficult holiday plants to keep alive through the years, but it can be done! Their delicate, velvety blooms are so beautiful in shops, but tend to fade quickly once they are brought home. Bright, indirect light and moderate to high humidity are the keys to keeping these sub-tropical plants happy and healthy. They will often go dormant during the summer months, and the soil should be kept relatively dry. Overly wet soil may cause the tuber to rot. A low-strength fertilizer applied every other week while they are in full leaf will keep them growing and healthy.

Little tiny potted live evergreen trees are a wonderful addition to the home for the holidays, and with a little extra care, can become a fixture in your landscape for years afterward. Bright direct light, humidity, and adequate soil moisture will keep the tree happy until the weather warms enough to put it outside. Before planting outside, check to make sure the evergreen is hardy for Maine; there are some that are not. Plant it in the proper spot in your landscape, remember to leave plenty of room for a fully-grown evergreen, and enjoy a reminder of the season for years to come!

As long as we can continue to provide a plant’s basic needs – air, water, and light, holiday houseplants should provide beauty and enjoyment through many, many winters.