It may feel like the gardening season is over in Bettendorf, but we’re just getting started with Christmas houseplants. There’s nothing like a splash of cheerful and vibrant living plants and flowers to brighten up a room on dreary winter days. Caring for plants can raise your mood, and plants help keep you healthier by freshening the air in your home.
There are a few classic plants that we associate with Christmas, besides Christmas trees. If you’re picking up a new plant from the garden center this season, these care tips will come in handy. With a little bit of regular care and attention, you can keep your poinsettia, Christmas cactus, and amaryllis thriving all season.
Poinsettia Plant Care
Originally from southern Mexico, the poinsettia is a classic Christmas houseplant. Many different color variations are available, including variegated options. They’re pretty easy to care for, and you can toss them in the compost at the end of the season. If you want to, you can keep your poinsettia going, but fair warning, getting a poinsettia to bloom again next year can be very challenging.
Contrary to common myth, poinsettias are not actually poisonous for pets or people. They may cause stomach upset if leaves are ingested, and some people may have a mild skin reaction to the sap of the plant.
Ideal Temperature: During the day, poinsettias are happy between 65-75 ̊F, and they like a bit of a dip, down to about 60 ̊F at night. Poinsettias are quite sensitive, so NEVER expose them to temps lower than 50 ̊F. Protect them well when bringing them home. Do not leave a poinsettia to sit in the car while you run other errands.
Light Needs: Poinsettias are used to lots of sunlight, and need a minimum of 6 hours per day. Keep in mind that poinsettias really don’t like drafts, so keep them away from doors, fire places, and heat registers.
When to Water: Water your poinsettia when the soil feels dry to the touch. Check the soil daily. Remove the plant from its decorative pot cover or foil and set it in the sink to water. Let it drain for 20-30 minutes before returning it to its decorative container.
Re-potting: If you’re just keeping your poinsettia for the Christmas season, you don’t need to re-pot it. If you intend to keep your poinsettia as a houseplant, you can re-pot it in spring after a dormancy period.
When to Fertilize: Poinsettia don’t need fertilizer unless you’re trying to re-bloom it. We don’t recommend attempting to re-bloom poinsettias, our climate in Bettendorf will make it an uphill battle!
Amaryllis Plant Care
Amaryllis are native to South America. They are a dramatic Christmas flower, available in red, white, pink, salmon, orange, stripes, and multicolors, and double- and single-bloom varieties. Large bulbs usually deliver more blooms.
You can keep your amaryllis bulb for next year by cutting the bloom stalk back when it has finished blooming. Keep watering and feeding it until August, then pull it out of your pot, trim the leaves and roots and store them. Unfortunately, waxed amaryllis bulbs cannot be saved for next year since they’re sealed in wax.
Ideal Temperatures: Amaryllis bulbs need a period of cool temperatures, around 50˚F, and dark dormancy for 8-10 weeks before you want to start them. Once you’ve brought them out for blooming again, they prefer 70-75˚F.
Light Needs: Amaryllis are tropical, so they need plenty of light. However, they should be sheltered from the hot afternoon sun.
When to Water: When you’re ready to plant your amaryllis bulb, leave it to soak in room temperature water for an hour or two. Once you’ve planted it, keep it only lightly moist until it starts blooming. Once it is blooming, it will need fairly frequent watering to keep the soil moist.
Potting: If you bought an amaryllis kit from the garden center, it should come with a pot. If not, choose a container that’s only an inch or two larger than the bulb. When potting your bulb, only cover the bottom two-thirds of the bulb with soil, leave the neck bare.
When to Fertilize: Amaryllis do not need any fertilizer during blooming. Once they have finished blooming, they will benefit from regular fertilizer to help the bulb replenish its nutrients for next year.
Christmas Cactus Plant Care
Christmas cactus, or holiday cactus, is a rainforest succulent native to Brazil. There are 3 different types; Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Cactus. They each have differently shaped leaves and come in a variety of colors, including red, white, yellow, pink, and purple.
Ideal Temperature: Holiday cactus are resilient, but they prefer 65-70˚F in the daytime, with a drop to 60-65˚F at night.
Light Needs: Holiday cacti like bright light, and can handle a bit of direct sun. Like most plants, they should be protected from the blazing afternoon sun.
When to Water: Holiday cacti should only be watered when the soil dry to a depth of 1-2 inches. They do like humidity so mist them frequently.
Re-Potting: Holiday cacti can be re-potted approximately once per year. Do it after they’ve finished blooming, and only go up one pot size—they do like to be a bit rootbound.
When to Fertilize: You can fertilize holiday cacti every two weeks once buds have formed, and monthly through the rest of the year.
Perhaps ironically, many of the classic Christmas plants are tropicals. They brighten up our homes and remind us of summer. They may require a bit of extra care, but they’re not too hard to grow. Caring for our houseplants through the winter is good for our mental health, and it keeps our thumbs green and ready for next spring in Bettendorf! If you want to bring home some gorgeous Christmas plants, stop by our garden center today. We’ve got lots of choices to bring some vibrant life into your home.