Happy Holiday Plants

We often fill our homes with colorful blooming plants for the holidays. Poinsettias, cyclamens, azaleas, Christmas cacti and African violets surround us with color. With a little care and proper maintenance, these flowering treasures can delight us well past the holiday season.

These plants have a number of maintenance factors in common. They all need bright light. Poinsettias thrive with south-facing light. The rest do best with bright morning or filtered sun. I have found they all do better when watered from below by setting the plants in a container with a couple of inches of water for soil to absorb. However, none likes to stand in water for more than an hour or so. Water early in the day. Poinsettias and azaleas will need to be repotted to a container one inch larger than the one they came in using a good potting soil.

Poinsettias grow to ten feet tall outdoors in their native Mexico. Commercial growers cover them at night for ten weeks prior to December to force them to bloom in time for the holidays. If you want to keep a poinsettia growing in a pot, put it in a sunny where it won’t experience sudden temperature changes. It requires moist well-drained soil. Fertilize with nitrogen every two weeks until the leaves start to drop. When the leaves drop, cut the stems back to two buds, stop fertilizing and cut down on watering. When the buds break into leaves, start the whole process over again.

Cyclamens are pretty easy to manage if given bright light, water from below and a little bit of flowering plant food every month. Remove dead leaves and old flowers and they will keep reblooming.

Azaleas are a little tricky to keep going in pots. They usually drop their leaves and rarely rebloom. I think it’s because they were grown in a humid greenhouse and we expect them to survive in the low humidity of our houses. Keep the plant constantly moist. If you set the pot on a tray of pebbles with water in it, it will provide some extra moisture in the air. An azalea will not tolerate direct sun, but prefers bright filtered light. Fertilize with a diluted azalea or acid food every few weeks.

Enjoy indoor gardening with blooming houseplants. If you have questions, drop me an email, skellyj@unce.unr.edu or call 887-2252.