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Prepare Houseplants Now to Bloom Over the Holidays

If you’re like me, you probably hate to throw away those lush poinsettias at the end of the holiday season. If you’ve managed to keep your holiday plants throughout the summer, the good news is that you can typically coax them into reblooming with a little help.

Here are some pointers on how to maintain some popular holiday plants:

Poinsettia- Perhaps the most common holiday plant, poinsettias are ubiquitous in December with their showy flowers. Unfortunately, they are also discarded en masse due to the difficulty of reblooming them once the holidays are over. If you’ve managed to keep one alive since last year, it is possible to get them to rebloom with a little effort.

Poinsettias are photoperiodic, meaning that their developmental processes are sensitive to the number of daylight hours. They are “short day” plants, meaning that blooms are triggered by days with less than 12 hours of sunlight. If exposed to more than 12 hours of light a day, they will not bloom. Once the fear of frost has passed, they should be moved outdoors where they will receive plenty of sunlight for the summer. The plants can be cut back to about 6 inch stems. Make sure to leave some leaves present. Remove the foil and make sure the container has drainage holes. Use a saucer to catch water. In the fall, it should be repotted into a larger pot before nighttime temperatures dip below 40 degrees. When it’s time to be brought inside, the most important factor in reblooming is the light conditions. Place them in a room where they will receive 10 hours of daylight or less. Most people select a room where the lights would not be turned on in the evening. Poinsettias are very sensitive. Street lights, televisions, and overhead lamps are enough to disrupt their blooming cycles. After two months of these light conditions, they will begin to flower.

Amaryllis– One of my favorite holiday plants due to its seemingly magical growth. If you’ve ever purchased one around the holidays, they look like an old onion or turnip in a small pot. After watering them, they quickly sprout and start growing rapidly. After a few weeks, large flower stalks produce trumpet shaped blooms in variations of red, white, pink and orange.

In order for them to rebloom, place the plant in bright light, outdoors when temperatures permit. To allow the foliage to fully develop, fertilize and water throughout the summer months. In later summer or fall, as the leaves begin to die back, water less often. When the leaves have died completely, allow the soil to dry out and place the bulb in a cool, dry place for four to eight weeks before resuming watering. After this rest period, begin to water again in order to restart the growth process.

Christmas Cactus — another short day plant, Christmas Cacti need less than 12 hours of daylight in order to produce blooms. There are actually three types— a Christmas cactus, a Thanksgiving cactus, and an Easter cactus. All three require bright indirect sunlight and moderate moisture levels. South-facing windows are excellent places for “holiday” cacti. After the six weeks of holiday blooming, remove spent flowers and apply a houseplant fertilizer. Plants can be grown outdoors in semi-shady places— full sun can actually cause foliar burning.

Luckily, the Christmas cactus is not as difficult to manage as a poinsettia when it comes to flowering. To encourage blooming, place the cactus on a windowsill in a cool room, ideally about 60 degrees, and free  from drafts if possible. In order to initiate blooming, the plant will need eight hours or less of daylight for about 2 weeks. Remember, even turning the lights on at night is enough to disrupt this process.

Stem pieces of three segments or more are easily propagated. Holiday cacti should bloom about the same time every year.

For more information on how to care for your indoor or outdoor plants, contact the Fulton County- North UGA Cooperative Extension Office at (404) 613-7670, email uge1918@uga.edu, or visit extension.uga.edu/county-offices to find your local Extension office.