Plants and flowers play an important role in many holiday celebrations. Whether decorating your house or giving them as a gift, they can be perfect for almost any occasion. The three most popular plants for the holiday season are the cyclamen, poinsettia and Christmas cactus.
Potted cyclamen are medium light plants. An eastern exposure should provide plenty of light for your cyclamen to stay healthy. They prefer cool temperatures. Ideal daytime temperatures range from 60-65 degrees F with nighttime temperatures around 50 degrees.
High humidity during the winter indoors is crucial for cyclamen. To maintain humidity, fill a large plate, shallow pan or tray with water. Set the cyclamen on an inverted dish just out of the water. Pebbles should be placed in the plate, pan or tray with the pot sitting on the pebbles.
Plants prefer to be kept moist. Water them at the soil level but keep moisture away from the area on the tuber where the leaf and flower stems grow. If that gets wet, the plant can rot. Make sure pots have drainage holes. Repot if there are no holes. One sign that a plant is healthy is if the leaves, which are typically firm and erect, feel crunchy when you brush through them with your hand. When the plant needs water, the leaves will feel softer.
In late winter, the cyclamen stops blooming and the leaves turn yellow as the plant goes dormant. They may be set outside in partial sun for the summer, fed and watered regularly, then brought back inside in September. They’ll start forming new leaves and flower buds again soon.
Feed cyclamen about twice a month with a complete liquid fertilizer such as Peters 20-20-20.
The length of time that your poinsettia will last is dependent on three factors: the maturity of the plant, when you buy it and how it is treated. With proper care, a poinsettia should retain its beauty for weeks, and some varieties for months.
Carefully unwrap your poinsettia and place it by a sunny window. Keep it from touching any cold windows. Also keep it away from warm or cold drafts from radiators, air registers or open doors/windows.
Ideal daytime temperature for a poinsettia ranges from 60-70 degrees F with nighttime temperatures around 55 degrees. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life.
Check the soil daily. Be sure to punch holes in pot foil to ensure proper drainage. Water when soil is dry. Allow excess water to drain into a saucer and discard it.
Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it beyond the holiday season using a standard house plant fertilizer.
Getting a poinsettia to reflower requires keeping it in total darkness between 5 PM and 8 AM starting around October 1st. Continue until color shows on the bracts, typically around early to mid December. Any exposure to light can prevent flowering. Covering the plant with a light-proof bag and placing it in a closet may also work. Nighttime temperatures above 70-75 degrees F can decay the plant or prevent flowering.
Christmas cacti will keep their blossoms longer in cooler temperatures. Keep the plant in a well-lit location away from heating vents, fireplaces and other sources of hot air. Drafts and temperature extremes can cause the flower buds to drop from the plants before they have a chance to open. While these cacti are actively growing, use a blooming house plant-type fertilizer and follow the label instructions for how much and how often to feed them.
While the Christmas cactus can adapt to low light, more abundant blooms are produced on plants that have been exposed to more light intensity. Keep your plants in a sunny indoor location. They can be moved outdoors in the summer as long as they are kept in a shady or semi-shady location.
Christmas cacti will bloom if given long, uninterrupted dark periods of about 12 hours a night. Begin the dark treatments about mid October in order to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. You can place them in a dark closet or cover them from 8 PM – 8 AM each day for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming.