The Holidays Are Over, So What Should I Do With This Plant?

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The holidays are over. So what should you do with these festive houseplants?

Poinsettias

Poinsettias are by far the plant I am most often asked about in January, and my answers are not for the faint of heart.

What’s the best thing to do with your Poinsettia after the holidays? Turn it into compost. (The second best thing to do is to throw it in the garbage.)

Here’s my reason. Poinsettias require an exhausting list of requirements to rebloom for the holidays the following year and will most likely end up dead or leggy with no color. They need almost monthly adjustments in light and temperature in order to flush color and bloom again, not to mention pinching back at least three times through the year to ensure a bushy (instead of leggy) plant.

Norfolk Island Pines

These are one of my favorite houseplants and worth keeping around after the holidays. They are fairly slow-growing, but will eventually outgrow a typical 8 foot ceiling (in 10-20 years depending on conditions and initial size). Do not transplant Norfolk Pines outdoors unless you’re in Zone 10 or higher, and only repot when necessary.

Growth can be slowed by keeping the plant in a smaller container. Occasional browning of the lower needles is normal, but too much may indicate it needs more water and/or humidity. Water thoroughly when the soil feels dry to the touch, and increase humidity by grouping with other plants or, if you’re lucky enough to have the space and a window, keep it in the bathroom.

Norfolk Pines should do fine in an east or west-facing window or near a south-facing window, but be careful not to place it near a vent. They are a great Christmas tree option, but will struggle to hold up very large or heavy ornaments.

Christmas Cactus

Chrismas Cactus are a low maintenance plant and will rebloom year after year with little care. Many people mention that their plant blooms at Thanksgiving or Easter instead of Christmas, which probably means it’s actually a different species, but all belong to the same genus (Schlumbergera) and have similar care requirements.

Christmas Cactus will do fine in an east- or west-facing window, or near a south-facing window. If placed in a location that’s too bright, the leaves will start to look pale and sickly, but will recover quickly if moved into a darker area. They have average water needs, but prefer to stay more dry than wet. I typically water mine once a week, but still feel the soil and don’t water if it’s moist. Christmas Cactus will set buds in winter when there are more dark hours in a day than light (approximately 13 hours of dark are required). If yours fails to set blooms, see if there are any other light sources (street lights, indoor lights, etc.) that may be interfering with this cycle, and move it to a darker location if necessary.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis are bulbs with thin arching leaves and, when in flower, produce a tall stalk topped by several Lily shaped blooms.

They prefer tight living quarters, so pick a container with about an inch of space between the bulb and the edge of the pot (most fit well in a six inch pot). Plant the bulb with the top third exposed above the soil and water thoroughly. After planting, only water Amaryllis when soil feels dry to the touch, and don’t pour water directly over the top of the bulb, as they are susceptible to rot if water enters the “neck” of the bulb.

Keep near a sunny window for most of the year or move outside once there is no chance of frost. To force rebloom, move Amaryllis inside before the first frost, place in a cool dark place, and stop watering. After six to eight weeks, bring the plant back to a sunny location and water it. Blooms should appear within four to six weeks. All this said, I never remember/am too lazy to move my Amaryllis to a dark place and have had sporadic blooms in spite of this, so neglect away.

Happy New Year!

Meet Abbi Hayes

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