WRITER | TRACY DONOHUE
There is a full assortment of indoor flowers and plants available to enhance holiday cheer with their natural beauty during the winter months. Fortunately, the special warmth their presence brings to your home doesn’t have to end once the decorations are packed away. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep your festive plants healthy during the holiday season and well into the new year.
When it comes to Christmastime cheer, what’s better than an iconic poinsettia plant? Besides red, this classic plant comes in a range of hues, including white, pink, purple, yellow, and orange, to work within any home’s color scheme.
For year-round growth, a poinsettia requires special attention. It should be kept near a window with bright, indirect sunlight for about 6-8 hours daily. Take care to avoid cool drafts or contact with a cold windowpane.
According to Terri Young, perennials manager with Farmer John’s Greenhouse in Farmington Hills, “Since poinsettias are a tropical plant, it can be trickier to care for and keep them alive after Christmas. Regular watering with good drainage should keep your plant from becoming either too soggy or dried out.”
Young says the real challenge is bringing the plant into bloom again during the holidays the following year. She advises that poinsettias can be put outside after the final spring frost and remain outdoors in strong morning sunlight until October. At this time, it should be brought back inside, but to a darker location. After six weeks, move the plant to a bright, sunny spot to bring out the color again.
Norfolk Island Pine
Although the Norfolk Island Pine is not a true pine tree, it looks like one, especially when adorned with festive holiday decorations. This long-lasting coniferous tree is native to the South Pacific so can’t be planted outdoors in Michigan. They make great houseplants, though!
“After Christmas, remove all decorations since they can weigh down its branches. Keep it in the same pot in indirect sunlight, then move it outside after the last spring frost,” advises Young. “Place it where it will get early morning sunlight, with less direct sun after noontime.” She also recommends fertilizing four times a year with Miracle-Gro® or a comparable product.
One of the most delightful bulbs for indoor blooms during the holidays is the lovely, fragrant paperwhite. Featuring bright white petals, paperwhites offer considerable flexibility in that they can grow in water, gravel, or potting soil, although well-drained soil is best to establish deep roots. Flowers should appear 4-5 weeks after initiating growth.
Since paperwhites can reach a height of 12-18 inches, it’s recommended to tie the stems to a stake to prevent them from falling over. Sierra Androws, assistant buyer and garden supplies lead at Farmer John’s Greenhouse suggests, “If you get paperwhites early, place them in a cool place right after planting for about four weeks. This should help them stay shorter, which will help them not fall over when in full bloom.”
Originating from South America’s tropical regions, amaryllis come in a variety of colorful shades. Generally, amaryllis bulbs will bloom about 4-8 weeks after planting, so plan accordingly to enjoy during the holidays or for a pick-me-up during later winter months.
“Amaryllis are often given as gifts, then tossed out once the blooms fade, but they can make a great outdoor addition in spring and summer. Amaryllis need a resting period to rebloom, so you need to mimic what happens in nature,” says Androws. “After the flowers fade and die off and you’ve cut the flower stalk right down to the bulb, they need to be stored in a cool, dark place ― a basement or garage is perfect. Soil can keep them insulated, so it’s best to store them as a bare bulb. For the next six weeks, completely ignore them, then trim off any dead leaves, repot, and reintroduce to a window with full sun.”
This popular flowering houseplant, known for its festive name and stunning winter blooms, can last for decades. With a variety of flowering shades, a Christmas cactus can be a lovely addition to your year-round house décor. While different species bloom at other times of the year, it is not unheard of for a healthy Christmas cactus to put on a colorful display multiple times a year.
The Christmas cactus is a variety of jungle cactus and prefers humidity and moisture along with moderate temperatures. To cultivate a healthy plant, Young advises, “Avoid repotting if you can ― a Christmas cactus does not have a large root system but likes to be rootbound. Let it go for ten days or so without watering, then water well. Keep it in a window with bright indirect sunlight.”