The holidays are over, but we still have holiday plants to care for. Each plant requires a little bit different attention.
The traditional bright red poinsettia is easier to establish outdoors than other colors. After much breeding, several other colors are available, including pink, peach, white, burgundy, yellow and marbled variations. What some think of as the flower is really the leaves or “bracts.” The actual flowers are the tiny clusters in the middle of the bracts.
This is a short-day plant, meaning it blooms and the bracts change color when days are short and nights are long. If planted near artificial light—such as a streetlight or exterior house lighting—there will be a delay in flowering after October 1.
This tropical plant likes temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night. Indoors, don’t fertilize or overwater. Give it a drink only when the soil is dry.
You can plant poinsettias outside after the last chance of frost has passed. In central Florida, that usually means after mid-February.
Prune to 4 to 6 inches of stem on each branch and fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer from March to October.
This plant has received a bad reputation as being poisonous, but it’s not. There is white, milky sap in the stem. If you are allergic to latex, you are probably better off not handling this plant.
Amaryllis is another holiday favorite to give or receive. The bulb produces large trumpet-shaped flowers that add a pop of color when planted in groups. It is also a good container plant and can reach a height and spread of 1 to 3 feet.
This bulb needs well-drained soil and soil pH that is slightly acid to slightly alkaline, 6.0 to 7.2. Any soil texture works well—from clay loam to sandy loam, from sand to sandy clay.
Amaryllis has medium drought and low to no salt tolerance. Plant this bulb between September and January.
Propagation is from seeds, cuttings and smaller bulbs that are attached to the mother bulbs. You can leave bulbs in the ground for years or dig them up and replant them in September and October. If you dig up the bulbs instead of leaving them in the ground, remove the foliage and store them in an area that is dry and shaded for 6 to 8 weeks before replanting. I prefer to leave them where I have planted them, but I am a lazy gardener!
Like the poinsettia, Christmas cactus is a short-day plant. For this plant to bloom during the holidays, move it to a dark area from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily for six weeks. After blooming ends, place your Christmas cactus in bright light, where it will thrive. If indoors, place the plant within 6 feet of a window. Light exposure in a north window is not effective, so use south, east or west windows. It prefers well-drained soil.
Propagation is from cuttings. Flowers vary from white to pink to red and more! This plant is great in containers on a front porch, lanai or as a houseplant.
For more information about these holiday gems, please see the University of Florida/IFAS Extension publications, “Poinsettias at a Glance,” by Sydney Park Brown, “Amaryllis,” by Sydney Park Brown and Robert J. Black, and “Christmas Cactus Prep,” by Dan Culbert, from which information contained in this article was adapted.
For more Florida gardening information, visit Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.