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How to care for your Holiday Plant Gifts (Give them this link,too!)

Poinsettias with a variety of patterns and colors.
Giving someone a poinsettia, an amaryllis or maybe a pot planted with paperwhites? Give them the link to this helpful article, too!

We've put all the information together for you so your recipient knows just what to do--whether they garden or not!


No question about it--poinsettias symbolize the holidays like no other plant! The beauty of this Euphorbia, which is native to Mexico, is that you can find one to fit almost any decorative scheme! 

They range from creamy white to pink to the traditional bright red. While they are most commonly used for decorating during the winter holidays, they are also attractive as green plants throughout the year. Poinsettias change color in response to shorter winter days. 

Are those leaves or petals???

Poinsettia flowers are actually made up of the bracts, which look like petals, and the tiny yellow flowers in the center, called cyathia. The colorful bracts attract insects to the flowers and will drop after pollination.
Their flower forms can vary as well with some looking similar to a rose. 

How to care for your poinsettia

Light: Place in a south, east or west window where the plant will receive bright daylight. Temperatures of 65-70 degrees F. are ideal. Don't put it anywhere the air may be drying--like a heat duct, fireplace or space heater. 

Poinsettias will suffer damage if they're exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees F., and freezing temps will kill them. 

Water:  Keep soil moist, watering when the soil surface feels dry to a light touch or the pot feels lightweight when you lift it. Never allow poinsettias to get so dry that they wilt.

Don't let the pot to sit in excess water, because the constant wetness will rot the roots. 

Would you like to get your poinsettia to re-bloom? Read more about fertilizing, transplanting and how to care for it after the holidays: 
Christmas cactus in bloom!

Holiday Cactus

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is a popular houseplant grown for their beautiful, exotic flowers. 

Holiday cacti can be very long-lived. It is possible for these plants live over 100 years, passed down from generation to generation. Although true cacti, these plants are native to rainforests.

The need for high humidity, bright but filtered light, and soil kept relatively moist most of the year sets these plants apart from the majority of cacti and succulents.

People often complain about the lack of flower blooms. It is important to understand how light, temperature, and overall plant health affects blooming.

How to make them bloom & more!

Light and temperature: Holiday cacti are called "short day plants." To produce flower buds, they require shorter days (fewer hours of light) and cool night temperatures. 

Water: Allow these plants to dry out between watering--they won't grow well in heavy, wet soils. So it's best to place plants in a sink to drain when you water them.

Blooming: Initiate buds by leaving plants outdoors in a protected location until just before frost danger. Once flower buds have started to develop, holiday cacti do not like to be disturbed. 

Read more about fertilizer, soil, pruning and common issues:
Holiday cacti
'Red Pearl' Amaryllis


Whether the first bulb or the fiftieth, there is high anticipation for the plant owner when the large, bright green bud emerges from a beefy Amaryllis bulb!

Amaryllis may be purchased as bare or planted bulbs, and are prized for their exotic trumpet-shaped flowers born on 1 to 2 foot leafless stalks or scapes. They add dramatic color to homes and gardens, and make wonderful gifts to gardeners from beginners to experts.

Where do they come from?

Native to Peru and South Africa, the genus Amaryllis comes from the Greek word amarysso, which means "to sparkle." Bulbs were brought to Europe in the 1700s and have been known to bloom for up to 75 years. Today, most amaryllis are hybrids but are still classified in the genus Hippeastrum.

Amaryllis flowers range from 4 to 10 inches in size, and can be either single or double in form.

While the most popular colors are red and white, flowers may also be pink, salmon, apricot, rose or deep burgundy. Some varieties are bicolor such as purple and green, or picotee (having petals with a different edge color).

Caring for your Amaryllis

The size and condition of the bulbs will influence how well your Amaryllis performs. The larger the bulb, the more flowers it will have!

Light: Before the flower emerges you can place it in a sunny window. But move it out of direct sunlight when the flower buds have begun to open.

Water: Water the plant when the top 2 inches of soil feels dry, allowing the container to drain freely each time. Don't let the plant sit in water because the wet soil can root the bulb and its roots. 

Fertilizer: To promote blooming use a houseplant fertilizer with a high phosphorus content. Fertilize the Amaryllis each time you water at half the recommended strength when new growth is visible (including on newly purchased bulbs). 

Read more about how to care for your Amaryllis, how to control blooming and what to do after flowering is over:
Growing and caring for Amaryllis
Paperwhites. Photo:


The sweet smelling, delicate white flowers of Paperwhites can be coaxed into bloom with very little effort! It's a surefire way to chase away your winter blues, says Dr. Leonard Perry, a professor with the University of Vermont Extension. 

What's a 'forced' bulb?

Paperwhites produce small, star-shaped flowers that will last for several weeks. They come out when you "force" this bulb which usually flowers in the spring to fast-forward its natural growth cycle to bloom in the winter instead.  

Blooms in time for the holidays

Paper whites will take about 4-6 weeks to bloom after planting so plan accordingly. And if you want continuous bloom throughout the winter, plant bulbs every two weeks from late fall through February. 

To prolong the bloom, remove the plants from direct sunlight once they begin to flower, and place in a cooler, less sunny part of your home. Once the flowers are done, you can enjoy the foliage, but toss the bulbs when you're finished. They will not bloom again.

Paper Whites care

Watering: This is the tricky part. You want to add just enough water so it reaches the base of the bulbs--don't let them sit in water, because again, like Amaryllis, it will promote rotting of the bulb and its roots. 

Read more about how to plant paperwhites, what kind of container is best, and more: 
Paperwhites for Winter Bloom at the University of Vermont Extension.

Make your paperwhites shorter!

A common problem with paperwhites is that they grow up too tall and flop over.
New research from Cornell University shows the "secret" is using diluted solutions of alcohol when you water the bulbs. In fact, you can produce paperwhites that are one-third to one-half shorter with equal sized flowers. And you'll see the results in just a few days!

The key is to water them once the roots are growing after planting (about 1 week) with a 4-6 percent alcohol solution--preferably with "hard" liquor (not beer or wine). Here's an example the researchers give: To get a 5% solution from a 40% distilled spirit (e.g., gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila), you add 1 part of the booze to 7 parts of water. 

Keep irrigating your bulbs with this boozy mix, and your plant will be one-third shorter, but with flowers just as large, fragrant and long-lasting as usual.

Why does it work? These researchers say they feel "it is simply 'water stress,' where the alcohol makes it more difficult to absorb water. The plant suffers a slight lack of water, enough to reduce leaf and stem growth, but not enough to affect flower size or flower longevity."

Get more how-to information from Cornell University's researchers:
Ginning Up Paperwhites That Don't Flop Over

*Care information courtesy the University of Vermont Extension.

Author: Gail Hudson, Yard & Garden News Editor, Extension Communications

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