After-Care for Holiday Plants

Some holiday plants grow year-round, while others can go out with the tinsel. Learn which ones to keep and which to toss.

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Longfield Gardens

Photo By: National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: Bailey Nurseries

Photo By: Costa Farms

Photo By: Sally Ferguson

Holiday Amaryllis

Once your holiday amaryllis blooms, keep it in a room that’s on the cool side to help the flowers last longer, and give the plant bright light and evenly moist soil. When the flowers fade, cut back the stalks to just above the bulb, and let the leaves keep growing. Water and fertilize throughout the next summer and, if you moved your amaryllis outdoors, bring it back in before frost. If it dies back completely, the bulb has probably gone dormant. Stop watering until new growth appears. 

Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus are succulents, not cacti. They need warm temperatures and bright light; after their holiday flowers fade, reduce the amount of water you give them. You can enjoy your potted Christmas cactus as a houseplant or move it outdoors in the spring, after all danger of frost has passed. Give it bright light, but not direct sun, and in some parts of the country, as the daylight hours naturally lengthen and then shorten again, new buds will form. Some gardeners may need to put their Christmas cacti into a completely dark location for 12 hours a day, for several weeks, in temperatures from about 50 to 55 degrees F., to stimulate new buds. 

Poinsettia

If they’re kept in a cool spot (but out of drafts), poinsettias can last long past the holidays. Give your plant bright, indirect light and water when the soil starts to feel dry. As with most houseplants, avoid overwatering, and drain the saucer, so the plants’ roots won’t rot. Use a balanced fertilizer every couple of weeks to feed the poinsettia as long as it’s actively growing. Getting the plant to rebloom next year is difficult; most people compost their poinsettias and buy new ones each season. You can also keep them to enjoy as green houseplants after all the red "leaves" drop. 

Cyclamen

After the holidays, cyclamens need a location with bright, indirect light and cool temperatures. They prefer high humidity, so try grouping them with other plants, or place them in a saucer filled with pebbles and a little water. (Just don't let the roots touch the water, which can cause rotting.) When the flowers finish, the plants will go dormant. Stop watering then and wait until new leaves emerge in fall before you water again. This cyclamen is 'Dixie Pink'.

Norfolk Island Pine

Evergreen Norfolk Island pines aren't just fun houseplants; they also make great Christmas trees. Their after-holiday care is no different from their daily care. Give these tropicals high humidity and protect them from drafts. They prefer bright light, such as from a south-facing window, and should be watered when the top of the soil starts to feel dry. Don't keep them too wet or let them dry out completely. Feed with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer in spring and summer, following label directions. 

Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental peppers are popular holiday plants with colorful, decorative fruits. Give your plant a cool spot that gets lots of bright light, and water as needed to keep the soil from drying out. Some ornamental peppers have been treated with chemicals, and others just aren't good for eating, so enjoy the fruits only as ornamentals. Don't consume them or let children or pets come in contact with them. Annual ornamental peppers can stay in their pots or be transplanted into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. They'll grow until the first hard frost. This variety is 'NuMex Easter'. 

Paperwhites

Paperwhites, or narcissus, are often forced (that is, made to flower outside their normal flowering period) for the holidays. After forcing, they seldom rebloom. You can try planting the bulbs in your garden after all danger of frost has passed, but it’s easier to toss them into the compost pile and start with fresh, new bulbs next year. When grown in the garden, paperwhites need sun and well-drained soil.

Cinerarias

Holiday cinerarias are happy with cool home temperatures--in fact, they need a location that stays between 40 and 55 degrees F. Warm temperatures cause them to decline fast. You'll find these daisy-like flowers in shades of red, pink, blue, violet and white, and they'll last for weeks if you keep the soil moist, not wet. Don't let the plants dry out, because you may not be able to revive them. When the blooms finish, toss your cinerarias into the compost.

Rosemary

Whether grown in its natural shape or prunted into a Christmas tree-like pyramid, aromatic rosemary makes a delightful holiday plant. While it's indoors, give your rosemary a sunny window and regular waterings. You can transplant rosemary into the garden, but before you do, give it a week or so in a sheltered spot to help it transition from your home to natural sunlight, wind and temperatures. Rosemary grown in the garden takes full sun.

Hydrangea

Greenhouse-grown hydrangeas often hold their blooms for weeks indoors. Don't let your potted hydrangea completely dry out, and keep it in a cool, bright room, out of direct sun. After the last frost in spring, move your hydrangea outdoors to a shady spot for a week or two. Then gradually give it some morning sun, to help ease its transition. Finally, plant it in a location that gets morning sun (unless you have a variety that's labeled with different sun or shade requirements). Hydrangeas should be kept watered and mulched as the weather warms up. They may take a year or two to start blooming again at the normal time. Gardeners in cold winter regions sometimes lose their flower buds to late cold snaps. 

Colorado Blue Spruce

Living Christmas trees can be planted outdoors after the holidays. For best results, keep the tree inside for the shortest time possible. If you live where the ground freezes, go ahead and dig a hole for it in your garden or landscape, and cover the hole with boards for safety, until you’re ready to plant. First move the tree into a sheltered location a week or so, to help ease the transition from your home. Then, after you plant it, keep it well mulched and watered, especially for the first year or two.  This variety is 'Fat Albert', a Colorado blue spruce.

Calla Lily

Available in orange, pink, bicolors, salmon, purple or yellow, calla lilies are easy to grow houseplants. White callas are lovely in Christmas-red containers, and stay in bloom a long time. They're tropicals, so wait until all frost has passed if you want to transplant them into your garden. They'll thrive in a sunny spot in slightly moist, organic-rich soil, but will require repotting and bringing indoors before the first fall frost. If you prefer, you can let the bulbs go dormant and store them in a cool, dry, dark place until you're ready to replant next spring.

Orchids

Blooms on moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) can last for many weeks. When they finally drop, you can cut the stems back to just above the bottom two nodes, or let them remain. As long as the stems are green, there's a chance you'll get more flowers after a couple of months. Once your moth orchid stops blooming, cut back on watering to give it a rest period, and don't fertilize until new leaves appear. You'll also want to reduce watering and hold off on fertilizing until new growth appears on Cattleya and Oncidium orchids.