Lee Valley Tools Gardening Newsletter
Vol. 1, Issue 1
November 2006
 
Keeping Christmas Plants Throughout the Year


Three of the most popular festive plants – the Christmas cactus, the Poinsettia and the Amaryllis – can bring us cheer all year long if cared for properly. However, with the hustle and bustle of Christmas activities, these plants are often neglected and eventually discarded after they bloom. Following the care instructions below can help you keep your holiday plants healthy and blooming for years to come. It's a great way to get more value for your money.

Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus These are the easiest to care for and to get to rebloom. They can be grown indoors permanently, or placed outdoors through the summer. Their flowers will provide a spectacular holiday display year after year.

Available colors:  White, pink, red, salmon, yellow, fuchsia, violet and combinations of these colors.

Light:  Keep plant in a sunny indoor location (south-facing window sill). Move to a shady to partially shaded outdoor location in the summer to prevent leaf tips from burning. After bringing plants indoors in the fall, use a curtain to diffuse the light so that the plant can gradually adjust to full sun exposure.

Soil:  Use a well-drained soil mix for succulent plants – equal parts garden loam or compost, leaf mold and coarse sand. If soil is poor, wood ashes and composted dry cow manure can be added to the mixture.

Water and fertilizing:  Although they’re succulent plants that can store water in their leaves, they do require a thorough watering when the top half of the soil is dry to the touch. Frequency of watering will vary, depending on where your plant is located, air temperature, lighting and humidity. Make sure soil is continuously moist in the summer months. During the winter months, allow soil to dry between waterings; water only enough to prevent wilting. Apply a weak solution of houseplant fertilizer every two to three weeks once new growth appears. Misting the plant frequently with water provides extra humidity, which is beneficial.

Encouraging reblooming:  Three months before you would like the plant in flower, reduce watering to just enough to prevent it from wilting. When the flower buds start to show, increase watering and fertilizing to every two weeks.
A Christmas cactus produces flower buds when the nights get longer and cooler (night temperatures of 55ºF/13ºC and day temperatures below 65ºF/ 18ºC).
When the plant is kept in these temperatures for six weeks, flower buds will develop regardless of length of day.
If the temperatures rise within this period, the plant will need uninterrupted darkness for 13 hours each night from September to October in order to bloom for Christmas. Completely cover the plant with a cardboard box and place it in a dark room or closet.
Avoid over-watering. Also avoid placing the plant in cold drafts or too close to a radiator or heating vent, to prevent bud drop.
 
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