Whether you receive them as gifts or use them as decorations, with proper care your holiday plants can bring pleasure for weeks, months or even years after this holiday season ends.
Many blooming indoor plants prefer cooler temperatures in a well-lit location away from sources of hot, dry air. Using a humidifier can help your plants thrive through the dry months of winter. When purchasing indoor plants, choose species that will thrive in the conditions you have in your home. Look for healthy plants and avoid plants with wilting or yellowing foliage, brown leaf margins or spindly growth. Below are some holiday favorites that are easy to grow and will brighten up your indoor spaces.
Poinsettia: The newer poinsettia varieties retain their leaves and bracts remarkably well for several months. Poinsettias prefer a uniform room temperature between 60° and 68° F. Keep plants near a bright window, out of direct sunlight.
Maintain moderate soil moisture and never let it dry out completely. Never let the pot stand in water for more than a few minutes. If the poinsettia came wrapped in foil or other water-tight material, punch a hole in the bottom or remove the wrap entirely, so that water will not be trapped inside.
Christmas cactus: Christmas cactus is a popular, low-maintenance plant for the winter holiday season that can last for many years. Water Christmas cactus thoroughly when the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Discard the excess and do not water again until the top half of the soil is again dry.
Well drained soil is a must for Christmas cactus. When transplanting, use a commercially packaged potting mix specifically for succulent plants or mix your own using one part potting mix to one part sand. Prune your Christmas cactus after blooming to encourage branching. Prune by removing a few sections of each stem. Gently twist off or pinch off with a knife.
Amaryllis: Consider adding a splash of the tropics among your usual seasonal decorations this year by purchasing an amaryllis. They come in shades of red, pink or white. Some are striped. They can be found in bloom this time of year or as a ready-to-start bulb.
It is important to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. If the soil is too moist, the bulb will rot. Place amaryllis in a warm area with good light, avoiding direct afternoon sun. Rotate the pot a quarter turn every few days to keep the plant growing straight.
Some varieties can grow up to three feet tall and may need staking. Remove the flowers after they wither, but leave the green foliage. The foliage is creating food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. New leaves will continue to appear and the foliage alone makes an attractive house plant.
Norfolk Island pine: A Norfolk Island pine adds beautiful green to indoor spaces. They come in a range of sizes and can be kept as a houseplant for years. They can even be decorated for the holidays.
Place Norfolk Island pine in a bright window, avoiding north-facing windows with less sunlight. Water when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Keep this plant away from forced-air vents. It will benefit from a humidifier.
Plants should be repotted every three to four years. It is beneficial to add a small percentage of sand and peat moss to the potting soil mix. Take your Norfolk Island pine outside for the warmer months, keeping in mind that the minimum temperature they can tolerate is 50° F.
Indoor plants bring color and life to our homes. They increase oxygen in our home environments and remind us that we are connected to life outdoors throughout our Pennsylvania winter. Enjoy!
Steve Ward is a master gardener with Penn State’s Extension in Lackawanna County. Penn State Extension is dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses and communities. They partner with and are funded by federal, state and county governments. For more information on what they’re doing in Lackawanna County, visit extension.psu.edu/lackawanna-county.