Christmas Plant Care for Brown Thumbs

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Source: Daily Health Tips, youtube.com

So, someone brought you a gift plant over the holidays. Maybe a poinsettia or Christmas cactus. And you’re a total brown thumb! But no need to panic! Christmas plants aren’t all that hard to care for. You just need to know a few tricks.

The most important thing is to place it in a brightly lit spot. With at least an hour or two of full sun per day. After all, plants are alive and their only source of energy is sunlight. So, a dark corner just won’t do. Also, make sure it gets normal indoor temperatures. Now, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Now, here’s a detail too many first-timers don’t think of. Remove the plastic or paper covering the pot came in, or at least poke a hole in the bottom. This seems counterintuitive: if the store sold a plant it decorative wrapping, mustn’t that be all right! No! Those wrappings don’t let excess water drain away, plus they fit so snuggly you can’t really see your new plant is constantly soaking in water, a situation that will quickly lead to rot. By removing it or at least piercing it, you can now place your plant in a saucer (hint: it should be at least as wide as the top of the pot). Now when you water, it will catch any excess water and this time you’ll be able to see it and simply empty the saucer if there is too much.

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Water thoroughly, then throw away any excess water. Source: gardenclub.homedepot.com

Speaking of watering, you also need to know how to water the plant. Insert a finger into the soil. If it feels moist, everything is fine. If not, repeat 3 or 4 days later. When the soil is dry to the touch, gently pour warm water over it, letting it slowly sink in. Stop when water starts to flow into the saucer. If there is still water in the saucer 15 minutes later, take it to the sink and empty it. This is how you water plants: by testing every 3 or 4 days and by watering only when the soil is dry. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

What about fertilizing? Don’t worry about that for now. It’s a minor detail in houseplant care. Remember, it’s sunlight that “feeds” plants, fertilizers are more like dietary supplements and plants can get along for months without any. If your Christmas plant is still alive by mid-March, you can start fertilizing it (not feeding it) at no more than one quarter of the dose recommended on the fertilizer label. And you can use whatever fertilizer you have on hand. I insist: fertilizing is a very minor aspect of plant care!

There was a very ominous sentence in the previous paragraph: “if your plant is still alive by mid-March.” If your plant dies before that, does that mean you’ve failed? No! It’s just that many Christmas plants are ephemerals: naturally short-lived under average home conditions. Cyclamens, Christmas cherries, Christmas peppers, paperwhite narcissus, etc. They were designed to bloom massively and then die. So it’s not your fault if you lose them.

Longer-lived Christmas plants include poinsettias, Christmas kalanchoes, amaryllis, orchids, Monterey cypress and Christmas cactus. With reasonable care, you can keep them alive for years. Will they bloom again? That’s a different story. Maybe … but that depends on your growing conditions. Start by learning to keep them alive and we can talk about getting them to rebloom in another blog!

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Make Your Christmas Plants Last

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20161224aWho doesn’t enjoy decorating their home with beautiful living plants for the holiday season: poinsettias, amaryllis, Christmas cactus, and so many others? They create such a warm and welcoming atmosphere… and are just loaded with Christmas cheer.

Fortunately Christmas plants are not difficult to maintain… if you know what to do. Most will remain in bloom into January, possibly even longer if you give them adequate care. However, since they’re living plants, they will indeed need some attention!

Here are a few tips on how to keep them in top shape through the holidays.

In Front of a Window During the Day

Most holiday activities take place in the evening and when you have friends and family over, you shouldn’t hesitate to place your Christmas plant in the center of things, wherever it will be most appreciated. Come morning, however, do move it to your home’s sunniest window. After all, your plant is alive and will need food… and, for plants, food comes from sunlight!

Keep Things Cool

Most holiday plants prefer cool temperatures, especially at night. Cool conditions help their flowers last much longer. Therefore if you can lower the thermostat at night to somewhere between 60 and 65˚F (15-18° C), they’ll appreciate it… and it’s good for human health too!

Remove or Pierce the Pot Cover

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Pot covers have killed more Christmas plants than any other factor.

Christmas plants are usually sold in a decorative wrapper… but this colorful pot cover has probably killed more Christmas plants than anything else.

The problem is that you can’t really tell if the plant needs watering when it’s wearing a pot cover. Ideally you’d remove it, but if not, at the very least, punch a hole in its bottom to allow any surplus water to flow out. Now place the plant in a saucer to catch the water that flows through. Otherwise, without any possibility of drainage, your plant may be constantly soaking in water and thus start to rot.

An intact pot covers also hides the fact that plant is drying out and desperately in need of water. Again, either removing it or punching a hole in the bottom and setting the plant in a saucer help solve the problem. About once a week, either water thoroughly from above until water starts drip from the bottom of the pot or fill the saucer ¾ full of water and let the plant drink its fill for 15 to 30 minutes. In both cases, empty any surplus.

Proper watering will go a loooooong way to keeping the plant alive and thriving.

Increase Ambient Humidity

Christmas plants are produced in greenhouses where the atmospheric humidity often borders 80%. Can you imagine their shock when you bring them into an average home where the ambient humidity is usually 20% or less! That’s why the use of a room humidifier is highly recommended… for both humans and plants. Strive for a relative humidity of 50%: that’s ideal for humans and good enough to keep most Christmas plants happy.

No Need to Fertilize

Back in the plant nursery, Christmas plants were boosted with fertilizers over the last few months to stimulate the best possible bloom. As a result, they won’t need fertilizer for several months, probably not before March.


With the right care, most Christmas plants can remain in bloom for at least six weeks, even up to six months in the case of poinsettias and cyclamens! And now you know exactly how to treat them to get the best results!20161224a