How to Care for Holiday Plants

Holiday plants like poinsettias, cyclamen, and Norfolk Island pine make welcome gifts but can also be used to ‘deck the halls’ in your own home. Use pots of festive plants to adorn entranceways, tabletops, mantles, and counters, or consider tucking small pots of plants like poinsettias into the branches of your Christmas tree.

Our guide below will help keep your favourite holiday plants in top shape through Christmas and beyond, as many also make excellent and long-lived houseplants.

Poinsettias

Nothing says holiday cheer like the bright and bold colours of a poinsettia. Native to Mexico and Central America, low care poinsettias have become the top-selling holiday plant in Canada.

It’s not the flowers we enjoy, but rather leaf-like structures called bracts. The actual flower of a poinsettia is the small bud cluster in the center of the bracts. While red is the traditional favourite colour of poinsettias, there are also plants with pink, white, salmon, and even streaked or speckled bracts.

To keep a poinsettia looking its best, place it in a spot where it receives bright, indirect light. Avoid a location near a heat source like a fireplace, or one with cold draughts like a front door. Also don’t overwater your poinsettia. The soil should be slightly damp, but not soaked as too much water can cause root rot and shorten the life of this popular plant. Once the holidays are over, you can keep a poinsettia as a houseplant. With proper care, it may even bloom again the following season.

Christmas Cactus

There are several types of holiday cacti available to grow including Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter cactus. They’re very similar in appearance with the main difference being flowering time. Christmas cactus, as you may have guessed, blooms around the holidays. All of these plants provide plenty of festive colour but also make long-lived indoor plants, happily surviving for decades with minimal care.

Christmas cactus plants have oval-shaped leaf segments that arch up and cascade over the edge of the pot. In late fall, ruffly flowers emerge from the ends of the leaves in merry shades of red, pink, purple, orange, yellow and cream. When a mature Christmas cactus is in full bloom it resembles a shimmering waterfall! 

Over the holidays, a Christmas cactus can be placed anywhere you’d like a pop of colour. As a long-term indoor plant, it grows best in bright, but not direct light. Keep soil dry to slightly moist. To gauge moisture level, stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it’s dry an inch down, water.

Norfolk Island Pine

Unlike poinsettias or cyclamen, Norfolk Island pine isn’t grown for flowers, but rather its form and evergreen foliage. They’re often grown over the holidays as living Christmas trees and can be purchased as small, table-top sized plants or as larger trees up to four feet tall.

The best site for a Norfolk Island Pine offers medium light, so keep it away from sunny south-facing windows. Proper watering is important but so is providing humidity by misting the tree with water several times a week. Watering frequency depends on the season and temperature of your home, but watering when the top inch of soil is dry is a good practice.

Cyclamen

There are many species of cyclamen available to grow as indoor plants with most flowering on and off all year long. They offer layers of interest with their heart-shaped, often silver variegated leaves as well as their ruffly blooms. Flower colour can range from white to pink to red to purple with many shades in between.

To keep cyclamen as an indoor plant, place the pot in a location with bright but not direct light. An east-facing window is perfect. This plant appreciates soil that is lightly moist but not wet. Don’t let it sit in water but pay attention to soil moisture and water when it’s dry to the touch.

Rosemary

There are many species of cyclamen available to grow as indoor plants with most flowering on and off all year long. They offer layers of interest with their heart-shaped, often silver variegated leaves as well as their ruffly blooms. Flower colour can range from white to pink to red to purple with many shades in between.

To keep cyclamen as an indoor plant, place the pot in a location with bright but not direct light. An east-facing window is perfect. This plant appreciates soil that is lightly moist but not wet. Don’t let it sit in water but pay attention to soil moisture and water when it’s dry to the touch.

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