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Keep Your Holiday Plants Thriving Into Spring

With a little care, that poinsettia, Christmas cactus and amaryllis can provide lasting enjoyment

spinner image On the image is a flower Christmas star, another name is Poinsettia and tools for the care of indoor plants. In the picture there is a flower and dirt for plants.
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Holiday plants provide a burst of winter color, but after a week or so, the bloom is often off the rose. Or, in this case, the poinsettia.

How can you make your holiday plants last well beyond New Year’s?

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First, read the directions.

“The biggest mistake that we see customers make is just not reading the care instructions and treating every plant as equal,” says Kelly Funk, president of J&P Park Acquisitions. The company owns the garden sites Jackson & Perkins, Park Seed and Wayside Gardens as well as Van Dyke’s Restorers, which sells restoration hardware.

The holidays are a good time to work on your green thumb because a lot of customers wanted long-lasting plants like Christmas cactus, Funk says. “That’s a gorgeous blooming succulent, and when properly cared for, can live for decades.”

This also might be the year you receive an unfamiliar plant. Teresa Thomas, owner of Crazy Plant Bae in New Orleans, which has both an online and a brick-and-mortar store, says a lot of her customers have been opting for tropical plants. This includes the wide-leaved, vivid green monstera and the bird of paradise, which is usually known for its spiked avian-like orange or yellow blooms, but also has handsome foliage.

No matter what kind of plant you get, there’s a second basic rule: Resist the urge to water, says Angela Floyd, manager of French Florist in Los Angeles, which makes 90 to 100 deliveries a day all around the Los Angeles area.

“The main thing that kills plants is overwatering,” she says. Many plants do better with bottom watering: Make sure there’s a hole in the bottom of the pot, then place it in a bowl of water for 10 to 15 minutes so the plant can soak up what it needs.

Depending on your garden zone, some holiday plants can be moved outside into the garden. Poinsettias, which are natives of Mexico, can thrive in places like California and New Orleans, for example. In colder climes, hellebores usually do well transplanted into the garden.

But even if your plants are housebound, just follow some basics and you can keep them happy into the spring.

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These have moved way beyond the traditional red, and smaller and more fully branched varieties like the Princettia come in a range of bright pinks, says Christine McComas, a certified professional horticulturist and consultant with University of Maryland Extension. In poinsettias, the flower is actually the tiny yellow bit in the center of the colorful bracts. The extension service provides detailed information on poinsettia care, including strategies for offering the right proportions of light and dark to get the plants to rebloom (a process that requires commitment). To get them to bloom as long as possible now, keep room temperatures at 60 to 75 degrees, and provide good drainage and bottom watering when the plant feels dry.


These showy bulbs shoot up a bright flower in a range of white, pinks and reds. They often come in a gift box with soil and the bulb. The Maryland extension service recommends planting the pointy side up with about a third of the bulb showing. Amaryllis need bright light. Keep the soil barely moist, allowing the top half-inch to dry out between waterings. Floppy leaves mean the plant needs more light. If this all seems too much to handle, Funk recommends waxed amaryllis bulbs, which arrive sealed with all the necessary nutrients and moisture — no planting or water required. As she says, “Pop it in the middle of your table and watch it grow. … It's just joyful.”

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spinner image View of sunlit living room in Midwestern house with blooming house plants and photos on the wall; dining room in
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Christmas cactus

Depending on the variety, schlumbergera, a tropical cactus that grows in the clefts of trees in Brazil, can bloom from Thanksgiving through the December holidays, says McComas. While blooming, they like bright light and well-drained soil and humidity, so mist them occasionally. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension recommends withholding water for six weeks after blooming, then watering just enough that the soil doesn’t dry out. If you want your plant to rebloom, try cool temperatures — 60 to 65 degrees — and at least 13 hours of darkness a day starting in October.


These perennials come in a range of pinks and grow from a corm-like tuber that sits partly above the soil. They like bright light though not direct sunlight, McComas says, and prefer cool temperatures — 55 to 65 degrees. They also like humidity, so place your plant on a saucer of damp pebbles. Always water from below so the tuber doesn’t rot, and remove dead flowers as they fade. McComas suggests applying some standard houseplant fertilizer every two weeks or so.

spinner image bird of paradise flower in bloom
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Bird of paradise

These dramatic show-offs are often featured as cut flowers, but because it’s difficult to get them to bloom indoors, they’re frequently sold as tall green foliage plants with wide shiny leaves that can be 11 inches across and 2 feet long, Thomas says. They like bright, direct light and humidity. “If you mist it a couple of times a week and keep it in a room where you could theoretically read a book with the light off ... you could keep a bird of paradise almost anywhere,” she says.


This showy bloomer is called the Christmas or Lenten rose, since it blooms from December into early spring. But it is really related to the peony family, according to the North Carolina extension service. Hellebores come in a range of colors from burgundy to yellow to white. Indoors, they like cool temperatures and bright light, and do not like to be soggy. In many areas, this is a gift that keeps on giving: Hellebores, which are perennial, can be planted in a shady or semi-shady part of the garden once the ground has thawed.

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Norfolk Island pine

These little trees are often sold with bows or holiday decorations as miniature Christmas trees. The good news is that they are slow growers, because they can reach up to 8 feet indoors, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. In their native habitat in the tropical South Pacific, these ancient conifers can grow to 200 feet. Indoors, they need bright light and humidity, doable by placing the pot on a saucer filled with pebbles and water.


These are especially popular in places like Southern California, where they can eventually go out into the garden. They often come planted in boxes or trays and should be happy like that for a couple of months, Floyd says. “But at some point, they’re going to start to grow a little bit larger than what that tray accommodates, so at that point, it makes sense to transplant them into separate little plants.” Plants that are natives of dry climates — poinsettias, for example — need very well-drained soil, she says. “You never want to water them, until the soil is very dry to the touch.”

Cut flowers

Centerpieces and other floral arrangements featuring cut flowers are also holiday mainstays and can bring a touch of spring inside throughout the winter. To keep the arrangements fresh, change the water frequently, Floyd says. “As soon as it’s delivered, you make sure the water is all the way up to the brim,” she says. Just stick it in the sink, overflow the container with water, then let it sit on a towel until it’s dry enough for the table. While some cut flowers come with packets of nutrients, really fresh arrangements shouldn’t need them, Floyd says.​​

Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 28, 2021. It has been updated to reflect new information. 

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