Caring for Christmas plants

Flowering Christmas plants, such as azaleas, Christmas cacti, poinsettias and cyclamen add such a festive touch to the cold months that most of us want to prolong their flowering.

The best way to do keep these plants flowering is by giving them cool conditions. Temperatures of 50 to 60°F (10 to 15°C) are ideal for most of these plants (however Poinsettias like it a bit warmer).

Avoid letting them get too cold at night, which can happen if they sit on a chilly window sill. Another problem is too setting plants too close to heating outlets, which can cause them to dry out quickly.

Poinsettias can last for months

Christmas plants

Festive poinsettia

These flowers – actually colored bracts – are very long-lasting, and can be showy for months.

Poinsettias do best in bright conditions, but don’t like direct sunlight. Water them thoroughly when the top of potting soil starts to dry out.

These Christmas plants like it relatively warm, 60 to 70°F (15 to 21°C), and need to be kept out of draughts. Mist them regularly to prolong the life of their showy bracts.

There isn’t much point to keeping poinsettias through the growing season to attempt re-blooming because they need exacting conditions of light and temperature, so it’s easiest just to discard them when you’ve grown tired of them.

Poinsettias are NOT poisonous

It’s a myth that poinsettias are poisonous if the leaves or bracts are chewed or ingested.

After doing extensive testing on rats, Ohio State University researchers found no adverse effects.

Poinsettias belong to the Euphorbia family of plants, which exude a milky sap from leaves, flower bracts and stems when broken open.

Sometimes, this sap can cause mild skin rashes, and that has probably contributed to the myth that this popular Christmas plant is poisonous.

Indoor cyclamen

Indoor cyclamen will flower for several months. Choose a plant that has lots of buds, and look for healthy colored leaves.

Cyclamen thrive in a cool, bright spot, but avoid setting them in strong sunlight. Be sure to keep them away from heat sources. Avoid overwatering.

Groom the plants by removing finished flower stems. After flowering, continue careful watering and feeding until leaves yellow, then decrease watering as the plant goes dormant in summer. When new growth resumes, start regular watering. This is also a good time to repot.

Indoor azaleas

These Christmas flowers are like cool, moist and shady growing conditions. An east or north-facing window sill is ideal.

Don’t let them dry out, and keep them away from hot air heating outlets. The best way to water them is to set the pot into a saucer of water at room temperature for about five minutes, and then let the pot drain.

Indoor azaleas also benefit from added humidity provided by a pebble tray.

You can keep this plant outdoors in the summer in a cool, shady spot. Water frequently, and give it fertilizer for acid-loving plants, and bring it indoors before fall frosts arrive.