Trott column: Easy care for blooming holiday plants

Douglas County extension educator explains light, water, and fertilizer needs of poinsettias and other popular plants.

A red amaryllis flower. Getty Images / Special to The Forum

'Tis the season for holiday plants. Poinsettia, cacti, amaryllis and paperwhites abound in every store, and they are so beautiful, it’s difficult to resist taking a couple (or many) home.

For all these plants, make sure to poke holes in any decorative foil pot covering prior to first watering to assure adequate drainage, and to keep them looking fresh all season long, follow these recommendations.


Light - Place in a window where the plant will receive bright, indirect daylight. Temperatures of 65-70 degrees are ideal. Choose a spot away from heat ducts, fireplaces or space heaters. Poinsettias will suffer damage if they're exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees, and freezing temps will kill them.

Water - Keep soil moist, watering when the soil surface feels dry or the pot feels light when you lift it. Never allow poinsettias to get so dry that they wilt. Don't let the pot sit in excess water, as constant moisture will rot the roots.

Holiday Cactus

These plants need high humidity, bright but filtered light, and soil kept relatively moist most of the year.


Light and temperature - To produce flower buds, they require shorter days (fewer hours of light) and cool night temperatures.

Water - Allow these plants to dry out between watering; they won't grow well in heavy, wet soils. It's best to place plants in a sink to drain when you water them.

Blooming - Once flower buds have started to develop, holiday cacti do not like to be disturbed.


The size and condition of the bulbs will influence how well your amaryllis performs. The larger the bulb, the more flowers it will have!

Light - Place in a sunny window before flowering. Move out of direct sunlight when the flower buds have begun to open.

Water - Water when the top 2 inches of soil feels dry. Don't let the plant sit in water as wet soil can rot the bulb and its roots.

Fertilizer - Use a houseplant fertilizer with a high phosphorus content to encourage blooms. Fertilize the Amaryllis each time you water at half the recommended strength when new growth is visible (including on newly purchased bulbs).


Paperwhites bloom about 4-6 weeks after planting. To prolong the bloom, remove the plants from direct sunlight once they begin to flower, and place in a cooler, less sunny part of your home. Once the flowers are done, you can enjoy the foliage, but toss the bulbs when you're finished. They will not bloom again.


Water - Add just enough water so it reaches the base of the bulbs--don't let them sit in water. Excess water will promote rotting of the bulb and its roots.

For more information about holiday plants, visit .

Happy holidays!


“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at

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