CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bring Cheer to your Holiday Plants

By: Sherie Caffey, Horticulture Coordinator, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts of the holiday season are the traditional holiday houseplants that I always end up getting and giving as gifts. For most of us, this time of year is crazy busy and more often than not, those cheerful plants end up as cheerful compost food long before their time. Here are some tips for making your holiday houseplants last to their full potential:

Generally speaking, large houseplants in small pots dry out pretty quickly, so you should check the moisture level of your plants daily. The soil should be moist but never soggy. If your plant is wrapped in decorative foil, you should either remove it or poke holes in the bottom of it so you have good drainage.

Good lighting will extend the life of your holiday plants as well. Find a place for them that is well lit, but not in direct sunlight. If you don’t have a place with nice natural light, a grow light or a cool white fluorescent bulb combined with an incandescent bulb can work as well.

Household temperatures can also have an impact on the lifespan of your plants. Avoid places where the plants will be exposed to hot or cold drafts. 60° F to 75° F is usually a good temperature for most houseplants. Our dry Colorado air can make our holiday plants lose cheer as well. You can use a humidifier, or place the plant on a tray with pebbles and water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the pot.

Poinsettias are the epitome of the holiday houseplant. To keep those colorful bracts looking great for months, bright indirect light and frequent watering is key (but don’t overwater!). You can keep a poinsettia all year and re-bloom it next season, but it is quite the process and a different blog in itself. If you want to give it a shot, you can find detailed instructions in CSU Extension Fact Sheet #7.412.  And one more thing, don’t believe the myth that they are poisonous, they aren’t!
         Christmas cacti are from a group of jungle cacti and don’t look like our native cacti at all. These plants can be very long lived when cared for properly. Let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings. They can go outdoors in the summertime, but they should be in part shade and should be brought inside when temperatures start to drop. Fertilizing can be done in the spring and summer with a standard houseplant fertilizer. You can help your cactus to re-bloom starting in September by controlling temperature and the amount of light it gets. You can find more information on this process here.

Amaryllis are beautiful additions to the home during the holiday season. Provide them with bright but indirect light, and keep the soil evenly moist. A cooler room temperature will prolong flowering. Once the blooms die, remove them. Keep the leaves actively growing through the summer. In the fall, you will want to cut water back until the leaves die, and then you will store it in a cool dark location for a couple of months. You can then resume watering and you will have buds in a few weeks! Click here for some detailed information on the process.

Norfolk Island pine trees are nice houseplants and can be used in place of a traditional large Christmas tree. They will appreciate a sunny bright location, and will respond well to being rotated weekly. Water when the top inch of soil is dry, and try to keep the humidity up. These trees ideally like 50% humidity. Daytime temperatures of 60° F to 72° F are optimal, with nighttime temperatures being just a bit lower. With good care, this plant can last all year long. Keep in mind, these are not true pines and are not cold hardy in Colorado.

I hope you have been inspired to be a great holiday plant parent, and maybe even to try and keep some of this year’s plants for 2018. Happy Holidays to everyone.


  1. When I finally let my Norfolk Island pine die this past Spring, I pulled it out of the pot and got the most perfect example of circling roots. Trees in pots can't be happy forever, unfortunately. But it was pretty while it lasted. So pretty.

  2. Came sooo close to cutting back the ornamental grasses in my yard. What a disaster that would have been! Now I look at them and think how much they add to the winter landscape. Thanks for the information!

  3. Re.: "Plant Parent"
    Really now? I am a person. I take care of plants.Physiologically, I cannot be a parent of a plant.Are you onto something different that High School Biology classes taught?