CO-Horts Blog

Monday, December 21, 2020

Caring for Popular Holiday Houseplants

 by Amy Lentz, Weld County Horticulture Extension Agent

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a fantastic webinar about caring for holiday plants by one of our Larimer County Colorado Master Gardeners, Susan Bonsall. Her class was so informative that I thought I would highlight some of these holiday plants in this week’s blog post. If you want to dive deeper into Susan’s 1-hour webinar, a recording can be found HERE. (Thanks Susan!)

Many of you may be receiving a holiday themed and decorated plant as a gift this holiday season, or maybe you decide to buy yourself one to dress up your home. But don’t be fooled, even though most of these plants are sold and promoted this time of year, they are not made for outdoor temperatures or winter landscapes. Most of these are tropical in nature and are to be grown as houseplants indoors. So, let’s talk about a few of the most commonly received holiday houseplants! 

*Be sure to check out all of the linked text throughout this article for more information and growing instructions.


I could go on for days about poinsettias. In fact, I’ve written a blog post in the past about the interesting history of the poinsettia and how it became the quintessential holiday plant. Poinsettias are not commonly kept very long after the holidays are over, but if you do want to keep your poinsettia going past the holidays, you can keep it indoors in a high light area until the summer then move it outside. Water it thoroughly when dry and allow the pot to drain completely. For more tips on caring for poinsettias, see the following fact sheet from CSU Extension.

Poinsettias in a Greenhouse - Photo: Amy Lentz

Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus

That’s right, there are actually 3 main types of holiday cactus and the difference is shown in the leaves and when they each bloom. These popular holiday plants are short-day plants that require several weeks of days with less than 12 hours of light in order to bloom, with the Easter cactus requiring the most number of weeks. If you are unsure of which type you have, try comparing the leaf segments to the chart below from Iowa State UniversityExtension:

I'm guessing Thanksgiving cactus. 
Photo: Amy Lentz

For more information on how to care for your holiday cactus, visit this PlantTalk article.


I LOVE the amaryllis! These popular houseplants have beautiful trumpet-shaped blooms atop a tall stalk with long, thick grass-like leaves. They are truly stunning when they bloom! They come in a variety of colors from red to pink to white - and all shades in between. 

The bulbs prefer to be planted in a container that is 1 inch larger in diameter than the bulb and deep enough to support its long root system. They also like to be planted shallow with half of the bulb above the surface of the planting medium. And, because these plants bloom better when pot-bound, you only have to repot them every 3-4 years.

My amaryllis blooms when it wants to
and surprises me every time.
Photo: Amy Lentz

 For more tips on growing Amaryllis, see the following PlantTalk article.


Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are an easy plant to force indoors by planting the bulbs in a container of rocks. They are a tropical bulb that take about 6 weeks to grow and bloom. They will show off their blooms for a few weeks, but then do not rebloom and can be disposed after blooming. To help keep your paperwhites on the shorter side, you can follow Cornell University’s research guidance and give them a little hard liquor mixed with water (4% solution)! 

The above video from PlantTalk and Tagawa Gardens has more tips on how to grow Paperwhites and Amaryllis.


 Norfolk Island Pine

This time of year, these popular gifted plants are adorned with lots of holiday decorations to look like a miniature live Christmas tree. And even though they are dressed up as cute little pine trees, they are not true pines at all. They are actually large tropical houseplants that would not survive out in the cold!

Photo: Costa Farms/Amazon

When caring for these tree-like houseplants, make sure to give them a large container to support the top growth that can be anywhere from 2 to 20 feet in a home setting. These plants can actually reach heights of 200 feet in their native habitat in Australia and New Zealand! They prefer a mild room temperature of 60-72 degrees and at least two hours of bright but indirect sunlight. Click on this link to CSU's PlantTalk article for more information about growing a Norfolk Island pine in your home.

Hopefully these tips and links will help you to keep your holiday plant going strong for years to come!


  1. Fantastic and timely! Thanks for including links to more info.

  2. The poinsettia photo is lovely. Thank you, Amy.