Holiday Plant Care: Poinsettia, Christmas Cactus, and Amaryllis

How to get poinsettias to bloom again.

December 16, 2019
Poinsettia Plant Care Holiday Plants

How do you keep your holiday plants alive in the new year? Three longtime favorites—the poinsettia, Christmas cactus, and amaryllis—require similar care and can be coaxed into blooming for future holiday seasons. Here’s how.

How to Get a Poinsettia to Rebloom

We’re going to blunt here. Poinsettias are tropical plants grown in greenhouses so it may not be easy to get it to rebloom. 

Let’s start by taking care of this holiday gift so it looks its best and, if we’re lucky, we’ll encourage it to rebloom, too! If need be, mark these steps on your calendar:

  • Through March, just water your houseplant as usual.
  • In early April, decrease the watering. The soil needs to get very dry between waterings, however, don’t let the stem shrivel up!
  • In late April (two weeks later), move your poinsettia to an area with no sunlight for about 12 to 15 hours every night and keep the plant at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In May, cut back the stems to about four inches. Then, repot the plant in fresh potting soil (not regular soil). Move back into a well-lit window again and start watering. Also start fertilizing every two weeks.
  • When nighttime temperatures won’t fall below 50°F (10°C), move the pot outside into a partially shaded location. Keep watering and fertilizing.
  • Starting in July, pinch back each stem about an inch with your hands to keep the plant bushy and compact. Continue pinching new stems and leaving three to four leaves on each branch.
  • In mid-August, it’s time to move the plant back inside back into a well-lit window. Keep watering and fertilizing.
  • Starting in early October, to initiate flowering, the poinsettia needs long nights in complete darkness. Cover the plant with a cardboard box or keep it in a closet from about 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. and water sparingly. During the day, bring it back out to the window.
  • In early December, when buds form, stop the dark treatment.
  • In mid-December, stop fertilizing. Your plant should be blooming again! If not, don’t give up hope. You still have a nice houseplant. It may bloom next year.

Get more tips on caring for poinsettias.

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How to Care for Christmas Cacti

Like poinsettias, Christmas cacti are available in a kaleidoscope of colors including red, white, pink, cream, and fuchsia. Long-lived, they may produce bountiful blooms for 20 to 30 Christmases to come.

You can force a Christmas cactus into bloom in much the same way as a poinsettia (see above), by providing long nights starting around October 1. You can also persuade it to flower by subjecting it to cool night temperatures of 50° to 55°F (10° to 13°C) starting in early November.

Get more tips on caring for Christmas cacti.

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How to Care for Amaryllis

Although the amaryllis can be purchased at any stage of development, for many the real fun is growing their own plant from a bulb. Most amaryllis bulbs are sold already potted and with complete growing instructions. Once watering is started, you can expect magnificent lilylike blooms of red, pink, white, or orange in four to six weeks.

After flowering, grow the amaryllis as a foliage plant until the leaves turn yellow. Then store the potted bulb on its side in a cool, dark room or basement to rest for eight to ten weeks. When new growth appears, repot the bulb and return it to the light to start the cycle again.

Get more tips on caring for amaryllis.

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Once your holiday plants are back on track, display them away from drafts in a bright room, but not in direct sunlight; they all prefer 60° to 70°F (16° to 21°C) temperatures and like moist but not soggy soil. As with many of us, these colorful plants are already looking forward to next year’s holiday season.

Get tips for caring for your most important Christmas plant—the Christmas tree! Also, learn about the Cyclamens as a possible Christmas plant.

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Reader Comments

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Poinsettia

I have two poinsettia plants. Both loose all their leaves every winter when I bring them in. When I put them out in the spring their leaves return and they are healthy, green and profusely grow, but they never get a chance to turn red. Why do they drop their leaves?

Poinsettia Leaves Dropping

The Editors's picture

Hi Wellner,

The most common problems for leaf drop are too little water (the plant drops leaves to survive), too much water (the plant drops its leaves due to root rot), and drastic temperature change (the plant is shocked by the change and drops leaves). It sounds like the third option is the most likely in your case. To help to prevent their leaves from dropping, acclimate the plants the the indoors slowly by bringing them inside for a couple of hours a day and then bringing them back outside. Increase the amount of time they spend indoors over 2 weeks before leaving them inside. If the problem persists, it could be due to too little or too much water. We hope this helps! 

Christmas cactus

I got a Christmas cactus from my mother who got it from her mother-in-law before I was born, in 1950. So my cactus is over 66 years old! It's the fushia color flower, but the leaves are rounded along the sides instead of having points. It's about 36" accross and is very thick and brown in the main stems. It blooms regularly every year and seems to "shed" periodically during the year. I love it and hope to give it to one of my children someday. It's pretty amazing!!

A Christmas Cactus Story

The Editors's picture

Hi Bonnie,

That is an amazing story! It’s truly wonderful how much joy plants can give, especially one as treasured as your Christmas cactus. 

How often and how much water

How often and how much water should be given to a 2-3 ft Poinsettia ?

Hi Thomas, Water the

The Editors's picture

Hi Thomas,

Water the poinsettia when the soil feels dry to the touch. Keep the soil damp but not too wet.

Does one have to be concerned

Does one have to be concerned with planting an amaryllis by the phase of the moon to get good growth and flowers? If so, which phase? I am a little behind on getting my amaryllises from previous years planted, but is there a "best" day to plant them sometime soon?

Hi Pam, We suggest to plant

The Editors's picture

Hi Pam,
We suggest to plant flowering bulbs when the Moon is waning. That is after the Moon is full and before it is new again. This month you can plant after Dec. 6.

I kept my poinsettia outside

I kept my poinsettia outside all summer , pruned it once around July 4th to make it more compact , when the nites promised frost I moved it in on a south facing porch back out during the warm fall days . One day I noticed some of the leaves starting to color and by Xmas it was beautiful ! I did not do the covering with a box or the closet treatment . Nature did it for me ! looking forward to the next year with the same treatment :-)

I have my poinsettias in a

I have my poinsettias in a south facing window and water them with one cup of water once a week. They are 3 years old and are blooming.

Tip of the day: To have

Tip of the day: To have beautiful Poinsettias without the constant watering, apply a product called Driwater. This gelled water will water your Poinsettia for the whole month. It's a real life saver. You can buy it on driwater.com or I also found it on Amazon.