Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
How to get poinsettias to bloom again.
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.
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.
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.
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.