Keeping Poinsettias and Christmas Cacti
Christmas is over, but that doesn’t mean you have to toss your new poinsettia or Christmas cactus out for compost. With a little information and care, you can keep these festive plants blooming year after year. Here are some tips to help:
For the rest of the winter, keep your poinsettia in a warm, well-lit room away from drafts, and water it regularly. The soil should be kept moist, but never wet. Water it just until the water begins to drain out, and don’t allow the pot to sit in the water.
Once the nighttime temperatures reach 55° F, transplant your poinsettia into a larger pot with a loose, fast-draining soil, and set it outside in indirect sunlight. Fertilize about once every two weeks.
Once the weather becomes consistently warm, in about mid-April, or May, Cut the poinsettia back to about six inches. Continue to prune it throughout the summer to prevent it from becoming sparse and spindly, but do not prune it once September begins.
Move the plant indoors before the first frost, and keep it in a dark closet each night for at least 14 hours. Take it out in the morning and leave it in indirect sunlight for up to 10 hours. These long, dark nights will promote blossom growth, giving you a festive plant in time for next Christmas.
Place your Christmas cactus in a warm, well-lit room away from drafts and direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves. Remember that Christmas cacti are not true cacti, and do need regular watering. Be careful not to oversaturate it, though. When the soil becomes dry, it’s time to water again. Because it is a tropical plant, your Christmas cactus will enjoy humidity. If the air is dry where you live, keep a plate or bowl of water nearby. The evaporating water will add moisture to the air.
In the summertime, you can place the plant outdoors in a shady location and feed it a basic houseplant fertilizer about once a month. Move it back indoors before the first frost. To encourage the plant to bloom in time for Christmas, keep it in a closet or other dark location for 12 hours each night. A cool room, such as a basement, is ideal, because temperatures of about 50-60° F promotes flower growth.