The store is filled with bright, full poinsettias, tall, graceful Norfolks and adorable tiny cypress shaped like little Christmas trees. They make wonderful gifts and are sure to bring that holiday mood to any room. But what to do with them after the holidays? Many of these seasonal beauties can be kept from year to year with a little care and attention.
Many of the winter holiday decor plants are in fact tropicals; even the Norfolk Island pine, while a pine, is from (you guessed it) Norfolk Island which is a tiny tropical island next to Australia where the temperature has never gone below freezing. Poinsettias are native to Mexico, where they grow in the lush undergrowth of rain forests and cypress grow all around the world as far south as Central America and generally no further north than middle US.
How all these warm -climate-lovers came to be synonymous with the winter holiday is a story for another post, but it’s important to remember their origins when caring for them.
First of all, KEEP THEM WARM. This is so important, especially when transporting them. The number of times I see people walking out of the grocery store with an unwrapped poinsettia in the snow with a -15 wind chill… it’s going to be black and sad and dead in about 3 hours. That’s why we carefully wrap all our plants to keep them cozy and safe. Once your home it’s important to keep them away from draughts and chilly window sills. That being said, be careful they aren’t too close to a heat source and that the heating of your home doesn’t dry them out too much. They also like higher humidity and with the dry winter air and moisture-destroying heating systems, they can get toasted, which also isn’t good for them. Aim for 21 degrees with moderate humidity.
Many of these plants don’t like to dry right out: Poinsettias, Norfolks, cypress, and frosty ferns (selaginella) all prefer to keep slightly moist soil around them. Some of the tiny pots we carry (2.5″) can dry out REAL fast. Those guys you should water every 2-3 days. For larger pots play it by ear. Touch the soil surface every other day or so to get the schedule figured out and water when just the surface feels dry. If you sink your finger down an inch or two it should be a little damp, but if it’s gone bone dry right through you may be too late. Norfolks can generally recover from a thorough dry-out ok, but once a cypress or poinsettia shows signs of drought (drying, browning leaves) it’s often too late and they won’t properly recover.
An exception to this care is the Christmas cactus. While not as hardy as a desert cactus (these guys grow in the forest, they’re a little different) they prefer to dry right out between watering with a good drenching when you do. In my experience I ignore them when they aren’t in bloom (because they’re kind of boring without them), they thrive on that neglect, start to throw blooms, then you notice they’re doing well, start to be over-attentive, accidentally over-water them and they drop all their buds. This is the cycle in my house. Don’t let it happen to you. Let them dry out and try to stay calm when they throw buds.
Pretty much all these guys have similar light requirements; bright, but indirect will serve all well. During the winter they all can handle our weak Canadian sun in direct light but if they make it to summer, pull them into partial shade as direct summer sun can be too much for some. The Norfolks and cypress are exceptions, you can put them out on your porch for the summer!
This was a lot of general information to get you started, if you have more specific questions regarding your holiday plants please give us a call, we’d love to help you keep them happy and healthy. And as always you can come by the store at 282 Richmond Rd to see our beautiful selection of holiday plants, just waiting for a loving home! See you soon!