Winter blooming plants are always a favorite choice for home decorating during the holidays. Amaryllis, paperwhites, and Christmas cactus are the most popular. They always brighten the home during December but many people are not sure how to care for them during the remainder of the year.
A week or so after the last flower has dropped, cut the flowering stalks back to approximately one inch above the base of the bulb. The leaves must remain on the plant to nourish the bulb for next year's growth. Keep the plant in a bright location until May when you can set it outside. Around July, gradually reduce the water supply. The leaves will yellow and wither by late summer and the bulb will be dormant. At this point, place the bulb in a dark, cool spot for two months. Near the beginning of November, place the pot in a warm location and moisten the soil. When you see the first signs of growth, place the bulb in a sunny spot and resume a regular watering and fertilization routine
These lovely and fragrant plants persist through the month of January. After the blooms are spent, the bulbs should be composted. It is very rare to achieve a second bloom from the same bulbs.
This is a very easy to care for plant. It can generally be treated as a standard houseplant during the winter and spring. Place it in a sunny windowsill. Water sparingly. The Christmas cactus is a succulent plant which means that it has great moisture holding capacity and does not require a lot of water. In fact, too much water will prove deadly. It is better to underwater than to overwater.
Place the cactus outside from May through September or October. When the nighttime temperatures fall between 40 and 50 degrees, it is time to bring it back inside. The combination of the cooler temperatures and shortened days will bring an onset of buds for another season of blooms.
Another favorite holiday plant is the poinsettia. It is generally discarded after the season but it can be kept from one year to the next. We'll discuss the poinsettia in a separate article.