University of Illinois Extension


James Schuster, Extension Educator, Horticulture, Countryside Extension Center

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Keeping Holiday Plants

Holiday plants are a common gift but in many cases the recipient is not sure how to keep the plant beyond New Years. Many people are given a flowering plant such as a mum, poinsettia, or azalea at this time of the year. These plants can have a very short flowering life or can flower for weeks; depending upon the care they are given.

Most holiday plants like very bright light, but not direct sun. They need moist but well-drained soils and cool temperatures. Direct sunlight tends to help dry out the soil faster for two reasons. First, the sun heats up the pot and the soil inside, thus causing evaporation of the soil moisture at a faster rate. The direct sun also heats up the plants more, causing the plants to transpire at a faster rate.

Soils that are kept too wet cause plant roots to suffocate or drown. Soils that are allowed to dry out too much cause the plants to wilt. Mild wilting shortens the blooming time of the plant. Wilting that is severe or lasts too long can cause the plants to die.

To determine if the plants growing in small pots need to be watered, stick your finger into the soil. Just looking at the soil or using a soil probe that is often sold to homeowners will often give a misreading. Sometimes the soil may look dry or the probe says the soil is dry when, in fact, it is saturated. The reverse is also possible. Your vision will tell you the soil is wet or the probe says the soil is wet when, in fact, it is dry and plants may be about to wilt.

On large pots, consider sticking a new sharpened pencil into the soil. Stick the pencil in about half its length, and about two inches from the pot's rim. If the sharpened end comes out dry, water is needed. If it comes out soaked, the soil needs to be dried out.

When watering, water till the water runs out the bottom. Wait a few minutes and water again. Pour excess water out of the saucer the pot is sitting upon after ten minutes. Never let the plants sit in the water too long or root damage may result.

Cool temperatures help to reduce transpiration--water loss from the plant. Setting the plant on the floor next to an outside wall at night will help stretch blooming time.

Some people want to know if the plants need to be fertilized. The answer is, no. Most holiday plants have a slow-release fertilizer mixed into the potting soil. This slow-release fertilizer usually feeds the plant for two or more months.


December 2004 - January 2005: Choosing a Christmas Tree Variety | Diseases and Insects of Shrubs and Small Trees | Catalogs are Arriving, Plan Your Spring Garden Now | Keeping Holiday Plants | Prevent Ice and Snow Damage to Trees and Shrubs



Past Issues

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