Gibraltar Chronicle Logo

How to keep your Christmas houseplants in good health beyond the festive season


By Hannah Stephenson

Christmas may have wreaked havoc on festive houseplants scorched by central heating, battered by draughty doors opening and closing due to the influx of visitors, and left to go without water for days.

It's clear some care is needed to get houseplants through to January and beyond - but what can we do to help them make it into the New Year intact?
Here, experts offer tips on how to see your festive houseplants through to 2020...

1. Christmas cactus
Houseplant expert Ian Drummond, co-author of At Home With Plants and creative director of Indoor Garden Design, says: "This flowers from late November to late January and is very easy to look after. Just position it in a bright spot in the home, but avoid direct sunshine and keep the soil moist."

The RHS advises the Christmas cactus will need a resting period after flowering, so from late January to late March you should reduce the watering to only occasionally, but don't let the compost completely dry out. Move the plant to a cooler room, ideally with a temperature of 12-15 degrees C. Then, once the growing season starts again in April, increase watering and start feeding with a houseplant liquid feed and move it to a warmer spot.

2. Azalea
Indoor azaleas are brought on or 'forced' in warm, humid conditions so they will flower over Christmas.

Keep them in a cool, humid atmosphere with plenty of natural light, Drummond suggests. "A porch would be ideal for this as these plants will not thrive for long periods in the hot, dry conditions created by central heating."

Unlike outdoor azaleas, the indoor types aren't frost hardy, so you can't plant them outside after the festive season, you can grow them on as houseplants though, the RHS advises. Once you've removed all the spent flowers after Christmas, you can repot the azalea in a pot one size up, in ericaceous compost and place in a cool, moderately shady place in your home, or in a cool greenhouse or conservatory.

3. Hippeastrum (amaryllis)
These spectacularly showy bulbs are often bought as Christmas gifts, but with proper care they will bloom in subsequent years.

"Amaryllis enjoy as much indirect natural light as possible, to encourage longer flower life. Each flower should last two to three weeks - simply cut them off as they begin to fade to keep the plant looking healthy and keep the soil moist," Drummond states.

After flowering, the spent flower spikes should be cut to the base, but keep the leaves growing on by careful watering and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser weekly, the RHS advises. In the summer, the bulbs can be placed in their pots outside or in the greenhouse, but shaded from scorching sunshine and watered regularly.

In late September move them to a well-lit spot and keep them cooler, at about 13 degrees C for around 10 weeks, stop feeding and reduce watering to induce dormancy.
After dormancy, cut the remaining old leaves to 10cm (4in) from the bulb's neck and replace the top layer of compost, before you start growing it again as you would a new bulb, the RHS advises.

4. Cyclamen
Drummond says: "It's very easy to keep these little plants looking healthy, even in a cooler room. Avoid direct sunlight and keep soil moist but not wet."

The RHS notes that overwatering is more damaging to cyclamen than occasional drying out. As flowers finish, twist the stems and give them a sharp pull to remove them at the base, so you don't leave parts of the stem behind which can rot.

When flowering has finished, continue cautious watering and feeding until the leaves turn yellow, then reduce watering as the plant becomes dormant during the warmer months. When new growth appears, replace the top inch of compost with fresh and resume more regular watering.

5. Poinsettia
If your poinsettia has suffered in a draught or in a particularly cold spot and has started to lose its leaves, move the plant away from the window at night and towards the centre of the room where the temperature is more stable, advises container specialist Lechuza.

The RHS notes that sometimes a poinsettia will start wilting and continue to deteriorate no matter what you do. This may be because the plant was stored in cold conditions in the shop before you bought it, and there's not much you can do about it.

Water poinsettias sparingly as overwatering can damage plants. As a rule of thumb, only water when the surface of the compost has begun to dry out. The flowering life of plants is extended by humidity, so mist plants regularly.

As a general rule...
Drummond says if there is any sign of yellow leaves on your plant, it indicates it's had too much water. Check it's not sitting in water and empty away any leftover water from its pot or saucer.

Cut away any yellow leaves with sharp scissors as the yellow leaves won't turn green again.

Browning of leaves indicates the plant is dry. Check the soil for moisture and water if needed. Browning of leaves also can indicate lack of humidity. Spraying the leaves daily with a mister will really help. Cut away any brown leaves.

Most Read

Download The App On The iOS Store