Bringing plants indoors at this of year gives enjoyment to people. Many folks celebrate Christmas with beautiful indoor plants, decorating with them and giving them as gifts. The plants’ dark green colored foliage and dark red (usually) colored blooms are just right for this festive time of year. Many plants will live long after the Christmas season with the right care, especially if they receive the right amount of water and light. Care of Norfolk Island Pine, poinsettia, and amaryllis plants are discussed below.
Norfolk Island Pine: This tree is often used as a Christmas tree and adorned with glittery bulbs, tinsel, ribbons and more. Usually three or four various-sized trees are included in one pot. Put this tree in bright light, preferably with an east or west exposure. Humidity is important to the Norfolk Island Pine, so misting might be needed to combat the effects of dry indoor heat. Watering is necessary when the top one-inch of soil is completely dry. If the plant becomes too dry, needles will turn brown, and lower branches might drop.
Keep the Norfolk pine indoors for the winter. Continue to give the potted plant bright sunlight. Rotate it weekly to maintain the symmetrical shape. Fertilizer is not necessary to add until spring, then fertilize every two weeks. Refresh the plant by topdressing with fresh soil every other year. This plant prefers to be root bound, so repotting is not necessary very often, only every three to four years.
The Norfolk Island Pine can be moved outdoors in its container or planted in the ground in the spring. These pines will survive outdoors in the Coastal Bend; however, they are a South Pacific tropical and need protection from freezing conditions. Careful placement of the pine is necessary to protect it from intense sun and cold weather. Pruning away brown tips and branches will not encourage new growth. Usually, the lower branches will not grow again. However, in our area these plants, once fully established and large, have been seen to regrow limbs after suffering cold weather damage.
Poinsettia: The flowers on the poinsettia plant are actually the little yellow buds in the center of the red leaves, so it is important to select a plant with many of those yellow buds. Poinsettias need to be protected from cold temperatures and chilling winds. Place the plant in a sunny window with bright indirect light, but do not let the leaves touch the window. Most people overwater this plant. It should not be watered until the soil is dry 1/2” down; then water thoroughly, letting it drain well. Remove the poinsettia from its decorative foil or punch holes in the foil to allow for drainage. Do not fertilize for several months, and then fertilize twice a month.
Poinsettias are often considered a throw away plant, but they can last for a long time and possibly bloom next year if the proper care is given. After the holidays, keep the plant in a sunny bright window or move outside when the evening temperatures are 50 degrees or above. After April 1, remove the bracts--the colored leaves. Shape the plant by pinching the tips back until early August. Fertilize every two weeks. To initiate flowering, the plant needs long nights in complete darkness. In September move the poinsettia to a room that has only natural light and NO light after sunset. You could also put the plant in a closet or cover it with a cardboard box from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. The plant must remain in the dark in the evenings until early October. If the plant receives any light at night, the cycle will be disturbed, and it will not flower.
Amaryllis: These tall, trumpet shaped flowers are a Christmas favorite. Place the plant in bright light and keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Enjoy the beauty of the flowers and when they fade, cut the stalk down to within one inch of the bulb, and enjoy the plant as a foliage plant. Water and fertilize weekly after the flowers have faded so the bulb will grow and store food for next season.
Keep the plant indoors in a warm sunny spot or move outdoors to a shady spot after February 1. The leaves will continue to grow throughout the spring and summer. Bring the amaryllis indoors, or into the garage, in late August to dry out and become dormant. Withhold all water, let the foliage die back, and the pot dry out. Put it in a cool dark place to rest for 8-10 weeks. By Nov. 1, repot the bulb in fresh soil, place in bright direct light and resume watering slowly. At signs of new growth, increase watering. Expect magnificent blooms in 4-6 weeks. These bulbs can produce year after year.
Happy Holidays and enjoy your plants into the New Year!