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You Got A Plant As A Holiday Gift! Now What?

A Thanksgiving cactus in a blue pot.
Kathy Reasor
Did you receive a plant as a holiday gift? Charlie Nardozzi has tips for you.

Each week, gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi shares his knowledge about all things gardening and answers your gardening questions. In this episode, Charlie suggests the best ways to care for seasonal plants you may have received for the holidays.

Christmas Cactus care

Not only is the Christmas Cactus the most likely holiday plant to live for years in your house, it is also easy to care for. Keep it in a container in a cool, bright room with indirect or filtered light. And don't overwater this succulent! It should flower each and every year.

Amaryllis bulbs

This plant is great for those new to growing things as it is very forgiving. After it flowers around the holidays, you can use it as a houseplant, then get it to rebloom again next year.

Once you've enjoyed the flower and it has begun to fade, cut the flower stalk off at the base of the plant. Leave the dark green, strap-like leaves, and enjoy it as a houseplant.

The amaryllis can thrive in a bright, sunny spot indoors, and you can continue to water and care for it. In spring, while keeping it in its container, move it outside to a partly shaded area and fertilizer and water it. At this stage, it will grow outdoors all summer.

Bring it back indoors in September, cut off all the foliage, stop watering and fertilizing it and put it in a dark, cool basement for about six weeks. In November, bring it back up and place it back in a sunny window. By holiday time, you'll likely see another amaryllis bloom.

Poinsettia plants

These traditional, colorful holiday shrubs and trees make great gifts and look festive around your home. Getting them to survive indoors long-term, however, is another story.

Enjoy them as long as the bracts, or its colorful leaves, are vibrant and colorful. Then toss them into the compost pile.

The work required to get the bright petals to come back next year is daunting: They require 14 hours of complete darkness each day, without any interruption, in order for them to enter dormancy.

Instead, consider supporting your local florist or garden center and purchasing new poinsettia plants each year.

Q: "I have three what I call 'Thanksgiving Cacti,' all have bloomed. One, which I call 'Christmas Cactus,' has no buds, nothing. Had it for years. They all go outdoors in summer. Is it possible Christmas Cactus blooms every other year?" — Susan, in St. Albans

Christmas Cactus should bloom every year. These plants have all been hybridized, and there is some variation in the genetics of them and when they bloom. Some bloom around Thanksgiving, others around the winter holidays, some even near spring.

To get them to bloom, there are two things you can do. First, in the fall, put them outside and leave them there until October, ensuring they don't get frosted. Let them have that cold period, because that will help set the flower buds. The other is to put them in a room that gets dark at night and doesn't get any artificial light, like from a streetlight. That should stimulate the cactus to form flower buds.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie will answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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