Keep holiday gift plants happy |

Keep holiday gift plants happy

JoAnne Skelly
For the Nevada Appeal

Blooming plants make lovely presents whether to self, friend or loved one. Who doesn’t like a spot of color as gray winter days arrive? Many blooming plants are available for gifts such as azaleas, kalanchoe, holiday cactus (Schlumbergera species), miniature roses, poinsettias and amaryllis. Many gardeners want to keep these holiday plants healthy during the season and maybe through the year to bloom again.

I received a cyclamen last Christmas from my friend Sharon. It was covered with deep green heart shaped leaves and vibrant hot pink blooms that looked like butterflies flying over the top of the plant. In years past, I have had trouble keeping cyclamens alive, but this year, I not only kept it alive, it is once again covered with blooms, just in time for the holidays.

Sometimes keeping these gift plants happy can be a challenge, but it doesn’t need to be. With the cyclamen, I watered it from the bottom, instead of pouring water on the soil of the four-inch pot the plant grows in. I put about one-inch of water into the bottom of a decorative ceramic pot and then put the growing pot into the ceramic one. This worked quite well even though there were times I had to do this daily, depending on the heat.

Besides water, the light in which I grew the plant was very important. This is the case for all blooming indoor plants. I put the cyclamen in an east window where it received gentle morning sun. As fall arrived, I moved it to a south-facing window with indirect, but bright sunlight.

I added a small amount of soluble fertilizer to the water in the pot every month to provide nutrients for my cyclamen. This works for most other flowering plants too.

I’m not sure keeping poinsettias going beyond the holiday season is worth the effort. The colored part is actually not even flowers, but modified leaves. Poinsettias require indirect sun for at least six hours per day. The ideal temperature for these plants is between 68 to 70 degrees F. They suffer at temperatures in the 50s. Avoid placing them in drafts, either cold or hot. Water when the soil is dry to the touch, but don’t overwater or let the plant sit in water as I did my cyclamen as the roots rot easily. Drier is better. Fertilizer with a balanced fertilizer only after it is done blooming.

Enjoy a bit of color for your holidays.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.