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The poinsettia is one of the most popular of the holiday plants along with the Christmas cactus. As the holiday season ends and the poinsettias start to lose their leaves and the Christmas cactus loses its blooms people often ask the question what to do now?

Poinsettias are often seen in dumpsters and sitting out by the road side ready for trash pick up. With a little work and some special attention the poinsettia can be kept for the following year. This is sometimes hard to accomplish due to our low degree of light intensity, but if you are willing to have a go at it, here are the steps to bring your poinsettia into a healthy life just in time for next year's holiday season.

When the bracts (colored leaves) begin to fade and fall from your plant, cut the plant back leaving 4 to 6 buds and keep in a sunny window, water and fertilize regularly. By the end of May you should see vigorous new growth appearing. The poinsettia will begin to set buds and produce flowers as the nights become longer. In October, you should move the plant into complete darkness for 14 continuous hours, but in the day allow 6-8 hours of bright sunlight. Continue this cycle for 8-10 weeks and your poinsettia will develop a colorful display of holiday blooms just in time for the holiday season.

If the process of salvaging your poinsettia seems too demanding, a compost pile is always a great alternative. Poinsettias are not much of a financial burden and buying a new one the following year will contribute greatly in supporting our growers.

While the poinsettia remains the most popular holiday plant, a healthy Christmas cactus in full bloom is another beautiful sight. To keep your Christmas cactus blooming longer, keep it in well-lit, cool area, and well watered.  Once these blooms are gone, however, you may be left with the question, what now? The best advice we can give you is neglect. In fact, this is one of the easiest house plants to grow.  Only a little extra care will bring it back to full bloom next year.

Watering seems to be the source of most problems with the Christmas cactus. The plant is a tropical type plant, but is not quite as drought tolerant as the name implies. Water thoroughly when the top half of the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Well-drained soil is a must for Christmas cactus and should be repotted every 2-3 years. A commercially packaged potting mix for succulent plants or a mixture of two parts potting soil with one part clean sand or vermiculite will work great. Pruning your cactus should be done after blooming and will encourage branching. The sections pruned out can easily be rooted in moist vermiculite to propagate new plants.  Too much direct light during the summer months can turn the leaves a bit red, cause them to look burned and become limp. 

Much like the poinsettia, the Christmas cactus blooms according to the change in day length and light intensity.  Christmas cactus is less fussy than poinsettia for reblooming and should set flowers easily with the shortening days of fall.  Ensure flower set by following the same instructions as for the poinsettia beginning in October and you will have a beautiful blooming cactus just in time for Christmas.


For more information on Poinsettias http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1222/

For more information on Christmas Cactus http://hgic.clemson.edu/pdf/hgic1554.pdf


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