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Care of Holiday Gift Plants

An ornamental holiday plant is a special gift. While it is a challenge to replicate the natural growing conditions of these primarily tropical plants, it is possible to grow them successfully indoors.

Whether you are a novice or have a seasoned green thumb, follow these cultural tips for success:

Indoor Holiday Gift Plants - Lighting, Watering & Temperature

Hippeastrum amaryllis

Bright light, no direct
sunlight, except eastern
exposure in winter.

When top 1/2" of soil
is dry to the touch.
65°F during day; 50°F at night for best growth conditions.

Schlumbergera  buckleyi

Christmas cactus Very bright light conditions
with at least two hours of
winter sun.
Water thoroughly when top half of soil feels completely dry. After 15 minutes remove all excess water from the holding saucer. To encourage cactus to set buds in autumn, keep night temperature consistently between 45° and 55°F. To prevent bud drop, avoid drafts and large temperature fluctuations. Keep humidity high.
Begonia x hiemalis

elatior or rieger begonia

Bright, filtered light, with maximum light in winter.  When soil feels dry, water thoroughly. Discard excess water after 15 minutes. 70°F during day; 50°F at night.

Hedera helix

English ivy

Bright light with one to two hours of sunlight in winter, none in summer.

Keep evenly moist, not allowing to dry out to the point of wilting. 65°F during day; 50°F at night for best growth conditions.

Cyclamen persicum

florist's cyclamen

 Bright light all day with one or two hours of full sun.

Water from below, as tubers easily become waterlogged. If watering from above, keep water out of center of plant. 65°F during day; 50°F at night for best growth conditions.

Gardenia jasminoides


Bright light with at least four hours of sunlight per day.

Keep evenly moist, not allowing to dry out to the point of wilting. Water with distilled water once a month to leach out fertilizer salts.  65°-70°F during day; below 55°F at night for best growth conditions. Higher temperatures will result in leaf and bud drop. Provide extra humidity.

Jasminum: J. nitidum; J. sambac; J. officinale grandiflora; J. polyanthum


Bright light, with some direct exposure in east or west exposure.

Keep moist at all times, wilts easily. J. nitidum & J. sambac prefer night temp. above 60°F. J. officinale grandiflora blooms best at 55°F or lower.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana


Give abundant sunlight with at least four hours of direct sunlight every day. 

Water thoroughly when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch. 65°-70°F during the day; 50°-60°F at night for best growth conditions.

Rosa spp.

miniature rose

Bright sunny window.

Continuous light watering. Do not let dry out, but do not soak, which will cause root rot. 70°-75°F. High temperatures can result in spider mites.

Araucaria heterophylla

Norfolk Island pine

Bright light, preferably east or west window with two hours of direct sun for color 

When soil feels dry about 1/2" down, water thoroughly. Discard excess water after 15 minutes. Grows best between 60°-72°F during the day and 50°-65°F at night.

Capsicum frutescens and Solanum pseudocapsicum

ornamental pepper and Jerusalem cherry

Minimum of 4 hours of direct sun every day, preferably eastern exposure. 

Water thoroughly when top layer of soil feels dry. Do not allow plants to wilt.  These South American natives prefer 70°F in the day and between 60°-65°F at night. 

Euphorbia pulcherrima 


A minimum of four hours of direct sunlight a day. 

When top layer of soil is dry to the touch, water until water drains from the bottom. Discard excess water after 15 minutes. For best growth conditions, 65°-70°F during the day; 55°-60°F at night.

Rosmarinus officinalis 


Direct sun for four to five hours. 

Cool room with good air circulation. Increase humidity with pebble tray filled with water halfway up pebbles.  Warm spring and summer. Cool indoors during winter.

Indoor Holiday Gift Plants - Feeding, Propagation & Maintenance

amaryllis Slow release balanced pellet fertilizer after re-potting

After foliage yellows completely, store potted bulb in a cool dry place, (55°-65°F). When signs of life appear re-pot in a mix of sterilized houseplant potting soil, peat moss and sand with plenty of shards for drainage.

Remove faded flowers but do not cut off other foliage Do not let flowers touch cold window glass in winter

Christmas cactus

Christmas cactus grows best in clay pots in a soil mix of one part shredded peat moss, one part sterilized houseplant potting soil and one part sand. Propagate by taking 3" - 4" stem cuttings in spring or summer. Removal of spent flowers and stem tips after flowering promotes branching and more flowers Can be coaxed into bloom if night temperatures are kept cool (50°-55°F). If night temperature is 55°-70°F, 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness must be given for buds to form. Cover plants with black cloth during the night.
Riegor begonia Monthly using water soluble fertilizer of 15-30-15 Avoid hot or cold drafts. Pinch above leaf node to promote bushier growth. Does not like to be pot bound
English ivy Feed March through September with dilute standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks When roots show growth from bottom of container, transplant to next larger size pot. Use soil based potting mix. Propagate from stem cuttings taken just below leaf node or by layering. Regular cleaning, pinching and checking for diseases/insects. Trim weak or spindly growth in early spring. Prune long stems as necessary. To dislodge and discourage spider mites, rinse plant under running water once a month

florist's cyclamen

Starting in May, fertilize every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer high in phosphorous

Grows easily from seed under fluorescent lights for 14-16 hours per day. Start seeds in winter for flowering next autumn.

When dormancy begins, separate the yellow leaves from the tuber. Hold off on watering and re-pot tubers into a mix of equal parts sterilized houseplant potting soil and perlite. Plant with the tuber 1/2" above the soil. Resume normal watering. Cyclamen grows best under very cool, bright conditions with a relative humidity above 50%. Coax cyclamen into dormancy by holding back on watering after flowering period.


Feed during the growing season, March through September, with a dilute fertilizer with iron for acid-loving plants

Transplant when pot bound into a soil mixture of two parts peat moss, one part sterilized houseplant potting soil and one part sand or perlite. To propagate, take 3"-4" stem cuttings in early spring removing just below the leaf node. Dip tip of stem cutting in rooting hormone.

To encourage continuous bloom, keep the night temperatures below 65°F and feed with dilute fertilizer with iron every two weeks during the growing season. Prune/shape the plants in early spring to encourage branching and compact growth. Monitor and treat insects and spider mites as quickly as possible. Avoid leaf and flower bud drop by giving proper light, temperature and humidity requirements.


Standard liquid fertilizer once every two weeks during spring/summer Soilbased potting mix. In summer, move young plants of J. mesnyi & J. polyanthum into pots one or two sizes larger. In early spring re-pot J. officinale Grows rapidly, prune often as needed When plants reach 8"-10" pot size, top dress with fresh potting soil annually


After flowering use a water soluble fertilizer for flowering houseplants. Feed twice monthly during the growing season from March to September In early spring after flowering, re-pot into a rich well drained, porous soil mix of one part sterilized houseplant potting soil, one part coarse builder's sand, one part organic matter and a handful of small crushed stone Prune and shape after flowering. To re-bloom for Christmas, begin on September 1 and cover the plant with a black cloth from 6 pm to 7 am every night until October 1. The buds will form under these conditions. If re-blooming is not required at holiday time, then the plant will normally bloom in the spring

miniature rose

Move to the next size pot only when roots fill the container Plants can overwinter outside in moderate climates but need shelter in areas where it freezes
Norfolk Island pine Feed once every two weeks with dilute standard water soluble fertilizer during growing the growing season from March to September

Transplant to next larger deep pot size. Use mix with equal parts sterilized houseplant potting soil, peat moss and sand or perlite along with a tablespoon of bone meal. Propagate from tip cuttings from very top of old plants.

Turn slightly every week for symmetrical growth. Supply extra humidity, especially during dry winter months, to avoid the common problem of brown needles. Needs as much natural light as possible in the winter months for good symmetrical development.
ornamental pepper and Jerusalem cherry Between March and September, feed once a month with water soluble tomato-type fertilizer

Indoors, both plants should be treated as annuals. Discard once fruiting period is over as plants decline in vigor. From January to early March, they are easily grown from seed. Seedlings are best grown outdoors over summer in eastern sun.

Keep pinching back stem tips every few weeks during the growing season to encourage branching and flower production Remember to discard when plants go into decline as they act like annuals when indoors
poinsettia Feed plants started from cuttings with a water soluble all-purpose fertilizer twice monthly between March and September

Move to next pot size when plant becomes pot bound. Use a mix of one part sterilized houseplant potting soil with one part coarse builder's sand or perlite.

Keep is a sunny location to coax blooms. Bring outside for the summer and pinch back the growing tips to promote bushiness. Bring back inside before first frost and give 14 hours of darkness per night until bracts show color. You must provide uninterrupted darkness in order for the bracts to change color. Keep night temperatures low and remember to give the plant light each day.
rosemary During the growing season fertilize every two weeks with a dilute 5-10-5 fertilizer

Re-pot after the growing season, especially if leaves are yellowing at the base which is an indication of a pot bound plant. Re-pot to next pot size only. Prefer slightly alkaline soil. Mulch with 2" of sand as a topdressing.

For topiary and other specimens, pinch tips regularly to promote bushiness. Rotate once a week for even growth. A foliar feed of seaweed and/or fish emulsion will invigorate your specimen

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Holiday Plant Care