The holidays will be here before we know it. While most think of family and tradition during this time, don’t forget there are a few plants that can help brighten up the season even more. Because these plants spend most of their time indoors, they have specific needs. 

Christmas cactus 


Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus has become a recent favorite of all holiday plants. It is a succulent houseplant with petals that bloom in a kaleidoscope of colors including red, white, pink, cream and fuchsia. They are very hardy and long-lived. Many will produce bountiful blooms for 20 to 30 Christmases to come.

To trigger blooming, starting in early October, provide at least 14 hours of darkness for six weeks. Then, starting in early November, subject it to cool nighttime temperatures of 50-60 degrees. Once blooming begins, place in a bright window. Water when dry, but do not let the plant sit in water.

To get flowers to set next year, take the plant outdoors for about three weeks in late summer to early fall, then bring it back indoors before temperatures dip into the mid-40s and the blooming cycle will start again. These prefer to be pot-bound, so no need to repot for years to come. Fertilize monthly during the growing season from April to October.

One word of caution: There are varieties that bloom at other times of the year, so be sure you truly have a Christmas cactus. 


Prized for its ability to bloom indoors, these exotic-looking flowers can be purchased at any stage of development. However, most amaryllis bulbs are sold already potted and with complete growing instructions. Once watering is started, you can expect magnificent, lilylike blooms of red, pink, white or orange in about four to six weeks. Note that some varieties send up the flower first before the foliage.

Once the flowers fade, cut the stalk, but keep the leaves to help replenish the nutrients in the bulb. Move outside in a shaded area when the danger of frost is past. In late summer or early fall, let the plant go dormant and place in the garage or basement. Cut off the yellowed leaves and ignore it (no water!) until November when you begin watering and start the growing cycle again.




Did you know those red blooms are not actually flowers? They are bracts, or modified leaves. Native to Mexico, these plants are considered tropical,  which allows them to be grown in greenhouses, although the average homeowner will have a tough time getting them to rebloom after that first year. 

Choose plants that have little yellow flowers (called cyathia, which is Greek for “cup”) in the center of the colored leaves. If you choose a plant that is shedding pollen or the yellow flowers have dropped off, it is past its prime and will not last through the season.

Cover your poinsettia when bringing it home, especially if temperatures are below freezing. Remove or poke holes in the foil or pot cover to ensure the plant is not sitting in water. Water sparingly when dry to the touch, then let it drain completely in the sink. Keep away from drafts. Proper care will ensure it lasts through one entire holiday season. 


These often come in kits or as loose bulbs with a planting medium. Once potted, plan on enjoying the fragrant blooms in two to three weeks.

Keep in a cool, sunny location. Warm locations will cause leggy growth. As soon as the flowers emerge, you can tie the stems to a decorative stake to prevent them from toppling over. Water regularly so that the soil stays evenly moist.


These delicate-looking plants are not as fragile as they appear and will bloom for months with little care, well into spring. They are typically planted in a soilless planting medium.

Give orchids bright, indirect light. They prefer it on the cooler side indoors. Avoid sudden temperature changes which will cause buds to drop. Water once a week until water comes out the bottom of the pot. 




With upswept petals and pretty foliage, the cyclamen comes in cheerful red, as well as white and pink. These plants like bright, medium-diffused indirect light and need to have their soil kept moist, not soaked. These cool-season plants tolerate temperatures into the 40s, which is why they’re popular in the winter months. Avoid drafts and warm temperatures, as they will stop blooming and drop foliage. Deadhead spent flowers and yellow leaves. Water from the base by setting it in a saucer of water and letting it absorb for 15-20 minutes, then let the plant drain. Avoid splashing water onto the leaves. With the right conditions, they can bloom for more than eight weeks. 


This kitchen staple makes a hardy indoor or outdoor bush, often sheared into a topiary or pyramidal shape to mimic a Christmas tree. Its fresh piney scent is invigorating in the middle of a dreary winter and makes a savory addition to roasts. You can also bake with it or use it to infuse salt.

Place in bright light in a south- or west-facing window. The lighter, the better. Keep the soil evenly moist and do not let it dry out completely.

Move it outside as soon as the area is frost-free, typically sometime in May. Fertilize every few months with a slow-release pellet-type product and let it grow naturally. 

Thank you to Tulsa County Master Gardeners for their expertise in this subject matter. Allen Robinson has been a Master Gardener since 2010.

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