Masterful Gardening

by Ann Reamy

You can keep your poinsettia after holidaysMy Nassau Sun Logo

During the holiday season our homes are filled with seasonal greenery and a riot of color provided by flowers and plants associated with the holidays. The three most popular holiday plants are the poinsettia, the Christmas cactus and the amaryllis. As the holidays begin to draw to a close, you can extend their holiday color by following these helpful hints.

The poinsettia is the most popular holiday plant, but usually ends its life in the trash. This is an unfortunate end for a plant that can be used in our landscapes as an accent plant or an informal flowering hedge.

If you keep your poinsettia somewhat dry and withhold fertilizer, you can move it outside to a partly shady area when our weather begins to warm. Prune your plant, leaving 4 to 6 inches of stem on each branch, and begin to fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer. After about two weeks your plant can be placed in a sunny, moist but well-draining location. Poinsettias like a soil pH of 5.0 to 7.0.

Once established, poinsettias should be pruned in early spring after blooming and the danger of frost has passed. They should be cut 12 to 18 inches from the ground. They also respond to being pinched back during their growing season to promote fuller plants, but your last pinch should be Sept. 10. Remember, these plants must receive no light at night when they are setting their buds, which is usually in early October.

The Christmas cactus is the second most popular holiday plant. While your plant is flowering, keep it indoors in a well lit location away from heat vents and fireplaces. Don't over-water as this plant needs to dry between waterings. Feed bi-monthly with a well-balanced fertilizer. Christmas cactus may live outside in a shady area in warmer months.

To get your plant to re-bloom, deprive your cactus of light during the night beginning in late September.Amaryllis plants do best in light shade and well-drained soil. Bulbs can be planted anytime between September and January.

Plant your bulbs 12 to 15 inches apart and placed so the top of the bulb is just covered with soil, and the neck of the bulb is protruding above ground. Water newly planted bulbs and keep them moist until plants are well-established.

Be sure to control weeds, fertilize during growing season with bulb fertilizer, and keep the soil moderately moist .


Master Gardener volunteers are trained by County Horticultural Extension agents and are required to serve 75 volunteer hours in year one of their accreditation and 50 volunteer hours annually in all subsequent years to maintain their certification.

Nassau County master gardeners serve under the direction of Rebecca L. Jordi, UF/IFAS Nassau County Horticultural Extension Agent. For information on the master gardener program and application requirements, contact Jordi at 548-1116 or



Kathy Warner

Ann Reamy is an Amelia Island resident and an active master gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.