Christmas cactus in bloom .

Keeping green gifts going

The vibrant red structured leaves of the poinsettia is a sure sign Christmas has arrived. The poinsettia is a classic gift this time of year – however, out of all the poinsettia plants gifted, I am sceptical as to whether many of them survive too long after the season is over. Here are a few tips on keeping your green gifts alive long after the tinsel has been taken down.

The right environment

Poinsettias, like most house plants, are from tropical climates, meaning they thrive in light bright areas of the house with high humidity. They are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so avoid placing them directly in the sun, next to a heater or near a draughty window.

The same goes for the Christmas cactus, unless you are attempting to force the bloom. In that case, keep the plant in a dark, cool corner of the house for a couple of weeks; once you expose the plant to a well-lit position, you should see buds forming within a few days.

They are two of the most popular plants for Christmas, but some others include Amaryllis bulbs in flowers or some varieties of succulents.

Amaryllis have spectacular flowers but once the bloom begins to fade, you can snip it off and place the plant in a windowsill to soak up some sun and store the energy so it can flower again in a couple of months. Succulents of any kind tend to require the same treatment – keep them in a well lit area and they will continue to thrive with little care.


Incorrect watering is considered the number one killer of house plants. House plants acquired at Christmas should be watered only when the soil has dried out. Rather than watering the pot, try using a spray bottle to mist. That creates a humid environment around the plant and avoids giving the roots too much water. Plants presented in a decorative second pot will need to be lifted out and watered, then drained, before returning them to the outer pot. Sometimes even a small amount of water can sit in the bottom of the outer pot, leading to yellowing of leaves and potential death of plants. Succulents do not require frequent watering, particularly through winter. One small watering session every two weeks should be enough to sustain them over winter.

Potting on

Some plants that you receive over Christmas will eventually need to be potted on into larger pots to accommodate a growing root system. You can tell when the roots begin to grow out of the drainage holes or if the plant becomes too root-bound, meaning there are more roots than soil when you lift the plant out. If that happens, you can reuse a larger plastic pot, making sure it is not too much bigger than the last. Brush off excess soil from the roots and re-pot using either specific house plant compost or your own homemade compost mixed with some grit for drainage. The plant may look slightly sad for a few days due to shock – however, after a week it should begin to look well.

Giving a plant

Your choices aren’t limited to Christmas-themed plants.

There are many great plants available even in the winter that can be given for Christmas gifts, for example paperwhite Narcissus. They make a great, eco-friendly alternative to plastic and other disposable items. Celebrate the season by gifting your loved ones with a touch of nature.


Tara Kate Linnane is passionate about sustainability and growing all things edible. Together with her husband Barry, she has embarked on a journey of designing edible spaces and getting others started on their gardening adventures.


Gourmet Gardener: Greenhouse goals