Survival tips for houseplants at Christmas

Tuesday, 27 November 2018  |  Alison

Christmas Cactus, Poinsettias, Gardenias, Cyclamen, Azaleas and Orchids (Phalaenopsis & Cymbidiums) are some of the best known houseplants given to friends and family during the Christmas season, and they are all too often left to their own devices as the festivities take over, so I have put together some survival tips below for you to take help you take care of your houseplants.  

This year has also seen a huge rise in the number of foliage houseplants we have in our homes.  As well as being decorative, scientific studies have been exploring and sharing results that many houseplants have certain health benefits, from improving our moods to reducing carbon dioxide in the air. So if you have any foliage houseplants, take good care of them.  They in turn will take care of you. Philodendron, Peace Lily, The Boston Fern and Areca Palm are some to look out for.

Here is the Brookside Nursery guide to help you keep some of the most popular Christmas houseplants and foliage houseplants for longer than a week or two so that they will not need putting onto the compost heap before the New Year is out:-

  • Temperature fluctuations are one of the main issues when looking after  houseplants.  Too much cold or too much warmth can be equally devastating for plants and as they mostly hail from humid tropical parts of the globe it pays to give them a little coddling.
  • Firstly, buy plants from a reputable garden nursery where they will have been kept in optimum conditions. Buying more cheaply from a supermarket or market stall may seem appealing but indoor plants cannot cope with the cold temperatures of winter and standing outside all day on a trolley or in wind and rain in December can prove to be fatal to plants, at the very least weakening them.

  • When transporting tender plants, especially poinsettias, protect them by using bubble wrap around the whole plant or put the plant inside a cardboard box with the sides up.  This will help to protect them from the cold in a car boot on a long journey.
  • Poinsettias, Gardenias and Phalaenopsis Orchids don’t like to be in a draught or placed directly above a radiator but a well-lit and warm spot is ideal.  Water when the top of the compost looks dry but don’t allow them to dry out completely.
  • Cymbidium orchids will tolerate cooler conditions so a north facing room out of full sun will suit them.
  • Azaleas like bright, cool conditions.  As they like some humidity, place the plant pot onto a tray with some small pebbles or decorative stones and keep this topped up with water. (Rainwater is best, at room temperature).  Azaleas tend to die if the compost is allowed to dry out so be vigilant and they will reward you with beautiful flowers for many weeks.
  • Christmas-flowering cactus plants are often passed down through the generations as they are generally long lived plants.   Originating in coastal mountains of south-east Brazil, these plants thrive on having a good watering and then being left until the compost has almost dried out, except when in full flower when they will need more water.  Overwatering will result in limp leaves that then drop off, so only water when the top layers of compost are dry.    The Christmas cactus has a naturally trailing habit and can look stunning in a hanging basket.

  • Foliage houseplants can be overlooked as they become ‘part of the furniture’ but with a little care they should last for many years.  Remove old, brown or limp leaves, repot every other spring with fresh compost, keep your plants neat and trim, feeding in the growing season and watering regularly but sparingly.

I hope this has given you a few helpful hints, so that whilst you are enjoying the festivities, your Christmas houseplants will be too.

 

Happy House-planting!

Alison

 
Brookside Nursery